Second cup of coffee. Fifteen minutes have already passed and my mind is beginning to clear. The space heater is on but the room is still cold. I can’t sleep if my feet are cold, and apparently I can’t write with cold feet either. Cold, Clear, Coffee, Cup. A lot of chattering in my head.

A negative Covid test. Which means my cold symptoms are probably a side-effect of the lithium. I’d forgotten all this. The pros and cons of not letting myself slip under the surface. Now my days are often filled with a repeating scene of me blowing up a bright red balloon, watching it pop, and blowing up another… and so on. Can you picture me in clown face? Polka dots? My nose running. Eyes weepy. The edges are softened but I move in slow motion like a nightmare. I walk Leonard in the dark. Take the train to school. Feel like I have a clue, then I hear myself talking: pop.

I try to forgive myself. And work up the courage to begin another day.

Up and moving slowly. The cogs in my head are moving in an odd rhythm of stick and spin. When Leonard and I returned to the house, E. had already shoveled the snow from the driveway. I couldn’t recall the route we’d taken or explain why it’d taken us so long to round the neighborhood.

I felt a little dizzy. But that may just be the cold.

Last night an email caught up with me. It related to an art project that I was privileged to be involved with last year. It seems like a lifetime ago and pulled me back to a time when I felt like I had a writing career. Like I had something to say. I have to arrange for an Italian translation of the poem that the artist used in his larger, collaborative work. I had to dig through my files: neatly labeled folders with dates and genres.


I am like a stereotypical addict parent in a bad movie. I show up a couple of times a year and promise to get my shit together this time. Then I disappear. No note. Hell, I don’t even bother to say I’m going out to buy cigarettes.

Obviously, in this little parable, it is the poetry itself that suffers abandonment. How’s that for a conceit?

Following Impermanence, I had plans for another book. But every time I began writing it felt like craftsmanship and not art. I know how that sounds. But I felt as though I’d given myself an assignment and was hoping that the life spark would seep in somehow if I made room for it in the work. It felt like waiting for Godot joy.

And I am not against that kind of approach. I even think that it can be a wise approach if one wants to establish a name, a brand and a business. It keeps the wheels turning. And you can be a poet on Instagram with a capital P, which means your work will reach readers. And that is what it is all about.

But ultimately, with all my experimenting with marketing, I acknowledged that that… what? goal? is a full time job and only a fraction of that time is the creative art work. The smallest allotment of time can be spent in open-ended experimentation, play, creation. Meanwhile I work a 43-hour-a-week job that I alternately love/hate, maintain a marriage, friendships, family relationships and my mental and physical health. I walk the dog, cook the meals. Life is so full of goals and wants that it can be overwhelming.

Maintaining a healthy structure has always been difficult for me. I go to extremes. I’ve never been motivated by whips or carrots. I plug into the machine until whatever energy got me moving dissipates. How much of this is bipolar behavior, how much is PTSD-related issues, shame, ADHD, simple immaturity? My shrink shrugs: Does it matter?

In my practice, writing is all about the effort of taking my personal experience/perspective/understanding and attempting to make it a thing-in-itself. A thing recognized by other people. Maybe it is very much about the validation of my human experience as real: this is meaningful, and we can recognize our animal and spiritual selves reflected in one another through the thing.

It’s as though we can’t know one another directly. We need the thing. Like squinting our eyes to see an image we call an optical illusion: the shift in perspective doesn’t make things less real. It enhances our experience. Even the stars disappear when we look directly at them. Maybe we see the world – and each other – best through a glass, or at a slant. We’ve heard something like that before, of course.

Maybe I can do this better without self-assigned projects? Maybe I can drop the form now and write things into being in a messy, organic way?

There are scenes in my head, memories that surface again and again “like rotting wood shooting out of the lake“. And I write them and rewrite them and wonder why I’m not done yet.

And then there are the scenes I may never write. When I look directly at them, my observations are clinical. Big, academic words that engender a detached, legal dignity. Like trigger warnings on a book cover.

At a slant, everything splashes on your retina and indirectly calls up the smells, and the sensations on skin, on membranes… and well, there is this “thing” that is uglier than you thought. And so very human.

Several times this past week, walking Leonard at night or in the morning, I catch myself in a discussion with my mother. Then I remember: she’s dead. The realization isn’t a moment of sorrow, but absurdity. I am rehearsing for a moment that will never be, a closure that I will never have.

B. gave me a drawing by Story People: “If you hold onto the handle, she said, it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control.” This image is a person clinging to a kind of oar. “It’s more fun if you just let the wind carry you.”

When I catch myself in the discussion, I mentally release my grip, one finger at a time, from the weird fantasy I have had all these years: this running inner dialogue that has become a kind of subconscious tick. Maybe even a kind of hopeful prayer? Against all conscious logic, the conscious acceptance of the situation of the past 30-odd years.

