Deadheading Poppies

Sunday morning. And sunshine. And resistance.

There are so many things I should be doing and choose not to. It starts (or rather doesn’t start) with making my bed. Changing the sheets, walking the dog, vacuuming the entrance hall. All the things I will do today. Grudgingly.

Unless I manage to adjust my attitude and find a way to let go of the resistance.

This has been a week of settling into myself. Not that it has been easy. Friday, walking home from the doctor’s office, I saw two sparrows in the bushes. Ragged-looking, bed-head feathers sticking in every direction, looking hung-over and crotchety.

I’m projecting.

I think settling-in requires a good shaking-up first. Taking a good look around at what you dropped without realizing it. What you didn’t even know you lost but explains the peculiar hollow feeling in your solar plexus.

These things that slipped out of your hands in a moment of weakness — of self-doubt.

When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror I see a woman disheveled and swollen. Who hasn’t stood up straight and smoothed her clothes, sliding her hands down along her sides — who hasn’t lifted her chin, in months.

Isolation is a complex experience.

I’m filling out a nightly questionnaire regarding how the coronavirus restrictions are affecting mental health. One of the questions asks if you felt lonely today. Another asks if you felt close to another human being. I answer: no, and yes respectively. Near the end of the nightly list of questions, though, is how many minutes you spent socializing in person. 0. It’s been 0 for a very long time. So this questionnaire makes me wonder if I even know what “loneliness” is. If I even recognize it when I feel it.

“Did you avoid social situations today to avoid stress?” Well, now. That’s a stupid question. When have I not done that?

I kind of doubt this little research project by the University of Oslo intended to make people anxious, but I am not convinced it isn’t making matters worse for me. I am not sure I am benefiting from a meta-awareness of my own isolation.

On the other hand. I haven’t been this creative in years. With no one looking over my shoulder (except the ever-supportive E., who serves as a touchstone of reality), I’ve rediscovered a sense of play so far gone, I thought I misremembered ever having had it.

Losing a sense of community can mean losing the fear of judgment, too. Maybe that is why so many poets are loners?

Several places in the New Testament state that no one is a prophet in their own land. And the explanation for the verses is about the people in the community taking the prophet for granted. But I believe that self-censorship plays a role. Why risk a tenuous belonging?

It’s a gamble to stick your head above your prescribed station. It can lead to exile or execution. Just look for yesterday’s tallest poppy. Either way – censored by them or us – we can so easily lose ourselves.

But I think by circling this space, again and again, I am picking up what I lost. Colors, textures, dreams. In this isolation I can forget to look over my shoulder to see who’s looking over mine.

It’s a long, slow route, but I think I’m getting there – wherever “there” is.

tiny, twig-like claws
scratching the palm of my hand
a quiver of down
a ticking-tiny lifespan:
catch it now — quill on vellum

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  1. Beautiful. Head to tail. Or another word, ripe. Moving into the experience rather than away from it! Thank you for sharing as you do. You brighten me.

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