I keep my journaling in files month-by-month. It is not as satisfying as the various soft covered writing books that I wrote in and then lined up on book shelves but far more practical and convenient. I still carry a small paper journal but it is for quick jottings that, if I am still interested in hours later, I transcribe to this screen. Where I was once meticulous to finish each journal before moving on to a new one, I am likewise meticulous about keep each month’s scribblings in its own computer file. And so, it is odd for me to still be writing in the August 2021 file on September 3. I know the intent yesterday was consolidate what I had written during our days in Maine and to publish something with the Maine photos, but I could not concentrate on a vacation summary. Descriptions of charming towns and water and sky slipping away into explanations, systems of ideas explaining our present reality. Trying to make sense of my own present “where.”
A 3-day heat wave was predicted. It might last longer. It will not break sooner. We missed the first heat wave here and lived it in Maryland where our nights were air conditioned. Then, there were a few hot days about a month ago and our air conditioners were still in the basement. I could not bring them up alone and I have not yet found a handy person like my Ed of Madison who knew my house better than I did. Of course, this is not my house, except for the term of my lease, and my handy person tasks are few.
Cheshire and Justin brought one unit from by basement at the end of last week, just in time for yesterday. And I did what I have done since I moved to Wisconsin and met the cold: I closed up the house, windows closed, blinds and shades down, doors to rooms not used closed tight. And left the air conditioner on through out the night. This is so odd for me, I sleep with open windows, but the house is cool, even the bedrooms are tolerable.
Good, hardworking little machine. Thank you. And thank you for the grace of children who will do those tasks I am unable to.
Pause. Perceive time. Defined by ticking timers with bells at the end, clocks and calendars is one time. Linear, predictable and plodding. But time. My time. Our time. Is different. It rushes ahead, it slows to as thick slime over cobbles, it slides sideways, quickly, irreverently, without regard for wishes, dreams or clocks. Over the long covid spring, summer, fall, winter and early spring, time lurched and sputtered. Time lost themselves is a foggy reality of days that lost their names. There was too much, not enough of it. It was not manageable no matter the breath and depth of my schedules and calendars. There was no corralling it for me. I did not write my Lear. I did not read Proust. I read and digested a few poems. Very few, very short. I was anxious and scared. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and grabbed onto a lot of outstretched hands. I wrote some. I dug two gardens. I pushed Julia’s interests and her future doings along bit by bit. Like Sisyphus. Didn’t he write emails and phone calls to agencies and people? A modern Zeus would have surely assigned him to tackle DDS, SS and DIB. Chasing genius ideas to the dead ends of realization—there should be a word for the feeling of frustration and failure when lots of energy has gone into a promising lead that is chased to an unsatisfying end.
The quality of time was a small ball of clay that could be removed from the greater river of time in which we all swim. We gathered via zoom with others but there was a sense of privacy—not cherished and beloved privacy but something like a hidden shame, even though there was no shame—we were visible in our small, regular zoom boxes with backgrounds of books that grew to be familiar and to a much lesser degree to the peopled world from noses up.
On Sunday, March 14th, I delivered my This I believe to the congregation of FUUSN (First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton). Had it been ordinary times, I would have done it standing the the pulpit looking over the congregation. I don’t know whether that would have have been more or less intimidating. As it was, I was safe in my little zoom box sitting in my study seemingly talking to myself. If you’ve read anything on this blog before, you will recognize ideas and passages. I am grateful that Erin asked me to do this and grateful that I was daring enough to say, ‘yes.’
I hesitated when Erin [Erin Splaine is FUUSN’s minister] asked me to speak today. After all, I still count my FUUSN membership in months, and I’ve gotten to know so many of you, not in person, but in these little zoom boxes. That could make me just a bit shy about sharing my heart today. And then, I write all the time about what I do and think, but I don’t think I have many conclusions. “This I believe” sounds, at least to me, like the speaker has come to a few conclusions. Of course, we ask our COA teens to take up this task and they always do it brilliantly. But it seems to me that the older I get the fewer conclusions I have.
There is a line from my husband, David’s last play, the play that was performed a few months after his death. The line goes like this:
Just suppose you are now doing and have been doing for quite awhile exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing.