It’s over. It’s never over. I open my hand again to drop the practice, like a prayer bead, like an oar. Only to find it in my hand again.

Maybe this is the underlying conflict/drama in all of our lives: the continuous grasping and letting go. Against our needy, animal nature. Against our cold, intellectual plans.

Newton’s cradle.

I have told myself that once she was dead, I would write a memoir. But I’m suddenly unsure. Unsure of the why of it.

I never wanted the last word.

I wanted the last word to be hers. To be: I’m sorry. Not pity, but acknowledgement and remorse.

Because remorse would entail something of love.

Being patient with myself right now. Putting projects on indefinite hold consciously and without guilt. Considering so much – and maybe for the first time – not grasping for answers.

A man wrote a book about time management. He outlines a lifetime as 4000 weeks. Running yesterday, my attention kept turning to the nearly full moon. The average lifetime (in the West) is allotted 1000 moons. And I have lived through 620 of them, but noticed so few.

The Wolf Moon took full form last night. I read that the it is called that because wolves howl more at the start of a new year. As winter sets in. The nights are already getting shorter, but earth is still getting colder.

My student is researching wolves for a role I wrote for him. He tells me that wolves howl as a form of grieving. I don’t know where he read this, or if it is true, or how we could ever know if it is true. It does make sense to me. The sound tugs up a fear for us because we recognize the vulnerability inherent (probably a prerequisite) in grief.

Loss. Aloneness. It is all a matter of perception, really. The recognition of our disconnection. Nothing is really lost. Except perhaps the illusion of having had. What do we ever have/own/possess? We experience, and cannot possess experiences. We can’t even possess the memory of experiences, because memories are also impermanent: morphing and reassembling, like metal shavings following a magnet.

I am formless at the moment. Even memories of my former selves are formless. I’ll run now and something within me will howl at the moon. Something in me will change shape, pulled by the earth’s magnetic field. Every cell in motion, rearranging, experiencing the morning before dawn.

There’s a thread you follow.  It goes among
things that change.  But it doesn’t change.

                                   William Stafford

Someone wrote that it is pretentious to begin a blog post with a quote. I disagree.

Many someone-elses write that it is foolish to begin a year with resolutions, that we are bound to fail. But I think it’s the beginning that matters – the evaluation that goes into beginnings and the lessons-learned through practice: it’s not success(es) that make the doing meaningful.

I used to sit in meditation and my mind would have wandered off to work or to relationships. Sometimes to breakfast. And I’d only noticed when the final chime sounded. I thought I’d failed and that I needed to sit the ten minutes again to “do it right”. I don’t do that anymore. Oh, my mind still tends to wander, but I can accept and acknowledge that the effort is meaningful regardless of the outcome.

After two years of health issues, mental and physical, E. keeps reminding me that the only thing that is important now and for the rest of our lives, is to begin again. To hold on tight to Stafford’s thread and ask, “What is this all about again?”

It’s become a tradition and a priviledge to spend New Years Eve with L. and B.

L. is the one who invited me to eat 12 grapes at midnight. She and B lived in Spain for a few years. I believe that to make a wish with each grape is her own twist on the Spanish tradition. Today I reread the blog post from 2020 and realize that my 12 wishes last night were nearly identical to those two years ago: synonyms and shifted specifics. New perspectives. New approaches.

I’m not sure what to make of that in terms of my personal growth. Walt Whitman contradicted himself because he contained multitudes. I repeat myself. I think that is because I contain a multitude of threads as well, and am on a dialectical path. Where it ends doesn’t seem to be as important anymore. Only that I keep moving towards something.

The word “ease” had come up a lot over the past two years. Maybe the past three years. But this morning I read the word “gentle”.

I lingered on the word gentle.

I read Dylan Thomas’s poem again this morning with more empathy – and a different understanding – than I’ve had before. It’s wonderful, because for the first time I see the specific context of the speaker’s perspective. I see the words “old age” (would that Death allowed us all that experience), and the speaker’s projecting his own fears onto his father, and onto every other old man’s evaluation of their worth in the world. I think I’ve read this poem always making way for the poet/speaker’s greater wisdom, and I read the advice in the poem as a kind of sutra. I am thrilled no one deprived me of this discovery: that this (projected) perspective is not wrong, but is only one perspective. A true perspective, but not the true perspective. And that is not to say that no one has ever analysed the poem this way, explained it, described it to me. But if they did, I wasn’t able to take the lesson in.

Long live the hyper-realistic beauty of the unreliable narrator.

I want to move gently into this new year. To be attentive to my rage, to learn from it, and to let it then fall away.

I want to move towards… with new resolutions, and let my future selves return to them each day, re-evaluate. Maybe every resolution will fall away by spring.

If so? Some things will have changed.