Last year when I was trying to market books, I added to my Facebook friends list anyone who hit that button to request. And since then I joined a few groups with huge numbers. Both were a mistake.

The world-wide-web may reach the world, but there is no universal context, there are no cultural norms. Many Americans assume everyone posting is in America. (I am actually kind of grateful for this continuous little nag because of what it has taught me about my own privileges and cultural myopia.)

When I posted a while back about my acute complex grief, I received dozens of private messages from other people about their own grief. Weird how that personal contact – which feels like whispering – can make one feel simultaneously less alone & more ashamed. It was overwhelming.

I have been sorting out what I wanted with that post – why I chose to reveal so much on Facebook and not here. I think it is because of the illusion of anonymity on Facebook – the inconceivable number of posts. It is something of a gamble – to slip out a word and see if anyone catches it.

This past couple of months one of the people whose posts are in my feed (no doubt because I have hit “care” often – though commented only once) has been going through unimaginable trauma. And with a kind of Aristotelian dramaturgy. We’ve reached the high point.

When this person’s posts appear in my feed I have to remind myself that this narrative is real – in real-time – and I am thinking to “unfriend” because in a real-life situation I would note the actual friends kneeling next to this person, comforting and I would know that I needed to take my empathy elsewhere to put it to good use. I would know the social context and respect my place in the community.

But then – to “unfriend” or even unfollow – to look away – seems wrong as well. This isn’t something that hasn’t been talked about before, I know that. But it seems people often fall on a “side” of blaming “oversharing” or judging one another in other ways – for their lack of mastery over the cultural norms on the world-wide-web, according to their personal understanding of the norms. Or there is… pity. Assumptions of ignorance, naivete, or helplessness. Either way – a rubric that one holds to for one’s own comfort.

If I remember the pop-science correctly, the average person has 5 good friends. And the capacity for about 150 names and faces that are meaningful to them. And an insatiable need for renown.

It seems like I used to see my friends’ posts in my feed. Now I see every post a friend comments on in my feed. I see sides of these people they may not wish to show me. I see new names and faces and opinions that are fed through in exponential numbers. I am thinking of the old Organics shampoo commercial: “…and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on…” I am thinking of the exponential element of outrage, contempt -and the distortion of information (that I have participated in so often it is difficult to admit to myself). About the human nature to judge – quickly. About the sense of urgency and speed and the need to stay “relevant” culturally, even when that means jumping the gun in terms of facts.

One of the classes I teach is Theater Ensemble. The various organizational models – hierarchies and flat structures. And my personal belief is that as primates we can never move away from a hierarchy. If we are lucky the hierarchy structure shifts continually in the social process, but we are not The Borg. (Yeah, most of my students have no idea what that is a reference to because we do not have a common cultural inheritance. But I haven’t heard of a truly flat structure in nature.)

One year in Theater History, I stupidly stumbled into a discussion about the “facts” of theater history being theories. And that theories can change with new information – thus changing the “fact”. But I can’t get it out of my head that even though I know the hard sciences work this way as well, I want something to be a real – hard & true – fact. Not something made true by the loudest voice, or the most votes.

This fact today: from where I stand, the Hunting Moon is waning in the pale morning sky. The wind is blowing. Leonard is sleeping by my feet. I am yearning for all the vague atmosphere that the word village brings to mind. I want to live there.

And I want this person in my Facebook feed to be comforted somehow. By someone real. To be held – not in thoughts – but in body.

My computer updated and now, along the bottom menu of my screen, it tells me – unsolicited – that “Rain [is] coming”. And I feel bad because I haven’t looked out of the window this afternoon. I did walk around the house this morning, still in my pj’s, picking up dog poop so the lawn mower wouldn’t catch it. But I didn’t take in the morning: not the weather, not the birds, not the scent of autumn. Sometimes I wonder why the Bible lists so many sins and not this one: inattention.

Yesterday I nursed my cold by lying in bed and watching television. There was a moment when I pulled away from myself – consciously – and I suddenly became aware of the room. The space in the room. The colors of the walls. The textures of everything in it. Everything so beautifully foreign, so outside of myself, so dispossessed of expectations, so soulfully free.

I became aware of the distance between my arm and the blanket, my eardrum and the air vent, my mouth and the closest surface in each direction: the painted pressed wood of the nightstand. The coarse linen of the chaise lounge. I sensed my breath filling the room. Together with Leonard’s breath, and our lives overlapping at a cellular level.

There is a spider that hides somewhere behind my vanity mirror. Also breathing. Also alive and intermingling – atomic. Discrete. Intertwined.

We are inextricably tied to everything that frightens us. That thrills us. That makes us aware of our breathing.

I think I have always held on to this fact as a kind of comfort.

These little moments cut me off from the world in one way, but they also connect me to myself. They connect me to my childhood, and to a state of vigilance that was both necessary and habituated, to time when I didn’t have the self-awareness to judge this openness – or justify it, or pity myself for it. There was no – and still is, no – value judgement hovering over this state of being that I fall into now and then, now.

And then I slipped away from myself, back into the day like a fish into a stream.

The little room smells like tea and nail polish. Rosemary oil in the burner: for memory, they say. Somewhere deep in my chest there is a melody taking form. Ophelia handing out flowers. “I would give you some violets, but they withered all [ …].”

Last weekend I ran along the shore and the air was still. But the sea was still churning from the storm that had passed through. Tall waves, dark and edged with a white so opaque I could imagine I was running through an oil painting.

