“I want to be such a conversation”… is what Neil Reid said about what can become of us when we witness someone else’s examination of the world (which includes one’s self), and then take those questions into our own examination of our own world.

And if one takes note of that process – could there be a richer conversation? And isn’t this really the definition of poetry?

I haven’t been making space for good conversations, and I miss them.

There are a lot of reasons I was lonely as a child. All of them were paths to books, and thus to “conversations” with people too far away to touch. Often too dead to be moved.

Though never too dead as to be fixed in regard to their significance.

If I have any faith in any thing, it is that our lives can be meaningful – and only in ways that we cannot control – and only in the sense that others will create meaning for the random juxtaposition of their lives with ours.

What is history but a series of perspectives, created by the juxtaposition of our worldviews with those of the dead? For good and for bad: heroes become villains, villains heroes.

Heroines become.

Reading someone’s journal – someone’s story – is like meeting them in a secret forest where anything wild might breathe in your ear, might open your veins, leaving you weaker – but wiser.

“I knew that was true.” But didn’t want to face it.

Witnessing someone else’s nature is witnessing our own. It can be frightening. But it can also be reassuring in the way that the idea of life-after-death can be reassuring. Whether that is a heaven from which we look down, or atoms that create new constellations of life. Things continue without us: most likely because they were never dependent upon us in the first place.

I find that thought freeing.

I have been reading too little poetry lately. Allowing too little poetry into my life, too much social media – where conversations are almost non-existent. I have been thinking about the word social and why nothing is called “conversational media”.

Social is a descriptor for “society”, and a society is an “aggregate of individuals”. Aggregates form a consensus. And isn’t that how social media functions for the most part: not sharing, but shaming, posing, labeling, sorting, “canceling”. It is the hard work of keeping people “in line.”

I failed Social Skills 101. And to be honest, I am okay with that now. I’m okay with having been something of an urban nomad, half-hermit – an emigrant/immigrant. I am content being someone who misses the social cues that weren’t illustrated by the likes of Judy Bloom, PG Wodehouse, Anais Nin, and Stephen King. (Imagine them coming to a consensus). With good conversation, loneliness can soften into solitude. And that kind of solitude can be freeing in that one can fearlessly look outside one’s self.

I suppose one could charge a kind of narcissism in the reader who takes on the “both” roles in a conversation found in the written word. But maybe they (we) are just playing the long game: those readers having become writers who are hoping the conversation continues once they have left the world.

There is a difference between believing you have something to give the world, and believing you have something to contribute to it.

It’s worth entering a conversation on the subject.

Be humble for you are made of Earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.
SERBIAN PROVERB

Just to be is a blessing.
RABBI ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL

I have an hour to myself now.

White wine, and blueberries. And noise-cancelling headphones, because the roofers are still laying the new shingles in neat and shiny rows. I am completely aware of the decadence on display in those sentences. And in the fact that we were able to run this morning on the nearly deserted beach.

I found myself thinking it was unusually quiet, and then realized it was unusually quiet. The weather is soft today, so the waves roll in quietly. But the real difference is that there are far fewer planes coming in to land on the other side of the dunes.

Sometimes we don’t know what we are missing until we have it.
Things like quiet.

We ran past a young woman who stopped and tried to distract her new puppy, with it’s huge paws and boundless curiosity: “What are they running toward?”

I think about anticipation. About Christmas mornings, and secret desires. Isn’t that what we are running toward? Isn’t that what we need to cling to: the belief that something good is around the bend, even if you just passed that way minutes ago –

a tern has landed and now runs back and forth with the tide,
a piece of driftwood shaped like dragon’s head has either just washed ashore,
or you missed it before while laughing –
or tripping in the soft sand

I inhale: one, two. And exhale: one, two, three, four. A rhythm takes over and movement seems effortless. No pushing. Everything is breath, and the world is autonomic: the gusts of wind, the flow of the tides, the beating of the seagull’s wings – each individual, all complementary.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt this calm.

If this were a private diary I would be writing about sex now. About hormone patches, and accepting these new lessons of physical pain, as the lessons of youth’s psychological pains are past.

Passed, even.

It’s Monday in the autumn break and I have an ambitious list of accomplishments to tick off this week. I also know that I am not going to do even half of them. Though I expect I will manage to fold the laundry, if for no other reason but to keep the peace.

To be completely honest, I keep finding more things to put on that list so I will have an excuse not to do the one single thing that I am afraid to do.

There’s a book in the making. Too long “in the making”.
Even while the planes are grounded, and the classrooms are locked, it is easy to find distractions in a list of tasks that need doing.

Oh, this is hard to avoid, but: I find myself “waiting for Christmas”.

To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace.
TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS

I’ve been lying awake nights fearing that every phantom pain is another blood clot, and I’ve been trying to find comfort meditating on the “spaces between”. I imagine I feel my blood, thin and flowing.

I imagine the spaces between each red cell, between each white cell, and platelet – the spaces between the cells that forms the plasma that flows through the stent in my pelvis. I imagine the flow with each heartbeat.

But there is a fear in every moment between. In every silence.

It’s a numbing dramaturgy.

I’ve written of the spaces between before. In my last book, actually. And tonight I remembered that, and I reread it as a stranger would- It was unfamiliar, but I found myself content with the work. It was a pleasant feeling. Pleasantness requires an absence of fear, and it was… pleasant.

It’s been a while since I have written poetry. I felt like I’d glimpsed something of myself I’ve forgotten. These spaces between spaces were full of secrets. And promise.

Minutes later I’m pulled out of recognition – or maybe a kind of pride – by a stranger’s completely coincidental criticism. I feel myself contract. Like a fist folding and clenching, leaving no space for movement. My breathing stops high in my chest – well above my heart. My shoulder blades pull forward, sliding like tortoise shell over my vulnerabilities. I take on an unskilled warrior pose.

“Good for nothing.” Between those words is my late grandfather’s growl. A strange sadness in the space bridging my thoughts now. A space bridging worlds, really.

My gestalt therapist talks about sadness, anger and fear. But he talks about them as if there were one to rule each pain. As if there were space between them.

A dharma talk I listened to this week took up the science of the dark matter of the world. The spaces between spaces, the mysteries inside every atom. It left me feeling nostalgic. It left me wondering why I feel so constricted now. Why am I hunting for delight and desire instead of watching in stillness, letting them flow into view?

– Instead of trusting that they will flow into view.

You’d think I’d have learned by now that there is no reason to have to swim when I am moving with the current. All this unnecessary “sound and fury”.

I’m a very poor swimmer to begin with. In a still pool, my arms and legs thrash wildly and my heart-rate tops 160, and I barely- somewhat incidentally – move forward. And this seems to be how I am moving through my life lately.

A stranger says my words lacks clarity. And fear moves in to fill the spaces: what if there’s no time for me to really learn clarity? Not some stranger’s sense of clarity, but my own.

What if I never stop thrashing, and trust in the silent spaciousness? What if I never really allow myself to experience the eternity that flows in the spaces between – between the fears and the sadness(es) and the anger(s), in the in-between each beat of a heart?