Yesterday I went shopping. It has been a while. And for the first time – for a split moment – the plexiglass in front of the cashiers at the clothing store reminded me of the bullet-proof glass at convenience stores in downtown Louisville. Shook me. I didn’t really shrug off the thought – I let it hover without looking too closely at it.

Threats and deterents.

Is it me, or do words like “deter” and phrases like “fend off” imply “try to” or “tried to”. There’s an undercurrent of overwhelm in the conversation.

He managed to fend off his attackers. Against the odds. A miracle.

Every time I found myself in one of those stores with bullet-proof glass, I recognized which side of the glass I was standing on. Where I was being sorted in the potential categories of victim and perpetrator. So finding myself in the clothing store, on the contagion side of the glass, all I wanted to do was go home and take a shower.

It’s hard living in a world where we sort strangers this way. I thought I left that behind as a major cultural feature when I left America. Talk about privilege. It took me a long time to let down my guard.

Last weekend we had dinner with friends. One of them is a bit older than we are and she moved in to embrace us saying she’s fully vaccinated. We aren’t. I later giggled about the image that came into my mind of a cuttlefish embracing its prey. An uncomfortable giggle.

It’s odd how the unthinkable becomes the norm. Recoiling from a friend’s arms. Responding to an overture of warmth with suspicion. I believe that our body literally shapes our behaviors which create our thoughts. Not the other way around. Goosebumps are the result of the body responding to the environment, not the mind relaying a thought to the skin.

I wonder about all these precautions we are taking with one another—to protect ourselves or to protect one another—in the communication loops of body-mind-body/mind-body-mind, what kind of a groove are we forming in the soft pathways of our neurons?

The brain is plastic. For good and for… change?

Scientists proclaim
the solitary creatures
but waters run deep

I don’t want to write today. My computer screens’ backgrounds are black instead of showing the photo I have had on them for four years. It is one of those days. Everything seems to be slightly out of its respective groove. Out of focus. Grinding. Even Leonard, who is lying on the floor next to me, is breathing more heavily than usual. Arhythmically.

On the walk this evening I was thinking about work. Already playing out autumn term scenes in my head that are unlikely to happen and unnecessary to itch about. What’s wrong with me? I’m trying to breathe easily and to listen to the blackbirds. And the train that is passing. And the truth is that once it has passed, the fading sound is pleasurable to focus on. The quieting to a hush. The world goes on. Is going on.

Someone outside is scolding. Leonard takes notice. Stands up. Figures it’s none of his business and lies down again.

These tiny things make up my days now. Sometimes it is difficult to find meaning in them. I mean, isn’t that what we have to do when our lives are stuck: find meaning in/for the small, meaningless things?

I write. I suppose that is an attempt to make meaning. To dig up what’s needed from memory to construct a story I can be satisfied with. That will justify the extra glass of wine, the extra hour of sleep, the dropped obligation.

Dropped obligations – so many of them – swept up into closets and threatening to topple on my head like a bit of slapstick if I ever go there in my mind.

And yet. Walking in the sunshine felt good this evening. It’s been a year since I felt the sun on my face like that. The grass in the field has grown past my waist. A dozen or so oystercatchers were calling while they skimmed the surface of the pond.

I am trying to be patient with myself. Things take time to circle back. And I want to believe all things do. Though there are still no signs of ducklings in the area.

So tonight I will construct a better story. Blackbirds and strawberries, ginger tea and a soft chair. A good book of poetry and faith in the world’s changing seasons.

Leonard is barking softly now. Growling. I wonder if it were hare he smelled on the walk. I wonder what story he’s constructing in his sleep.

The longest day. There is something about that phrase that speaks to me of weariness, instead of sunshine. A “Here: but no further”. A gentle “We’ll take this slow” turning back toward the inevitable darkness.

And the waxing moon brings with it the melancholy of condolence. The sky is pink and the blackbirds are singing. The wind carries a chill that pricks my arms, my neck and brings my attention to my body. Alive. Responding.

These are moments where the words in my head swell together into absurd phrases: Oh, Love; this beauteous; If but when… Is my subconscious so desperate to fix my experience into a greeting card cliché? A patinaed aphorism? Because these are not my words. How does becoming aware of my body cause me to attempt to escape it, to dissolve into something “bigger” and far more abstract?

The immediate world is enough. The wind, the goose skin, the smell of the crushed grass under my shoe. The moon, pale in the bright night, transparent at tissue paper. These things speak in the vernacular. They are as down-to-earth as a bloody childbirth, as the planting seasons coming and going, as death itself.

Tomorrow the sun will set almost one minute sooner. And like tonight, it will bleed into the sky for hours after while the moon waits patiently to be noticed. This is just the way of things. Whether we will be here to notice it again. Whether we bothered to notice it now.

the crab sheds a shell
hard and twisting, slick inside
as white as the moon


Written for a haibun prompt – dVerse.

I’ve made a list of all the things I used to do habitually, and with pleasure, before that afternoon we were all sent home from our non-essential workplaces.

I’m not sure which is the better metaphor: were these the bones that my muscles and ligaments would stack and pull to move the whole of me around in the world; or were they the ligaments and muscles that move my bones, that move me and give me a specific shape.

I’m not sure that it will even matter to know which was the kingpin that fell and allowed everything that was my life to fall as well. Or if it was even related to the lockdown. After all, we are all changing all the time regardless of pandemics or personal tragedies. Or newly-found pleasures.

