It’s been a long day and I didn’t even get up to the studio today.

Last night a veneer fell off my front tooth. I was eating a banana. I know that I am getting older, but I didn’t expect it all to be quite this comic. No one was home – E. is offshore – but I still felt terribly uncomfortable. I had no idea I was this vain. So this morning began with a rush visit to a new dentist whose face I never saw (yay, Corona).

I finished the edits on the layout for the new book – but my brand-new printer is smearing ink over the very expensive sheets of 200 g paper. It just got worse from there. Small drips – enough to wind me up. I did lazy yoga on the mat while Leonard tried to coach me. Then we went for a walk. From the sound of the wind and rain against the window now – we got back just in time.

My head is fill with practicalities. To-do lists. Remember this chants. “Find time to … ” I am finding it difficult to slow down. Everything in me is immediate, rushed, speeding. I think it always has been. But you’d never guess it if you met me. Stanislavski talked about internal rhythms and external tempos, and actors work to make that internal rhythm visible. But mine isn’t.

My ex-husband was a man of very few words, and he commented after the divorce that we lived in two different tempos. It took him years to understand that.

People have always called me intense. And they mean it as a criticism. I bite my tongue every time, and am always just as surprised that anyone would think it is okay to comment on another person’s… what? Mind?

When my oldest son was 4 and my youngest began crawling for the first time, my oldest was furious. “He’s not supposed to do that!” It’s human nature to want other people to conform to our fixed ideas of them. Sometimes I think it’s the primary way we hurt one another. There are the obvious issues like racism, of course. But in such tiny ways, too. When someone changes their hair, or their wardrobe. I once saw someone fly into a rage when a person they offered some chocolate to said they didn’t really care for chocolate. “You’ve always liked chocolate!” Ridicule will wedge someone back into their box.

We cling to our world views. Our views of one another. Maybe this is the place to begin when trying to find equanimity. Sometimes when I move through the yoga sequence I sing “Let it Be” in my head.

Let it be. Doing anything else is futile. Because it all falls apart. Even expensive dental veneers.

moving through the day
two steps ahead of myself
like a prophet
of some sort, fixed on the plan
getting myself in trouble

Wet hair and hot tea, a blue sky and a quiet house – but for the noises Leonard is making with his mouth. I’m not sure what that’s about. I’m heading into work in an hour. And I can feel the muscles in my back tense at the thought. I had no idea that I had such a need for predictability. Stability. The past 13 months of Covid restrictions changing almost daily – an outlining of new regulations followed by two pages of exceptions – I have thrown my arms in the air like one of those gas station inflatable tube figures. I wish I were more vocal, I would growl impressively, or roar. Instead I curse. That’s hardly charming.

After work I will go up to the studio and paint a little, and sew the new books. And everything will be all right again. I just need to rise above it until then – float over turmoil and the drama and the sudden jettisoning of work done for new assignments. Go with the flow – the rush – the flood – because fighting it is useless and self-destructive. How are we all not cowering in corners by now?

Maybe I need a good day in the mountains. This time last year, we were hiking with clementines and tea in our packs. Well, in E.’s pack. I was doing yoga on the flat boulders. Maybe there is some truth to the idea that our minds and bodies are so connected that a stiffening of one results in the stiffening of the other?

I didn’t choose a word for this year. But am very surprised that it is probably “brittle”. I feel brittle.

In some ways.

My internal life right now is actually very rich. I am writing and making things with my hands. I am reading and listening to interesting podcasts. Learning. So maybe it is all perfectly fine. Maybe this year isn’t brittle at all. Maybe it’s enclosed, like a tortoise, an oyster, a cocoon. I’m not a silver lining kind of gal, so that’s not what I am doing here. What is, is. To take a step back and see a larger picture doesn’t mean to search for compensation for having to accept what we don’t like. I think that’s a kind of religious thinking: God takes away and God gives. I guess some people find that comforting? I know we throw out those kinds of platitudes hoping to comfort people who are grieving, but I have yet to hear anyone say that it helps them to hear it. “Look at the bright side: I’m going to beat you bloody, but give you a cookie.”

No. I don’t see this little period of creativity that I am experiencing as compensation for anything in my life past or present. It just is.

And I know I shouldn’t cling to it. And as soon as I think this, I start to feel fear rise: what if it stops? What if I don’t have any ideas tomorrow? What if?

And I take a sip of my tea and take a deep breath and laugh at myself.

Clinging desperately is a habit. I think my spirit animal is a gecko.

All things change. Everything is impermanent. I can tell and retell my story any way I want. And it is probably best for me not to think of it as punishment and compensation. It just is.

Leonard is growling at my feet. Dreaming. I wonder if he remembers his dreams? Is disappointed when he wakes to find himself here in the bibliotekette instead of hiking in the mountains on this pretty day?

I wonder if he has a story?

I still don’t know what
people mean by it’s a dog’s life
– isn’t it our lives:
arbitrary, according
to who yanks our chain?

Driving back from the doctor’s this morning, a horse was standing at the top of a hill all alone. I can’t explain why it felt important. Single horses standing on hilltops just feel profound. I felt a flush of awe.

And associations of freedom, I suppose. All those big words that are hooked into big emotions, but I have trouble anchoring to specifics in my life.

