Now, it seems like every morning I sit down in front of the computer I second guess myself. I wonder if I have already written down the ideas that are bouncing around my head. I am sure I have. My life is all about repeating myself (and maybe repeating what’s handed down in DNA somehow?). Variations on a theme. Every bit of writing a piece of a kaleidoscope image of the same small life. This sliver through this filter. Now turned at this angle.

I don’t know why I’ve become self-conscious about this. It could be a consequence of my restlessness. Feeling like there little that is novel in my life. In the past 16 months, I have not been more than a 45-minute drive from my home. I haven’t sweat just sitting on a beach in the sunshine. I haven’t stopped to listen to buskers in the Bank tube station tunnel or gotten lost in an unfamiliar city. Though yesterday walking back from my vaccine shot at a local jr. high, I got lost here: a 20-minute walk from the house. (I am surprised how many of my neighbors have bright poppies in their stone hedges.)

Part of me would be happy to pack up and move somewhere new. But E. has ties here. And I am as happy as I have ever been. Restlessness aside. Pain aside. I am holding several states of being in my heart at once more easily than I have before. Me packing all my belongings won’t stop the hurt. I am thinking it’s a superstitious impulse. If I make a major change the whole world will have to change. The butterfly effect as an emotional placebo. A half-baked bargain with God. I’ll make it right now. I’ll change and the world can right itself.

I turn my life over and over in my hands and stay curious. This is my life as a worry stone. I suppose it is a kind of sleight of hand or misdirection. Rubbing the stone does little. It’s an eternity project: smoothing a groove with my thumb. But I am doing something in the face of my own uselessness.

It seems to me our culture ridicules self-soothing of any sort, as childish—if not infantile—behavior. We should be stronger. But meditation is a form of self-soothing. Running. Dancing until the sweat of your lower back stains your shirt. Lit candles at the dinner table. A dog in your lap. I am strong enough to hold all the good and all the bad—and not need to pretend I can vanquish the latter.

I keep telling myself.

I am asking myself again whose story it is to tell. Any child, any parent, any lover. Where do we draw the line where empathy & witnessing cross into personal appropriation. Respecting their secrets, their pains, their right to speak for themselves—or choose not to.

These days I am circling an outer ring of something more difficult than I have ever had to bear. The unimaginable. No. That’s not true. It’s the imaginable that your mind toys with like a specter like a hazy figure on a polaroid. The slender man among the trees in the fog. But it is something else when he walks into your bedroom and sits on the quilt so his weight pins your legs. He puts his hand on your sternum and breaths in your face. And he says he’ll be here for you until you die.

Only it’s not me there on the bed. I’m in the doorway. Helpless. Rubbing a worry stone. Wishing it were me on the bed. Surely I could make a pact with God? This is my story. And this is not my story. I am in the hallway. My finger making slow circles on a bit of stone.

a leaf’s edge is sharp
up close, the periphery
can slice you in two

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