The skies are clear and the air is cold, and at some point I will get up from this desk, get dressed and go to the beach. It is one of those days that – in recollection tomorrow – will be smudged across my mind: leaving just a fraction of an hour of something meaningful -something like
squinting against sharp reflections of the late-afternoon light while watching a tern searching the foam for something to eat.
And this will be better than most days.
Later tonight E. will take a Covid test before heading offshore for another fortnight. I expect autumn will take hold in his absence. And the space between the points of the timeline of my days will stretch wide: Work. Home. Work. Home. I’ll walk the dog. Keep up the routine. And darkness will creep over the edges of the days until there is precious little light left.
Sometimes precious little is more than all the rest.
I like the smell of there having been candles – I like it sometimes best.
Because the earth is round and its path is round, we will pass by this way again, one way or another.
The darkness retreats, too . And we always miss it as well.
This week has been difficult. I believe I’m having a little emotional relapse. I’m having a difficult time accepting the world we live in. But I am going to leave that there for now. Instead I’ll write about one of those moments you try to catch. Mental snapshots. Has poetry, and the drive to write poetry, always been just Instagram with words?
Only far less popular? (That is as profound as I am going to get this morning.)
The old lady is here again this week. Last night I took her for a walk around the block. My rain clothes are black, and there are sections of the neighborhood with very poor lighting. Strange how the rain allows asphalt to swallow all the light. I wear an LED headlamp on nights like this. And every time I exhale, I watch a cloud form in front of me. There are glimmers of blue and red in the light of the headlamp. It becomes very meditative: watching the cloud form again and again. Only, instead of thinking about peace and the effortlessness of a Buddhist life, I think about the Little Engine that Could and how it seems every moment is a struggle against stillness. Life itself a disruption, the workhorse of a universe that would much rather remain at rest.
No wonder I feel tired this morning.
Your friend is probably right. Maybe it is this time of year that we should be pulling out the pots and pans, and banging them with wooden spoons like angry nisse? Lighting candles. It has been a rough week. I think I said that. But it has also been a week that demands that I put things in context. In a larger context. And be grateful.
A few years ago a colleague and I traveled abroad with the students. When we returned we talked about how difficult they had been. How they had complained the entire week, had been negative and demanding. Slowly, while we talked over a glass of wine, we came to the realization that it had been a single student – one of thirty – who had actually been difficult. We had just given him so much space in our awareness. We had allowed him to color the trip for us. And, as a consequence, and in turn, we had probably colored the trip for the other students.
I have been having to pull up that lesson this week. It’s like when I was 8 and ate a strawberry with a worm in it. It was years before I ate another strawberry. I used to love strawberries. I still approach them with caution. I have you ever eaten raw a worm? It tastes nothing like a strawberry. Should be easy really not to associate the two in my mind by now. To untangle it.
I suppose expectations matter, too, don’t they? When we expect people to be completely honest and we encounter lies of omission it’s all the more painful. I think those are the worst kinds of lies because the person on the receiving end is complicit. Who are we to assume the world is as we wish it to be? Especially when it comes to other people. At least at my age, I cannot say anyone has shaken my faith in human beings, or influenced the way I choose to interact with them. It’s more like one of those slow-motion scenes where you step where you knew you shouldn’t have, your foot goes through the ice and you realize, while it is plunging ankle-deep into the water, that you knew better and hadn’t been paying attention. You limp home, pushing down the bile of self-reproach. (Oh my, that was purple).
So it’s a purple morning.
Funny this about lies of omission relates loosely to Bee Bones (which I finished last night). I won’t say more. I read an aquaintence’s novel (NYT Bestseller) and had wanted to write on facebook about how it is a contemporary version of Anna Karenina. That would have ruined it for many. I won’t ruin Bee Bones for anyone. I enjoyed it. Again. I suppose I could say it puts a real twist in the “road trip” genre.
