on the morning that will lead to Christmas Eve. I’m surprised to wake to a white world this morning, after last night’s walk under a clear and starry sky. Something moved through while we slept, and maybe took with it some of the heaviness and left the rough chattering of the magpies.

We have yet to put up the tree and wrap the last gifts. But weirdly all I want to do is make something beautiful. And, as always, desire outstrips both ability and talent. Maybe it is appropriate that Amadeus is a Christmas film in my mind. Certainly a film for the winter season. Maybe the threat of wasted mediocrity can be a drive in-and-of-itself? Maybe some of us need a patron saint of Effort? We need to know less-than-excellence is still worthwhile.

A humble, worn begging bowl is a thing of unique beauty, isn’t it?

This year has been stitched together at points of pain. Losses. Abrupt and imperfect endings. And I suppose beginnings that are easy to overlook if one isn’t attentive to possibilities. I’ve been wondering if there is no such thing as a false start. In the same way that there is no such thing as a “failed” marriage, if one approaches life as growth and change and experience, rather than a map of set mileposts toward an obituary: this is supposed to be your wonderful life. Yeah. That Christmas movie that’s all about shirking your fate if you can’t suck it up through the hard times, give into your circumstances, and trust bow-tied, bushy-browed old men who claim to be angels.

It strikes me as ironic that all of us are storytellers. Ourselves as the heroes in everyday encounters. And yet I can’t seem to write a story. My character isn’t woven into given circumstances, and I can’t seem to plot a satisfying arc.

Maybe there is no arc, though there are arbitrary meeting points that matter very much. It seems to me that waiting for them, letting them come, and having faith in their covert significance is our obligation.

I guess that is why I feel pulled toward poetry. These knots of drama and of peace. Pearls on a string. Life as a room full pre-Islamic “hanged poems”* written by individual ghosts: each of arbitrary length, representing arbitrary lifespans. Each with a qasidah’s lack of plot or narrative.

Here is my search for an artistic home to that inevitably leads me to misunderstandings, accusations, and a keener sense of alienation.

In theatre history class I facilitate discussions on appropriation. But in movement class, I teach square breathing: the alternating states of movement and stillness, and the recognition that there is also life in stillness. In the waiting. I try to explain to my students: just wait. Don’t engage the glottal stop, don’t bear down in your throat, just stay open… and wait.

It’s not even a metaphor for life. It is life.


The snow absorbs sound waves. But the magpie’s bellies chatter like shakers in an improvised concert. The front yard is filled with tension. A drama without narrative.

The magpies are quiet now.

Wait.

They will begin again. Like barren Shakers, they’ll gather and make something beautiful.

Then they’ll be gone. Again.

Just wait.


*It is interesting that the phrase I found today was “hanged poems”, when I have been taught that the past tense of hang is hung and that the only thing hanged are people. The more common term is “The hanging poems”, which of course is immediate and… haunting.

I’ve switched up the mornings: writing before running – or to be honest, run/walking these days on a difficult achilles. I’m not sure I like the new routine. It’s like the pump is primed and ideas come while I am on the trail that I can’t follow through on, and that I forget.

Nothing is perfect, but things are good. Better. I do have a hard time shaking this feeling that I have missed out on these past few months. Missed spring. Nearly all the ferns have completely unfurled their tight, dark fists and the floor along the edges of the grove are lush with a new green, and fairy bells are already past their prime. I think most of all I am sad that for the past few years the ducks and the swans have been so good at hiding their hatchlings one could easily believe there were none. The only sign of renewal is the brown-tinged swan, last year’s cygnet, that has staked out the area next to the bridge. Alone, but for a few bachelor mallards.

But to be honest, I don’t think that I have actually missed out on things. My expectations have just been too high. I’ve been wanting the spring to overwhelm me in some fairy-tale fashion. I’ve been looking for signs. And that is really quite silly. What I am really waiting for is a shift in my perspective.

After a year of near-social-isolation, two gatherings in three days was a little overwhelming. Something of a deluge in a desert. Now just the thought of going to the hairdresser today is a little stressful. Chit-chat is expected, and I have never been good at that.

Now that I think about it, I have always been something of a deluge or drought kind of person. Never quite getting the balance right. Some many words come to mind: temperate, equipoise, equilibrium, symmetry. Maybe the problem is that, although symmetry is beautiful, it is predictable and so often boring. Unless it is a Wes Anderson kind of symmetry. But then the world is periodically on fire, and not everyone is comfortable with that kind of life.

I am.

In the mornings, I meditate for a few minutes on equanimity. Yellow, “Ri” on the exhale. I doubt that the articulation matters, but the vibration does. Accepting and giving. Or sometimes accepting and letting go. All the perspectives, things, concepts that clutter our lives, that come and go like respiration. That should do so easily. Effortlessly. Can they still be wild with energy? Passionate and fallow in equal turns?

The foliage doesn’t fight the winter. It doesn’t resist whatever kind of death winter brings. And it doesn’t hold back in the spring, trying to smooth the cycle into a flat kind of average life year-round. It relishes everything and then lets go.

In circular breathing, there is a moment of waiting (not holding the breath). Then a complete release, that for me feels a bit frightening in its emptiness. Then a so-longed-for, satisfying inhalation.

In another pranayama exercise there are a passive inhalations and forced, energetic exhalations in rapid succession to stimulate the body and the mind.

Leonard has zoomies. Then sleeps on the couch most of the rest of the day. Is the idea of equanimity as a steady hum of tranquility against nature really? I know I am taking Jesus entirely out of context when I say the advice from that hold is to be hot or cold but never luke warm.

I am wondering if all the advice regarding “balance” is not really aimed at a good life, but at an unobtrusive life. It’s more about social control than personal, or even inter-personal experience.

A seesaw is all about balance, after all.

it’s the almost edge
of ripe – it’s the almost void
of new beginnings