This week for some reason, Leonard has been particularly intense on the morning walks. Birds are grabbing his attention lately. And he keeps burrowing into bushes before I tug him back. Something about spring I suppose. Maybe the rats are already leaving their nests?

He was still wound up when I dropped him off at the house and headed to the trail. This morning’s run was unusually dark. Usually, we can see the lights from the houses blinking from the other side of the lake, but this morning the trail faded to greys and blacks, and then indigo ink where the curves of the stones along the shore meet the nothing. I guess it’s the fog that seems to close down the area, like a bell jar. Instead of getting a sense of an endless, dark abyss beyond the rocks, it felt claustrophobic. As though, if we were to veer to the right we’d not wade into the cold water, but hit a screen of woven night, woolly and coarse. I’m going to think of it as more like a tea cozy than a bell jar.

I ran slower than usual. Which is as slow as sleepwalking. Thoughts moving too quickly – out of sync with my breath and my body. I’m still feeling disconnected.

Back at our regular hour now, we see familiar faces. And a new one. Someone got themselves a shepherd puppy. “Good morning”. People here don’t acknowledge one another at the train station, at the store. Even at work, the administration has to remind us to say hello to one another in the corridors.

But walk those extra 300 meters from “civilization”, once you hit the trail: “Good Morning People”. It’s one more reason to force myself out the door at 5 a.m.

I have a week of winter vacation now and the timing couldn’t be better. I’m hoping that the quiet will help me fill my ballast again. I’ve been slowly destabilizing since long before the pandemic. Looking for something to hold on to. Even during meditation I can be side-swiped by a random thought and find myself knocked to my metaphorical knees again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time. How we move through the world only seeing what has been. Only seeing an illusion of what has been. The story we weave as events pass under our arms and through our hands

time flows like water
from behind, around our ribs
under our armpits
and through our hands, as we weave
one of a million stories

possible

A quiet morning. So quiet E. startled himself saying good morning to someone jogging by in the opposite direction. Another kilometer along the trail, an owl swooped in from the trees and flew in front of us and into the dark. Just the sound of our shoes on the gravel.

Until we get back to the park and the grove filled with crows. I haven’t thought about this before – the way the trail breaks in two at the bridge, where most people out with their dogs turn back toward the parking lot. Where most runners turn back to hit the steep hill once again for their morning intervals.

We shouldn’t be surprised to glimpse an owl out there. I held the image in my head while I moved through the morning flow: warrior one, two, retreating… a bridge to open my clenched heart.

Tawny in the lamp-lights, from my perspective her wings spanned the entire width of the path. Then she lifted. And was gone.

I was awake at 1 this morning. Obsessing over something from years ago. Fighting magical thinking. Wondering if self-deception is morally acceptable in the attempt to hold on to sanity. Fears take on their own lives. And they wander in and out of ours as they wish.

I’m filling out a daily mental health questionnaire for a Corona study run by the University in Oslo. Every day it asks if I am disturbed by unexpected events. It is actually revelatory for me to consider that unexpected and disturbing are not near-synonyms.

So I think of the owl now. Unexpected this morning. This bird of prey, this silent flyer, regurgitated tiny, ravaged corpses. So matter-of-fact in its nature. The self-deception is that our lives are anything other than this: matter-of-fact.

I’ve questioned before
whether imagination
is a good thing –
whether our bodies’ fluid
facts aren’t the better shelter

[edit: Writing a daily public diary has its drawbacks. Typos, of course. But also other editorial problems. When I titled this post I thought I would mention listening to Krista Tippet’s interview with Katherine May for the On Being Podcast. As it turned out, my train of thought took another direction. “Winter’s Crucible” is Katherine May’s phrase.]

The first run in nearly three weeks. I haven’t taken this much time off the trail since I was forced to by a blood clot a few years ago. I know that exercise is supposed to help us deal with stress, but there comes a point – close to burn-out – where the body can’t handle the extra spike in cortisol. It doesn’t know the difference when that spike is caused by anxiety or by physical effort. Either way, it can be enough to push a body over the edge.

So I’ve been intentionally going soft. Walking carefully through these weeks of winter, wearing cleats and mittens. Thinking the mask is pretty comfortable when the temperature is below freezing. And I think I’ve made the right choice. Last week was too much and I needed the softness. One big cushion of slow, heavy surrender.

