I had to drive today for about four hours, to and from an extremely good lunch at my sister's house (which made the drive completely worthwhile) and in so doing, managed to catch up on BBC World Service and its excellent programming (click here for a link to a man who travels on Greyhound buses and interviews people he finds there and then writes songs about them in the style of Woodie Guthrie) and NPR's essential Weekend Edition which introduced me to a young Syrian-American rapper and singer, Monica Haydar. A muslim woman with a masters degree in Christian ethics, she explores what it is to be other in modern-day American. "If there was ever a moment to speak love into the universe, it was here," she says.
The thing about driving is that you're focused, and for once, off the dreaded social media, and trying to forget about the mid-terms (Tuesday). I just can't anymore. I like to be alone in the car, with the evening spread against the sky, listening to good American journalism.
I met people at lunch who asked me why I didn't have an American accent, whether I liked America, and what I thought of #metoo. I say what I always say, that I sounds English because I never chose to indulge a mid-Atlantic accent, but I still write color instead of colour, and that my little beating heart is American, despite all the English trappings, despite my triple string of pearls, my silk scarf, my love of old Colefax & Fowler curtains. My heart beats for NPR and apple pie and Laurel Canyon and Joni Mitchell and dusty paths off of Mulholland and my beautiful American children, strong, and brave, and doing what they love. And the way you get chills when they sing the national anthem badly at horse shows. And "you can anything you want to do." How I love that my children grew up in a country and a time when that was their reality.
It's been nearly two years. Earlier this week I panicked a little at that and wondered if might if I might lose some more friends in Los Angeles because I'm here and apparently I'm a bit of a crap friend. Isn't it funny how we run through life, packing our days with busy-ness, with stress, with too much work which we gladly embrace, and hardly take a moment to breathe and think and look at the fact that life is just whizzing by? I wrote to my girlfriends, as I do when I panic. I told them I missed them. I awaited their responses like a teenage girl by a telephone. They come in slowly, words of encouragement and love, news of children, bits of gossip, the whole panoply of life going on as I remembered it but different, filling a whole sky with news and color. It's lovely.
A few things have happened that make me pause a little: my darling man's daughter has had a sweet little baby girl who had a very difficult birth. She is a beauty and a survivor and she's tough and all will be well. And my friend who lives close by fell from her horse and is massively concussed with brain swelling. It isn't completely clear what happened, but it was a wet morning and she was on a steep hill in the woods and the horse fell. She was found unconscious. She will be fine. She too is a survivor in her pink nighty with her plate of hospital brussels sprouts, but look how we take these things for granted. I send her videos and promise pirate jokes, and wonder at her awesome ability to worry more about everyone else than herself.
We are looking I think at a fight for democracy. That's how it feels. We're actually testing whether or not we deserve a democracy. I love Dan Rather who said yesterday:
"Imagine a national consciousness shaped by empathy, and seen through the lens of "there but for the grace of God go I." Solving tough problems is helped when approached with humility. Many of our national leaders may fail, but we can try to hold ourselves to a higher standard."God bless America. No, really.
So, it's Sunday night, and I'm sitting by the fire, trying to do some work, and the dogs are here, and there is some tea, and I shall pick Charlie up from the station soon, but I'm thinking of those I love, my magnificent children, my brilliant girlfriends, the family and friends left behind, and the family here that I'm beginning to know and I feel both incredibly rich and incredibly humbled, embarrassed at how much I have squandered and how many hours and days and years have been wasted with stuff that doesn't matter. People who aren't worth it. Tasks that are unimportant.Things that mean nothing.
And then this beautiful Syrian-American Muslim woman is telling us, like an angel, to speak love into the universe. Strip it all away and remember this, I think. We must speak love into the universe. Love is all there is.