Why Biden Should Step Aside

Today President Joe Biden turns 80 years old. If he wins a second term in 2024, he’d be 86 by the time he left office. A former President who has already declared himself a candidate is only four years younger than Biden. 

Earlier this week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—who is 82—declared that she will step away from party leadership in the House of Representatives. 

Biden and Trump should follow Pelosi’s lead. 

This is not ageism. Clearly, two of these three politicians have still “got it” and have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. But why should we wait to retire until we can’t do the job anymore? We need to retire when it’s time to turn things over to the next generation. 

The problem is not the old folks themselves, but rather the implications of their vital longevity for the generations coming up behind them. Never before in human history (I await correction if I’m wrong) have we found it needful to name successive generations—baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z—because there have never before been so many adult generations competing for access and relevance. (Earlier generations have been named only in retrospect.) Boomers have continued to hold fast to the reins of power while three generations of potential successors wait in the wings with increasing impatience. This election cycle saw the election to Congress of a member of Gen Z—our President’s great-grandchild generation. Something needs to change. 

In societies the world over there have been mechanisms for moving society through generational transitions. It was a focus of my anthropological fieldwork (in Central America and later in Ireland) when I was in academia and it became the crux of the extended thought experiment I pursued more recently in a series of science fiction novels (the Recall Chronicles). As people live longer and maintain both mental and physical health well into their 80s and beyond, it becomes clear that we need more deliberate mechanisms of transition. 

Tension is increasing to the breaking point between the stubborn boomer generation and the directions Gen X and Millennials (and, increasingly, Gen Z as well) want to take our society. Some boomers have kept up remarkably well with innovations in technology and advances in our understanding of history and genetics and climate science. Others not so much. But even those who are the most tech savvy and knowledgeable are incapable of truly comprehending the experience of the younger generations who have grown up in a world that diverges significantly from the one boomers knew in their own youth. 

I’m not suggesting that the old folks be relegated to some equivalent of the Irish “west room” to which a farmer retired when they’d officially passed the farm on to an heir, becoming dependent and irrelevant as they waited to die. 

But we definitely need to talk about this. For now, the best solution is for the old folks to graciously step aside, transitioning into an informal role as elder statesmen and stateswomen. Nancy Pelosi did this voluntarily. I hope Biden will follow her lead. 

Writer Journey Ahead!

My last real “writer journey” was in March of 2016, when I traveled through New Mexico, Arizona, and west Texas collecting interviews and images and impressions for FLIGHT OF THE OWL, book 3 of my Recall Chronicles series. I took a wonderful journey to Ubud, Bali, in June 2019 as I prepared to release my one stand-alone contemporary fiction book—NOT KNOWING. A draft of the first book of my EarthCycles series (SONG OF ALL SONGS) was already in the hands of beta readers at that time, so my trip to Bali was not about researching or writing anything in particular, but rather about settling into a better understanding of who I am as a writer. 

Writing got placed on the back burner at the beginning of 2020 as I temporarily took on a more active role as caregiver for my young granddaughter. 

And then COVID happened. I found that I had lots of time for writing and kept moving ahead slowly despite the daily distractions of politics and pandemic. In the last three years I’ve published three more books: SONG OF ALL SONGS in 2020, BOOK OF ALL TIME in 2021, and BEYOND THE ENDLESS this year. 

Now I’m returning to the Recall Chronicles to write a book four: FINAL RECALL. This story begins exactly where book three—FLIGHT OF THE OWL—left off, with Dextra and Jonathan and Gavin on a plane departing Costa Rica. But whereas Jonathan was the main character in FLIGHT, Gavin is the main character in this one. Major reorientation! They land in Santa Fe, New Mexico. So that’s where I’m going this week. And from there I will trace out the journey Gavin subsequently takes, going south from Santa Fe toward White Sands and then east into Texas. I can’t wait to take my imagination out on the open road!

A Book for You

For the first time, this moment of thrusting a new book out into the world doesn’t make me feel celebratory. It’s the final book in the EarthCycles trilogy, and I’ve come to love the characters deeply and to treasure the world that they’re building far beyond our own failure. 

I don’t want to leave. 

The series started with Song of All Songs, which introduced Meridia, a woman denigrated for being half Melfar in a world dominated by Mundani. The story follows her growth as she faces challenges that eventually enable her to find joy in her Melfar identity while also claiming the Mundani identity she inherited from her mother. It’s a heroine’s journey and it continues in the second volume, Book of All Time, in which Meridia (somewhat unwillingly) rises to a position of leadership and responsibility. 

In the new book—Beyond the Endless—Meridia faces identity-shattering conflict arising from her very human desire to be a good mother as well as the leader that both Melfar and Mundani need her to be. And all this in a world that is suddenly much bigger and far more dangerous than Meridia had ever imagined. The resolution of Meridia’s journey at the end of this book still brings tears to my eyes—tears of hope for our own human future. 

I launched the first two EarthCycles stories in the depths of the pandemic and did my best to make their publication eventful. But it was all on Zoom and I don’t want to issue another book that way. I’m also not sure I’m ready to invite people to an in-person event. Not yet. 

So this time—for now—I’m just letting a book enter the world like a flower blooming, gently and naturally. I’m hopeful that those who appreciate flowers will notice. 

Maybe we’ll have a party come summer.

