“The wind is in from Africa, last night I couldn’t sleep . . . my fingernails are filthy, I got beach tar on my feet . . .”
Once, the reedy soprano slid up and down her registers as quickly as her fingers slid around on the neck of her guitar.
She had long, straight hair, as fine as mine but very much blonder. It was flung over one shoulder with a deft flip of her head. Slight with a sweet, high voice concealing genius and gravitas. (Although now I wonder why genius does not routinely speak in a breathy soprano.) Hippy clothes or terribly cool apparel—cooler as she got older. Never quite settling down but moving in the company of splendid and beautiful musicians. Never quite molded by the commercial music scene but brilliant enough to wedge her way in, to command attention. Singing about quitting the crazy music scene and then going on to write and sing more and again.
Joni Mitchell sang at the Newport Folk Festival Sunday night as a surprise special guest of Brandi Carlile. It was a carefully orchestrated appearance, her first public performance since a stroke and brain aneurysm in 2015. A friend posted an early morning YouTube video on her Facebook feed. I clicked on the link and then got lost down a rabbit hole of videos catching Joni performing song after song—the highlights of her old masterpieces and the kind of standards that I loved to sing—and playing her guitar. Her voice—low and chesty, a voice that had come back from near death, an old voice so rich with meaning and inference and innuendo that it was like some rich, decadent dessert.
A few friends, knowing of my Ukrainian heritage, have asked me about the war. One asked if I was writing about it and I stuttered my way to some answer. What can I say to possibly add to the conversation? I know what I read in the Times and hear on NPR. I hardly belong to that part of the world.
I watch. My heart breaks. I am angry. I want the world to respond. I understand why it doesn’t. I have no answers. The fact that I have the privilege of sitting, of watching, of thinking, of even writing that I have no answers breaks my heart again.
My job, to ready Julia for adulthood, is ever present. She hears the news I listen to. Sometimes she comments. She wants to know about the war. She is a black and white thinker. She does not understand inference.
So, when she asks if the war is wrong and bad, I quickly say yes. When she asks if Putin is bad, and when she asks this she remembers that Trump liked Putin, I say yes again. She is able to put together that they are both bad people and she would never vote for them. Then she asks what will happen.
Home and with not much to do for this weekend. We expect a storm tomorrow and the governor advised all to stay home tomorrow. I am still not used to hurricanes, their warnings and their fierce rains even though I grew up with them. The first one I remember was Hurricane Donna in 1960. I remember weather men breaking into my favorite tv shows and my parents shushing us to listen. And I remember picking up tree branches after it was all over. I remember tv news and pictures of places where homes and businesses were destroyed, and some cars floating down flooded streets. I think it may have been when I realized that humans, particularly my parents, didn’t control everything.
Julia asked if she could take some time to draw this morning, and she is still at it 2 hours later. This is the third day in a row that she has asked for the time. Cautiously, I wonder if going back to therapies that we’ve used before is giving her something.
Back a few months, I wondered out loud to our family therapist what kinds of therapies and interventions were appropriate, helpful and useful to Julia now. Therapies and exercises always call for me to organize and facilitate. When I wondered out loud, I felt tired and feeling like nothing that I had done for the past two years had done much good. When I told her last week about things I was bringing back and things I was exploring, she reminded me that I had asked the question and evidently had come to an answer.
Facebook memories pop up: 3 years ago today, we were at Coogee Beach in Australia; 4 years ago we were cruising in Alaska; 5 years ago we were in the lovely town of Orta San Giulio in Italy and 6 years ago, we were with Julia’s China Sisters in Ohio. We are going to Ohio tomorrow and I hope for some fun. But today I gather my thoughts to write where Julia is these days and ask for help.
This morning I arrived at sudden clarity after months of confusion and muddle, and maybe a little hope that some of my greatest concerns could work themselves out. Nothing has worked out “by itself.” There are no answers this morning, but I can see where we are with Julia’s life, the little that is going well and all the rest.
This was excruciating to write; however, necessary. The four weeks of ESY (Extended School Year) have not gone well. Every week Julia has had some days of refusing to do the work of the day, threatening self-harm at school and having rough mornings or evenings at home. Nothing I have done at home in previous years is working. Before the school year and the new transition program begins, I need to work out some things that help Julia. She is NOT going to blend in and get adjusted by herself. She is NOT going to transition without effort. She is still on high alert and on the brink of meltdown every day. She is as hypervigilent and affected by trauma as she was 12 years ago.