And counting down 2, 1… summer break. So rarely have I wanted it so badly. Begrudgingly doing the few tasks left, sitting through the few meetings, trying hard not to be negative. There’s a little mantra in my head: Next year will be better, next year will be better.

Please. Let it be better.

16 months of uncertainty and skewed norms. I have learned this about myself: I am a person who likes clear guidelines and rules. I thrive on ticking off the boxes. I am reliant on being able to say I have done something as required – that I am good enough. I have proof.

Before Corona, I had no idea that I saw every day as a kind of multiple-choice test I had to pass. No wonder I was exhausted even before the lockdown. And no wonder the chaos of every day this year has all but shredded my tissue-paper self-esteem.

I think this explains my taking on all kinds of projects. Ballasting myself with boxes I can tick off: at least I can do this today.

It’s not the same thing as being in control. It’s more pathetic than that. It’s nearly the opposite. I can achieve an expectation. And therefore I am useful. Worthy of the oxygen I’m sucking in.

Maybe this year will be enough to make me throw my hands in the air and give up trying. Let go of the concern. I know that is a healthy thing to do. And I doubt it is going to happen. For those of us who were not given the scaffolding we need, we do what we can to scrape together the things that help us get through. Day to day sometimes.

The popular wisdom, the “party line” is that you don’t need to justify your life. But that isn’t how we work. We not only judge ourselves and each other, but we also judge the natural world: what good is a mosquito? A wasp? We concern ourselves with conservation projects often only when we understand how valuable the resources are for our own use. We want our children to see a tiger. From a distance. Maybe in a zoo?

We evaluate. According to our own needs. So, to stop trying to tick off the boxes that make you useful to other people is to pull out of the social network. Only the privilege of strong ties can allow you to do that and survive.

It used to be if your family had a history of suicide, you could forget marriage. No one even pretended that there were other reasons. These things still exist. I’ve heard people talk about how they caution their children not to get involved with someone who has weak family ties. “There’s something wrong there.” We shun.

Despite all the platitudes and pretty memes, people are not compassionate when it comes to unconditional inclusion. Taking on a human as a pet project may look like compassion, but it’s not. It’s useful. It makes us feel good about ourselves. And it keeps people in their place, striving to deserve attention.

Considering what I believe about human nature, I think my interest in deep ecology is linked to these ideas regarding “good enough”, and my obsession with being “useful”. If I can accept that the wasp has a right to live regardless of its usefulness to me – either directly or in terms of its contribution to an ecosystem that I benefit from – I can accept that maybe I don’t need to be useful either. That every day is not another entrance exam to the community.

But it is. Isn’t it`?

The platitudes sound nice, though.

This afternoon on the massage table I had so many good ideas. Writing prompts, poems, books. But I can’t recall any of them. Maybe I was sleeping. There’ve been times when I’ve lain in bed half-asleep and thought out an entire novel. Even rolled over to make a few notes in the book on the nightstand. But then in the morning realized those two scribbled phrases were all there was to the whole novel: a theme. That had been enough to trigger the feeling of creative accomplishment – a good dream.

It’s nice to appreciate good dreams when we have them. But not to grasp at it, or mourn what never was, or regret the feelings because they were “really undeserved”.

There is a kind of general understanding that if we learn we were happy where the circumstances – if we had known them – would not have warranted it, it wasn’t real happiness. I think it is fascinating that we do this.

Someone happy in a marriage discounts their happiness if they find out a partner had cheated. As though new information not only changes their present emotional state but somehow retroactively changes past experiences. I get that our memories of the experience would be different – that our perspective has changed when we recall/relive/remember. But It seems to me that it’s meaningless – in the strictest sense of the word – to say “I thought I was happy.” We don’t think our emotions except with this kind of retrospect and reconstruction, which is completely ripped from both the present and the past. “I was happy. I just hate being ignorant because it means that I’m out of control.”

If a mother is told her child is dead, but the child walks in the room two hours later, the damage of the two hours of grief is not erased from that woman’s heart, from the cells of her body.

Happy counts, too.

Can we not accept this “done is done” because we have a need to control the narrative of our lives? We want to see ourselves as the playwrights and novelists of our story. In control – even retroactively. Perhaps especially retroactively. I’ve known a fair number of people with mental disorders and trauma that cause them to live in a state of constant concern: is what I am seeing real? I am one of them. A fear of “losing it” and not knowing what is true.

Am I allowed to be this happy?

I’ve had days where I’ve asked myself that. I feel a rise of warm “good dream” feelings when I’m wide awake, and can’t for the life of me rustle up reasons for it. I worry that I’m losing it.

Today I think that there on the massage table today the “undeserved” feeling of contentment was due to the decreasing adrenaline and increasing endorphines. The reduction of inflammation. The quiet.

