This morning I stare at a waning moon and a smattering of stars. The clouds will move in this afternoon and the rest of the weekend will be wet. The late summer feels finished. Leonard tugs at the leash. There is something I can’t see in shadows of the hollybush edge.

Yesterday I took the movement students outside. I hadn’t planned it but room scheduling has been difficult. We ran off what must have been a hundred pigeons from a patch of grass along the quayside. The swan, of course, we avoided. We moved through warrior positions and balanced poles on our fingertips: “Knees bent, knees bent.” It is an odd mantra to have carved into one’s subconscious.

Be ready for anything.

The swan remained centerstage. Unflustered. Such confidence for such a relatively small creature.

There was more wind than we would have liked, but it felt good to move in the fresh air – with the fresh air – outside of the little black box where we all spend the majority of our days. With another group of students, I would have had them let the wind push them around. I would have had them risk the judgemental looks from people passing by. I would have reminded them to commit, to challenge the onlookers’ projections of insecurity, to confuse them. Forget them. Forget the swan. But these students have been affected by the Covid restrictions for most of their theatre studies. There’s little trust in each other, little trust in in their own bodies… little trust in me.

The sunshine barely grazed my skin, but felt good on my retinas. Since the morning and evening walks are in the dark now, it felt like a flicker of past already. Everything is softer now, during this transition. Winter’s sharpness will come, but right now there is a bluntness to the days.

The afternoon is an oversized, red rubber ball that smells like the dark side of childhood.

Everything in its time, returning in its time with a surprising perspective. I am in a holding pattern. Holding so very much.

feather in the grass

The first day of autumn brought the rain and the damp. At 5 a.m., a reluctant Leonard who hates getting his paws wet. Somewhere near the railroad tracks a dog screamed. I think it was a dog. Leonard and I both standing at attention in the dark, in the silence that followed, then both shaking off our helplessness, because what choice do we have but to get on with the day?

The sun rising vaguely, somewhere in the sky behind the opaque weather front. The neighbor down the road, with the lovely garden and who was wearing knickerbockers the first time I saw him, stares at us from the window of his bright entrance hall. I took another mental picture. I wonder if he knows I do that.

He doesn’t return the smile he can’t see.

Out walking once, I told him that he had a beautiful garden. He turned away from me. But the next day he told me I had a beautiful dog. Now we half-smile and nod often in the mornings. Most days this is all I need from other people. And some days it is all I have to give.

I am trying to reframe my situation: to consider all of the obligations as things waiting for me to return to, rather than the things I have fallen behind on. I know the former ascribes these “things” a kind of volition. But really the later does, too. Entities of sorts to whom I owe somehow, for having fallen short in serving them with the proper devotion.

I wonder if I am unique in anthropomorphising the world in this way? Like a child with toys: fairly, mentally kissing goodnight each one before bed. Then a kiss for God’s white cheek.

I let the small bits of the world down. I disappoint the dusty tiffany lamp with the burned-out bulb, the now-chipped coffee cup.

So much comes down to my forgetting. Forgetting as carelessness: as with yesterday’s discarded, wet socks I found on the bathroom floor this morning. Too much of my life is “I meant to…”

What do you mean to do with your life? I think I have meant to please. Sometimes I wonder if I will die while mentally apologizing to the kitchen sink for the bits of onion and garlic stuck in the metal trap.

At this point in my life, I know all of this involves a willing suspension of disbelief on my part. Though I am not sure if it constitutes escaping from real life, or desperately searching for it.

And this isn’t the first time I have wondered if all of human mental activity is a meaningless distraction. By carrot or by whip we will ourselves on.

Leonard and I came in from the rain this morning. I towelled him off and he ran for the treat cupboard. I slid off my rain paints, and E. handed me a cup of green tea.

Some days, by whip or by carrot, we will one another on.

Some days, it is good to be reminded of this simple thing.

