Getting going in the mornings is like trying to herd cats, as they say. I remember pulling the crockpot out of the corner and onto the countertop to start dinner. Lunchtime I went back into the kitchen to see it there. Empty. Useless. Forlorn.

I’m projecting again.

I keep reminding myself (at the risk of sounding like an inspirational meme) that life is a specific dance. One step back, two steps forward, one step back. And then your partner accidentally kicks you in the shin. (For the record, my partner is an excellent dancer, and only kicks me in the shins metaphorically.)

Anti-climax is definitely a thing. And – although I am excited about new projects – I am trying very hard to move forward. This morning I showered and dried my hair with a blow dryer for the first time in over two months. I put make-up on. Braving the cold winds and intermittent hail, I picked up the binder’s board I ordered two weeks ago. I picked up wine. And some lavender shampoo because I have been feeling very…. pragmatic lately. At least in terms of personal hygiene. I’m ready for some scented candles and soft music. I want to smell something besides sandpaper and pulp. And cuddle-puppy.

Speaking of which, I’m worried about how Leonard will take me going back to work this week. The pup is 35 kilo of adoration and has even taken to crawling up in E.’s lap when I’ve been sewing the signatures for books. Although I suppose E. will be working from home for a while yet. The vaccine roll-out here is shamefully inept. We’re expecting another spike over the next two weeks from the Easter holidays. I fully expect to go back to work, only to wind up teaching part-time online again.

But hey… roll with it? Right now nothing seems quite recognizable and I am beginning to relax a little. To come to terms with that. I suppose it really is a lesson in not clinging – even if it means not clinging to sanity either. I mean in the way that we can only approach these things obliquely. Catch a tiger sliding up alongside with a peach in hand, rather than charging head-on with a net.

Easy-does-it.

I’ve another doctor’s appointment tomorrow. Then heading slowly back to real life on Friday. The most frightening thing is that I am comfortable here in the house. Too comfortable. I’m almost afraid to go out and interact with people. Fragile. No. That’s not right. I am not fragile. Reactive.

Maybe Friday I should bring a crate of peaches to work. Yeah. Good luck finding decent peaches anywhere in this country.

did I say this was
my second glass with dinner
rambling uncensored
stepping right through the surface
of decorum like thin ice

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 sat down in front of the wrong computer this morning. Starting the day off the tracks makes it nearly impossible to get things running smoothly. And this Tuesday feels like a Monday, what with everything going just slightly wrong. I ordered the wrong paper weight, the vellum buckled like crazy even when I put the wet glued pages under three coffee-table books, and now it feels like there is a tightening vice pressing my temples.

And Leonard is begging for peanut butter, nudging my arm so that typing is impossible.

I think my lithium levels might be slightly off. So I keep eating on an upset stomach, as though weighing the nausea down will help. I’m eating Leonard’s peanut butter.

And I’m not supposed to eat peanut butter.

So: how do you take yourself by the ears and whip yourself crisp like a sheet coming off the clothesline? How do you unwind when you’ve turned yourself in circles like a bit of twine that’s begun doubling down, vertical knotting into horizontal, tight wriggling.

Becoming Cordage would be a nice title for a memoir if anyone knew what that meant.

Last night we walked on the beach. I wondered what got into the world since the usually vacant beach was bustling at six in the evening on a windy Monday. The fresh air was relaxing. But I wonder if the wind and the wild surf roused something in me. Or roused an awareness.

I can’t shake a sense of urgency. The word impending keeps coming to my mind. And so I put off all the things I’m supposed to be doing. Staving off… who knows what? I’ve a to-do list of tasks, projects. I have a stack of books on the floor that need to be shelved. The living room needs vacuuming. Leonard’s claws need clipping. But I can’t move.

I play with Gimp. With PhotoScape X. I write a twitter poem.

Failure.

That’s what’s impending.