Today the trail was full of song. Birds, yes. Even people with their Sunday talk. But also the deep, resounding notes that the ice plays with the lake. I haven’t heard it these past few years of mild winters. It brings to mind mythical water creatures. Moaning monsters, and nøkken. Last time I heard it was on a dark morning years ago. This afternoon the sun is shining. And it seems odd that it dares to be heard in this light. And then again, it doesn’t.

Take bedtime stories
into your dreams and wrestle
the demons and win
or lose – but know everything
is exactly everything

It is an odd project – to sit down in this little room every day and write. No matter what.

What comes, comes. Like dipping a bucket into a well and hoping you pull up a little container filled with clarity. Reflection.

That’s a shit metaphor. Sorry.

Some days nothing comes on its own. Some days my thoughts are taushetsbelagte, which (nearly) literally means shrouded in silence.

But what is gnawing at me usually finds a way out – indirectly. And it thrills me no end when I hear it speaks to other peoples’ experiences without speaking at all of a specific story. In some ways, it helps me remember the story itself is irrelevant – the (surely there is a good German word for it?)… the ambiance is part our shared human experience.

It helps me remember why I prefer poetry – or the poetry in a story that makes it more than a sequencing of events.

These aren’t the Drakes
you were looking for.

I ran this afternoon between classes, along the creek near the school. Two kilometres out, two in, a shower and back to class. It was on this little stretch of a green lung that I stumbled on a Mandarin duck I mistook for the wood drake I’d gone searching for on Saturday.

That’s how it happens. There’s no point in searching.

I just need to notice when the world turns towards me. And accept what beauty comes.

A Mandarin duck on a Monday afternoon between Theater Production and Theater History. Between a working session and a shower. Then a film version of The Glass Menagerie.

Not one of my students knew who the kjekkis John Malkovich is now. The young man is history.

Because the world is always turning towards us. Spinning under our feet imperceptibly. So stealthily we don’t even realize we are getting carried away with it. 1,000 miles an hour.

I suppose the truth of it would make us throw up.

John Malkovich isn’t relevant for my 2nd year students. Not for Being John Malkovich. But he is relevant enough as a good-looking young man who commands their attention to tell a story of what it is to be squeezed between what someone else wants from you and what you want for yourself.

That grasping –
experience
is always relevant.

My 3rd year students in that working session this morning? Some of them are working on a sequel to The Glass Menagerie. It’s interesting to watch their minds leaping like poetry. Finding what is relevant.

Sometimes it’s a very thin thread of experience. But there is always something…
there.

Some injuries don’t show up on MRIs. Those deep wounds that sever psychological/emotional muscles – like torn tendons. And the only thing to do is leave it alone. Give it time. Get on with life, but move with more caution for a while.

Sometimes I think working so closely with teenagers creates a kind of repetitive injury. All the hurt that your heart tries to absorb causes an inflammatory response that never quite has time to heal.

It’s like dancing under a window ledge with a mattress, worried that you are encouraging the worst possible scenario, but afraid to walk away from something acute and so very, very real.

I know that is a lot of metaphor.

We go on. I don’t know how sometimes.

For a living, I listen eight hours a day to the voices

of the anxious and the sad. I watch their beautiful faces

for some sign that life is more than disaster–

it is always there, the spirit behind the suffering,

the small light that gathers the soul and holds it

beyond the sacrifices of the body. Necessary light.

I bend toward it and blow gently.

– Patricia Fargnoli. From “The Roofmen”.

From her book Necessary Light.

After so many years, this remains one of my favorite poems. And Patricia, one of the people I most admire. Oh, all the hurt in the world. They are special people who can spend their entire days tending to it without breaking or solidifying under the weight of it.


I ran alone this morning, my knee complaining just a little – just enough for me to wrap it for yoga practice afterward. I am learning to pay attention to the warning signals before it turns into full-blown runner’s knee again. That is a kind of progress in regard to the inevitable wearing of my body.

It is all about listening, and adjusting … and continuing.

Last night I had a cramp in the same leg. Alarm bells went off and I wondered if I should go get a d-dimer test. E. laughed, and hugged me. And apologized for laughing. I googled “stress and leg cramps”, and “stress and blood clots”.

I took an aspirin and went to bed.

Trust is such a difficult thing. Losing trust in someone is one thing – maybe worse is knowing someone has lost trust in you.

