My computer updated and now, along the bottom menu of my screen, it tells me – unsolicited – that “Rain [is] coming”. And I feel bad because I haven’t looked out of the window this afternoon. I did walk around the house this morning, still in my pj’s, picking up dog poop so the lawn mower wouldn’t catch it. But I didn’t take in the morning: not the weather, not the birds, not the scent of autumn. Sometimes I wonder why the Bible lists so many sins and not this one: inattention.

Yesterday I nursed my cold by lying in bed and watching television. There was a moment when I pulled away from myself – consciously – and I suddenly became aware of the room. The space in the room. The colors of the walls. The textures of everything in it. Everything so beautifully foreign, so outside of myself, so dispossessed of expectations, so soulfully free.

I became aware of the distance between my arm and the blanket, my eardrum and the air vent, my mouth and the closest surface in each direction: the painted pressed wood of the nightstand. The coarse linen of the chaise lounge. I sensed my breath filling the room. Together with Leonard’s breath, and our lives overlapping at a cellular level.

There is a spider that hides somewhere behind my vanity mirror. Also breathing. Also alive and intermingling – atomic. Discrete. Intertwined.

We are inextricably tied to everything that frightens us. That thrills us. That makes us aware of our breathing.

I think I have always held on to this fact as a kind of comfort.

These little moments cut me off from the world in one way, but they also connect me to myself. They connect me to my childhood, and to a state of vigilance that was both necessary and habituated, to time when I didn’t have the self-awareness to judge this openness – or justify it, or pity myself for it. There was no – and still is, no – value judgement hovering over this state of being that I fall into now and then, now.

And then I slipped away from myself, back into the day like a fish into a stream.


The little room smells like tea and nail polish. Rosemary oil in the burner: for memory, they say. Somewhere deep in my chest there is a melody taking form. Ophelia handing out flowers. “I would give you some violets, but they withered all [ …].”

Last weekend I ran along the shore and the air was still. But the sea was still churning from the storm that had passed through. Tall waves, dark and edged with a white so opaque I could imagine I was running through an oil painting.

Sometimes writing is like wading into a stream where others have left all the stories to flow together, to flow through your hands, around your waist and into new ribbons of currents of hot and cold shining with the tiny creatures that give the world life, that take the world’s life. There’s nothing to claim here. Not really. It all runs to the ocean.

I miss writing.


Leaving in an hour for London. With Maeterlinck’s Bluebird haunting my thoughts. It is a good place to be now. Ready for a new season.

a leaf wet with raindrops

Leaving the house this morning to walk Leonard, I caught a glimpse of the sliver of old moon before the thin clouds covered it. There will be a new moon on Wednesday. Maybe that’s why I feel an urge to make everything new.

To the south the sky is clear and black. I can see the stars, even here from the new subdivision. We’ve having a break in the weather, a bit of quiet between the hailstorms and the rain. I hum as I walk. Om four times: ha, ri, ni, sa. Amen.

There is a proverb about washing the bowl after you’ve eaten. But picking up the dog shit is far more humbling. Carrying it home to the bin, a much larger metaphor.

I’ve a second appointment with the new psychiatrist today. We left the question hanging: What do you hope to get from these sessions?

This morning, after my habitual meditation – a mash-up of Buddhist philosophy and Christian hymns tweaked ever-so-slightly towards pantheism – I was thinking about the paradox of pursuing ease while pushing to grow beyond of one’s comfort zone.

In another life, I translated what was pretty much Tor Obrestad’s life’s work with poetry (up to that point). I was new to the language. New to translation. We are too different as writers – as people – for it to have been a great match. But one image that remains with me is his description of a waking boy: with the white tips of new growth. In my mind a life’s work with poetry can be a single image if it is that perfect.

I think about the translucent edges of new. I imagine the nerves that grow suddenly, impulsive and vulnerable – the quantum surge of life that is too fast, too eager to be held back. Protected.

The wind burns when it blows over a wound. New cells, shining and wet. And we breathe through it. Everything in movement, as it should be. Don’t clench. Don’t cling.

This week my students do their last performance of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I’ve been focusing on an acting style that is staccato. The information is conveyed in snapshots, moments. I could describe it as stop-motion theater. (Oh! I like that! Move over, Lecoq).

It’s difficult for the students to master. Even with mirrors, even with mechanical analyses: Thought. Execution. Expression. Thought. Execution. Expression. It is an unnatural style. It is unnatural in its artificial segmentation. My acting students are almost always motivated by a desire to bring stories to life. This is academic.

Tree. Fungi. Forest.
Mitochondria. Cytoplasm. Cell.

Life flows. At some level there is an ease. Something slips through, integrates. It can’t help it. All the shuddering is an illusion of objectivity.

I have been thinking. Maybe the idea is not to move out of the comfort zone, but expand the comfort zone.

acting students dressed as a three-headed troll

The first day of autumn brought the rain and the damp. At 5 a.m., a reluctant Leonard who hates getting his paws wet. Somewhere near the railroad tracks a dog screamed. I think it was a dog. Leonard and I both standing at attention in the dark, in the silence that followed, then both shaking off our helplessness, because what choice do we have but to get on with the day?

The sun rising vaguely, somewhere in the sky behind the opaque weather front. The neighbor down the road, with the lovely garden and who was wearing knickerbockers the first time I saw him, stares at us from the window of his bright entrance hall. I took another mental picture. I wonder if he knows I do that.

He doesn’t return the smile he can’t see.

Out walking once, I told him that he had a beautiful garden. He turned away from me. But the next day he told me I had a beautiful dog. Now we half-smile and nod often in the mornings. Most days this is all I need from other people. And some days it is all I have to give.

I am trying to reframe my situation: to consider all of the obligations as things waiting for me to return to, rather than the things I have fallen behind on. I know the former ascribes these “things” a kind of volition. But really the later does, too. Entities of sorts to whom I owe somehow, for having fallen short in serving them with the proper devotion.

I wonder if I am unique in anthropomorphising the world in this way? Like a child with toys: fairly, mentally kissing goodnight each one before bed. Then a kiss for God’s white cheek.

I let the small bits of the world down. I disappoint the dusty tiffany lamp with the burned-out bulb, the now-chipped coffee cup.

So much comes down to my forgetting. Forgetting as carelessness: as with yesterday’s discarded, wet socks I found on the bathroom floor this morning. Too much of my life is “I meant to…”

What do you mean to do with your life? I think I have meant to please. Sometimes I wonder if I will die while mentally apologizing to the kitchen sink for the bits of onion and garlic stuck in the metal trap.

At this point in my life, I know all of this involves a willing suspension of disbelief on my part. Though I am not sure if it constitutes escaping from real life, or desperately searching for it.

And this isn’t the first time I have wondered if all of human mental activity is a meaningless distraction. By carrot or by whip we will ourselves on.

Leonard and I came in from the rain this morning. I towelled him off and he ran for the treat cupboard. I slid off my rain paints, and E. handed me a cup of green tea.

Some days, by whip or by carrot, we will one another on.

Some days, it is good to be reminded of this simple thing.

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.