Hello, Seven years ago, I blogged my way through psychosis. A central aspect of what was clinically described as “a psychotic break” was my conviction that I had discovered a way to prove God through analysis of the shapes of clouds. In my medical records, I was described as having “delusions of grandeur,” as I was quite certain that some power greater than me (God? The Illuminati? God and the Illuminati?) had orchestrated my realization.
[Every once in a while, I experiment with how I might begin an introduction and query. This is not a sensationalized mental health memoir.]
Sep 26 (13 days ago)
The inertia that reinforces and perpetuates this life structure of mine is a strong, strong force.
For several days, I am able to find footing in practicing the habit of writing, of working on compiling the assemblage of writings that will be ‘my book.’ (It makes me happy that auto-correct just changed the singular book into the plural books. I am such a fiend for small, imagined encouragements. I collect them, these happenstance suggestions that my dreams are possible.)
…for the past several years, I have only maintained a regular and focused writing project for several days at a time, a few magical weeks. The month of November last year, when I generated over 50,000 words in 30 days, some of which may be portions of a novel that I may not ever finish, a couple of short stories that could be explored. A character or two, a conversation in an imagined restaurant in downtown Jacksonville, c. 1915, perhaps brought into the present, the youth modernized trainhoppers?
I don’t know how I managed NaNoWriMo. At the time, it didn’t seem that difficult. It was even, at times, fun in that way that only writing and painting and playing music are fun, that breathless immersion in the sound and feel of things, all that comes to mind and heart unbidden. The delight in the unexpected, the warmth of the nuances, that feeling of love…of dearness, oh small and secret creation…the double-entendre and the well-wrought hints in the space between the notes, the overlay of color.
I just sent a flurry of text messages…and am finding myself distracted by various work-thoughts/work-realities, the lives that exist in conjunction and relation with mine, the things that may need to happen to ensure that particular situations and scenarios happen smoothly, or as smoothly as possible within my scope of influence.
Being in the present is great, but does not preclude the need to plan or the reality that plans for what is not yet present is a part of the present.
I have lost that fun feeling. Work-thoughts shift my nervous system into a monitored anxiety and general flatness with burrs of an interpreted resistance to the complex reality of my occupation.
I was thinking the other day, driving you-know-where, that I don’t talk much about the details of my day. The reason for this is that the vast majority of my day happens under HIPPA law.
Sometimes I find scraps of the day in my sentences, like splinters of poems, anonymous fragments, images, my side of the conversation blurred into general statements that could be said to anyone. Third person and they pronouns.
Nothing identifying of anything other than an inspecific humanity.
I don’t talk about my kids either, other than to briefly acknowledge – again in fragments and occasional references to my experience as a mother – that I share my life with two young humans.
I used to write more about them. Their lives, however, are not mine to write about…which is such an impossible thing, given that my life is intertwined with theirs, and my experience as a mother . . . oh, mercy, my experience as a mother…
It’s tough, impossible, to tease apart the time I lost my mind and contributing factors in my losing my mind from my experience as a mother, as a member of a family.
None of this is to say that my family made me lose my mind or that being a mother made me lose my mind.
It was not until I worked in the place that I work, where I have worked since about two months out of the hospital following my last crisis, that I learned about stress vulnerability and the impact of trauma on the nervous system and various means of experiencing and interpreting reality, fundamental mechanisms of meaning-making.
I didn’t know there was such a thing as “mental health triggers” and “emotional triggers” or whatever language you want to use.
I was in and out of the mental health system for over twenty freaking years and nobody ever told me how my brain works and how this impacts my nervous system and how my body feels, how I make-meaning out of that information.
That blows my mind when I consider it.
Nobody ever gave me even the most simple information, the most basic information, about my brain.
I didn’t even know what a Flippin ‘ amygdala is.
One thing I know about my brain is that it is all over the place most days, and wonky in what it finds important, how it interprets life as I know it…how I know it…
I forgive myself this scatteredness, because of course I am scattered.
I have slept for 10 hours over the past two nights, and have driven 150 miles, I have made breakfasts and lunches and facilitated classes and volunteered at an economic justice advocacy training, washing dishes in the kitchen, serving food, filling up water glasses. My daughter comes with me to volunteer. She wants to do it. It was her idea. A few days ago, I went to a football game to help to chaperone the band section, to “maintain the integrity of the band area” I am a crappy chaperone. If kids want to stand by tubas and dance, or lean over and talk with their friends I don’t want to tell them not to…I watched my son play music, full uniform. I love marching bands, and have for many years. It only recently occurred to me that school marching bands are probably military in origin and I hope my realization of this doesn’t take away the good feeling that drum lines and crescendos and walls of sound crashing up from the field give me. I ran up a mile – long hill today, for a total of 3.3 miles in just over a 1/2 hour, which meant that at times, for me, I was running very fast…because I was going very slowly up the hill, probably a 13 minute mile pace…and then I came home and ran the dog for another mile…I sat with at least 8 crying people, four angry people, and a great many hopeful people.
…so, it makes sense that now, 16 hours after I woke up and with still more to do…that I am tired…and when I am tired, I am scattered.
