I’ve fallen behind again reading Rilke.

Last night I lay on the shakti mat and fell asleep listening to a podcast again. I never thought I was someone who would sleep on a bed of nails. And to be honest, I feel an odd sense of shame when I consider how pleasurable I find it. How reliant I’ve become on the settling into the pain to relax. It’s like the burn from a shot of whiskey – and the slow warmth that spreads through the body. And I suppose that’s where the guilt comes from.

We transgress pain for pleasure – then we pay for pleasure with shame? Again I should speak for myself, but on the other hand, the culture does a very fine job of shaming us for our pleasures.

As far as the shakti mat goes, I think it’s related to pressure points. When I worked as a massage therapist, I would push on a knot in someone’s trapezius and visualize the fibers letting go. Every cell a tiny fist of frustration, opening – vulnerable as a palm. Sometimes it was unbearably intimate.

A palm can hold the tiniest pool of water. Life. I was taught God holds us in the palm of His hand. Just like I’d held tadpoles in my palm once. They were at my mercy.

I suppose it’s my Christian upbringing. The (historically incorrect, but nonetheless powerful) images of the stigmata: bleeding palms. A paradoxical image of comfort and torture from my childhood.

Sometimes I think it’s odd we have a word like paradox. And that we use it to label discrete events when I believe that if there is background music in the world, it is dissonance – paradox.

the snow is silent
but announces its presence
in each step I take –
in the rhythm of the dog’s paws
scurrying after the hare

a mallard takes flight
and the still morning air cracks –
the fog of my breath
hangs for a moment then darts
towards the pale, setting moon

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had Covid dreams. Logically, I should be more concerned, considering the increase in local cases of the new mutation. I don’t know. Maybe my subconscious has played out the scenario so many times it has soothed itself. Or simply resigned.

It’s been below freezing for a couple of weeks. The house is a little cold, which means the bedroom is especially chilly – and that’s good for sleep.

I doubt the dreams are gone for good. But I’ll enjoy these deep-sleep nights for now.

I’ve only rarely gone outside this week. But enough to see the full moon begin to sag just a little. I’ve stood on the deck to watch – and hear – the sparks flying from the contact cables when the freight train passes. It frightens Leonard, who otherwise loves the cold weather. I wonder if the smell of the hares in the area sits in relief above the smell of the clean snow.

Leonard darts off and returns with fresh snow stuck on his snout. Darts off again.

Tongue out, tail high. I’m not sure how we know when dogs are smiling. He is definitely smiling.

I like to think it’s just the vibe, though no doubt there are physical aspects we pick up on subconsciously – the pinch of the muscle between the whiskers over his eyes. But everything sets off a tiny chain reaction in the world. The slightest breeze. A reflection of light. Particles. We have our own gravitational fields. We have more senses than we are taught in elementary school. Maybe taken as the whole of it: a vibe.

It’s been a long time since the vibe at work has been good. There’s not been a lot of smiling this winter. No dancing around the tree in the gymnasium. No New Year’s hugs. No Friday afternoon jostling in the hallways.

There’s so much fear between the laughter. Sometimes we reach out to put a hand on a shoulder. We forget. Then we remember. Our stomachs knot with guilt.

We dream.

I want to open all the doors and windows everywhere – and let the snow blow through it all. Cover it all – just long enough for things to start again.

in a dark cupboard
bread rises with its own heat
the baker beats it
down – and again it rises