This morning there was an oystercatcher preening on a rock at the edge of the lake. On cue to prove me wrong about writing the other day that they are never there. I get things wrong often. And I am actually very “okay” with that. It means that I allow my world view to morph with new information. That’s a good thing. It is something that I try to cultivate.

It is a balance though, isn’t it? To stand by one’s experience and knowledge, and stay open to the possibility of everything you know being wrong – without letting it break your self-confidence or question your sanity, sometimes.

This morning I noticed that the second grove heading out along the lake was noisy with songbirds. I’ve never thought before how that stretch is silent in the winter, the crows pretty much keeping to the first grove, closer to town. I’ve been running this stretch most days for six years now. Still getting to know the place.

E. is still much more observant than I am. Noticing a missing bench. A still squirrel in the tree. Sometimes I’m envious. A little ashamed to be too lost in my thoughts some mornings.

I suppose what we know is always filtered through our thoughts. I have a lot of tangled thoughts, so maybe that’s why I take in such random pieces of the world. On the other hand, E. can also be mistaken. A quiet squirrel might be just a broken branch. We can all be mistaken, probably because there is an irresistible drive to make sense of the world that can overshadow everything. Every pocket of doubt.

We see what we want to see. Rationalize what we see to fit our current paradigm. Sometimes this can be devastating. Sometimes, it is just a way to silence people and keep our personal status quo. Prejudices. Biases. With an entire spectrum of consequences.

I would love to go back and study sociology just to write a book about the current trend in our culture of diagnosing one another. Signaling compassion while effectively dismissing a person’s point, if not their point of view entirely. What used to be the misogynist phrase, “Oh, she’s just upset” is now “Oh, they’re just triggered.” The jargon of pseudo-psychology makes the patronizing seem more acceptable.

I think the reason I find this fascinating is that it forces me to look at some of my own coping strategies. I’ve written before about how if a stranger is rude to me, I tell myself a story: they were just diagnosed with cancer, or they are just on their way back from visiting their parent with Alzheimer’s – that kind of thing. It’s not like I am wishing anything will happen to them, it is just a way to force myself to step back and not take things personally – emotionally. But I am not totally convinced it is the most ethical way to do this. It feels like cheating.

And there have been situations with individual students who have been “difficult” for whatever reason. On a couple of occasions, I have “diagnosed” an undiagnosed student in my mind so that I can step back and not take things personally – emotionally. And I am even more concerned about whether this is an okay thing to do.

Shouldn’t I be able to step back without mentally framing the situation in a way that is comfortable because it fits nicely with my existing worldview? That is hardly being compassionate, or flexible, or open to change. It is imposing my existing ideas on everyone else – whether they know it or not.

It is easier though.

I have always liked the serenity prayer – but am thinking: grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can…

But how about: God, grant me the wisdom and the courage to change myself.

there is a strange dust
on the white skirts of the rocks
where the lake’s pulled back
winter’s cast-offs oddly dry
exposed abandoned lovers

The rain has stopped. And the birds are singing. Chirping actually, so not the usual blackbirds. Someday I will learn them all. I wish there were an app that would identify birds based on a recording. I am assuming they are sparrows. The fat little bullies who dare to vie with the magpies for the seeds in our feeder.

Now – as though I summoned them – there is an entire chorus coming from the neighbor’s yard. Crows and gulls, and even a blackbird.

I wonder what birds think of the rain.

It’s a cotton morning. White and gauzy. And I’m looking forward to running on the trail where everything will be wet and bright by contrast. As much as I long for sunshine, sometimes I believe the world is far more beautiful in the context of weather. The shocking greens under slate skies, the oranges that shine through the fog. The world seems richer. More interesting. Even the sounds seem different. I wonder if they are actually? If humidity affects sound waves? I’ll make a note to look it up.

I try to remind myself of this when things are difficult. To look around and notice the details, the softness that is more present when the weather moves in. The way moments can resonate when snagged by the gauzy air.

Tomorrow I want to drive into town and run the old trail where I used to count frogs this time of year. 40. 50. I know it is a strange kind of activity – but it is life-affirming. I feel that if the frogs are surviving there’s hope.

We occasionally see a frog here on the morning run, but I think the lake has too many algae for them to really thrive. The run-off from the farms is intense, and the cleansing ponds help, but not enough. The swans don’t seem to mind. I think there are a few fish in the lake, and I know that eels have survived in the water even when the algae was so thick it was life-threatening to people. Something always survives.