You can purchase a copy of Beyond the Endless through BookShop.org and credit your purchase to your favorite indie bookseller. My favorites are Reverie Books and Malvern Books and Bookwoman. Stay tuned to learn which of these might soon have signed paperbacks on hand for you to buy in their store. And if you favor ebooks over printed ones, you can buy that on Amazon

Once you have a copy of the book in hand (or downloaded to your reader), send me a photo of yourself with the book and I’ll send you a personalized bookmark, adorned with what may be a tiny waif of the Ancient Carnelian, containing its Song of the Wide Path, the symbol of friendship between Melfar and Mundani or perhaps between any humans who are labelled differently. Email me at:  donnadechen@donnadechenbirdwell.com

Cover Reveal: Beyond the Endless

Book Three of the EarthCycles trilogy is nearing publication, and it’s time to show you the awesome cover! I’m hoping to have the book available for purchase before the end of March. Meanwhile, here’s the cover blurb:

They thought Melfar and Mundani were the only people left on Earth. 

They were wrong. 

The hopeful joy wrought by the dedication of the Book of All Time, with its heady celebration of Meridia as both Melfar Calumet and Mundani Prophet is shattered when a ship with expansive white wings drops anchor off Selbourne. The ship and its occupants depart as swiftly as they came, taking with them a mirror and two Melfar—including one of Meridia’s infant twins. They leave behind only mystery: Who are these people? And where did they come from?

Meridia and her partner Damon must fight through their personal grief to recover their missing daughter and her caregiver Yuli. But how to begin? They have no ships. Perhaps an answer lies in the nearly forgotten Melfar Song of the Sea or in deciphering the original purpose of the stolen mirror, discovered long ago in the perilous ruins of Swarthpol, where Meridia’s father was once imprisoned. 

Perhaps there are ways of reaching Yuli and the baby that do not require ships. 

Resolution(s)

As I contemplate my imminent recovery from COVID and the onset of a new year, here is my one and only resolution: I resolve to have more good days in 2022.

A good day is one in which…

  • I spend time (in meditation or otherwise) being totally honest with myself.
  • I create something—with words or colors or materials or sounds—and set it loose in the world.
  • I notice life and my own aliveness.
  • I move with abandon. 
  • I allow myself to acknowledge that I’m having a good day because (one or more of the above).

Happy new year to all! I wish you many good days ahead! 

Adventure Awaits!

One of the joys of being a self-published author is that you can price your books however you like and if the notion strikes you to offer your readers a bit of a gift, you can do it without consulting anyone. 

So here you go, dear readers: For a limited time, the ebook of Book of All Time (EarthCycles Book Two) is only $2.99. A whole adventure for less than the price of a latte!  And you know Book Three is coming soon..!

Happy Holidays! (*FREE BOOK*)

You’re spending a lot of time and money right now on other people (hooray for you!), so here’s a little gift for you from me! I’m making one of my favorite ebooks FREE for a limited time (5 days). I think you’ll like the story of Malia Pool, a woman who loves books and who rejects the corporate youthfulness project in favor of remembering who she really is. And remembering how things got to be in such a mess! Sometimes remembering is hard…

Facebook Nations

There are always things going on outside the purview of our daily news, our daily download of statistics, that are just as real as jobs reports and presidential briefings and high level negotiations among world leaders. Such offstage movements have always been there. Mostly they intend to be secret, subversive, operating outside established channels and laws. Occasionally they bubble up into our awareness. 

Abbie Hoffman, way back in 1969, talked about the coalescing of distinct “nations” in America (my phrasing, not his). Back then, something like the Woodstock Nation had to be approached on foot, more or less. You arrived at that one via roads paved with various psychedelics, including electric roads of music. The (mostly) shared ideology was anti-capitalist and anti-racist and anti-war and (early) feminist. In the 1960s, the citizens of this “nation” gravitated not just to Woodstock itself but manifested the Nation in all kinds of gathering places all over the country. 

We’ve reached a new iteration of this kind of “nation”-building and it’s caused by the internet. I don’t mean “facilitated,” I mean “caused.” The internet and its massive social media platforms permit citizens to convene without ever leaving their homes or at least the reach of their cell service and wifi. Every once in a while I brush up against one of the alt-nations on Facebook or Twitter. Today I saw evidence of one right out here on the streets of my neighborhood. 

Lest you think this is all a wonderful manifestation of ordinary people rising up against the oppression of capitalism, be advised that to the extent that these 21st Century “nations” are rising up in cyberspace, they are highly vulnerable to co-optation by the very forces they think they’re rebelling against. Maoism? And who built this cyber-marketplace anyway? 

References:

Hoffman, Abbie. Woodstock Nation, 1969, Random House. (Yeah, Random House.) 

https://twitter.com/dailygonzalo?lang=en

Stop.

Today as I wandered through my neighborhood on my morning walk, I stopped to watch a cardinal as he flitted from bush to tree in the strip of green that marks the course of a gas pipeline. I listened as he and his mate called back and forth to one another. I never spotted her.

I stopped to examine some sunflowers going to seed, wondering if they would soon provide food for the cardinals.

I stopped again to look at the way the sun caught in the blossoms of some crepe myrtles, still heavy with the dampness of the night.

I also witnessed someone run a red light. Another driver zipped through a stop sign as if it wasn’t even there.

Why are we so afraid to stop? We’re so intent on our plans, our established course, our goals. We miss so much. We’re surrounded by this great entangled mass of life. We’re part of it, but we hardly ever stop to notice.

This is my thought for the day:

“Stop.” (Not permanently, just often.)