Wednesday, March 30, 2022

"Success" in the Grey Squares

My husband and I play Wordle together. He doesn't have a phone, so I "drive" the tap-tap-tapping of letters.

Sometimes three, often four, sometimes more.

He's really good at (and interested in) anagrams. Stale, least, taser, etc. *

I remain at some level surprised that words, which in my mind are units unto themselves, are malleable in this way. I mean, beyond root words, prefixes, suffixes, and declensions. Even if you add a bunch of those, you're working with the original concept.

But letters? Huh. 

In playing together, I keep bumping up against thoughts of "success." We always have fun playing, even (especially?) when it's a squeaker. So the process of playing is always successful. 

But beyond fun, I am continually reminded that "success" isn't always about the green squares, or even the yellow ones. 

With every play, we know more. And what you know is important, even if it’s knowledge that comes from an "unsuccessful" attempt to do something. 

This process is also what science does.

Remembering this process helps me (for example) stay optimistic about Alzheimer's and dementia. Alzheimer’s researchers know a lot about the disease even though they don’t have a cure or sure-fire means of prevention yet. 

Because results are information, even when the results don't confirm what you wish they did. 

And if you do something with that information--quit a project, revise something, pass along unworn clothing to a friend, drop that bunch of "interesting paper" you'll never do anything with into the recycle bin--then doesn't that information become somehow successful?

So the grey squares can be signs of success, too, for what that's worth.   

* I am so bad at this that I had to go look it up. Stale, least, tales. Rates, tares, taser. That's what I meant.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


I'm not sure why or when I imagined I was supposed to know things or have a "valuable perspective" to offer. Or, you know, some kind of wisdom. Ha.

Maybe that's what I thought it meant to "be a grownup." Maybe, too, that's a big reason I never wanted to teach or raise children--what on earth could I ever tell them that they'd find valuable?

Especially because I'm still figuring out the world myself, as I go along.

Speaking of which, today I find myself in a pickle. 

Things are changing, and by "things" I mean people, places, rules, markets, weather, and other things I cannot control. And I find myself feeling all colours of uncomfortable--sad, frustrated, apprehensive, angry, afraid. 

And also, things are NOT changing, and by "things" I AGAIN mean people, places, rules, markets, weather and other things I cannot control. Still feeling all the things.

Specifically, today I find myself thinking wistfully of six or so weeks ago, before I could accurately label a recent map of Eastern Europe. (I haven't studied one since Czechoslovakia.) I emphatically do NOT long for a return to that ignorance; however, I wish that a series of unprovoked war crimes hadn't brought that ignorance to my attention. A change I don't like.

Also today, we're having "a bit of a snow"--possibly the biggest of the season (though I think that every time the snow melts and then deluges us again). We've passed the equinox, we're officially in Spring, and the weather refuses to reliably warm up and offer buds and the like. A non-change I don't like.

Long-ago basic therapy taught me that when I'm out of sorts with one person/place/thing, it might be that person/place/thing. But when I'm out of sorts with every person/place/thing, it's probably me. 

So I'm going to make another pot of coffee and a toasted peanut butter/wild blueberry jam sandwich, turn on some music, and see if I can get Roy to dance with me. It should be good for a laugh, if nothing else. 

Is that wisdom? I don't know. But it's what I have to offer. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022


I posted the below over on Instagram. You're welcome to follow me there; I'm @marionagnew. 

Sometimes I just post stuff I see from the window, but lately I've been "more thoughtful," which is to say, "procrastinating work on our taxes."


Patterns from yesterday and today.

Patterns from yesterday and today. 

Patterns in me, too. Every year I put our tax info together. It’s one of those accordion projects: more complicated than I anticipated at some points in the process, and less complicated at others. More. Less. More. Less. Every year.

I’m grateful for the resources to deal with it: physical and emotional energy and time, plus (eventually) money.

On the “more complicated” days, I try to remember the pattern, and keep moving till it’s less complicated again. And, eventually, done.

I wonder if Earth feels that way about the changing seasons. All she can do is keep turning, and some days she must feel that nothing is really happening.

Yet here we are: melting snow, with temperatures occasionally above freezing.

It’s all about hope: that words can accumulate and then be massaged to make a novel, that we provide a financial accounting to our communities every year, that individuals standing up to invasion and war make a wave that leads to peace.