I have yet to see a duckling this year. But I am still hoping. I know they’re there.

last year’s cygnets
are dusted still with the browns
of innocence

It’s a holiday. So I slept in an extra hour before coming to work. Or rather, to sit at my desk at work while the students rehearse their final productions. The coffee machine is down. The alarm keeps announcing there are intruders in the building. And I can’t seem to settle into writing.

There are days like these. Where I seem to be standing beside myself. And moving this shell around the house, or through the streets. Or in the corridors here. Puppet fingers on the keyboard. When people say that they can’t “get it together” this is what I think of. Feeling out of it. Out of sync with myself.

And I know that this means I should get my body on the mat. I should run through a flow and meditate. Pull myself together. Yoga – literally. Yoking the mind and the body.

But here I sit at the desk in this enormous building alone on the third floor behind a series of locked glass doors and alarm sensors. The day having run away from me, I find myself clenching my jaw. Fighting a ridiculous urge to chase the hours down and do them over again. I wish I were an animator. I’d like to draw this. On a light blue background.

Actually, I taught myself Flash way back when, when the iPad came out and killed Flash almost instantly. I had to redesign my entire doctorate plans, which had centered around an animated book. I should have pushed on really. I think it was then that I got the bug to make books by hand. I have always been a woman of one extreme or the other. All those hours and nothing to show for it. Gone in an instant instead of falling apart with the dignity of old vellum and leather.

This week I have been paying close attention to my emotions. Anger, shame, and the relationship between the two. Regret, anger, shame, and the relationships among the three. And fear. Always fear. There is an upside to standing beside yourself sometimes.

I am trying to change my perspective and think of all this living as I would a single experience of skydiving. Or whatever it is that makes a person feel frightened – and very much alive. I am very much alive these days.

Just not in a way that looks good on Instagram.

what cannot not be
and cannot be considered
what will startle you
then hide so well you wonder
if death is just a bad dream

“Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” – I have repeated this phrase so often, written it so often, that it is completely removed from its origin Beloved. Maybe not removed, but it has spilled over and is my own personal truth.

I have Reynaud’s, which means a couple of times a month my feet or my hands turn white, then – warming – turn black briefly. And it hurts. The circulation beginning again, blood pushing into constricted spaces, hurts.

Today I am lurching around the house after this morning’s run. My Achilles is stiff, clenched, and doesn’t want to play. But I’ve been here before, and in a week or so it will be alright again.

So far into spring now that even at 6 am we’ve missed the sunrise. If I run before writing in the mornings, I think we can catch another week of pink skies before running at sunrise becomes an unreasonable idea.

This year it makes me sad to think about having missed a season. A spring. Orange mornings and noticing the gradual increase of bird song. I am not whipping myself for being ill, but I can count the number of springs I may have left. It is easy to get snagged by the fear. To get stuck among the losses, and moving forward takes a surprising amount of effort. It’s almost painful.

I don’t want to waste another spring.

Because of my Achilles I stopped for a minute among the trees. I tried to notice each distinct bird. The tits are easy to identify. So are the mourning doves, and the blackbirds of course. But others are strangers. Something is making a ratcheting kind of ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. I wonder: do swans make any sounds other than hissing?

I’ve never seen oystercatchers along the lake. They stay over in the ponds at the park near the skateboarding ramps. I have no idea why. And I only hear the lapwings there in the evenings when I can’t see them.

E. and I have been talking about moving again. And there is a part of my longing to move into the woods somewhere. I think the desire began in my childhood, with fairy tales and forests, with candied houses and witches that could be shoved into ovens and be done with. Snow white could talk to the animals. Wild birds would land on her finger and she would sing.

Disney filled a Las Vegas kid’s head with entirely unreasonable hopes.

I found a place, actually. Not a candied house, but a house near a lake, surrounded by trees. But far from public transportation. I would need to buy a car. I would need to drive a car daily. So, I guess we’re not moving yet. Sometimes I forget that this location, this house was a compromise and that I am happy here.

For now – for the next 15 years until I can retire – I will catch what I can of birdsong and be grateful for it. When I give Leonard his morning treat and, instead of running off to fold himself in under the coffee table, he leans his head against my thigh and stares up at me, I’ll pretend he’s singing.

green hearts between trees
white bells above the green hearts
call to the cuckoo –
sour apple flowing from
thin stems to quench her thirst