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.

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.

Sometimes for no particular reason, a season turns and something new begins. A fog lifts, but so slowly that even watching it you can’t pinpoint the moment that has passed. I sometimes slip into thinking that this is the way of the world, but I think the fault is in me: the not-noticing.

I read a book once on quantum mechanics. And while reading it, with each paragraph, with each page, I understood it. I could hold the concept in my head and it made sense. But when I finished the book, all of the ideas were lost to me. It is when I understood my own limitations with regard to that kind of abstract conceptualization. In some ways, I was disappointed in myself. But there was also a kind of satisfaction in finding this one way to delineate my own abilities. Here, but no further. It was a step closer to discovering the shape of me. Now a new direction – running into a new limitation. I wonder if someday I will step back to see an outline of who I am.

There is a kind of security, knowing where the edges of myself lie. It is something I can point to and claim to know.

My point was what I remember from the quantum mechanics book is that things don’t happen gradually and they don’t ease into our awareness. There are sudden jumps. Babies really do grow suddenly overnight. It’s not our imaginations. So it is actually likely that the fog just lifts and we just think we missed it because we are searching for a process. Almost like searching for an explanation. If we can’t explain it we can’t predict it next time – we can’t pretend to control it. The doctors tell us things happen gradually. So gradually that we don’t notice. They reassurance things are “happening” outside of our awareness. But what if they are wrong. What if things are stagnant until they just – inexplicably – change?

Even a metaphorical fog lifting can simultaneously make me feel better and make me feel inadequate. I can’t find a reason for this thinning of the world. For this easing in the atmosphere. I try to track down the causes, but I am rationalizing. A dinner with friends. A morning on the porch without gloves. Who knows. But if I knew, I could squirrel the information away for next time and use it as a treatment. All very scientific.

But here I sit with incantations. But also wonder.

an interruption
a detour from linear
growth – unexpected

I had to wear gloves again yesterday while walking with E. and Leonard. But the maples were showing off good-sized buds. E. said it is time to start putting seeds into the earth. But first I need to clear out the dead branches from last year. I need to buy a new top for the one little greenhouse that caved in under the snow sometime in February.

Then I have to read up on what’s to be done with the perennials I’ve planted in the yoga room. Sweep the mats and light the candles and remember that everything is going to be okay. Things could not be better situated “lagt til rette” to be… okay. But despite the well-intentioned platitudes people pass around social media, gratitude is not a fix for mental illness. You can’t “grateful” your way out of bipolar genetics.

I think I tried that. Every morning I meditated, I focused on loving kindness, on gratitude until this big ball of love swelled like a balloon, until it burst. That rubber, silicone – whatever – hurts like hell when it snaps back on your fingers and the world gets ugly.

It’s ironic that I had been focusing all year on the middle path. But I am finding it again, because nothing is permanent, and everything changes and I am not who I was a year ago, not who I was three months ago. It is only natural I should find it again – if only by accident in wandering.

If I could I would stay in this little bibliotekette, in the studio upstairs, in my yoga room and never leave the house but for runs along the trail and in Njåskogen‘s spongy underbrush. I find myself watching the clock and counting down until I have to get to the train station, and to the school, to the classroom. I fight the pinch instead of just relaxing into the discomfort.

I feel like a kid at the edge of the swimming pool. I have dived in before, I know it’s fine. You know – not like on an overcast and humid day when the water is almost the same temperature as the air – but on a hot day, when the water is cold. But you’ve had to shower first because of public pool rules, so you are shivering and your teeth are chattering and you know that once you’re in the water – in a half a minute or less – you’ll be warm again. Still… You can’t force yourself to jump in. Something in your brain says it’s a very bad idea.

At the beginning of this school year the teachers tried virtual reality. It was a problem that had the user walk a plank out the window of skyscraper, hundreds of meters over a busy city street. I was intellectually aware that it was not real. However, another part of my brain was telling me this was wrong – my whole body was telling me this was wrong. I couldn’t see any point in overriding a self-preservation instinct that is there for a reason, that is working well.

Going to work shouldn’t be like walking a plank high above a city street. I shouldn’t feel like my job requires me to be one of the flying Wallendas. But I am having a difficult time finding perspective. I can’t write more about this: confidentiality clauses and such.

So instead I will say that at home life it good. Painting, writing, reading, learning new skills. There is a balance to be had. I know this.

I need to wriggle out of the time-out corner and be okay again. Okay. Right. And. Yep. Okay. (Can you hear my teeth chattering?)

earth worms abandoned
half-eaten on the asphalt –
Spring’s little singers are full
as old, full throat-ed mezzos
and their conflicted, dark arias

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