Voices From My Bunker: Goodbye Everything in Audio!

I’m trying something new! It’s September, after all. I’m recording some of my archival posts as an audio book! Today, I’m starting with a personal story that happened 18 years ago but I remember as if it happened yesterday.

In fact, I wish it was yesterday. But, I’ll not whine.

Here’s the story. Let me know if you like the short story audio format, would you?

2020: Looking Away from The House of Whiteness is No Longer a Choice.

Looking Away from The House of Whiteness is No Longer a Choice in 2020.

When there is something violent or scary or close-ups of rodents in a movie, I look away or close my eyes.

In 2012, I went to see the movie, “Flight” with Denzel Washington as the airline pilot who miraculously was able to land his plane by flying it upside down for a period of time after a midair explosion. I love Denzel Washington but never go to airplane disaster films (Tom Hanks as Sully for example) but I had read this film was primarily about the aftermath of his miraculous landing.

So, I started the movie in the theatre with my popcorn and when he got in the cockpit of the plane, about 15 minutes in, I left the theatre and finished my popcorn pacing walking up and down the corridor. When I noticed the thumping music and muffled screaming from the passengers in the plane had stopped, I figured Denzel must have landed the plane, and now the rest of the movie will continue.

Since November 2016, I have tried to look away from the news with less success. Tried to put on mute the toxic water bearers whether they be in Washington or in my neighborhood, family, airwaves, or social media.

But, this is not a sustainable way of living life in 2020. The White House has turned into The House of Whiteness.

Looking away no longer works. Early on, I put any of my toxic Irish (and oh, so pompous) Trump water bearer” relatives on mute in Facebook and turned off news alerts the day after the election in November 2016. I’d try to drip the news into my house in order to bear it.

Now, it’s like being in one of the Twin Towers trying to escape down a stairwell as the building structure above weakens and begins its sickening descent and I decide I really need a restroom before I can finish escaping. It simply won’t work. I’ve got to face it.

In meditation, they suggest you don’t deny your feelings, just make room for them, let them come and go. Face them, don’t deny them, and they are more manageable.

To be fair, Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the President, makes it easier to face them. She couldn’t have been clearer on a Fox and Friends TV Broadcast, “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.” 

So, I didn’t see this particular broadcast but just read about it. I presume she said this with a straight face.

I don’t suspect she was asked, “If they really are the “best” on public safety and law and order” why are they so incompetent in dealing with the unrest today, now, when they are already in power. This is a “re-election” campaign after all.”

So, I’ll just suggest this: “Ask yourself if 4 years of Trump has made you feel safer.” Stephen King tweets.

If you say “Yes”, your room rental in the House of Whiteness has been approved.

In the meantime here is a clip of Doc Rivers. “You don’t have to be black to be outraged, you need to be American.”

And, here is a poem by Ursula Le Guin called “Whiteness”.

Meditations for Melville


Whiteness crossed the continent
a poison fog and where it went
villages were vacant
hearths and ways forsaken

Whiteness with greed and iron
makes the deep seas barren
Great migrations fly daylong
into whiteness and are gone


Whiteness in its righteousness
bleaches creatures colorless
tolerates no


People walk unseeing unseen
staring at a little screen
where the whiteness plays
an imitation of their days

Plugged in their ears white noise
drowns an ancient voice
murmuring to bless

From Late in the Day, Poems 2010–2014, PM Press, copyright 2016 Ursula K. Le Guin. All rights reserved.

Lost Then Found on Second Avenue

I am reposting this post from 2009. It is good to remember in 2020 that my creativity is not dependent on other people liking what I do or brands of devices or cameras or paints. Creativity wakes up with me every morning and asks a 75-year-old in quarantine during a pandemic, “What shall we do today?”  Today, I am going to be kind by trying to tell the truth even though people aren’t crazy about this part of me. Just sayin’.


I lost my “good camera” in NYC this weekend (Good equals $2500) and then found it six hours later.

In between 5 AM when I woke up and realized it was gone and 11:40AM when the shop I’d been in the day before called to say it was there in the dressing room, I did the only thing that calmed me down.

I took photos with my point and shoot camera that fits in my palm like a slippery credit card.

It can’t do 75% of what the other camera and my lenses can do so I only use it for situations where I need portability more than choices.

I took pictures out the bedroom window of the street below:  Second Avenue and East 82nd Street

I found new settings for this camera that I’d never used before because the pit in my stomach was coding intermittently, “This is going to be your “good” camera from now on, dunderhead.”

I heard Tim Gunn’s voice of Thursday night’s first episode of the long-delayed fifth season, “Project Runway” saying…..(and all of you PR fans know what I’m going to say)…..”Make it work, Pat.  Just make it work.”

Finger snap snap snap.

(Yes, I watch it!  And, I don’t want to hear one word about it either!!  I’ve loved it from the beginning.)

