Unprecedented Challenging Time of Crisis

You’d think, what with the pandemic, that I’d’ve had more time for blogging over the past several months. But no – somehow it seems as though I’ve had far, far less.

I hope no one’s been too worried about my wellbeing. I’m safe, and healthy, and employed, and able to work from home. Andrew and I have always had enough toilet paper (though it was close!), and we enjoy one another’s company. So I’ve been among the lucky ones here in the States. I hope all of you can say the same.

All that said, though, I’ll admit that I’ve felt significantly less than wonderful through all this. I do all right navigating stressful times in terms of keeping the necessary pieces in motion, but it does wear on me in ways I’m often unsure how to manage. It could be that expecting any different is completely unreasonable – these are, after all, wildly unprecedented, challenging, emotionally draining times. But I think it’s fair to say that I greatly dislike feeling anxious and overwhelmed and helpless all the time for months on end, and I’d really prefer to not feel this way. I think that’s fair.

So a lot of my time has been spent self-soothing. Andrew and I have been fortunate to live close enough to local trails to enjoy frequent hikes this spring, so I’ve been using my iNaturalist app to identify wildflowers. I’m partial to the tangled purple vetches that took over the hillsides in April and the woolly Indian paintbrush tucked along the shadier, rockier paths. Andrew loves the blue-eyed grass and the sprawling patches of white and violet lupines materializing from day to day. We’re both enjoying watching the blackberry brambles putting up their wide happy flowers, and spotting the first few green berry clusters starting to form as the first petals begin to die back.

We’ve also seen some fun wildlife – turkeys, deer, gopher snakes, alligator lizards, a North American racer snake my sister later told me is extremely hard to photograph since they’re so fast. The turkeys freaked me out one evening, gobbling at me from the trees above the trail. I didn’t realize turkeys roosted in trees. Now I know!

Andrew pointed out a couple weeks ago that whenever I told him I was “resting” after work, he’d discover me feverishly clicking through news coverage on YouTube, refreshing the latest fatality numbers, and spiraling down internet forums that only seemed to agitate me further.

“That doesn’t seem very restful,” he observed carefully, knowing how defensive I can get about these things.

And of course he was right. You shouldn’t need to rest from your resting. This is why Andrew’s so great. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather shelter in place with.

Around the same time, my friends – who started a tongue-in-cheek Doomsday WhatsApp group soon after all this began – started fussing at me to take better care of myself. “We know you’re worried about other people, Crystal,” they said. “But you need to remember to worry about yourself.” This is why my friends are so great.

I’ve watched a great deal of Hulu and tried my best to make art when I can. I’ve gotten into pen-and-ink again, for the first time since late high school, and I think I enjoy it more now than I did then. I’ve made cloth masks for Andrew and me, out of some of my favorite fabric prints, which I’d been saving for something special. There’s been quilting – I used some of the money I didn’t spend on gas to order some nice thread I needed for an ongoing project. Card-making. Origami.

There was a weird moment, with the masks, the first time I folded laundry after washing some of them. I didn’t know where they went, and I didn’t know how to fold them. Here I was, at almost 33 years old, with this completely new item of clothing to put away. These pretty little cloth creations, made out of my favorite fabrics (some with skulls and roses, others with gauzy pink batik designs, others in prints Andrew refers to as “grandma flowers”) – all pleated and tangled up in each other’s ties.

I puzzled over them for a minute, then folded them in half hamburger-style and rolled them up into little tubes to add to my socks-and-underwear drawer. They strike me as a sock-and-underwear item. This must be what they mean when they say the New Normal. Now there are masks in my laundry, and it’s normal. They go in my socks-and-underwear drawer. There’s a proper way of folding them. Apparently it’s normal now.

It’s definitely still weird to see them in my laundry as I unload the dryer.

I’m expecting to be wearing them for at least a year at this point. And I don’t mind, really. It’s another accessory, and one that lets other things be a bit more normal. When I see people out on the nature trails, I can stand six feet away from them while I excitedly tell them, through my purple-splashed mask, why the California bay laurels look so spooky or why I’m so excited about the turkey vultures hanging out in the oak branches. Having made the masks myself makes me feel more in control. In times like these, I desperately crave every little bit of control I can get.

For that reason, I’ve been grateful for my job. Working in the nonprofit sector, I’m tangentially addressing with the pandemic’s effects. I may be stuck at home, but my actions are helping, and they’re helping other people help as well. There’s comfort in that.

I guess that’s the wonder here, glittering through all the muck and drama, the protests and the finger-pointing, the loss and the futility. We wrestle through things. It’s messy. We have our big feelings and we express them in big ways. But we kind of eke out some kind of stubborn hopefulness from day to day. It might not even be hopefulness. More a deep-seated will to survive. We fumble around for reasons even when we’re not thinking about it.

We create things. We try. We make jokes about the toilet paper to help each other laugh in the face of the absurdity in the catastrophe. We figure it out, maybe, sort of. We figure out what to make of it. Or we try to, day by day.

Someday, the sense we’ve tried to make day by day will make a picture they’ll write about in history books, and it’ll be something complicated and ineffable that we can’t fully see now. But it’ll be ours, and those of us who have lived through it will each feel some kind of way about it. There’s something wonderful and strange and human in that.