Since I haven’t been able to run for a while, I haven’t had a massage. I have always seen massages as a reward and maintenence perk for running. Maybe I have it backwards.

I think often picking things apart to try and figure out what is causing us to feel this way or that way is just a mental exercise. A bit of storytelling.

I think I am going to try to stay in the moment. Feel what I feel. And let go without weaving it into a story.

Like that’s going to work.

I am thinking today about how things can change suddenly, when nothing has changed. An interior reality that moves independently from the weather or circumstance.

Now, in this moment, I am angry or content or want to pick up and begin again new somewhere that smells differently. Spin the wheel. I latch onto reasons for my shifting moods but am wholly unconvinced they are causes. I’m just grabbing at the random facts while the merry-go-round spins. I am my own fortune teller and blue-eyed dupe making “sense” of it all. Lining up the cards and making up a story to explain why I am where I am.

I’m heading north in three weeks – to stay for a week in a tiny, rough house on the fjord-side of the island. To look for porpoises and puffins through my binoculars. Maybe without them. I’m bringing a wetsuit. Wool socks. And wine. K. says we need to trek to the opposite side of the island to see the midnight sun.

What I am looking forward to is the smell of the ocean. Above the arctic circle, the ocean smells… clean. Scrubbed. Ragged. I can’t help but hope it will clear my head. But I know nothing is ever as we imagine it will be. I know the mosquitoes up there are the size of wasps. I know the damp cold of a holiday cabin.

I could pull out my tarot cards to try to figure out how I got myself into this. I’d get the hanged man. I am in a period of indecision. Suspended.

In a time of contemplation.

The brain is amazing. We can always make it “fit”. Whatever it is. The omens. The signs. Today walking Leonard we passed a hedgehog on the sidewalk. Dead. In the middle of the sidewalk. I walked Leonard a big arc on the lawn to avoid it. I watched three people walk by it. I wonder if the body will lay there until the birds take it away bit by bit. The gulls, most likely. Where are the gulls today?

We passed the field where last week the duck couples were coupling in the tall grass. Someone has driven a lawnmower over it all. I wonder where they went? Where will they brood?

In films and in books, people have little epiphanies that get all their ducks in a neat row while on a vacation. After facing death. Getting a sign.

All these external changes that shake up their inner realities. Does it ever really happen that way?

a fetus gestates:
dog, fish, shark, venomous
a year to decide – yes

It’s raining this morning. I think it may be why I slept late.

Sitting on the sofa looking out the window, a slipped ray of sunlight coming from behind my house, over my roof, hit the white trim on the neighbor’s roof to set it glowing against the slate sky.

This happens often. I sit on the sofa drinking my coffee and petting Leonard and I see this phenomenon. I know the sun is there. Momentarily. Then the eaves stop glowing and I know the clouds have covered the sun again. I feel my mood sink as though it were directly connected to the lux measurement of the neighbor’s eaves.

This happens so often on the weekends that I have begun to see this little moment of reflection like a kind of meditation practice. My mood is variable. And I can step back and notice its own nature, which is something my conscious mind can pull away from and observe. In the same way I can observe my hand. Or my aching achilles. What is a part of me is not the whole of me.

If there is a me. There is the image of the rider and the elephant in Buddhist symbolism. But I am thinking most days I feel more like a dog walker with a pack of variously trained dogs of wildly varied breeds. Today I’m being dragged by the loudly complaining husky, but tripped by the yappy chihuahua.

And there really is Leonard. Nudging my arm off of the keyboard. Putting his head between me and the mobile phone. Standing in my way, leaning his head on my thigh: notice me, sit with me, breathe with me.

This morning I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a film clip of a sea turtle eating a jellyfish. There was something profoundly disturbing about it. The vulnerability of the jellyfish’s beautiful body. The turtle’s leisurely matter-of-factness. It’s unrushed hunger. The small fish swimming around the jellyfish’s tentacles, even now as the turtle rips off parts of the body. The fact that someone observed and filmed the scene. This is life. Look at it. What do you do with this knowledge?

Maybe the point is to do nothing at all. Learn to look for the perspectives and try to hold them all at once? The jellyfish’s perspective. The turtle’s. The baby fishes’. The shrimp’s, and crabs’; the sharks’.

I don’t have to always take sides. Even if, or maybe especially when, I identify emotionally with one. Empathy isn’t wisdom. Empathy alone can’t determine the “right” side.

This morning watching the effects of the clouds covering the sun again, feeling my mood sink, I thought of the rash of grassfires we’ve had in the county this past week. Some quite serious.

Rain’s a good thing todayfrom that perspective.

a strong wind carries
you effortlessly along
in one direction