Last night the husband and I got out the emergency whiskey. This sacred bottle of Washington State Woodinville Rye has seen us through multiple disasters. The sudden deaths, some years apart, of two very beloved dogs. The loss of a beloved colleague. The stunning outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. It’s a smart, electric whiskey chock full of caramel flavor, once the burn subsides.

Some deaths are like shocks. The unexpected ones, that is. Unlike that of an aging parent or aunt, for whom long life brings one around to the ending of things, these deaths deserve the rye. A toast. Two fingers in a shot glass.

We had just learned of the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a death that was both unexpected and expected. She had bravely overcome many close calls, so we stared stunned at the news flash on my phone. How did this happen? Why now? It’s not fair.

It feels like a gut punch. We’re already down—not quite on our knees but swaying a bit after the blows of COVID-19 and the Oregon infernos. This. Now. Not to be borne.

Yesterday and the day before, the smoke was blown and pummeled away by uncharacteristically vivacious thunderstorms. Loud, Thor-tossing bolts arrowed across the sky like the weapons of a comic book hero coming to rescue us. The rain on our skylights sounded like rocks. I was imagining pumice from the volcanic Cascade Range, spewed into the air by the wildfires, raining down on us from Valhalla. We rejoiced. We could breathe again. We could go outside again. Thor had been racing across Oregon in his goat-drawn thunder chariot, leaving fresh wind-driven air behind.

The fires are still burning, and many folk have lost homes and livelihoods. It’s not a good time. The pandemic has not gone away and is unlikely to any time soon. The scientist in me knows that a vaccine will not circulate down to most Americans until mid-year 2021, at the earliest. And even then it will likely be 40 to 50% effective. Masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizers are the new norm.

So when we got the news that RGB had lost her last round with mortality, it felt like the coffin was closing over us. Yeah, I know that sounds morbid and a little hysterical, but emotions behave badly. Of course, one could argue, it is our choice to be progressive, but belief systems as we all know, have a way of getting into our DNA. Thor is associated with law and justice. Once, all work stopped on Thursdays, his day. Oaths, and business deals were sworn in his name. When you have a god like Thor around, with his hammer and iron glove, you don’t have much of a choice. Belief and faith are not choices, but innate, instinctive outlooks.

The husband was in tears. I scrolled through the Twitterverse, sharing my agony with many others whose reactions, condensed into carefully selected words like poetry, were exactly mine. We drank our shots of rye, and there was a thumb of Laphroaig Scotch left in another bottle—this collection of spirits is very old—so we shared that, too. The Notorious RGB earned the state of pop idol and icon in the last decades of her life, a thing, I think, only bestowed upon Thurgood Marshall. (Which doesn’t help because it brings to mind actor Chaswick Boseman’s premature death. He portrayed Marshall in a 2017 film about Marshall’s early career.) I presume it’s my bias that makes me believe that no conservative justice has been so revered.

Thor spent a lot of his time fighting giants and in futile attempts to overcome the serpent of Midgard (middle earth, the land between heaven and hell—in other words, where we mortals live.) The serpent, who encircles the earth and bites his tail, is the cause of earthly storms. The metaphor that begs attention is climate change, resulting from not just fossil fuels, but by ignorance and greed. Thor (Ruth? Thurgood?) can’t get rid of the guy, but he keeps trying. Teutonic myth includes the ending of all things known as Ragnarök, predicted by years of endless winter, rampant crime, and fire. To prevent Ragnarök, the gods try to capture and restrain Loki (did he have orange hair?) but they fail—all of creation is destroyed in the aftermath of Loki’s escape.

Even this dreadful myth, life continues. Both the dwarfs and the giants survive. If the dwarfs are clever enough—they forged Thor’s hammer, after all—maybe they can thrive, overcome the giants, save the planet and preserve the unique world of American law, where still, I think, justice stumbles along.





About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Ragnarök — 10 Comments

  1. I’ve been advising everyone to phone their senators. You don’t even have to phone Washington DC. Your reps will have a regional office, probably in your area code.

  2. The WH jigs were so relieved and lengthy they peed through their Depends.

    Her courage to keep fighting instead of spending her time in the heart of her family is the greatest expression of heroism and generosity. Have we raised any more of her kind?

  3. Yes, RBG was a true hero, and this is a terrible loss to everyone in this country, whether they know it or not. Even though I’m married to Thor with his geologist’s hammer, I’m dreading what’s coming with all of these disasters.

  4. This may hearten us to a degree. This is from a friend in a MD town where we lived for a while during a fellowship. This is what the Dems did yesterday:

    [” Just letting you know what Ctown Dems are up to! (Two weeks ago we got $864 in donations!)

    This had to be the busiest day of our lives.

    J– B– made the most beautiful poster of a portrait of Ruth and just as we positioned it, C yelled Look an eagle. Soaring high above us in the blue sky was this beautiful bald eagle, tipped his wings and flew off. I said there goes Ruth – now we need to go to work. and that we did!!! Every volunteer was working – meeting and greeting, honoring RBG, giving out signs, collecting money, helping people pick the right buttons, bumper stickers and masks. We had people signing up to volunteer, get the newsletter and want to just do something – it was crazy.

    M– B– worked her whole shift putting both the new Biden Harris and Eastern Shore signs together. As fast as she made them we were giving them out. One woman took 10 to give out at her church in this morning. M– M– stopped by and was in his glory – what a help he was! If we had the election today in Ctown Biden would have won by a landslide!

    Also M– C– donated a beautiful 3′ x 5′ Biden Flag for us to fly at the office S– R– got the flag attached to a flag pole and we proudly flew the Biden flag. People loved it! Many thanks to M–.

    B– E– and I did the office open hours until 2 and it wasn’t until 1:45 that things quieted down. We were able to go thru the buttons and organize the front office for open hours. I think you will like the few little changes we made. We put the RBG portrait in the window beside Eleanor our donkey. Stop by this week and see it.

    So what you have been waiting to hear the total today at the booth was (drum roll please). $863!!! Then from 12:30 to 2 we took in $87. During about 15 minutes at one point in the morning we took in $100 donations from two people and $80 from another person.

    Our biggest requests were anything Ruth Bader Ginsberg (J– B– is working on that as we speak) and Biden Harris flags. I ordered 12 flags that should be here by Friday.

    I am looking for help to work the open hours from now to the election. Please let me know if you would like to work a 2 hour shift. We currently are open Thursday and Friday from 2-4, 4-5 pm. We are extending the booth hours from noon to 2 pm but the last shift will be in the office.

    We would love to extend the hours to earlier of Thursday and Friday starting at noon- 2, the 2-4 and 4-5. I would love to have two people at all times in the office for each shift. Let me know if you can help some time.

    Thanks ever so much — B– B–” ]