The wind is moving through the house. It slams against the siding and creeps between the cracks. We’ve had a mild autumn. Only now does an edge of winter bite my ears and nose when I walk to the train. I pull tight the ties of the hood of my jacket to cinch it together, covering my neck. Like a turtle pulling into its shell. And yes, everything in me wants to slow down and hibernate through these dark months.

This morning I drag myself out of bed by the promise of coffee. I sit here, in front of the computer, while gusts of wind knock at the window like annoying companions reminding me to get going. To get going in this weather. In the darkness. But I want another cup of coffee. Another easy neck roll and deep breath. An attempt at a deep breath.

A morning moving from one still state to another. A very strange kind of yoga flow. Inhale. All the way. No. There’s an obstruction in my lungs. The nurse said we’ll check it out. The doctor said we’ll wait and see.

-“So you’ve ruled out lung cancer or something like that?”
-“I didn’t say that.”

To be honest, I don’t know a lot of people. I spend a good deal of time on the periphery, watching. I think I hold so deeply to a shared moment that I remove myself from it. Then move on. Like a series of pearls on a string. Discontinuous engagement with the world. I’ve rationalized that my brain has been shaped by the nomadic aspect of my childhood. Which continued into my adulthood. Now more figurative than literal. Land, keep an eye out for danger, savor what you can, and move on.

Let go.

This doesn’t mean that I’m emotionally distant. On the contrary. All these weak ties are emotional. Sometimes inexplicitly so. If all the narratives are lost, the emotion remains in the body, in a sudden twist, or a gesture, or a pose.

I heard a story once about a woman who left her family to become a nun. She was held up as a potential saint because of her compassion.

I know that reads like a non-sequitur.

What I was going to say is that I have reached an age where my peers all seem to be facing cancer. Illnesses like Parkinson’s. Bones that break all too easily. Unexpectedly. Everything hurts. Everyone hurts. And we are still comparing ourselves to one another.

Some of us move through the days thinking: but that won’t happen to me. I’ll be one of the shining septuagenarians on Instagram snatching more than their own bodyweight. Some of us hold on to the moments.

Some of us. Maybe only me. Have given up on narratives and justifications.

Here is my beginner’s mind. I pause in stillness. Then inhale and rise along the gentle slope of a polished pearl. Then exhale into stillness. One rich movement at a time, like gusts of wind slamming the body.

I read once that the ghazal was a series of discrete couplets, connected like pearls on a string.

(That sentence just hangs there, doesn’t it? Like the pause before an exhalation.)

The dog woke me at a quarter to five.

He’s supposed to do that. But it’s not like I always appreciate it.

I let him out into the yard and start the coffee machine. I pour a cup of dog food into the maze dish for him to root around in later. I fill the water dish. And I whistle for him to come in.

Fresh coffee. Flipping on the timer to write before breakfast. A chain of habits. How the days pass.

On the train yesterday, I chatted with a colleague. He asked me if I think about dying much.

He’s a year older than I am. Not that you’d believe that. I touch my turkey neck before I am conscious of reaching for it.

I tell him about B., and how death has been on my mind so very much. “No,” he says. “Your own mortality”. He talks about getting older. Thinning hair. Aches. Losses. Somehow he rather quickly circles back to someone else’s death, too. His mother is well at the moment, he says, but there is “the inevitable”: Death as it happens to someone else. Death in the abstract.

I think there’s a big (culturally constructed) difference between contemplating one’s own aging and contemplating one’s own death. Or perhaps not. Not culturally constructed, I mean. If death stops all thought, well, then, as my generation would say: we literally can’t “go there”. We can distract ourselves with fantasies, myths, fairytales, and horror films: cathartic escapism that makes us shudder, and for a moment allows us to feel like we’ve “dealt with it”.

My left eyelid fell the other day. It was my “good” eyelid. It happened overnight. I know how absurd that sounds, but I swear it. The skin had become textured, like course-grained leather. Heavy, I guess.

My pale skin is rougher and more and more like a relief: more like an armadillo’s rump. Surely there is something similarly textured that we consider beautiful?

I wonder if there are tools with which to make a rubbing of my face. Well, now, there is an art project for me! Before the gravestone rubbing, I can capture, if necessarily imperfectly, this liminal state. Between the beating heart and the silence is a struggle between the body’s hardening defense and the body’s thinning resources.

The lacrimal gland has slipped and now obliterates my eye crease entirely. “That’s new,” I think.


If you stare at a word long enough it makes no sense. If you think about it long enough “old” becomes “new”. And “new” can take on an entirely new meaning: new as a shift, not a beginning.

I’ve felt these shifts before. Passing a fork in the road and knowing that was that. Poems I memorized as a child take on new significance. Maybe life is a series of ever-more-complex prisms. What seemed singularly beautiful has exploded with possibilities. Smaller, perhaps: like the beauty of a whole world under a microscope: this tiny, present pinch of life, thoroughly examined with an attitude of wonder!*

At 16, I wanted to be a famous actress. I wanted to have an apartment in New York, and to wear shoes too fancy for the subway. But at 40-something, I found myself sitting on the hood of a car at the lookout point over Bishkek with strangers. I ate dried fish, learning how to pop out their eyes with my thumbs.

Then I flew home to a tiny duplex in need of renovation, and a job that left me scrambling for dignity every day. I flew home to the two kids I never planned for; my love for them would stun me sometimes. Still does. Continual, unexpected little bursts of joy/fear/gratitude. These bursts, these overwhelming moments that strike – not always pleasant- have defined my emotional life. Home is a constant ambiguious reality, though every detail is fleeting.

What do they say? The only constant is the laundry?

I traveled a lot in my 40s. I took a lot of photos of other people’s laundry. I have hundreds of pictures of t-shirts and towels drying on clotheslines. I am always a bit puzzled that I find something so utterly banal to be so compelling.

Beautiful. It’s like the photos don’t capture a moment in time, but the flow of a lifetime. A kind of illustration.

I have just as many photos of dead birds on my hard drive. Both my kids have told me they think it’s creepy.

My memori morti.

When we first moved into that little duplex, I found a dying mockingbird on the sidewalk. I asked a man walking by if I should do something with it. Call the wildlife service or something. He looked at me like I was insane.

“They aren’t endangered or anything.”

Typing this makes me cry.

After that, it seems every time I ran on the beach I saw a dead seagull, swan, duck, or tern in varying states of decay.

I don’t know exactly what to do with all these images and thoughts. But I do know that my little alarm went off and writing time is over and It’s time to get on the yoga mat and move these old bones.

*Young people are using exclamation points again. Unironically. I think it’s something to consider.