Twelve Muses

A waning gibbous moon at 9 o’clock this morning as I walk Leonard to the park and back. Crows pass overhead in noisy, staggered murders. A year ago, they would have used paused here in the neighbor’s tree – and I miss them. I miss the crows and the tree.

And since the new family moved in next door this fall it has been all too quiet. The blackbirds no longer gather in the driveway at 5 a.m. I have to admit, sometimes I felt a bit like a mash-up of Snow White and the Queen of England having them sing outside the window in the mornings to wake me.

Letting go of these fun little daydreams involves a kind of grief.

When I was six or seven, I would lie alone in the grass in my grandparent’s tiny garden with the one braced sapling, and I’d imagine I was Alice in Wonderland. Those kinds of flights of fancy, as secretive as they are, you’d think you could hang on to them as an adult. But I have those kinds of playful moments rarely now. I miss them.

To be clear – I would not be a kid again for anything. The “go outside and play” refrain from adults still rings in my ears when I find myself in awkward social situations. It felt like a declaration of exile every time they said it.

Go find something to do. You don’t belong here.

And oh my goodness, the boredom. But then… then the flights of imagination.

I don’t think it is my age that is the problem. I don’t think there is anything wrong with my imagination. I think it’s the clutter of adulthood. There is no space in which to be bored enough to let my mind go wandering. There is always something to do. Some should do. Even if that is the novel I should be reading. I can easily avoid boredom while believing I’m behaving virtuously by doing so.

I line all the shoulds in my life up like ducks along a rope across a lake and I focus on all the ducks: Meditation, running, writing, reading. Work. I can’t see the lake for the ducks.

I find order comforting. I find creating order comforting. After the chaos of the DVT it took me four months to find my way back to the familiar rituals. At night the fear of death is still very much alive in my subconscious, but during my waking hours, order keeps me calm. Rituals are like handles on the baggage I carry around.

But carrying baggage around is an unnecessary habit.

When we hike, E. often takes a much bigger pack than is necessary. When people comment (and they have) he shrugs his pack and says people go to the gym to lift weights they technically don’t need to lift. He says it’s the same thing, and then he’ll pull out a huge thermos of coffee that I’m grateful for.

But I don’t believe hanging onto this baggage, no matter how kettle-bell-like, will make me stronger. I think it will wear me down. I also think tending to it is an excuse, a constant and convenient distraction from boredom.

I suppose boredom is like so much else in life – it is painful to begin – we’ll do almost anything to have to face it – (including poking at familiar wounds in a perverted act of self-comforting). But we can fall into a spacious momentum, and in the end, we rarely regret beginning.

Beginning a new year – I will try to welcome the unpleasantness of boredom more often. I will try to put the loose shoulds of my life in boxes – in dedicated rooms for dedicated attention. I won’t answer emails from students ticking into my phone at 11 pm. I will be sleeping.

And I won’t answer on weekends because I will be lost in some magic forest where tiny faeries live under the shelter of mushroom caps and sing dirges for the trees that were. They will be cruel and kind and tell me stories more true than any I’ve ever heard.

Last year I ate twelve grapes and wished for twelve things for the new year. This year, I am eating twelve grapes and making room for twelve muses.

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