Mary Beth Writes

Why are people (lots of them) on Facebook posting photos of landscapes? The instructions say one should post a picture of a landscape one took somewhere, one should not say where that place is, and no people should be included, especially not the posting-person.  

Why? I don’t get it. I don’t mind but I really don’t get how this connects to anything.

A friend’s husband’s company had a virtual meeting this morning about the future of their company. Things are changing but not shutting down. They will still have income and insurance.  Thought you might like to know.  

Len and I have been watching the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring movies. There are six movies; each about three hours long, and we started weeks ago. We’d never watched them before (raising kids takes a lot of time). It seemed like this might be a good time to watch movies about being gallant and brave.

So far we’ve watched four of the six films, we still have two DVD’s that I borrowed from the library before it closed. Boy, a lot of drama goes into finding the ring, keeping the ring, taking the ring back to the fire from whence it came in order to set Middle Earth free from greed and violence. 

Bilbo Baggins is the hobbit; he is the only one who can carry, keep, or deal with the Ring. He is inoculated from the ravages of power because he has a home, a shire, friends, a garden, and pleasant things to cook and eat.

I hope it is true that bravest people are not about fury, power, weapons, and violence. I hope we mild ones who love our shires and pals will be the ones to endure. It’s the story most of us choose to we believe even when it isn’t the story that seems to be happening around us.

In the 1980’s I interviewed a Salvadoran nun about the dangers and challenges of her ministry in civil war-torn El Salvador, a war greatly funded by the US “protecting” American business interests in Central America.  Towards the end of the interview my toddler woke from her nap and came downstairs by herself.

The nun’s face lit up. I said it was almost our daughter’s birthday. She asked how we would celebrate and was fascinated by whatever I was answering.

The woman had lived and served through incredible loss and violence, yet what she wanted to talk about was my little one’s birthday party. I was curious and asked how kids’ birthdays are celebrated in El Salvador.

She explained that no matter how poor or under siege a village was, folks tried to have chicken, something sweet, and some balloons or garland, “because every child must be celebrated, don’t you think?”

I think that is what the Hobbit stories are about.

Know what you are fighting for.


My take-aways on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series:

Weinstein produced the LOTR series. peter Jackson did not audition Mira Sorvino or Ashley Judd for LOTR parts because the Weinstein brothers told him they were “temperamental.” He sued to get profits from the Hobbit series that he did not produce. You can google it if you want to know more. 

So hindsight is the clearest vision, right?  But watching the spectacular, clever, macho stories feels oddly boring much of the time. Way too many battles. Way too much spectacular death.

And the female roles feel mostly like frames for the male characters.

When they say the ends justify the means, maybe we look again? How does unholy power create a story about holy power? 

Still, under the multi-million-dollar froth and gore, there is a story of imperialistic greed that sours the planet. The way through grief, loss, and struggle is this. Gandalf, who generally understands what’s going on, and Bilbo, who rarely does, and all the valiant or screwball characters in between – they push ahead together. Wisdom, spirituality, pluck and luck mean something.

I do love this line. “Sorry Gandalf. You have got yourself the wrong hobbit.”

Except he doesn’t. He has exactly the right Hobbit.





Thank you.

53 years ago I read the first book of the series and only remember Bilbo Baggins and the creepy thing in the cave that hissed "My Precious." I always meant to read the rest of the series, but I guess I won't. All I have to do is turn on the news and watch the creepy guy saying "This is a hoax, I don't take responsibility." I prefer instead---the doctors and nurses and volunteers who are saying, "Hey, let me help!" I prefer to watch the Navy ships sailing into the harbors of our big cities in order to help the citizenry. I prefer the people who are taking food to neighbors or sheltering housefuls of offspring against disease. I prefer to idolize the doctors and nurses who are struggling to comfort the afflicted. I like that I can take responsibility. I like being a Bilbo Baggins.
Mary Beth's picture

Smeagol/the Gollum (the skinny creepy white blobby guy who hisses "my precious" when he talks to himself) is kind of an interesting character. When Bilbo addresses him with his proper name and asks his story and gives him respect - he becomes a better character. A reality any teacher could explain.. But he doesn't keep his self-esteem (at least, so far) and then reverts to be dangerous and creepy.

"Every Child Must Be Celebrated don't you think?" I Love that line and YES I Do... Today I laughed at some messages I got from Brad this morning, sent out my morning HELLO's and went to George's earlier than usual because it was a three hour day and I needed to get it over and done with as soon as possible... Why the rush at a time when we are mostly stuck at home? Because I needed to "Celebrate A Child" My child ( Not really but Yes My child ) A story too long to tell now but a good one...Today is Angela's Birthday and she's been home with her two dogs, so not alone but alone... I had called her the night before and told her that I would stop and pick up Indian food and bring it over to her to celebrate her day... I kNOW!!! Stay away from people but NOT that one and certainly not today... I went to the Taj, Placed my order for dinner for two, Ordered an Indian beer ( It's 5 o'clock somewhere, and asked the owner how bad is it?? She turned around from writing my order, waved her arm around the empty restaurant and said "That Bad" and then she said NOT GOOD and went back to the kitchen.( My heart felt for her ) Her husband came out and asked how spicy I wanted the butter goat? I told him medium because it was for Angela's Birthday but to add some Hot curry beef to the order... We talked about this whole mess as he rang me up... I handed him $100.00 for my $64.00 take out order and told him to keep the change... ¿Generous? Not Really... Not when you realize that I have spent every Wednesday at the Taj at my window table having lunch and talking with the owner about everything... He knows more about the little details of my life than most of my friends do... Someone I met for lunch asked if I wanted some chi and when she went to get it. and grabbed the wrong shape cup he corrected her and said he drinks from that kind... They know me, The cook knows me and introduced me to his DIL and his Granddaughter when they came in... I'm invested and it breaks my heart to see this happening to these people and all the others out there... The tip was no big deal ( All my bills are paid ) but it just might help a little bit... They've given me much more through the years than I can ever repay... My order came out and they sat down in the empty restaurant to have lunch... As I got up to leave the owner said "Thank you for coming, We really appreciate it." I cried in the car because I know they truly mean it... I took the food over to Ángela's we ate, we talked, we laughed, we spent her day with the most important person in our lives and We hung out content in the fact that we love each other to the moon and back and always will....
Mary Beth's picture

Yeah. Happy Birthday to Angela and also to you... One of the things I have done and one can do to support the "little businesses" that mean so much to us. Buy Gift Certificates NOW to use later. It's money in their cash registers now. With the understanding some businesses won't make it, so the gift cert might end up as a donation after all.

I haven’t read the books nor seen the movies. Hmmm - on my list. Thankful and thank u for the nod to our security. Makes the hardness that is now, a little easier for us.

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Quarantine Diary #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.


 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.


Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.


Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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