A jumble of thoughts, events and musings today.
Snow day for Julia. During the last big snow, there has been only one serious snow before this one, Newton decided not to call a snow day but to merely go all remote for classes that day. I think that most students were zooming in from home anyway, so it was only the high needs students (of which Julia is one) and some very young students who would have their school day changed. However! However, there was an uproar from all corners of town! How could NPS steal precious snow day activities from children already deprived of so much of their normal? The children should have been building snow people and sledding down hills, not stuck in front of computers all day. I don’t know what the internal (or external) politics were, but the next day a traditional and completely unnecessary snow day was declared.
I am not a poet. When I was young and when I was younger than I am now, I did not even have the patience to read poetry. Too few word, too many thoughts left in breaths, too many questions in spare phrases, too much for me to unwrap. I wanted prose that left no nuance unexamined and unexplained in long wordy paragraphs. I thought I would read poetry when I was old.
And so, now I must be old. I have favorite poets. I even know a few. I cannot do what they do, but I admire their work the way I admire what painters and sculptors do. I think I understand their craft, to some small extent, because every so often, words come out of me when I sit to write, that edge closer to what poets do than what I usually scribble down.
And that happened this morning.
Last Sunday, I was asked to talk about resilience at church. This is what I said.
I’d like to start with . . . Jane Hirshfield’s poem,
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.
I wanted to be a pillow, but if there is any lesson in the last 6 months, it is cultivating the tenacity of trees.
Talking resilience in medias res, I had no idea where to begin and what to tell.
Julia has today off for Yom Kippur. I’ve never observed the day of atonement but this year, because it is punctuated by a school holiday, it sticks in my mind. Who to include on the list of those to ask forgiveness of, who to reach out to, who to say a silent prayer for, to give a silent thought for.
I have a list of what I’d like do during this season—reading, writing, getting body and voice into shape—and the challenge is simply beginning. Six months at home alone with Julia, working as planner and manager as well as caregiver and cook, makes the discipline to begin something for myself hard. Last week, days 4 to 8 of my free days, I did what I needed to do—finally getting to see the dentist, finding a place to fix my rocking chair and bringing it in, returning books to the library and picking up new holds, a bit of weeding and cooking. I don’t seem to be able to slam into the discipline I need but I can pick off some low hanging fruit. My lists should probably be written in circles. That low hanging fruit needs picking so it wasn’t a waste of time, it just didn’t feel like a launch.Continue reading
Throughout my young life, my father drove Buicks. The first one I remember, just vaguely, was black with red seats. It was huge, wide and tall, to my small self and I remember having the back seat all to myself. My brother was in the front seat—held by my mother or in a tiny “car seat” with its own steering wheel. Amazing that all my siblings who sat in that tiny seat grew to adulthood. I could sit or lie or play with toys in the big back seat. Unfortunately, I have always been one to get very motion sick. A short ride to church or school, got me dizzy. A 20 minute ride to grandma’s house ruined half a day, and the ride to the Jersey shore would slay me. My father stopped on the shoulder of the road, I got out and threw up everything in my stomach. Even when I didn’t eat or took the dreaded dramamine, which I may have been allergic to, I was wretched.
But this is about driving cars, not riding in them. Only once and in my adult life have I ever felt sick driving and that was in a big, empty school van.Continue reading
The time rolls on; once again, days melt into one another. Everything is effort. The news comes to us via radio, youtube and the nytimes. I don’t think that Julia hears and comprehends much of it; however, she is quick to say that she doesn’t want to go to school and catch the virus. I tell her that I will not send her if it is not safe and at the same time, I gather information on how to send her to school and what to do when she gets home. I tell her we will listen to the teachers and the scientists, even though no one has definitive advice. Julia does not do well with gray. I fall and fail with the continuing ambiguity our time.
The chrysalis stage of a butterfly is my favorite metaphor for transformation. What a miracle that a caterpillar makes the container and turns itself into a gooey substance before transforming. Where are we in that process right now? Who is in the process now? Can we have as much trust as a caterpillar? Continue reading