Why is it that every time I circle back to the same damn fears, they are unrecognizable?

ocher paint on cream
paper – a stippling of blue
because wrong turns happen
like a maple’s samara
falling into the birdbath

stillborn

Another night of insomnia, but I am holding onto the knowledge that this phase will pass soon. That I will be able to sleep again. Meanwhile, the finches and tits are singing in the garden, and the sky is already beginning to blue when I let Leonard out to drink from the bird bath.

Obviously, that isn’t what he is supposed to be doing.

But this is what spring is for – wriggling loose from the constraints of winter. Bending the rules. I cross the driveway to check the mail in my socks. No need to pull on a coat or brace myself against a wind. I know there will be more snow before summer takes hold, but it is nice to tilt my face to the sun and take a deep breath and allow myself a bit of lightness while I still feel slightly off-kilter.

I have a cotton-filled skull from this lack of sleep. Everything feels like walking on moss. Soft, but the world is too giving. No way to get traction. No oomph.

I drink coffee until noon – then mint tea. And my stomach growls all day. I’m afraid my life has become a catalog of minutiae.

And a to-do list with unchecked items. A calendar that is an accusation.

But I have a plan for the evening before the sun goes down. I’m going to take a little delight safari in the neighborhood. Maybe figure out what Leonard is fascinated by deep in the neighbor’s thuja tree.

Maybe there’s something in there to grab a hold of. A hook to lift me into tomorrow, and the weekend, and these days now stretching ahead pale and shapeless. I know it’s all a mirage, though. I know that if one pays attention, the days are always much more interesting than you thought they’d be from a distance. Never what you expected, hoped for, but interesting nonetheless.

Textured. Colorful. Sonorous.

Shhh. Listen.

Shhh. But right now? I’m going to take a nap.

First the primroses
backing up, into the world
almost embarrassed
by their enthusiasm –
only then, the daffodils

It is strange to be working on a manuscript right now, while I am trying to get back on my feet. Which is a strange way of putting it actually: getting back on my feet, when the whole process right now is passive. As a former mentor put it: waiting for the season to shift. Waiting is not doing. I’ve written about this before in terms of acting. Who are we when we are not doing? There’s no such thing as a hold button in terms of the way we interact with the world. Time flows.

I don’t know. Maybe holding our ground while it does, is doing enough? For now.

“I feel the earth move under my feet/I feel the sky come tumbling down”.

Didn’t Camus say that one way to attempt to deal with the absurdity of life was to create artwork?

I am writing. I keep second-guessing words like fecund. Perfect, but too rarefied. Like the word rarefied itself.

Who am I writing for? I am struggling now with editing. Which, in my case, is always a matter of addition not subtraction. Working from the essence to tease out just enough story for it to convey more than just an atmosphere to anyone who might read it.

I have something to say. And lack the courage too often to say it.

One of the poets I am mentoring now asks me what is too mundane a subject for poetry. Nothing, I say. It’s all about perspective. What I didn’t confess was my own fear that people will judge my perspective to be mundane. Or derivative. (What about human experience is not derivative?)

They will, you know: judge. And that is okay. I shrug sometimes, too, at things that touch other people deeply. Our experiences meet randomly through art – every poem is a crap-shoot at an over-crowded table.

This poet I mentioned had a little epiphany reading Mary Oliver. And Patricia Fargnoli. And what is more mundane than cancer, really? Mental illness? Death? Sex? And the fact is if the subject of the poem is truly original then what human would understand it? Human experience is the subject matter of all art, isn’t it? (Even when intellectual activity is the experience being addressed).

I’m pretty sure trees create poetry. Mushrooms, absolutely. And maybe someday I will see it for what it is. We all will. Maybe every network of roots that run along the forest floor tells a story in carefully metered verse. Internal rhymes, intertextuality with lines that will reach right into our coffins.

I’ve given up on originality. It seems someone somewhere has always done something similar before. I remind myself that while Darwin – his structured biography, these specific letters on documents: D.A.R.W.I.N. – are remembered in history as history, Wallace also “discovered” natural selection. No one makes history. History makes stories.

Yesterday I nearly dumped my entire project, remembered suddenly that someone somewhere did something vaguely similar – but not at all the same. But I remembered, raising the bar is nothing more than self-sabotage.