Like a neglected garden, things both fall away and run rampant without attention. Maybe attention is the wrong word: diligence. Because I suppose it would have been possible for me to have paid attention, to have witnessed the destruction of my day-to-day patterns without having prevented what has happened. If mediation practice hadn’t been the last thing to whither, I might have paid more attention. I might have noticed a shift that warned of the relapse before I got sick.

It is an interesting phrase: to pay attention. And that this phrase existed before we had an attention economy. We pay for services, for goods and we invest with payments. It is worth asking, when we pay attention to our own lives, what we are investing in. This thinking seems to require a kind of split in one’s concept of one’s “self”. The rider and the horse?

I’m not a horseman/-woman by any stretch. But I have ridden enough to have been on the back of a horse while it stepped through loose rocks on a narrow ledge along a canyon wall. The horse knew more than I did about where it was safe to put our weight. But it isn’t easy giving over to the animal. To the wisdom of a corporal body that speaks a language that our conscious brain doesn’t understand. Expect perhaps sometimes in translation – via metaphor – but by then it is too late.

I wonder if better relationships with/among animals mean a less constrained relationship with one’s self? If it fosters respect for non-rational wisdom? I’m also wondering if this is related to the calm so many people who tend gardens regularly feel. Proselytize about?

Today is the first day of summer vacation. And the longest day of the year. From here this part of the world leans towards darkness again. And I am thinking I have a serious vitamin D deficiency. And have to become much more conscious – and diligent – about the details of my life.

I was looking at the department of health’s guidelines for hygiene. And even though hygiene is defined as “conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease” the guidelines are exclusively about washing one’s body, hands, teeth, hair, food. As though health would be maintained if someone were in a constant state of quasi-sterility with fresh breath. No mention of social contact (except to wash your hands and not sneeze on others), of nutrition, or stress reduction. Laughter?

I am asking myself a lot these days: Am I healthy?

I think today I am going to make my own list of good hygiene practices, based on my own definition of health.

Laughter is one. Running at the lake is another.

Right now: heading to the physiotherapist to deal with this sticky achilles.

From my desk, I face a huge window that looks out on the third-floor void between my corridor and the theater pavilion. Light comes in from the glass ceiling. It’s not a view of the outside, but I got that before work when the world was normal. There are far worse workspaces. Some of the offices have windows to the hallways only. It’s a big building with hundreds of teachers.

Depending on what I teach each day, I might be spending most of my time in a black room, with black floors and black curtains. 6 hours maybe. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. On those days, we’re moving around. Literally lifting each other into the air. Or were, when the world was normal.

Yesterday I unplugged my little reading lamp and emptied the bookshelves. Shredded the student’s diaries and doctor’s notes, etc. The whole time unconciously praying that when I come back in August everything will be normal.

If you had told me two years ago we’d be living in a culture where I could be reprimanded for touching a student’s shoulder, it would have sounded like a dystopian novel. I’ve written a lot over this last year about the lack of touch and what I was concerned it would do to me. I’m not at all sure what role this physical isolation has played in my relapse of bipolar symptoms, and I’m not sure knowing is possible or even meaningful in terms of cause and effect. It is interesting though to consider a connection between the two as a metaphor.

I normally teach contact improvisation. We lean on each other – learn to trust each other to hold our weight. We work together as a group to lift one person at a time and “fly” them around the space. We touch in turn, responding to the quality of touch. Not necessarily mimicking: but registering and choosing how to respond.

We breathe together.

Of course, there is a basic trust required in terms of appropriate touch. Our “private” body parts. But there are other layers of trust required, the most significant being care. Does the person I am leaning on care for my well-being in this moment? It’s not an intellectual exercise but a physical communication without a rubric. You can’t measure presence and support by pounds-per-square-inch. Hands tremble, sometimes almost imperceptibly. And often we can “sense” the reason for the trembling. Our mind doesn’t form an explanation, but our body understands first.

A touch on the shoulder can be invasive, a touch on the breast neutral.

Is the heel of the hand pushing hard into the center of the thigh muscle, or is the palm cupping the leg in a lift? Is the person observing the breath for signs of distress?

Do they care: here and now? Are we present together?

For a year and a half, I have been teaching online or focusing on theory in a large auditorium, everyone sitting a meter apart. Even movement class has been all about observation and external expressions. I have had moments with individual students. Individual counseling both in terms of personal lives and academic development. But I am not sure I was present often enough. Am I am not thinking, “for their sakes”, but for mine.

When a student begins crying one feels helpless enough, covering their hand with yours, squeezing their shoulder, offering them a tissue. But to sit there with little but facial expressions and words – so inappropriate in the moment – that is real helplessness. I’m not claiming to have a magic touch to help students feel better. I’m only speaking to my own experience: no one likes to feel helpless.

Being in the present moment is key for me. Probably because I have so many difficulties with my memory. As pathetic as it sounds, I think that teaching is what keeps me tethered to a community in a way that I am comfortable with.

I make few long-term relationships with the students, but in my day-to-day present tense, I experience meaningful connections.

I don’t need to be teaching contact improvisation to do this, but I do need to be in the same room. Less than a meter apart.

Today the number of local cases of Corona19 jumped again. And the vaccines are delayed… again. I have no idea what kind of classroom I’ll be returning to in August. And the uncertainty isn’t easy to sit with.

I am fine with solitude. But feeling lonely in a building where nearly a thousand people wander in and out of doors, is hard.

Breathe…