And it is just weird meta-sh*t when the person you lose trust in is yourself.

This morning things seemed to edge into a familiar groove. E. is home again, and Leonard stuck his cold nose in my face just before the clock went off. Dog bladders make the most urgent alarm clocks.

I let Leonard out to pee,

E. and I pull on wool clothes and running shoes
and head to the lake where our clocks are synced up
again with the crows’ morning congregation.
So loud and so lovely this morning. Lovely
in its own way. Earnest chatter.
Energetic and contagious.
My legs lose a little of their heaviness.

The lake has spilled over its banks,
but is still now. And dark.
A duck laughs.


We passed a man in his mid 70s. A woman somewhat older going in the opposite direction. This means so much to me: this reminder of what the path of the fortunate looks like.

Maybe literally.

After the run, the asana practice. And after the third chaturanga today my left shoulder began complaining again. After meditation and a shower, it started in yet again as I combed my hair. Loudly and unlovely.

I’m realizing that this is a conversation I will be mediating between my body and my id for the rest of my life. It’s weirdly like negotiating with children. Is this unpleasant feeling really “pain”? Or is it just a yellow flag: Be aware.

Take care.

Keep moving.


Every Sunday morning I sat 65 minutes on a smooth, cold pew next to Grandma. Pastor Garanger talked and gesticulated, sometimes mumbled with his eyes closed. Sometimes Grandpa’s breath would catch in his throat to jerk him awake.

I sat still.

There was a lesson lost on me. And there was a lesson under that one: the sitting still.

The “stop your twitching”. The “pay attention”.

The “okay now: just go outside and play”.

Maybe nothing is really lost, since the world circles around in its lopsided orbit.

An evening run. Because
the morning slipped
between a coffee cup
and God-knows-what.
And I need to run.

I’ve showered now and pulled on a wool bra and cashmere lounge pants. There’s nothing like cashmere lounge pants. I own one pair because I stumbled over them – misplaced in rack in an H&M- marked down to affordable.

Is this what it feels like to be wealthy? Wrapped in cashmere?

I had an angora sweater in high school. I bought it myself with the money I’d earned from my first job – selling hot dogs at the local rally-cross track. I knew it was out-of-place in my life: it shrank in the first wash.

But now. … Why don’t I always dress like hugs? I’m a grown woman and should be in full control of these things. I want to be the woman who empties her wardrobe and dresser drawers of all the fast fashion clothes, and fills them with nothing but quality fabrics in neutral colors that tell the world she definitely has all of her soft, yellow ducks in a row.

When I was a teenager we didn’t have ducks. But we had finches in bamboo cages in our mobile home. Some in the living room, some in the my mother’s bedroom in the back of the house. And they would sing to each other. Pitifully.

They make these small bamboo nests to put in the bamboo cages so finches will lay perfect little eggs. We had one hatch once. Have you ever seen a soft, naked, newly-hatched finch? It burns in your mind when it is dead on the newspaper tray at the bottom of the cage.

My point is… I’ve never had my ducks on a row.

These cashmere pants were marked “sleepwear”. Are there really women who sleep in cashmere? I sleep in cotton exercise pants that are too napped to wear in public anymore.

I feel guilty wearing cashmere around the house. It seems decadent. But they were marked “sleepwear” and I wonder if I wear them out (you know, feeling all elegant-like) people with think I’m an idiot for wearing my pj’s to dinner?

I wear them for yoga now. Kind of like dressing up for church. Not for the Holy Spirit, mind you – but for Buddhist idea that we should enjoy the pleasures of the present moment so long as we do so without clinging. And I have no illusion that these cashmere pants will survive the wash more than a few times.

At any rate. Here I sit in bed. Leonard curled beside me, dreaming of chasing hares – small, inaudible barks puffing his cheeks. I’ll have to wake him to send him to his own bed before I turn in for the night.

E. is offshore for a few more days. He may as well be on the moon. And only half the moon is visible tonight.

It’s been raining all week and the lake has flooded its usual banks. The bench roses weirdly from the water, and I stopped to take a photograph. For a moment I thought I’d stop and sit there for a while, watching the moon. But then a man came walking with his two schnauzers, and I was worried he’d think me insane.

And I was wearing my new shoes.

So… there’s that, at least: new, serious-ugly running shoes.

I’m that kind of woman.