The old lady is lying here in the bibliotekette. Snoring softly. She hasn’t licked her paw this morning and I wonder if it will be already to let her be without the cone while I’m at work today. Last night she walked through the kitchen and knocked over several potted plants. Poor thing. I guess it isn’t really connected to her being so old. Puppies have a difficult time with plastic headgear, too, but I get the feeling that she is ashamed because she expects better of herself.
Rereading, I do believe all of that in the last paragraph was more an exercise in projection than an actual digression. Apropos self-analysis through an examination of one’s own writing (ie the subconscious at work) that we were talking about.
Switching gears: and back to your letter. Birthdays. I have this fear that I will forget my kids’ birthdays. In May, for example, I will get panicky that I have let something slip by (both were born in the fall). I actually get a jolt of electricity running through my arms at the thought. I have no idea if there is some psychological explanation for what is going on, but I harbor this fear as deeply as I do the fear of car accidents, or late night phone calls. And, now, what if I forget my wedding anniversary? E. Is such a romantic. He’d be hurt. Even with google calendar, I “misremembered” my doctor’s appointment this week. I scheduled simultaneous activities. I had to reschedule a chiropractor appointment three times this week because I forgot about work obligations.
I would worry, but this isn’t new.
You know when you have those perfect moments you wish could last forever? This has been such a weekend.
I think we should both write a short story about being caught in the perfect moment forever. I have a feeling it would be hell for me. Like being stuck in Sarte’s hotel room with no eyelids, no blinking, no respite. Wouldn’t it be like eating cake for breakfast, cake for luch and cake for dinner? We need our conflicts. Or I do.
I bet bacon is a good remedy for marispan overload.
Now sure what exactly is a remedy for purple prose, though.
I should get to work. Should write a poem or two.
Much love to you! (Thank you for Bee Bones.)
P.S. Have been having trouble sleeping the past weeks, so I thought I would sleep better if I skip the wine on weeknights. It seems to help. Damn it.
For some reason, I’ve been thinking of the arctic ground squirrel today.
Did you know bears don’t truly hibernate? They experience a “winter sleep”. Their metabolisms slow, and their body temperatures drop slightly.
This evening I find a note in my laptop. After a long day, a Romance Post-it that ends on a rising note.
The house is quiet: the old lady at her other home, and E. in Spain for a few days.
I lie in bed and type because the library is cold, and it’s too late to begin heating the room. I’m winding down for the night – blue filter on the computer screen.
Voices carry through the vent in the corner of the bedroom. A man and a woman must be just across the street in the parking lot of the nursing home. It’s an easy melody. He’s leaving now, because there is a rise in pitch and in volume: a crescendo. A rising note that ends the conversation with an ellipsis. A car door closes.
I think of voices drifting from the living room, when I was small. Soft, smoky grown-up sounds like muffled coughs. And then someone would leave, a rise in pitch and in volume. A closing door. Then a rustling of papers and fabric. Sighs.
Bedtime in a half-light of a paisley scarf thrown over a lamp on the floor. I lay in the annex of the grown-ups’ space: curious, though mostly content in a pocket of out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
I remember calling out, listening to voices stir like water about to boil. Then quiet again. How many times will I call out. How many times will they deliberate, and decide I should be sleeping.
Light spreads on the floor in an amber triangle.”What,” on an exhale.
If I recall correctly, it wasn’t a battle of wills so much as an experiment. Like prodding a kindly dragon.
“Goodnight.” on a falling note. “Good night” as an iamb.
A., at 12 months, doesn’t know he is standing. His weight is rocking on roundish soles, in a constant momentum, around a shifting center, while his conscious thoughts appear to be focused exclusively on the wrapping paper in his hands.
Maybe we aren’t meant to think about our feet. Not meant to flatten them against the earth, making conscious contact with the ground. The weight, and the sinking into our bodies, into the earth in Mountain Pose…
Maybe the gurus have it all wrong.
Maybe it is also about getting to know the wrapping paper and letting the rest go with the momentum.