I tried harder to photograph Second Avenue than I’ve tried with almost any subject of recent memory.

I shot it with all the different white balances available on the camera:  daylight, tungsten, bulb, cloudy, daylight.  Shot the same shot with three different exposures and all those white balance choices.    I kept shooting and in the process calmed down. Was it a masterpiece? No, but it just trying that provided the peace.

By the time my cousin got up and came in with coffee, I calmly told her the situation.  The look of horror on her face reflected mine an hour earlier when I’d realized the loss.

“An hour had gone by along with forty shots of Second Avenue from point and shoot camera before I realized it was only a camera I’d lost, not my creativity.”

But, that high falutin’ realization did not prevent me from breaking into tears and a happy dance when the store called to say, “We have your camera!”

I am looking at this “Point and Shoot” with a newfound respect, I can tell you that.

Lost then Found and since I had bought a pair of pajamas in the store, they almost became a 2500 dollar pair of pajamas. 

Instead, Miss Dunderhead now has two old “good” cameras.

One as slippery as an eel.

©Pat Coakley 2009


Slice of Deep Thought Pie

An hour & forty shots of Second Avenue and the first sips of coffee later, I’d realized it was only a camera I’d lost, not my creativity.

The last ferry has left the island & I’m left in the Reality Ballpark.

The last ferry has left the island and I’m sitting by myself in The Reality Ballpark.

What the hell?

The “Reality Ballpark” is a term I coined 10 years ago after I had lost weight and was figuring out how to maintain the weight loss. The only thing I knew for sure was I had to sit in the reality ballpark of the number of the scale more often than I wanted. For me, I could not argue, manipulate, whittle away the meaning of the numbers. So, now, ten years later, my weight is manageable but risk management? Jesus.

How did this happen that the risk management of March and April is now a buffet of choices that do not manage risk but invite it in? Bubbles that are defined by last name and proximity, not common sense. Overnight visits that are defined as “they are like family”. I’m not talking people who have to go to work to put food on the table or pay their rent but people who choose to define “risk” management in distinctly “risky” ways. They are tired of the virus.

As of today, 179,000 dead Americans. The virus is not tired of us.

Estrangement from the government I am used to in the last three years, but not estrangement from family and friends. Is this the new normal? Is it a temporary state that will pass? I don’t know but I do know this: I’ve just ordered four volumes of Letters by Samuel Beckett. Why? The man knew how to deal with absurd situations with humor as well as humans facing grave situations. I’ve got the gravity part down, it’s the humor part that needs some nourishment. Click on the white arrow in the lower left box and listen to my interview with myself. Yep, it’s come to that. I am talking to myself these days.

Dahlia Classroom Reopens every August in Massachusetts.

The Dahlia classroom reopens every year in August in the Massachusetts.

I relearn one lesson: from the most unattractive tuber Mother Nature ever created (And, I mean EVER) comes spectacular beauty.

Selective Focus is the magic of a macro lens and particularly with dahlias as they always take their usual sweet time in budding and blooming in New England.

The wait is ALWAYS worth it and their stages along the way almost as spectacular.

But, I have found in 2020, patience and selective focus are also my #1 & #2 survival skills for coexisting with the challenges of disease, fellow citizens, and politicians.

The Dahlia Classroom teaches important lessons beyond the garden. As you look at this small portfolio ( I shall add more as they bloom), please remember just how unattractive their tubers are. Mother Nature went out of her way with Dahlias to suggest that if you are patient, beauty comes from its opposite.

Is there a human equivalent? I do not know. But, patience will be required to figure it out and selective focus on parts that do begin to bud may be the key.

Meet Joan. Voices from My Bunker 2020

This week on my podcast, “Voices from My Bunker 2020”, I interview Joan, a 74-year-old widow and retired nurse in Rochester, NY who, unlike myself, does not have the prerequisites for a successful quarantine, in other words, she is not a sloth or someone who enjoys sitting for hours at a time reading, clicking, snoozing and I feel 100% sure never uses her bed as her living room, dining room, and office. 

She is a mover. A doer. A socializer. A walker. An organizer. When she flew to see her daughter’s family in Franklin, Mass before COVID19, she would tell them not to pick her up at the airport as she could get on the Silverline at the airport in Boston, go to South Station, and, then, take a train out to Franklin. She allowed them to pick her up at the Franklin station.

So, the prospect of her not being able to leave her house for days, months on end in a chilly Rochester, NY? A challenge. She has Raynauld’s disease so walking outside was not possible either. Yet, she got through quarantine in her own determined way and taught me a few things. One of them?  When in doubt, drive around.  

The second lesson is more sobering and I’m still trying to understand it: she still feels in August 2020, five months after the initial lockdown, as if she and those around her and her family and friends are still on the same conservative wavelength with respect to managing their risks for COVID19. Why is it a lesson? Because I do not feel that way. At all. In fact, lately, I am beginning to realize that this schism may portend a more permanent distancing even when social distancing is no longer necessary. This is a separate post I’ll publish later this week.