That in our individual ways, large and small, we are giving to our world.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Miss Me

The photo below shows my Aunt Marion, my father, and my mother. Mom's pregnant with me.

gone but never forgotten
My aunt died this week. For a long time, she was the only other "Marion with an O" I knew. 

At a job in Arkansas where I worked between university degrees, one of my coworkers said "Oh, I have an uncle who spells it that way." She paused. "He wears overalls without a shirt and goes by Scooter."

My grandmother named me "Marion" after her favourite older sister, the name she'd also given my aunt, her youngest daughter. My parents wanted to honour my grandmother but didn't want to name me "Agnes," so they asked Gran to choose. Though Agnes is a perfectly lovely name, I'm grateful.

As I said on Facebook, Aunt Marion got a degree in political science in the 1940s. She married a farmer, and she spent her days cooking for him and the field hands. She told me once she made a pie every single day for their noon meal. My three cousins thrived among tractors and chores and feral kittens in the barn.

When my uncle sickened, they moved to "town," a tiny village of a few hundred souls. When he died, she lent her no-nonsense leadership to her community and her church.  

She and my father genuinely liked each other--a gift not always bestowed upon siblings. My mother really liked her, too, in part (I suspect) because she knew Aunt Marion was also no pushover.  

So yes, I'm sad. And I'm angry, because her death came after an infection with SARS-CoV-2. Otherwise, she was adjusting fine to life in an assisted living centre, where meals were provided regularly and people were around to help her (though she, typically, insisted she didn't need it). 

So miss me with your questions and platitudes about "a good long life," "feisty till the end," "was it unexpected," "out of pain/suffering/misery." 

Who are you to gauge the proper length of a life of service and happiness, its feisty qualities, or the degree of expectation of its end? 

Whose pain/suffering/misery are you talking about ending? Yours? Because her death is painful, too. 

And most of all: miss me with your "was it WITH or FROM Covid?"

Yes, we all die. But her death didn't have to happen this way. Neither did nearly 1 million OTHER deaths, SO FAR, in the US; more than 37,000 deaths in Canada.

We failed our seniors. We're failing people who have been infected and experience persistent life-altering deficits, people who are immunocompromised for many reasons, people who are fragile. 

We've also failed the children who never grew up because they died of Covid, or they were shot in schools or parks, or they exist as trans people in the US; because they were sent to US and Canadian residential schools where those in charge didn't value them; because they live in the Ukraine and are being killed by bombs in the streets and hospitals. 

We're losing so many people whose existence brings joy and whose stories are important. 

So, miss me with those distinctions that aren't really differences. 

It's far more important to miss the people we've lost. 
Wednesday, March 2, 2022

What I'm Taking Into March 2022

I looked back at the list I made at the beginning of February, and I had to laugh. Greater selectivity in paying attention to news? Such an innocent child I was a few weeks back.

But much of the rest of what I thought about holds true. 

Treats, for example. I’m loving the music I’ve picked out during the past couple of months. It's been a great way to pull me from endless doomscrolling or the vacant staring front of “news” TV, where they're quite canny about maintaining breathlessness of actual BREAKING news while showing the same interviews hour after hour.

Family: especially my sister, who drew me this monster and sent it in an envelope! That I got from a mailbox! How can I resist smiling?

Look at all its tools!!

And these general signs of hope.

Sign of hope: the bulb I got on sale and forgot about and planted anyway isn’t dead after all. Neither is my second novel draft. Sure, it’s got some throat-clearing, but I have a delete key, and I have some revision chops.

Sign of hope: I’m pretty sure that on one of the more southerly sides of the house, the snow is melting!?! I’m nervous about saying that aloud. (Not superstitious, just a little stitious.)

Sign of hope: people standing up and saying things. Saying “no” and “don’t forget us” and more “no” and “we can do many things at once” and also “hell no.”

Sign of hope: more sunshine! And the days are longer! As much as I love the night, and I love changing seasons, I am but an animal and we enjoy sunshine.

These are sad and unsettling days, on top of two years of sad and unsettling days, on top of four previous sad and unsettling years. I can’t fix any of that. 

The best I can do is feel grateful for small connections and treats, look for signs of hope, and hold fast to it all. Here's hoping you can, too.