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.

I am thinking today about how things can change suddenly, when nothing has changed. An interior reality that moves independently from the weather or circumstance.

Now, in this moment, I am angry or content or want to pick up and begin again new somewhere that smells differently. Spin the wheel. I latch onto reasons for my shifting moods but am wholly unconvinced they are causes. I’m just grabbing at the random facts while the merry-go-round spins. I am my own fortune teller and blue-eyed dupe making “sense” of it all. Lining up the cards and making up a story to explain why I am where I am.

I’m heading north in three weeks – to stay for a week in a tiny, rough house on the fjord-side of the island. To look for porpoises and puffins through my binoculars. Maybe without them. I’m bringing a wetsuit. Wool socks. And wine. K. says we need to trek to the opposite side of the island to see the midnight sun.

What I am looking forward to is the smell of the ocean. Above the arctic circle, the ocean smells… clean. Scrubbed. Ragged. I can’t help but hope it will clear my head. But I know nothing is ever as we imagine it will be. I know the mosquitoes up there are the size of wasps. I know the damp cold of a holiday cabin.

I could pull out my tarot cards to try to figure out how I got myself into this. I’d get the hanged man. I am in a period of indecision. Suspended.

In a time of contemplation.

The brain is amazing. We can always make it “fit”. Whatever it is. The omens. The signs. Today walking Leonard we passed a hedgehog on the sidewalk. Dead. In the middle of the sidewalk. I walked Leonard a big arc on the lawn to avoid it. I watched three people walk by it. I wonder if the body will lay there until the birds take it away bit by bit. The gulls, most likely. Where are the gulls today?

We passed the field where last week the duck couples were coupling in the tall grass. Someone has driven a lawnmower over it all. I wonder where they went? Where will they brood?

In films and in books, people have little epiphanies that get all their ducks in a neat row while on a vacation. After facing death. Getting a sign.

All these external changes that shake up their inner realities. Does it ever really happen that way?

a fetus gestates:
dog, fish, shark, venomous
a year to decide – yes