2020: A Personal Slide Show

A little slideshow as we leave this trying year:

Last day of December in New Jersey visiting family, I photographed this old truck/came home and published a book of poems dedicated to our boys/and in what almost seems an innocent time now, took notes on what to do in an active shooter situation at school/spring break came and Jeanne Wallace let us spend it at her Kill Devil Hills beach cottage – the news grew bleaker all week there and they closed the bridge to the mainland the day we left/Grandma Connie, here with Nick and Stephen on her 100th birthday, was an early casualty, we think, though there was no testing yet; died alone in assisted living after gesturing “I love you all” through a window to her daughter-in-law Roz who stood outside in the shrubbery in tears/the pandemic comes to Richmond/a haiku I posted on Facebook/how family visits now/my new teaching gear/doctored photo/the marches begin downtown/thank heavens for the woods and daily walks with Buddy our dog – here some tulip poplar blossoms collected along the way/Sarah transitions/some of her many hats/the widower Ken finding another use for poplar, making a table for Chris’ flowers/Election Weekend in Franklin County, VA/a cartoon sent to me by my friend in a federal prison, where Covid has exploded/that happy Saturday afternoon/and just the four of us on Thanksgiving after two of us were exposed and awaiting tests. May we emerge in health and compassion in the New Year!

And here’s a link to the New York Times’ annual photo display: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/year-in-pictures.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage.

Faerie Book Gifting

So, I read about this thing where writers leave their books for people to pick up and read wherever, and thought it might be fun. In Charlottesville yesterday, followed the trail that the characters in The Coal Tower make, and left a copy of the novel at the Downtown Mall bus station, where Dr. Cannon holds his Hollywood-inspired party. In the book, I imagine this party on the rooftop of the bus station, giving the attendees views of a concert in the Sprint Pavilion next door. Couldn’t, of course, get up there, so left the book on a seat inside:

Would you party on that roof?
Leaving my lonely book behind…

Then went up to UVA, but the Jeffersonian pavilion where the good doctor relieves himself (after his slo-mo streak) was wrapped in scaffolding. So left a book on a rocker in front of one of the student apartments.

Finally, sought out the old coal tower itself. In a driving rain, came upon a dramatically different scene than the one in the novel. Where there once was a field (where the teenage lovers Chloe and Lucas end their daylong traipse around the city), there now stands a long row of condos and brightly painted storefronts, the apartments running right up to the edge of the coal tower, with more on the way. Once completed, the complex will bookend the old tower, which I guess is just too sturdy to tear down.

But the train tracks that figure in the story still run along to the right of the picture, the Sally Hemings dress frame structure (that the book’s character Sid thinks is an antenna for cosmic aliens) still tops the tower, and at least until they finish that new row of condos on this side, I think you can still imagine the climactic drama from the novel. Too wet to leave a book – next trip!

The Coal Tower is all about the tensions, misunderstandings, and disparities in families and community in Cville. Along the way, though, I paused before this corner, marking the place where the city exploded beyond anything I could have imagined just two years ago. What are we all going to do about that?