I don’t usually write on Mondays, so I am not feeling that guilty for spending the morning painting and the afternoon sewing signatures.

This is a dream that has been on the back burner for years. Fifteen years, at least. So it is both exhilarating and terrifying to be following through. I have so many plans.

And weirdly, I think that actually doing this instead of dreaming about it, will free me up to relax more, read more, be more generous in general.

Eh, could just be the medication kicking in.

Either way, this is me: warts and all – and I can accept the world, too – warts and all, because this is real life and this is what we get and it is … wonderful, really.


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I know people who write a poem-a-day no matter what. People who do things like “running streaks” (not to be confused with streaking). But I think I have a rebellious nature that throws blocks in the road when I become conscious that I have been holding to a pattern. I don’t think of it as self-sabotage, as much as a kind of reassurance of personal agency. Though to be honest, it is probably a bit of both.

I’ve stopped considering my life as a state of “normal” that is interrupted with periods of exception. That is an illusion. I can break my own timeline of experience into chapters, into periods of shifting themes – and there are leitmotifs that surface often. But there is no normal.

We’ve started running again and there is a huge temptation to describe it as “getting back to normal”. But that would mean someday I won’t be able to do that – and then what? I will never be my “normal” self again?

This “I”. whatever it is. likes running now. Misses it. But there may well come a day when “I” don’t enjoy it anymore. And there is a part of me that fears that I will lose myself, my very identity, instead of losing a habit or an affinity. I find this fascinating since I have often accepted the idea that our habits shape “who we are”.

Who are we? For the most part I don’t feel like the same person, the same “I” I was as a kid, or even as a 25-year-old. I barely remember those lives, separated and entirely discrete in terms of personal and (sub)cultural ties, even languages. I never claim her (or her) as a part of my current identity now. Even when I do bring up experiences of my childhood as explanations for personality quirks or foibles, it is more of a rationalization. An intellectual exercise in storytelling according to the rules of twentieth-century cause-and-effect psychology’s narrative templates. I have no idea if they are true.

It makes a good story. Often one that lets me off the hook for harm I’ve done to myself or to others. I was that person, then. But I’ve changed and I am this person now. And every time thinking that this person now is the authentic version of me.

At any rate, something new is beginning. But this time, instead of picking up and moving to start fresh, I am digging deep into the ground here and blooming. I am changing in a way that will rub hard against how other people see me. And that is okay. I’m going to be hard/giving like a rubber mallet. I’m going to walk a perimeter, put down stakes, and cage the overly-enthusiastic oxpeckers who claim to be doing me favors by keeping me in check – doing what they think is their duty to keep me humble. Realistic.

I am sick of realistic. It’s nothing more than a common story.

I am literally moving into the attic this week. E.’s oldest daughter has moved out and I am moving my studio space up to the loft space. My old, huge dining room table is the mono-printing/painting/charcoal area, my old desk space is dedicated to sewing signatures, and the kitchenette space is for paper-making. I couldn’t be more excited.

I find myself thinking how spoiled I am. And I am lucky – privileged – in so very many ways. I’ve never even dreamt of this kind of life. And yet I have also worked hard for years to make this happen.

I even have one of those five-year plans now.

We’ll see how well I can stick to that with my rebellious nature. Or maybe that nature is just something that used to define me?

Sunday ritual –
her back to the bathroom mirror
Grandma holds a small
hand mirror to see her own back
– reflections bounce forever

A deep breath this morning as I sit down. Salted coffee, and blackbirds outside the window. I didn’t write yesterday, but spent a full day with a new printer: learning to adjust for paper weights, manual feed, and double-sided pages. A lot of trial and error. Small steps forward. Or sideways.

No: I am moving forward again.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I got my first pair of glasses. But I remember looking at a tree and realizing that you are supposed to see the individual leaves on trees. My eyesight had deteriorated so gradually I hadn’t noticed what I had lost of the world.

This week I feel like I can see the leaves on the trees. It’s not that life is less crowded, but it is more vibrant. Distinguishing the foreground from the background, wresting meaning from it all is easier.

There is a saying that things having gradually then all at once. But these past years, things happened all at once, and then so gradually that I thought changes were improvements, or at least adjustments. I didn’t see the signs of depression because the everyday problems were so tiny compared to the crisis that began it all. How could I be having trouble getting through the day when the worst was over a long time ago?

My world is popping back into three dimensions. Other people seem more substantial. I realize how odd that sounds. I don’t mean that in comparison with how I perceived myself, I have been insubstantial, too. That is what depression does. In my case the desperate search for meaning and pleasure can look like business, like creativity or a “spark” of joy. But the spark is just me bumping against the metallic edge of panic. Wheels spinning, and life is just so much harder than it needs to be. Pinched.

When the doctor asked me if I was depressed, I said I didn’t think so. I said I was overwhelmed, hypomanic. But now I see.

Now I feel like crying. And that is a very good thing.

Last night walking Leonard in the dark, I heard the wheeeEEE of the pterodactyls lapwings. They are back, so it is officially spring. Officially a time to mark new beginnings.

under the streetlight
wet paw prints, footsteps glisten
temporarily
like loved ones gone by morning
after a crossing over

I have an odd pile of books on my desk this morning. Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. Inconspicuous Consumption: The environmental impact you don’t know you have. How to Love a Country. Langston Hughes – Selected Poems. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary.

There are nine other books and a rhyming dictionary also piled on. I need to sort through my shelves again. And I seriously need to stop buying books for a while. All the things I would love to do with my time. More reading. Perhaps reviewing. Certainly celebrating the poets I love. Deciding what projects to take on can be overwhelming. And there is fitting it into a life with a day job that can suck the joy right from the source at times.