I am a middle-aged white woman who is not going to shatter the cultural narrative in any way. History will not shape my artifacts into legend.

When did we all set the bar so damned high? Camus also said that “Creating or not creating changes nothing.”

Even Camus now is a legend of interpreted scripture. A morphing biography and quotes/misquotes like merit badges worn proudly by college graduates.

Camus is dead.

and what if the most
exquisite book of poems
those that would shift
the world from its course were
dumped overboard in a funk


*Said by you, though, George?

A cup of coffee and a clementine.

In the 19th Century, fresh fruit was known to be a treatment for melancholy. I think this explains my odd habit of sniffing citrus rinds. I press them to my nose and inhale deeply. Over and over. Sometimes I forget myself and do it in public.

In the teacher’s lounge at school, for example.

I also salt my coffee. No one has ever remarked on either. I am convinced we are only seen when we are unconcerned with being seen. And I wish that I meant that in the sense that we don’t care if we’re seen — but, no. When we forget to care. When we are vulnerably ourselves. I think then our behavior is so strangely familiar, (and thus) so painfully perplexing at no one dares to inquire: what’s up with you? Because they know there’s a real answer there that no one is prepared to hear.

Nok med sitt. (Their own shit to deal with.) And that’s okay. Sometimes we can find comfort in parallel play.

It’s the last day of February.

The sky still glows now past seven in the evening. A few impatient primroses are up, and there are bird calls I haven’t heard since fall. We sputter towards the summer. A day of snow, a day of hail, a day of blue-blue sky, and a south-westerly wind. Snow again. E. is pulling up the cobblestones in the drive, filling in the hollows with sand, and laying them again. Between the weather systems.

Walking Leonard I have an eye out for the lapwing’s return. I listen for the squeeze-toy call. I thought I heard it last night, but E. said I was mistaken. Anticipation, uncertainty. And the funny thing is, I have no idea why it matters to me. I grip onto this though — the lapwing — like gripping onto a handrail to hoist myself up the next step when I am too tired to just let my body move of its own will. Somewhere in me outside of logic, it means something.

About all I know of the lapwing is that it nests in the fields and is vulnerable to the tractors that drive through them.

If winter’s darkness is difficult, spring’s prodding and unpredictability are a trial to endure. Nothing returning from the dead comes back easily. The rearranging of matter causes morning sickness.

Persephone comes
& spring, her colicky infant
cannot fix his gaze
on the world – sleeps & shudders
– no idea what lies in store

A quiet morning. So quiet E. startled himself saying good morning to someone jogging by in the opposite direction. Another kilometer along the trail, an owl swooped in from the trees and flew in front of us and into the dark. Just the sound of our shoes on the gravel.

Until we get back to the park and the grove filled with crows. I haven’t thought about this before – the way the trail breaks in two at the bridge, where most people out with their dogs turn back toward the parking lot. Where most runners turn back to hit the steep hill once again for their morning intervals.

We shouldn’t be surprised to glimpse an owl out there. I held the image in my head while I moved through the morning flow: warrior one, two, retreating… a bridge to open my clenched heart.

Tawny in the lamp-lights, from my perspective her wings spanned the entire width of the path. Then she lifted. And was gone.

I was awake at 1 this morning. Obsessing over something from years ago. Fighting magical thinking. Wondering if self-deception is morally acceptable in the attempt to hold on to sanity. Fears take on their own lives. And they wander in and out of ours as they wish.

I’m filling out a daily mental health questionnaire for a Corona study run by the University in Oslo. Every day it asks if I am disturbed by unexpected events. It is actually revelatory for me to consider that unexpected and disturbing are not near-synonyms.

So I think of the owl now. Unexpected this morning. This bird of prey, this silent flyer, regurgitated tiny, ravaged corpses. So matter-of-fact in its nature. The self-deception is that our lives are anything other than this: matter-of-fact.

I’ve questioned before
whether imagination
is a good thing –
whether our bodies’ fluid
facts aren’t the better shelter