I think I am afraid of the quiet. Afraid to let my mind rest. I have been binge-watching medical dramas and experienced a bit of panic when I realized I’ve watched all that are available on the streaming networks I subscribe to. I nearly subscribed to another to continue watching one that I am only mildly interested in. Plot holes. Inconsistent characters. Poor dialogue. Questionable moral standpoints. So there’s…

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Podcasts.

It seems I stay with any particular past-time until I hit a point of frustration that sends me to the next. I’m playing emotional Ping-pong. Looking for affirmations, escapism and getting smacked back. And that in itself is frustrating: knowing what I am trying to avoid, knowing that it’s foolish to try to avoid it, and still looking.

I misread something on my Twitter feed and thought a comment aimed at Boris Johnson was aimed at me. The point is: I flinched. I’m not using a metaphor here. I physically flinched. Even odder is the fact that the comment was part of a tweet I had retweeted myself.

Last year I don’t think I made any New Year’s Resolutions. I thought I was in a good place. This year is different. Everything hurts. I am tired of all of this hurt.

I am beginning to wonder if my need for escapism has everything to do with my reluctance to go for a run, or even a walk in the woods. My reluctance to write.

I’m afraid to make room for thoughts.

But it is like trying to run through an endless mire without getting my shoes muddy. The thoughts creep in. But as I slow down, I realize that it isn’t as bad as I anticipated. B. is dying. And we talk about movies and books and wildfires. We talk about what to do with what we learn (and don’t like) about people we love.

And I listen a lot more than I usually do.

I’m not going to appropriate her story, her lessons. But I am going to stay conscious of the lessons she is teaching me now, through the perspective she chooses to share with me.

“Life is too short” isn’t a platitude this afternoon as the calendar flips to 2022.

What I have learned now, at the close of 2021, is that holding two truths that bump against each other is painful, but possible. Necessary, even.

That an unwillingness to consider/allow for/discuss/listen to another perspective is not a sign of confidence in one’s own knowledge/beliefs/intelligence.

That “all or nothing” is a luxury illusion none of us can afford – not in terms of possessions, not in terms of loyalties.

That, as our worldviews get smaller we cling to our rage and outrage to justify our creeping, ever-narrowing circles of compassion.

I am reinterpreting the myth of Narcissus. I believe he must have been fixated on the tiniest of pools. The world as a teaspoon of sugared water… seen through the eyes of Narcissus while he’s listening to a podcast through his earbuds.

I need to go for a walk before the sun sets.

on the morning that will lead to Christmas Eve. I’m surprised to wake to a white world this morning, after last night’s walk under a clear and starry sky. Something moved through while we slept, and maybe took with it some of the heaviness and left the rough chattering of the magpies.

We have yet to put up the tree and wrap the last gifts. But weirdly all I want to do is make something beautiful. And, as always, desire outstrips both ability and talent. Maybe it is appropriate that Amadeus is a Christmas film in my mind. Certainly a film for the winter season. Maybe the threat of wasted mediocrity can be a drive in-and-of-itself? Maybe some of us need a patron saint of Effort? We need to know less-than-excellence is still worthwhile.

A humble, worn begging bowl is a thing of unique beauty, isn’t it?

This year has been stitched together at points of pain. Losses. Abrupt and imperfect endings. And I suppose beginnings that are easy to overlook if one isn’t attentive to possibilities. I’ve been wondering if there is no such thing as a false start. In the same way that there is no such thing as a “failed” marriage, if one approaches life as growth and change and experience, rather than a map of set mileposts toward an obituary: this is supposed to be your wonderful life. Yeah. That Christmas movie that’s all about shirking your fate if you can’t suck it up through the hard times, give into your circumstances, and trust bow-tied, bushy-browed old men who claim to be angels.

It strikes me as ironic that all of us are storytellers. Ourselves as the heroes in everyday encounters. And yet I can’t seem to write a story. My character isn’t woven into given circumstances, and I can’t seem to plot a satisfying arc.

Maybe there is no arc, though there are arbitrary meeting points that matter very much. It seems to me that waiting for them, letting them come, and having faith in their covert significance is our obligation.

I guess that is why I feel pulled toward poetry. These knots of drama and of peace. Pearls on a string. Life as a room full pre-Islamic “hanged poems”* written by individual ghosts: each of arbitrary length, representing arbitrary lifespans. Each with a qasidah’s lack of plot or narrative.

Here is my search for an artistic home to that inevitably leads me to misunderstandings, accusations, and a keener sense of alienation.

In theatre history class I facilitate discussions on appropriation. But in movement class, I teach square breathing: the alternating states of movement and stillness, and the recognition that there is also life in stillness. In the waiting. I try to explain to my students: just wait. Don’t engage the glottal stop, don’t bear down in your throat, just stay open… and wait.

It’s not even a metaphor for life. It is life.

The snow absorbs sound waves. But the magpie’s bellies chatter like shakers in an improvised concert. The front yard is filled with tension. A drama without narrative.

The magpies are quiet now.


They will begin again. Like barren Shakers, they’ll gather and make something beautiful.

Then they’ll be gone. Again.

Just wait.

*It is interesting that the phrase I found today was “hanged poems”, when I have been taught that the past tense of hang is hung and that the only thing hanged are people. The more common term is “The hanging poems”, which of course is immediate and… haunting.