After the election, hobby therapy
A new right-wing lie, promoted by Donald Trump Jr. and making the rounds on social media, is that you never see people with Biden signs in their yards flying the American flag from their porches.
A conservative neighbor shared a version of this on his Facebook page, and the only reason I heard about it was because another neighbor wondered aloud if the man had ever looked out his own windows. A few doors away, here we are, with a Biden sign in our yard and an American flag whipping in the air over our front steps.
You can rightly question why a columnist would have a political sign in her yard. I ask that you take that up with the U.S. senator who lives here.
My kids were very excited when I married Sherrod, who was a member of the House at the time, because they felt newly exempted from their journalist mother's dictates. Finally, they could plant political signs with the enthusiastic abandon of Miss Rumphius tossing her lupine seeds, and Sherrod would always defend them. I'm not saying that's the only reason they were glad their single mother had married the love of her life, but it was a high note.
By the way, if you've never read Barbara Cooney's "Miss Rumphius," please do so and think about what you might do to make the world more beautiful. It's never too late to keep those promises you made to once-upon-a-time, little you.
I'm in a book-recommending mood, so allow me, please, to explain why I am so happy to have stumbled upon Winston Churchill's "Painting as a Pastime," first published in 1948.
Most remember Churchill as Britain's prime minister during World War II, but he also won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1953. He was honored for his "mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."
In this slim book of unnumbered pages, Churchill argues for the committed hobby, one that takes us away from our work lives. This is especially important, he writes, for those who love their work. "Indeed, it may well be that those whose work is their pleasure are those who most need the means of banishing it at intervals from their minds."
For Churchill, this was painting, which he took up in his 40s and enjoyed for the rest of his life. He started with trepidation: "My hand seemed arrested by a silent veto."
He found freedom in the pursuit of imperfection. "We must not be too ambitious," he wrote. "We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box. And for this Audacity is the only ticket."
Surely, not all of us will find release and solace in painting, but just as certainly, other endeavors are calling to us. Let us avoid that "silent veto." How often do we imagine exploring that thing we've always wanted to do and then deem ourselves unqualified for the adventure? If we're inclined to blame our critics for our dashed dreams, it might help to start with the censor within. I speak from long experience.
I imagine some of you who have read this far might be wondering why I'm talking about the need for hobbies so close to Election Day.
Soon, if we continue this record-setting trend of voting across America, we will see the end of this four-year nightmare we call the Trump administration. We will feel relief, maybe even joy. And then we will face a long winter of continued quarantine and isolation as we await the vaccination that will vanquish COVID-19.
Help is coming. In the meantime, we must continue to take care of one another and ourselves. How might we occupy our minds beyond the rigors of daily life?
On the fourth page of his book, Churchill quotes an unnamed American psychologist: "Worry is a spasm of the emotion; the mind catches hold of something and will not let it go."
"It is useless to argue with the mind in this condition," Churchill writes. "The stronger the will, the more futile the task. One can only gently insinuate something else into its convulsive grasp."
I'm sitting at my dining room table as I type, with a clear view of the American flag hovering over our porch stairs. The wind is fierce, but the flag flaps and swirls, asserting its strength. It intrudes on my deadline and interrupts my worry just long enough for me to imagine the steady pulse of my country.
Its heart is beating, beating, beating.
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