Books make me feel less alone. Less peculiar. I have noticed that when I feel isolated and lonely, I go on book-buying sprees. Every book is a potential: this one will save me. I blame it on my religious upbringing: The Word is God. The answers are in the scripture. When every adult around you is an idiot, there is a near-ancient authority that has left riddles to be untangled.

There is hope, here: on the page. In the verses that sing.

I’m taking a course on visual poetry right now and am fascinated by asemic poetry. I am surprisingly drawn to it. Moved by it. After spending years studying formal poetry and analyzing poems with a chair and a rubber hose (despite Billy Collin’s objections), I am finding an instinctive satisfaction in holding the handwriting up to the light. Acknowledging the humanity, the creative mind present. The philosopher Denis Dutton said that one of the universal criteria for art is evidence of individual expression. Another is craftsmanship. Another is that the work is somehow imbued with emotion.

And in my mind poetry is the leap we make between the poet’s material expression and the poet’s subjective experience that demanded expression. In other words, all poetry is itself a meta-metaphor: the poem is the vehicle and the poet’s subjective experience is the tenor. And it seems to me that if we recognize this vehicle/tenor without putting it into words (creating new metaphors), then we are perhaps communicating in a more directly visceral way.

People have worked for years trying to decipher the Voynich manuscript because we recognize the human hand. We have this feeling that there is something important here. If someone were to ever unlock the code (if there is one) it would no doubt be anti-climatic. Our intellectual evaluation of the work would suck the joy right out of the visceral experience. We would lose the emotional connection with the artist by creating an intellectual one. One step removed.

Let’s not know. Let’s let the mystery be.

E.’s mother tongue is not English, and often when he reads my poetry he says: It sings so beautifully. Sometimes he has no idea what the ten-letter words mean. Sometimes I have leaped too far between vehicle and tenor the metaphor is lost. But it sings.

That matters.

I am, however, not convinced that I can unlearn everything I have worked so hard to more-or-less master. I have been thinking that surely someone has already studied this with regard to the modernists. I am sure there are books on my shelf now that I would better understand were I to dive in now and read them again.

But I’m not going to. I’m going to stay here with the visceral, practical work. I’m going to move my hand over paper and play. And look at all the beautiful evidence of humanity on display.

A circle with lines
radiating from a center
and I understand
she feels the sun on her skin
and knows how to tell me this

Rarely is my day so turned on its head. I should be in bed now, not typing. And technically, I shouldn’t be having a glass of wine. But here I am. And the day has been… tolerable-to-good. And lately, that means very good.

I didn’t write this weekend because I was working on the manuscript. Finishing, proofreading, formatting. It is incredibly satisfying. I still have moments of insecurity – of full-on panic – and then moments of resting in a kind of contentment.

“I made this.”

How do we hold on to that feeling and resist showing the work to someone for that (for me anyway) inevitable disappointment when someone says, “it’s good”. Like it’s a fallen souffle. Or at least it leaves me feeling very much like a fallen souffle. I always ask myself: What do you expect? Fireworks? I don’t know.

You would think at my age, I could just relish the helium-my-chest feeling and not need verification.

Memories flood back to me. My family of origin expected very little of me. Didn’t hide their surprise when I did something well. When the school asked to put me in the gifted class, my mother said I was too lazy.

Okay. So now I have slipped from personal to private in this diary. And from relatable to – well, not. That is why I should write in the morning with a cup of coffee on the desk, not a glass of whine.

Confidence is a slippery fish, isn’t it? Good to have. But if you carry it around too long, you stink.

Promising, they said.
I have caught up with myself –
middle of the road –
where I can walk fearlessly
into an unknown future

(Not much this Monday, but it is a commitment met.)

Every year I forget what a lapwing sounds like. Last night, walking Leonard after sunset I heard a familiar voice literally circling me. I spun around, following the direction of each call, to try to get a glimpse of the bird flying low to the ground: lapwing?

But I slowly realized it was an oystercatcher. They’re back.

The lapwing won’t be far behind.

This morning the sky is such a convincing blue, you’d swear there’d never be another day of white winds and sleet.

I am ready for a change of season. Even if it means clearing out the greenhouses and beginning again.

Not going in to the school to work these weeks has been slightly disorienting. I lose track of the days. The months, even. But I have managed to pack all of those concerns into a box and stick it in the corner of my headspace. I’ll get back to it. But for now, all is quiet. There’s no kicking from inside the box. No noise. I am hoping when I open it again all the drama will have sorted itself out. When I am ready to open it, I will dig around and pull out Hope first. And let her sit beside me while I sort through the rest.

I’ve been waiting for a nudge from the gut. A little sense of lack, a desire to “get back to it”. I should be missing my students by now. But not yet. A cup of tea, the tapping of the keyboard’s keys, the squawk of the crow out the window is enough for today. Again.

Leonard drops onto the rug in this tiny library and sighs. This is enough.

I am easing back into my old routines with yoga and meditation before writing. It’s still not easy. I keep thinking of Sisyphus getting that rock going. And of Jack and Jill and the frightening joy of tumbling down. When was the last time I lay in the grass and rolled down a hill?

Spun until I fell down?
Chewed on a dandelion?
Let an ant crawl on the back of my hand?
Shook sand out of my hair?

Yeah, all this “forest bathing” I do, and I am still just observing.

I watch and listen
as though being separate
from the world this way
were the safest thing to do
– this way to preserve a life