That’s really the basis for blissful solitude. We depend, especially we women, on feeling loved by our close ones in order to love ourselves, to see our best selves reflected in those eyes, and even though we all know those reflections are fleeting, at best—for when have relationships ever been untarnished by ambiguity, doubt, jealousy and all the other dark shadows?—we still depend on those loving looks and feel forlorn and diminished without them. The mirror doesn’t help with its cruel proof of our aging.
And of course in this time of surging rates of infection across the country, if we have any common sense or any regard for our communities, we are not joining the three million a day who, in spite of grave warnings, are flying to find those they feel they can’t live without.
Without: an ominous word with its hint of the final withoutness that faces all of us. As a poem I read this morning says, “For those to whom God is an enemy, death is an enemy/for those to whom God is a friend, death is a friend….”
I’m especially grateful today for the women in my life who, in spite of enormous challenges, are moving forward. Foremost in my mind are two on opposite sides of the globe: Sarah Gorham, long-time publisher of the esteemed independent press, Sarabande Books, in Kentucky, and Ozlem Ezer, in Istanbul.
Sarah faces—as do all publishers today—a fifty percent drop in sales due to the pandemic; Ozlem continues to make possible the existence of UmAy Women’s House in Istanbul. Ozlem writes that this has been a particularly difficult time for her fledgling organization because the lockdown prevented her opening and hosting her first target group: women displaced and dispossessed in one of the most problematic areas for feminism to take root. Relying almost entirely on volunteers has also meant a drastic reduction in her workforce.She’s been able to use Zoom for fundraising efforts and successfully prevented the closure for lack of rent money of the International Immigrant Women’s Solidarity Association in Istanbul. She’s been able to form an alliance with Belentepe Permaculture Farm and Foundation, and also, on advice, to expand UmAy’s services to include not just immigrant women but any woman in Istanbul in need of advice, room, and psychological support, offering aid to many graduate students.
Ozlem writes, “We remain open to adjustments, maybe radical ones too. I trust the path of improvisation” and sees the healing effect of having volunteers working in the center’s garden.
She ends, “I assure you that our initiative will continue to serve for the well being of all in soul and body… Soon I will send you the story of the olive grove in Antioch/Hatay and ask for some advice on how to save it from destruction.”
Sarabande’s struggles may seem less dramatic but in fact they reflect a deep fissure in our society between those—often well-heeled and well-educated—who have never really believed in the importance of books, especially books that will never appear on the discredited New York Times Best Seller List. Sarabande supports new writers, writers from many different fields, and is looking forward to publishing Kiki Petrosino’s Bright, essays on her Virginia ancestors who were slaves, as well as poetry by Elizabeth Hughey about the radical racist Bull Connor who lived across the street from her home, and probably put up Christmas lights. Also coming is a second edition of Last Call: Poems on Addiction, Alcoholism and Deliverance with two young editors. And the murder of Brianna Taylor in Louisville by police last spring will result in an anthology of poetry by Louisville poets edited, Sarah hopes, by Joy Smith.
No, you don’t know these names and will probably turn with avidity to the fraudulent New York Times Best Seller list and the offerings of the publishing murderer, Amazon, if you read anything offline. If you don’t know why I give them these titles, ask me to explain…
In the meantime, yes, even in the midst of the worst of times, I wish all my readers Merry Solitude.
[You can glimpse daily life at UmAy Home Space on Instagram.]