It’s something of a wake-up call when you think in the morning: today I’m going to shower and brush my hair. How deep I’ve settled into that familiar groove. The familiar always brings with it a kind of comfort. No matter how dark.

No run this morning because of the strained achilles. So the blue sky I see from the porch while the dog is peeing this morning, doesn’t quite do the trick it usually can. The plants in my yoga room are all dead, so I can’t bring myself to roll out my mat there.

I’d like something to grab me by two corners and snap me like a sheet. I want to hear that sound of straightening things out. And then I want to get on a plane and go somewhere where I sweat just sitting on the beach doing nothing.

And that is not going to happen. The school year limps to a close and then summer lies there like a damp cloth. There is a joy in hiking in soft rain, in hazy mornings. But something in me needs heat this year. Heat to burn off this restlessness. To get me to kick off this weighted blanket.

Every morning I write a single poem – quick and dirty – as part of my writing practice. The idea is to let go of the idea that my writing is too precious, and my ideas too few to squander on an online blog. I suppose it has something to do with the pop psychology model of the scarcity vs abundance mindset. At any rate, this morning I wrote about a late childhood summer memory. The twitter-sized poem touched off a cascade of memories. And I’ve been trying to suss out why they came up now and how I feel about them.

Ambivalence is the first word that came to mind, but that isn’t true. I don’t have good memories of the Kentucky river with its stigmatizing impetigo (white trash rash), the drunken men in their flipping dune buggies with their near-misses, recklessly chewing up the riverbanks. My mother too stoned to care that my 6-year-old brother was on a minibike and split his skull open on the tailpipe of a parked car, while I fussed in a kind of vertical rut, like a hopping, cartoon drama queen. Making “too big a deal of it.”

But I swam across the river once. And back. Despite my fear of snapping turtles, water moccasins, fish in general, and step-fathers in the specific. Death. Despite my fear of drowning like my cousin had been drowned in a bathtub.

I swam over the dark cushion of fear that was almost like a buoy, like a propelling presence.

I’ve been wondering if this is really facing one’s fear at all. I suppose it is – but then, I don’t feel like I conquered it. It was more like a battle and a retreat. All these years of battle and retreat.

And if I were to conquer my fears, to puncture the cushion? What then? What’s going to buoy me and propel me through the world?

these dark shapes that stack
one on one like bones to hold
a body upright

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

Sometimes for no particular reason, a season turns and something new begins. A fog lifts, but so slowly that even watching it you can’t pinpoint the moment that has passed. I sometimes slip into thinking that this is the way of the world, but I think the fault is in me: the not-noticing.

I read a book once on quantum mechanics. And while reading it, with each paragraph, with each page, I understood it. I could hold the concept in my head and it made sense. But when I finished the book, all of the ideas were lost to me. It is when I understood my own limitations with regard to that kind of abstract conceptualization. In some ways, I was disappointed in myself. But there was also a kind of satisfaction in finding this one way to delineate my own abilities. Here, but no further. It was a step closer to discovering the shape of me. Now a new direction – running into a new limitation. I wonder if someday I will step back to see an outline of who I am.

There is a kind of security, knowing where the edges of myself lie. It is something I can point to and claim to know.

My point was what I remember from the quantum mechanics book is that things don’t happen gradually and they don’t ease into our awareness. There are sudden jumps. Babies really do grow suddenly overnight. It’s not our imaginations. So it is actually likely that the fog just lifts and we just think we missed it because we are searching for a process. Almost like searching for an explanation. If we can’t explain it we can’t predict it next time – we can’t pretend to control it. The doctors tell us things happen gradually. So gradually that we don’t notice. They reassurance things are “happening” outside of our awareness. But what if they are wrong. What if things are stagnant until they just – inexplicably – change?

Even a metaphorical fog lifting can simultaneously make me feel better and make me feel inadequate. I can’t find a reason for this thinning of the world. For this easing in the atmosphere. I try to track down the causes, but I am rationalizing. A dinner with friends. A morning on the porch without gloves. Who knows. But if I knew, I could squirrel the information away for next time and use it as a treatment. All very scientific.

But here I sit with incantations. But also wonder.

an interruption
a detour from linear
growth – unexpected

Leonard is stretched out on the floor next to me.

And barking at the neighbor’s voices squeezing in through the windowsill. His concern is unconvincing. I suppose it’s nice that he feels a sense of duty.

He hasn’t moved in a half an hour.

I expect this morning’s exceptional walk along the trail was too much for his hound-sized brain. I still can’t run with this achilles tendon, so we walked this morning and took him with us. There were more exciting smells than he knew what to do with. The trail used to frighten him, so this was a big deal. He’s getting over whatever trauma he had as a pup. Slowly.

I didn’t smell stoat this morning, but I am sure Leonard did. Birds don’t interest him, but anything small and furry, or small and spikey does. Some evenings I have to play the guardian of the hedgehog while he does his business in the front yard.

I wanted to say “garden”. The front garden. As though that were a real thing in my life. Garden goes with words like cottage, and teapot. I have an A-frame house built in the 1970s and an electric water cooker. I have a mossy yard with half-hearted flower beds and derelict greenhouses. I wrote neglected first. But derelict relieves me of responsibility.

Time. I think the reason I spend so much of it trying to understand what it is, is because I do waste it. Or spin in place as it passes. All these “free” hours open up like sinkholes in the days. They don’t feel like freedom. They feel free of substance, actually. And inescapable.

Some days I can only get the work done when there is no time in which to do it. To get outside with a plan of some sort. To get upstairs and work with the paints. To fold the damned laundry.

Instead, I have an open afternoon – another open afternoon – and sit here brooding. And chiding myself when E. can hear me.

And it is not very convincing.

the grey heron sleeps
in the reeds-keeps her distance
eye on the canoes