My words sprawl across the pages of inexpensive, spiral bound sketchbooks. I’m a messy writer, scrawling and scratching and scribbling out words before I finally get a piece the way I want it. And sometimes I just have to let it fly as it is, knowing it’s not gonna be perfect but it’s the best I’ve got in the moment. It’s why I don’t like the precious, pretty journals they sell in bookstores and stationery shops — they intimidate me, the outside already looks like a finished work of art, while inside the blank pages stare back at me daring me to mess them up, and I just can’t. Give me scraggly sketchbooks filled with words spilled across the pages in my sloppy cursive and haphazard printing instead.
There was a beautiful home perched high above us on our walking route — settled on the utility pole right before our turn off onto another beach road. It’s been there for the past few years since we’ve been walking that way. Such a sweet home — I’m not sure if it has had the same stewards each year or not, but you can tell it’s been cared for, and the couple tending it work together in tandem, keeping it so. Sometimes one will fly off for some grub, perhaps while the other one nests. Monday we saw the two of them, sitting up there in their cozy nest, watching the world go by. We skipped yesterday’s walk because of the wind, but today’s we didn’t — as we neared the beach I dreaded to find what I saw was littering the road ahead. Yesterday’s fierce winds had torn through that nest, and smashed it to smithereens on the street below. I wondered about those ospreys. I was heartbroken for them, wondering if they’d found a safe place to land, while they rebuilt — hoping they hadn’t lost their babies and that they weren’t feeling as discouraged as I would’ve felt. Later this afternoon, I read in one of my newsletters about the Eastern Monarch Butterfly, and how 90% of their migratory grassland habitat has been destroyed by development.
War isn’t the only activity that decimates the landscape and its inhabitants. Home loss and violent weather systems brought on by human conceits — these things destroy lives too, both the living land and the beings who live upon it.
I am enjoying more resistance art these days, particularly poetry. A recent favorite is a young poet originally from the Ukraine — art, resistance, despair, hope — the art and the resistance, whether passive or active can somehow help make the despair more bearable. The following is an excerpt from Ilya Kaminsky’s poem “American Tourist.”
From “Dancing in Odessa.”
“When Moses broke the sacred tablets on Sinai, the rich picked “adultery” and “kill” and “theft.” The poor got only ‘No’ ‘No’ ‘No.’”
Monday, Monday, be good to me. It’s what I said to myself this morning, and it hasn’t disappointed me. I love a slow dally into the day as much as I love old cemeteries, the hush and the reverence of a slow dawdle in a place where time stands still for an eternity for those who lie beneath There’s that dash on gravestones between the year of birth and the year of death, and the question “what did you you do with your dash?”and I wonder about those dashes. If their dashes felt the way ours do nowadays, like we are literally dashing through our days, and how aware were they of the blur that was their lives, if it was a blur the way our lives feel in the age of environmental and social collapse? Especially if we’re lucky enough to live for more than half a century? What rapid changes swept them up in their lifetimes as they sweep us up in ours, in the perpetual whirlwind of so-called human progress?
Fog. Full moon. Vernal equinox. I half expect to see a phantom Jack the Ripper or wild creatures, half-earth/ half-other world emerge from the mists that have swooped and swirled about me, drifting over the local realm this past week, the earth a simmering cauldron, containing a multitude of mysteries, undulating and pulsating within, ready to release an unknown with a wild abandon that has no bounds. Meanwhile, Earthly Alchemy, our own special magic we are so far out of touch with, our primordial instincts fuzzy with the static of this so-called modern life, I fear we are on the brink of losing it forever. We humanoids are perhaps in danger of becoming the ghost in the machine.