But, for now, before you meet Joan, let me introduce her by saying that my sewing teacher, Jen, is Joan’s daughter, and being my sewing teacher is no easy task. Patience is required. Here is what was a typical day in the sewing classroom with me as a student. This is an example of my bobbin threading skills and this was after a solid year of classes!

Q: “Pat, what are you doing?” A: “Threading my bobbin, teacher.”

So, now, just click below on the white arrow on the lower left-hand side and Meet Joan. I think Jen’s ability to adjust to the abnormal may come for her Mom. (The photograph is of “Pitcher Plants” that I photographed to suggest they were in conversation with one another.)

Rather than drive around, I clipped my passion flower vine and embedded them in tissue paper with Glossy Medium and then scanned it while still wet from the medium. Two flowers bloomed the day after I did the original and I added their purple in the final version. I call it, “Snow In August”.

All Talk No Stalk Just Lies.

**FAST FORWARD 10 YEARS. It is today August 17, 2020. I am reposting this post from 2010. Why?  In 2010, I mentioned I had to go on a media diet. Ten years ago.  Wanted to give an update:  my media diet is near-starvation level. I focus only on what is outside my window like tomato cages that I use to keep my dahlias from falling over.

2010 Post:

There’s a new book called, “The Shallows-What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains”.

I’ve ordered it from my library but have read excerpts (gulp) from the internet.

I’m exhibit A.  Proof that access to information does not equal wisdom but does make focusing on something for longer than the life of a mayfly incredibly difficult.

“The Internet, Carr laments, simply returns us to our “natural state of distractedness.”-NPR

I’m going on a media diet. The man is 100 percent right.

This may be harder than managing carbohydrates.

No..not “may be harder”.

Will be harder.

I am beginning this new media diet tomorrow.

Ever heard that line before?

2020 post:

I aggressively limit news alerts and only listen to factual scientific presentations about the pandemic as over 160 thousand Americans have died so far.  I read more now and I am awaiting the publication of one of my favorite authors, Elena Ferrante, who has a new book, “The Lying Lives of Adults”. It will arrive on September 1 if Trump hasn’t closed the Post Office entirely by then.

It’s fiction and not inspired by him.  His biographers would be advised to take their cue from her title, though, and edit it to “A Lying Life”.  They wouldn’t have to write another word. A book with blank pages where the title says it all.  

Here is an Instagram clip of a question asked during a White House briefing that I have been waiting for three years to hear.

“After three and a half years, do you regret at all, all the lying you have done to the American people?”

©Pat Coakley 2010


**Select photographs from this blog and my wider archive can be purchased at www.patcoakley.com

And flower and botanical photography is available at: www.thephotogardener.com

Meet Steph. Quarantine in Stellenbosch South Africa. You’d be wearing your mask.

Think you are tired of your phase of reopening from quarantine in the US?

Listen to my guest, Steph, this week on “Voices from My Bunker 2020” speaking to me from her home in Stellenbosch, South Africa, (she grew up in Portland, Oregon) where she and her family are living while her husband finishes his graduate program there at the University.

I spent most of the interview going, “Really?” or “Wow!” She has a way of describing her life as if it was utterly normal and even mentioned that during the lockdown some of the animals from surrounding mountains feel free to emerge in parts of the town now quiet without traffic and crowds. What kind of animals? Leopards. Baboons. And, I thought seeing a fox in my yard was “wildlife”.

At any rate, click on the white arrow in the lower left corner to listen to Steph.

Steph wishes when she watches the US news that everyone realized that we are all in this together not just as separate individuals.

She is much more diplomatic than I am. Much More. In fact, I think she should receive a Ph.D in diplomacy. I “met” Steph after contacting the email for the company, simplepinmedia.com. I had listened to the podcast “Simple Pin Podcast” with Kate Ahl, the founder of Simple Pin and just decided I needed some help in getting started.

Here is the HaDeDa bird she mentions in the podcast. Good lord. Songbird is not how I’d characterize it but it would wake me up from a dead sleep.

The Art of Aging

An aging lily is a master class in aging gracefully.

Its petals slowly unfold from its tight bud.

Lily Bud

And then ever so slowly the tips of the petal begin to curl, and curl, and curl some more until it simply falls to the table.

That’s when the lesson of human aging comes in. I look at the decayed petals and reimagine them. I rearrange them on a scanner bed in a way that gives them a new life with a touch of humor as well as grace.

I don’t know about you, but my anti-wrinkle cream falls short in the “re-imagination” and the “humor” department.

Plus, they have an even longer life as wall decor.

Aging Lilies
Dried Irises and Rudbeckia Retain Beauty and Grace.