I have no idea why I’m not sleeping. I doubt there is any use in an interrogation. There are too many factors at play, and I think I have already spent too much of my life inspecting the framework that surrounds it. Looking for weaknesses. Explanations. If I fix this, then…

It seems as though if things settle, they do so on their own and in their own time. Other times I think I just forget to care. I am spinning busywork while I grow accustomed.

We ran again yesterday. We’re trying hard to pick ourselves up. E. first headed toward our usual morning route, but I asked him to drive us to the other end of the trail, where we can cross the bridge and run in the forest.

Two minutes into the run, I was tired. Not sure I could do the short run. I thought about the blood clot that formed in my body five years ago, and I did a mental check to gauge if this tiredness was that tiredness, that sense of being unplugged from an energy source. I felt my heart miss a beat, then felt a sense of disappointment that the fear is still here in my body, fear as tight as a scar running hip to heart.

Breathe. I remember the nurse who would not say, “Everything is going to be fine.” She told me a truth: no one has died on this table during this procedure before.

Breathe. I could – can still – handle this specific truth.

We hit the top of the first hill and then ran down and across the bridge. But three hundred meters into the forest, the forest stopped. Clean cuts across tree trunks. Crossed branches lay entwined everywhere, like an enormous nest for an unknown or ancient bird. We stumbled as far as we dared, then angled off, out of what used to be the forest to find the gravel trail.

I think I just imagined that the birds were louder than usual.

The last time we ran through the forest I’d taken pictures of the newly storm-toppled trees, their root systems upended and taller than three of me. I knew and I know now that this forest is private property and that they cull a section every few years. I know that they are responsible agriculturalists, and they know far more than I do about what is healthy for the landscape, what is possible, what is… fine.

Still, the gaping, empty space is like a brutal statement of fact: there is no going back to what was. There will be scars in the landscape, and there is no longer shelter from the North Wind.

But – or and? – everything you never imagined is possible now.

The lateral flow tests have been negative all along, but I’ve had something – something that is finally letting go. It’s getting just a little bit easier to move around in my body. To think of running again and morning yoga.

Nothing can ever go back to normal – back to anything. It never could, though only now do I feel the truth of that acutely. The universe is in a slow deconstruction but every moment brings new (sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrifying) constellations. However fleeting each will be. Maybe the art of living is to notice, then to let go of all of them as they pass.

There has to be a reason humans have always wanted to fix their experience of the world in stone. It seems to me that classical Greek artwork is an attempt to capture the past. Because a smooth thigh is always nostalgia. The visible maps that living etches into a forearm, over a chest, are the present and the inevitable future. The present, breathing body is more threat than comfort. Every inhalation of oxygen is destructive.

In the absence of oxygen human life is measured in minutes. In the presence of oxygen, normal metabolism generates reactive species (ROS) that have the potential to cause cell injury contributing to human aging and disease.


What gives us life, inevitably kills us. So often used as a metaphor, our need to breathe is a cliche that is impossible to break down to its basic, startling truth. It is so ingrained in the art of language that it has become necessary to reverse engineer the metaphor. Breathing is like being in love with the wrong person.

Breathing is like belonging to a family, a community, a nation.

The Romans celebrated the struggle. The statues’ sinewy arms in battle with creatures real and imagined. The faces are expressive and contorted. Though still nostalgic. En medias res, we want to cry out, “Stop, stop” before it’s too late. We want to stop one another/ourselves.

But caught in stone, it is never too late. The sculpture can still generate the feeling of hope: that things will go back to normal.

I could subtitle this essay Art as Momentary Comfort.