The little timer begins with a chime. Returning to these quiet minutes in the library with Leonard snoring on the rug beside me. A cup of coffee, a clear head. A sense of openness – knowing that some things will hurt.

The lithium has been out of my system for a couple of weeks now. In some ways it is like having lifted a bandage from a wound. A sense of lightness, a stinging contact with the air. Awareness shifts. But it is good. A kind of healing process. As long as one keeps in mind that “healing” does not mean returning to a former state. Any former state.

Six months have passed in a frozen moment that was something like a swift slap to the side of a television set to stop the vertical roll. But the world is never frozen entirely. Things shift imperceptibly until they are perceptible. You step back and find yourself in the middle of a new program.

I know that is an archaic metaphor. I know that. And I wonder what all these technological changes in the world have done to people like me, who’ve straddled a revolution that seems like magic. That encourages magical thinking?

I think about those years of my slowly-twisting fingers on knobs. These still slowly-twisting fingers that make me self-conscious. Age-conscious, which is nothing more than death-conscious. I think about the last six months, and what has happened along the edges of the bones in my left shoulder. The build-up of minerals within my body. I try to make sense of competing metaphors. My turning to stone, my falling to dust.

Tomorrow I head back to the physiotherapist who will press a bit of metal against my bruised shoulder and send invisible shockwaves through the skin to shatter the build-up of calcium that is biting into my tendon every time I lift my arms into a sun salutation.

I did my homework on the procedure. The statistics for “success”. For an easing of the inevitable transitioning from one body to the next. The non committal language of my GP: “You can try it.”

I have been thinking about the distinctions between organic and non-organic material and our definitions of life causally tied up with these definitions. About the presence of the inorganic elements in our bodies. The necessary presence. The growing presence.

I haven’t seen the moon since Sunday: cloud cover. But I know it is there, huge and low and signaling the harvest. Already my morning and evening walks with Leonard are in darkness. I run late in the day when I can now, to get some sunshine.

Let myself go.

And there goes the final chime from my timer. Just as Medusa enters.

It has been so long since I’ve sat here in the library that the roses on my desk have long since died and dropped their leaves – more leaves than I would have thought possible from a dozen red roses of condolence.

The light bulb in my little green lamp has burned out. I type in a relative darkness this morning. In an hour I will leave the house to take the train to work, and I will pass the tall raspberry stalks that lean out over the driveway from the garden and I will grab the ripening berry I’ve had an eye on for days.

Provided one of the magpies hasn’t beaten me to it.

It seems these past weeks I have moved even further away from myself in an attempt to know how to move forward. It is true that death brings change, even deaths that do not spawn grief, but end it. I am “over it”. In a way. Past it, certainly. And now what?

We can do this, you know. We can own our own stories, or just give them up entirely. And we can let go of the need to dictate the stories of others.

We don’t need to be “a survivor” with a constructed story arc that makes us the hero. If we “win” all the battles. We can just live in world with no need to construct a dramaturgy that will bring everything to a satisfying end.

That sets us up to fail.

While avoiding writing, either publicly or privately, I have been thinking again about “whose story”. I have been thinking again about my choice to erase myself from the tidy narrative in my mother’s obituary (which described a woman I never knew): to take that name that is not my name, was my name, out of that paragraph with “[…] is survived by”. Because the truth is that the person who wore that name, who lived that life, did not survive but was born anew, and mothered by so many others.

We can do this. We can give up the need to carry a through-line through the days. Can’t we?

Today I will lecture on Antigone. Creon’s story. And I will ask the students to read the play, translated from a translation that was translated from a translation and handed down through cultures that have come and gone, and were born anew. I will ask them: Whose story is this? Why carry it? Will you somehow make it yours? How?

I learned yesterday that Antigone means “against-birth”.

Can we accept that every considered perspective on every story is a true answer? That all of them are as true as memories?

As true as the dried leaves scattered over a book filled with fragments of poems that I’ve forgotten I’ve written.

I’m off to pick a raspberry.

photo of a ripening raspberry on the stalk