Off bright and early for the monthly Irish breakfast with DadHe’ll be talking craic with the waitresses as we have a few particular favorites — Ilkay from Turkey, Evie from Ireland and Neko, who joked she was from a little village in Ireland called “Bosnia” when I first met her. Both my dad’s parents came over from Ireland in the 20’s, my grandfather from County Cork and my grandmother from County Limerick. Today’s my granddad’s “official” birthday. He was in the IRA by the time he was a teenager, something that always thrilled me, and he’d been imprisoned for a time during the Civil War for anti-Treaty activity, going on a hunger strike, etc. which just made the story all the more scintillating for me. He was delighted at the prospect of a grandchild, me being his first but sadly he died two months before I was born — he went into the hospital for gall bladder surgery and died of a heart attack on the operating table. He was only 58. Fortunately, until the age of 9, I had my great-Uncle Billy around, my grandmother’s bachelor brother. I was a merciless pest when it came to bothering him in the front den as he smoked his pipe, trying to relax in his cozy corner chair. On the other hand, he’d slip me dollar bills once in a while for various treats. He lived with my Gran and uncles by the time I was born, and he was my stand-in. I used to call him “Grampa” because I wanted a grandfather (my grandmother was the only grandparent I had), and he was certainly old enough. He always reminded me he wasn’t my grandad and of course, I knew that, but I could pretend, couldn’t I?
Having a Louise Brooks moment these days. Louise, quintessential flapper, on why she would never write her memoirs:
“We flatter ourselves when we assume that we have restored the sexual integrity that was expurgated by the Victorians. It is true that many exposés are written to shock, to excite, to make money. But in serious books characters remain as baffling, as unknowable as ever…I too am unwilling to write the sexual truth that would make my life worth reading. I cannot unbuckle the Bible Belt.”
These twice a year time changes we do — forwards in Spring, backwards in Fall — feel so arbitrary and counterintuitive to me. Perhaps rather insolent on the part of the powers that be who instituted it in the first place. Measuring our days and seasons by the rhythms of the natural world (including my own biorhythms) makes more sense to me, and in the early days after a time change I tend to say “it’s really —— o’clock,” until I finally “feel” like it’s the time it’s now “supposed” to be. I find calling it “daylight savings time” to be pretty funny, like it’s some sort of special “time outside of time.” It‘s still the same amount of daylight every day, regardless of what a clock says. And what are we saving it for anyway? Where are we going to put it?
Orion Magazine is one of my favorite reads. A variety of thoughtful essays, poems and stories describing the wonders of our natural world and contemplating its impending loss. The following passage struck me this morning from Martha Lundin’s essay, “Siren Song,” about the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior back in 1975. I hear naming a ship after a man is considered bad luck. If anyone knows the answer, I’d love to know why. Here’s an outtake from the article:
“We name women who spend too much time with nature “Witch.” Dub her dangerous. Unpredictable. Call her “Other.” The land is something to fear or exploit. To be a witch is to love the natural world more than the things human hands have made. And so we burn her. Or we revere her. We tell stories about her to frighten children in the woods or the water. Though some of us may ask her for help. Or maybe just mercy.”
This morning we’re off to the local St. Patrick’s Day parade which has happened every year for the past 16 or so, with the exception of 2021. In 2020 we went, and within two weeks other parades around the country and the world had been canceled. We felt doubly fortunate — that we made it to one of the few St. Patrick’s parades that hadn’t been canceled, and that the momentum hadn’t yet started that could make it a super-spreader event. My dad marches every year in the parade, carrying either the American or Irish flag for his club, the Sons of Erin. He has marched in torrential downpours, high winds, even snow, and every once in a great while (actually it WAS ONLY ONCE in a great while) in warm springlike sunshine. The only year he didn’t March was when he was the local Irish Man of the Year. That year he rode in an old Packard along with the Irish Woman of the Year. It’s a grand time, everyone is in high spirits, and later on it’s what you’d expect — hijinks and Guinness. Because Guinness is good for you. And the next day? Drive by the Sons in the morning and while it might look like they already have a full house at 10am? That’s just all the folks who left their cars overnight because they were in no condition to drive home.