But it’s definitely very weird to live through, I’ll tell you that.


Let me know in the comments how you’re doing. Have you found any wonder as we’ve navigated the pandemic together as a world? Have you created anything cool since this began?

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Happy witnessing!

Wonders Ramble

One hope of mine, when I started this blog, was that regularly writing about wonders would force me to seek out new material week by week. Hopefully, I thought, this practice will make me pay more attention.

And it has – so much, in fact, that I sometimes find myself at a loss for which wonder to write about on a given occasion.

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Milkmaids – among the first wildflowers of spring.
Continue reading “Wonders Ramble”

Halloween! Halloween!

Here’s my earliest memory of trick-or-treating: Mom gave me and my siblings each a large cardboard box to decorate with doors, windows, and all the necessary amenities for modern life. Then, dressed in our lovingly-handmade costumes, we each took turns circling the little cardboard neighborhood, carefully traversing the pale blue rug with our candy bags extended.

From within our cardboard houses, we gave each other cough drops and homemade donut holes – cough drops because, in early-90s Bangkok, there wasn’t much other hard candy to be had, and donut holes because my mother thought the cough drop situation was a bit too sad.

Crystal Anderson Halloween 1991a.jpgCrystal Anderson Halloween 1991b.jpg Continue reading “Halloween! Halloween!”

The Underworld and the Heavens – Or, Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona

I’d just completed the Pluto Walk: an uphill length of sidewalk stretching to the tippy-top of Mars Hill, where one finds the Pluto Telescope Dome surrounded by fragrant ponderosa pines. The walk demonstrates a to-scale approximation of the distances between the planets in our solar system, beginning with our Absurdly Bright Star at the bottom and culminating with Pluto. Each celestial body is marked on the sidewalk itself and is highlighted with panels featuring pertinent facts about the planet and its discovery.

But wait, you’ll object. I thought Pluto wasn’t considered a planet anymore. 

You’re not wrong. Pluto is now the best known of the dwarf planets, and is the namesake for plutoids (ice dwarfs) and plutinos (distant members of our solar system with funky orbital habits) found in the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune. The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona knows this. Pluto is honored here not out of astronomical dissent, but out of pride.

You see, it was here that Pluto was first discovered.

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This building houses the actual telescope commissioned to discover “Planet X.” It succeeded in capturing the first images of Pluto in 1915, and the significance of those images was recognized in 1930! (All photos by yours truly.)

Continue reading “The Underworld and the Heavens – Or, Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona”

European Adventurers Discover Seven Magic Mountains, Las Vegas, Nevada

Sunset only added to the stones’ fluorescence. I had not expected this. Usually, dimming light can be relied upon to fade any colors within reach, but Seven Magic Mountains challenged the rule.

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Two Magic Mountains, with the sunset over the Mojave in the background. Photo by Jasper.

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Hullabaloo Parade

No lesson this week—just hilarity.

The setting: a moving sidewalk leading into Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport from short-term parking.

The characters: myself (laden with a children’s carseat, a pink backpack, and a rolling suitcase), my sister (encumbered with the same array of baggage), my nephew (six years old and wearing a backpack), and my niece (four years old, tiny for her age, wearing a unicorn backpack and carrying Pandie in her arms).

What could go wrong?

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Scene inside an airport, featuring moving sidewalks in the center and terminals at either side. Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

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All the Profound Clarity of the Gods

Communication did not become a problem until I moved towards the register. The woman behind the counter remained stationary, hands on either side of my donut box, giving me an urgent, confused look and gesturing with an open hand to the donut display before her.

I mimicked the gesture, my hand indicating the register. “Okay kha,” I said, nodding. “Finished.”

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Multiple assorted donuts. Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

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Exquisite Awareness – Or, Red Elephant Chocolate

In early October of 2015, I stood with Andrew in a Wisconsin chocolaterie, sipping a hot chocolate sample with my eyes closed. Luscious cream warmed my lips and tongue. Sweetness ached in my cheeks, and as the liquid slipped down my throat, the chocolate’s gentle tart depth sprawled sumptuously across my tastebuds.

All at once, I began to cry. Continue reading “Exquisite Awareness – Or, Red Elephant Chocolate”

The Clouds Must Be Bewildered – Or, The Great American Eclipse

On August 21st, 2017, Andrew and I sat beside a ruined French fortress in the middle of Illinois farmland, waiting for the sun to disappear.

We’d found Fort de Chartres by accident. A couple days prior to the Great American Eclipse, we had driven from Madison to St. Louis to spend the weekend with family. This put us barely outside the path of totality. I was content to view the historic eclipse from St. Louis; I have a self-defeating habit of accepting things as they are, even when minor one-time expenditures of effort stand to significantly multiply my enjoyment. Sometimes serene acceptance is a virtue, but I haven’t yet found the wisdom to know the difference.

Thankfully Andrew was having none of it. “We drove all the way down here to see the eclipse,” he said. “We’re seeing the eclipse.” Continue reading “The Clouds Must Be Bewildered – Or, The Great American Eclipse”