Campaign Season Fatigue: Ready to Vote!

Like everyone I know, I cannot wait until this presidential election is over. The nastiness, the lack of depth and intelligent analysis, the social media overload – all of it needs to go. Away. Now.

I’m very much looking forward to voting tomorrow, along with my husband and our daughter, whom we’ll pick up from her student apartment after her last class of the day. We’ll walk into our precinct voting place together and cast our ballots, hope for the best. Later, my son and daughter-in-law are coming to our house to watch the results roll in. A few friends are joining us.

Am I going to try to sell you on my choice? Not today. But I am going to echo the general call to get out and vote, exercise your hard-won right as an adult citizen of this country, and be respectful of everyone else who is doing the same. Do not predict the end of the world as we know it if you come up against someone who is voting for your candidate’s opponent. We’ve had enough childish doomsday forecasts to push people into making a choice based on fear, incomplete truths, or flat-out lies. Think about the bigger picture, why experience matters, how the checks and balances inherent in our system really work, and what candidate promises are realistically impossible to fulfill.

For that matter, think about what you learned as a child about being fair and doing a good job.

When I was a kid, my dad was adamant about voting in every single election. This is what good Americans did. I went along every time my parents voted, listened to them from the back seat of the car while they discussed the election. I remember during the 1972 Nixon vs. McGovern election I was just becoming aware of how candidates tried to make themselves look good and was beginning to understand that there was a lot of disagreement about Vietnam and women and racial differences. Our local parish priest admonished all of us that voting for a candidate who supported abortion rights was not what a good Catholic did. For my parents, this meant that McGovern was not a good Catholic choice, but he was the Democrat and this caused a great deal of anguish. My mom was very clear that she could not vote for McGovern, but my dad did not like Nixon. I asked my dad if he was going to vote for Nixon or McGovern after learning about them both in school, and my dad informed me that we never had to tell anyone who we voted for. He might not even tell my mom who he chose and she might not tell him. It was a sacred, private thing. Of course, I know now it might have been in my dad’s best interest to keep mum.

When I was old enough to vote, I talked to my dad about the candidates. I didn’t keep my choices a secret from him. Now, Mick and I talk a lot about who we support and we have not had an election over which we’ve disagreed much. Our differences in choice of candidates come early on, before the party endorsements happen. But our philosophies are similar. We are lucky that way. I cannot imagine being married to someone who has a completely different political sensibility, especially in this election season.

Is this election season any more divisive than that long-ago 1972 season when there was so much strife in this country? Or the 1968 election, which I cannot remember? I don’t know. It seems like it is more divisive today, but I believe my parents were every bit as worried about the future in 1972 as I am now. I worry about what we are creating for our kids with all this fighting and arguing and inability to come to a consensus on things like health care, immigration, education, and foreign policy. What gives me hope is that we still have the right to choose our representatives, still have a process that prevents change on a whim, and that many people are going to the polls already through the early voting option. It gives me hope that many are speaking out about this campaign season’s bad behavior with the suggestion that this is not how adults should behave.

Come Wednesday, we’ll know who our next president is. Let’s honor the democratic process. Vote.


images courtesy of


Our Soggy Autumn and Finding Hope

It’s been a gray several days until today; many inches of rain in the rain gauge, although we are lucky at our house. Last Wednesday, over seven inches of rain fell just to the north of us in a few hours. I drove home from the Edina library in that storm, muttering to myself, “Please don’t hail,” since I just got my car back from the body shop for hail damage repair. Lightning flickered constantly, like a bad light bulb, and Highway 100 had at least two spots where pooled water could have quickly turned dangerous. But I made it home, completely soaked from my 30-second dash to the car after the reading I attended, and felt grateful. To the south of us, floods are displacing many as rivers rise, spill over banks, meander into small towns and over highways. All this wetness feels like spring.

Yet here we are at the start of autumn. The birds are constantly emptying the bird feeders in our yard. The fruit on our crabapple tree has turned orange-red, its smaller crabapples irresistible to robins and migrating cedar waxwings. The waxwings have arrived right on schedule to gorge themselves in preparation for their long flight. The robins have been here all along, but they, too, must be getting ready to go. Our tree is a noisy, lofty restaurant. Sometimes, I watch this scene from our bedroom window just after I’ve opened the curtains and am entranced.

Through our kitchen window, there is a perfect view of our neighbor’s old apple tree which has been dead for years. He never cut it down, just trimmed the bulk of the top away. Its trunk and a few sturdy limbs remain. The dead tree has become a woodpecker neighborhood, with several perfectly round holes in desirable areas. The resident woodpeckers sometimes stop at our deck, check out the cedar planks, make our dogs lose their minds. They aren’t the only life to move to the dead tree. I recently noticed the lichen that has made patterns all over the old bark, as if a painter took a pallet knife and slathered on goops of oil paint that will not dry for years.

Soon the juncos will come through, too, on their migration. They are my favorites with their dark eyes and round white bellies. I love watching them hop around on the ground, their movements quick, lively.

When did I become this person who knows the seasons by the birds in the yard? Not that I mind. It’s far more soothing than this election season with its flood of campaign ads, far less bitter and polarizing than a candidates’ debate. Even though I was disappointed in my neighbor’s refusal to remove the dead tree, that is so minor compared to all the arguing over immigration, policing, race, religious differences, taxes, and rights. The thing about my neighbor’s tree is that it has had time to become a home for other creatures. Its demise is to the benefit of the woodpeckers and lichen and perhaps something else I haven’t noticed yet. I keep thinking there’s a lesson there. I keep wanting to draw a peaceful analogy, but am not sure there is one that would be of use in getting people to stop shouting.

Maybe the sun that has broken through today will relieve some of the floods to the south. Maybe we’ll see something that will lift our hearts a little before tonight’s debate between Clinton and Trump makes us feel like we’re drowning in reactionary verbosity. Maybe this soft light of autumn is good at illuminating hope.

Let’s leave the curtains open for that.


All photos by kcmickelson 2016.