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.
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.’”
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.
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.”