What is freedom to me? It sounds like a high school essay assignment. What exactly are “endless possibilities”? I know the emotions I feel from these words, but have trouble pinning them down as phenomenon. Endless possibilities sounds overwhelming. A whole field of half-hearted creatures barely nudging up through the soil, and the responsibility to make something viable out of them. Which do you choose? And what if you fail?

I am learning to leave awe alone. To accept the flood of emotion, like slipping into a warm bath, and let go of associations and interpretations about what it means to me or for me. I am learning to let the horse on the hill be a horse on the hill, and relish the flush of emotion for its own sake. Children do that, don’t they? Thrill in things without believing them to be omens or signs from the oracles. Without believing they either deserve them, or have to work to deserve them. They just observe. I’m sure there are adults who do that as well. I actually think I know one or two.

They think I’m weird.

Also this morning, along a roundabout on the motorway, a car was stopped – dangerously, blocking traffic from two directions. I had to stop too, and figured it was car trouble, until I saw the mallard on the road. But then he wandered up onto the grass and still the car didn’t budge. Then the door opened and I thought the driver was going to try to catch the duck to take it somewhere safer. But when she got out of the car she was holding her phone and filming the duck. She chased after it – filming – until it flew away. Then she got back into her car and let us all continue on our way.

No one honked. That made my day. I am pretty sure everyone was as puzzled as I was. What I figure is this woman risked all of our lives so she could get a film clip of a duck. Not to save a duck. But that the weirdness of this act perplexed us all so much that we were trying to process it. We were all thinking, so: not honking. I’m happy that this behavior is still an aberration and not the norm, despite what people want to say about what technology is doing to us.

I probably take a hundred photos a month. But I love what it has done to me. Now, when I am driving, or in the passenger seat, I see how beautiful the scenery is. I “frame” it in my mind and appreciate the reflections, the colors, the incidental composition of elements, the repetitions, and patterns.

I notice more – camera in hand, or not.

I also think it’s helped teach me to be passive. In a good way – to leave my ego out of the situation when my ego isn’t necessary. To fully embrace the value of being an observer and not a participant at times. To understand that it is possible to take center stage when it’s appropriate and then step back without the fear of losing “my place”. To be more generous. Less judgmental. Less fearful.

It always comes back to fear, doesn’t it? For me, at any rate.

I suppose there are days
when the sky, mottled as gull’s
eggs, still warms the earth
so the smallest bit of green
will poke through and claim the day

I had to wear gloves again yesterday while walking with E. and Leonard. But the maples were showing off good-sized buds. E. said it is time to start putting seeds into the earth. But first I need to clear out the dead branches from last year. I need to buy a new top for the one little greenhouse that caved in under the snow sometime in February.

Then I have to read up on what’s to be done with the perennials I’ve planted in the yoga room. Sweep the mats and light the candles and remember that everything is going to be okay. Things could not be better situated “lagt til rette” to be… okay. But despite the well-intentioned platitudes people pass around social media, gratitude is not a fix for mental illness. You can’t “grateful” your way out of bipolar genetics.

I think I tried that. Every morning I meditated, I focused on loving kindness, on gratitude until this big ball of love swelled like a balloon, until it burst. That rubber, silicone – whatever – hurts like hell when it snaps back on your fingers and the world gets ugly.

It’s ironic that I had been focusing all year on the middle path. But I am finding it again, because nothing is permanent, and everything changes and I am not who I was a year ago, not who I was three months ago. It is only natural I should find it again – if only by accident in wandering.

If I could I would stay in this little bibliotekette, in the studio upstairs, in my yoga room and never leave the house but for runs along the trail and in Njåskogen‘s spongy underbrush. I find myself watching the clock and counting down until I have to get to the train station, and to the school, to the classroom. I fight the pinch instead of just relaxing into the discomfort.

I feel like a kid at the edge of the swimming pool. I have dived in before, I know it’s fine. You know – not like on an overcast and humid day when the water is almost the same temperature as the air – but on a hot day, when the water is cold. But you’ve had to shower first because of public pool rules, so you are shivering and your teeth are chattering and you know that once you’re in the water – in a half a minute or less – you’ll be warm again. Still… You can’t force yourself to jump in. Something in your brain says it’s a very bad idea.

At the beginning of this school year the teachers tried virtual reality. It was a problem that had the user walk a plank out the window of skyscraper, hundreds of meters over a busy city street. I was intellectually aware that it was not real. However, another part of my brain was telling me this was wrong – my whole body was telling me this was wrong. I couldn’t see any point in overriding a self-preservation instinct that is there for a reason, that is working well.

Going to work shouldn’t be like walking a plank high above a city street. I shouldn’t feel like my job requires me to be one of the flying Wallendas. But I am having a difficult time finding perspective. I can’t write more about this: confidentiality clauses and such.

So instead I will say that at home life it good. Painting, writing, reading, learning new skills. There is a balance to be had. I know this.

I need to wriggle out of the time-out corner and be okay again. Okay. Right. And. Yep. Okay. (Can you hear my teeth chattering?)

earth worms abandoned
half-eaten on the asphalt –
Spring’s little singers are full
as old, full throat-ed mezzos
and their conflicted, dark arias