One of my favorite heroines, Zora Neale Hurston wrote the line “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Apparently it’s to do with the flow of creative life, but I can also see how it can apply to the days of our lives, our day to day flow and how we can be cruising along, blissfully unaware, perhaps on autopilot — and then — blindsided. A shattering blow. Friday was like that for my sister’s family. I didn’t see the text until yesterday morning when I went downstairs. Times like these, I want to hit stop motion, press pause, rewind…and return to that sweet spot before the world turned upside down. But I can’t — so I return to the book on tape I’ve been listening to intermittently, Suleika Jaouad’s “Between Two Kingdoms,” — Suleika, a recent college graduate, 23 years old, off beginning her adult life in an exciting city — and bam, hit with a gutting diagnosis. At the moment, our family remains in that in-between space of not knowing and not wanting to think or say what we’re afraid of, hoping and not daring to hope, that place no one wants to be in and everyone wants to stay in if it means living in this eternal moment of possibility just a little bit longer. For the next few days, there will be times we breathe, and times we hold our breath.
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.
When I walk there’s much to experience that can set the tone for my day. The time of year and day can make a huge difference — tourist season, ferry schedules, landscapers, builders, rush hours — all of this plays into it. Some days are better than others, and I come home happy. Other days, while content, there may be underlying disappointment and irritation for any number of reasons, usually encountered on the walk. But not today.
We cut through different lanes on each walk, and today I wanted to go by what I call the Easter basket house — with their side garden full of yellow daffodils, lavender, pink, purple, etc. hyacinths, tulips, and a host of other spring bulbs. All they needed was a few bunnies and chickens to complete that giant basket overflowing with joy. There were ospreys, robins, starlings and geese, and shrubs blooming magenta and cherry blossom pink, and it was all a visual treat.
I even found delight in the Wonder Bread bag caught on a post, and yes it’s plastic, and yes it’s litter, two things I very much despise, but it was a lighthearted reminder of happy childhoods of bologna, PBJs and fluffernutters on puffy white bread, and all the other memories that go with that childhood — all inspired by a plastic piece of trash decorated with colorful, cheery polka dots.
Lessons from Animal Friends
What my dog taught me today. Some days I can be driven to distraction. Actually, the truth is…MOST days I can be. And I realized that today when I was settled in and relaxed over a task that can’t be rushed through. I tend to rush through my tasks. RushRushRush, I feel like we’ve been conditioned to rush. But I notice that when I slow down and can really give the specific task the attention it deserves, it can actually be an enjoyable thing. I learned this from my dog, Oonagh. A lot of nervous energy she has and she feeds off mine. And once I do actually settle down to the task at hand, she settles down to what she believes is her task — keeping me settled, and keeping a lookout on the world through the windows so we don’t have to.
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.’”
Rhythm and Routine
Back to the daily rhythm of a familiar routine. A routine gives me an anchor as I make my way in the world, regardless of where I’ve landed. Daily walk. Tea. Meditation. Connection of some sort — whatever it takes, it can all help make a difference for ourselves, others, and how we move through the turbulent times of our lives.
The Monday Dash
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?
Louise Brooks Crush
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.”