Sometimes writing is like wading into a stream where others have left all the stories to flow together, to flow through your hands, around your waist and into new ribbons of currents of hot and cold shining with the tiny creatures that give the world life, that take the world’s life. There’s nothing to claim here. Not really. It all runs to the ocean.

I miss writing.

Leaving in an hour for London. With Maeterlinck’s Bluebird haunting my thoughts. It is a good place to be now. Ready for a new season.

a leaf wet with raindrops

Running through the park yesterday, I passed a woman with her arms wrapped around a tree. With her cheek pressed to the bark, her eyes closed.

And with all due respect for literal tree huggers, I wondered how the tree felt about this human pressing her physical presence in that way. I mean, it is an odd assumption – that all (potentially) sentient creatures want that kind of contact with humans.

We seem to have this compulsion to want to handle what we find attractive. We cuddle small children. We are cuddled as small children, yet seem to forget how we resented it. We want to reach out and touch otters, lambs… bear cubs. We want to infantilize the other. Keep it under our dominion.

“Trust me.” Says the man. The teacher. The expert. The child to the hampster.

There are plants that, when attacked by aphids, call out to wasps for help. I wonder if the tree was calling out for help as this woman pressed herself along its trunk. I wonder if the moment of blocked sunlight, blocked air made the tree gasp.

I think of all the video clips passed around social media of rabbits “relaxing” under the flow of water from a bathroom sink’s faucet. The sense of absolute righteousness revealed in the admonishing comments.

We try so hard to disentangle our presence in the world: the good from the bad. But even empathy brings with it elements of oversight:

1. an unintentional failure to notice or do something
2. the action of overseeing something
for example: effective oversight of the financial reporting process

It makes perfect sense to me that this single word encompasses both of these meanings.

two trees among fallen, autumn leaves

And we have returned to “normal” now. People still not wanting to sit next to each other on the train. Like before. My ears are full of cotton, and my head, congested. A normal cold. Like before. There is a part of me that thinks my body needs this. That it will somehow be both a workout for my immune system and a kind of catharsis.

Harmless discomfort. Shake it up, shake it off. Go for a run.

I jut my jaw forward to clear my ears. The sky is clear and dark. But those three stars have moved since yesterday morning. Now over the neighbor’s house instead of the street. How is that possible? Is that how this astronomy stuff works?

I love those films where the details change and the character finally notices. Or the viewer does. It seems to me this post-modern trope gets at what all the Modernists were aiming for: the awareness that there is a real world outside of our awareness. In the moments of our blinking.

Astonished. It is a nice word, and it nicely describes the emotion at the moment of anagnorisis: Now the tragic figure gets it. Simultaneously surprised by his own ignorance, as well as the existence of a real world. Or another world, where what where peripheral events were chained together along a different path that led – still – to this very moment. This is what it means to face one’s fate, isn’t it? To understand that we are sliding over the surface, slipping consciously along a sliver of existence. Krill, unaware of the ocean.

We don’t need a god to justify our fate.

Maybe a Galton Board.

Leaving the house this morning to walk Leonard, I caught a glimpse of the sliver of old moon before the thin clouds covered it. There will be a new moon on Wednesday. Maybe that’s why I feel an urge to make everything new.

To the south the sky is clear and black. I can see the stars, even here from the new subdivision. We’ve having a break in the weather, a bit of quiet between the hailstorms and the rain. I hum as I walk. Om four times: ha, ri, ni, sa. Amen.

There is a proverb about washing the bowl after you’ve eaten. But picking up the dog shit is far more humbling. Carrying it home to the bin, a much larger metaphor.

I’ve a second appointment with the new psychiatrist today. We left the question hanging: What do you hope to get from these sessions?

This morning, after my habitual meditation – a mash-up of Buddhist philosophy and Christian hymns tweaked ever-so-slightly towards pantheism – I was thinking about the paradox of pursuing ease while pushing to grow beyond of one’s comfort zone.

In another life, I translated what was pretty much Tor Obrestad’s life’s work with poetry (up to that point). I was new to the language. New to translation. We are too different as writers – as people – for it to have been a great match. But one image that remains with me is his description of a waking boy: with the white tips of new growth. In my mind a life’s work with poetry can be a single image if it is that perfect.

I think about the translucent edges of new. I imagine the nerves that grow suddenly, impulsive and vulnerable – the quantum surge of life that is too fast, too eager to be held back. Protected.

The wind burns when it blows over a wound. New cells, shining and wet. And we breathe through it. Everything in movement, as it should be. Don’t clench. Don’t cling.

This week my students do their last performance of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I’ve been focusing on an acting style that is staccato. The information is conveyed in snapshots, moments. I could describe it as stop-motion theater. (Oh! I like that! Move over, Lecoq).

It’s difficult for the students to master. Even with mirrors, even with mechanical analyses: Thought. Execution. Expression. Thought. Execution. Expression. It is an unnatural style. It is unnatural in its artificial segmentation. My acting students are almost always motivated by a desire to bring stories to life. This is academic.

Tree. Fungi. Forest.
Mitochondria. Cytoplasm. Cell.

Life flows. At some level there is an ease. Something slips through, integrates. It can’t help it. All the shuddering is an illusion of objectivity.

I have been thinking. Maybe the idea is not to move out of the comfort zone, but expand the comfort zone.

acting students dressed as a three-headed troll