However, my scatteredness also has a bit to do with how I tend to think, which is fairly non-linear, but with intermittent laser sharp linearity, which then usually explodes of into tangential shrapnel of ideas and associations.
This was the best I could do tonight. The most that I could make note of, take inventory of.
Sep 27 (12 days ago)
The man said hello to me, as I started the walk back to my car from the Senior Opportunity Center. He fell into step beside me, talking about traffic on the I-26, and the accident he almost saw on Patton Avenue.
“I was just standing there on the sidewalk, watching these two cars, and I was like, ‘This is crazy!”
“Yeah, it sounds like you were paying attention.” I noticed that my voice dropped a little when I said the word attention, did that thing that makes me feel like I might be saying more than I am.
The man, tall and stooped around the shoulders, a face that is still handsome, shaped by indigenous blood, the set of his cheeks and architecture of nose. A beautiful person, smelling that laboratory smell that comes up after a few straight days of drinking, old alcohol, poorly metabolized, he sat down on the small wall outside of the Employment Securities Commission and I sat down beside him. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, sister, I was paying attention. I pay attention.”
I didn’t know why I thought he might be saying more than he was, like maybe I ought to listen to this man more deeply than I might listen to everyday small talk. He shifted toward me, and I understood that he would ask me for money, and I was okay with that.
He began his request, and I didn’t need him to go on about what he was looking for.
I opened up my bag, “Let me see if I have any paper money.” I knew I did. A crumple of two singles, and a secret 10 dollar bill. I pulled out the crumpled two dollars and pressed it into his hand. The man nodded, almost solemn,squeezed my hand, said thank you, “Thank you, my sister.”
He leaned in toward me, and I felt like God was watching us, sitting there on that wall. The woman wearing all black and the old man in the sun.
There was a pause, and I plucked the ten dollar bill out of the small zippered pocket inside of my bag, grasped the man’s hand, transferring the money.
His whooping surprised me, his jumping up and slapping his leg, pulling his hand into a fist that beat against his chest, solidly, once, twice. “My sister! Oh, yes, my sister!”
I stood up, pulling my bag back onto my shoulder.
He grabbed me, pulled me to him, all his sweat and alcohol smell around me, his arms strong and knotted feeling, like wood across my back. I didn’t feel scared. I have hugged many strangers in my life, and I had felt no danger from this man, none at all. He kissed my head, up by my hair line, and hugged me like I really was his sister, like he hadn’t seen me in a long time, like he was my brother.
Because it was a Wednesday morning, and I had just spent the morning giving beautiful and extravagant foods to low-income seniors and listening to my friend sing and play the same songs over and over again, guitar over by the recliner, because it was sunny and I was wearing all black and a man had given me quartz and amethyst the day before, because I hadn’t slept well, and my heart was broken because two children died in a car accident…because of all these things, and because of the force of the sweetest, the knotted strength of love, lips pressed against my head, right at my hairline, the feeling of his hands at my shoulders…I could imagine, for a moment, that I was his sister, or that something of his sister, some sister from a long time ago, was with me for that walk down the sidewalk, that talk on the wall, the money for a bottle passing between hands, a small mercy in an impossible life.
He began to utter the words, quiet, like a prayer, then broke away from me and shouted them, hollering them out to the street like he was calling down gods, exclaiming to the universe. He turned to me, and put his fist on his chest. “My sister…”
I put my hand on my chest, and we stood there, five feet apart, regarding one another, fists over hearts and smiling.
He stepped forward to embrace me again. “I love you, I love you…you, you are blessed person.”
He stepped back, took my hands in his, and nodded to me, then turned and started walking back up toward town, still saying those words, louder and then quiet, a chanting rise and fall. I watched him walk, and listened, said the words to myself, trying not to forget them.
He was almost back to where we’d begun walking together when I caught up to him. “Excuse me, sir, those words? What are those words?”
He repeated them, quiet like a secret. I said them back.
He corrected my pronunciation of the last syllable, and said it with me until I said it clearly, with some conviction.
“It means peace, and goodness, salvation.”
Walking back to my car, I said the phrase over and over again. In my car, I wrote down how I thought the sounds might be spelled, but I still don’t know what the words are, or where they came from.
I tried to Google what I thought the words sounded like, spelled out phonetically, with hyphens between the syllables, to remind myself of the intonation, the rhythm of the sounds.
I learned a little about Hebrew suffixes, and looked at the cover of an old Busta Rhymes album, Woo Hah.
It’s like a beating heart, isn’t it? I could have sworn I saw a panther in this.
|Sep 28 (11 days ago)|
It is 10:34, and I am feeling the slight tremors of nervousness about getting enough sleep. That’s because I have trained myself to believe that it is necessary that I get at least 6, optimally 7 or 8, hours of sleep a night. Also, as the sort of diurnal mammal that I am, I actually do need a good night’s sleep.
If I am overtired, my faculties and functioning begin to falter…like, oh, using too many F words…both in alliteration and cursing.
Tomorrow, I am coordinating a public event in a private setting. I should probably settle myself down before all that begins…by sleeping well, staying calm…being conscientious and slow in my interactions, listening more than I speak.
People will be listening to me.
I shouldn’t think about it too much.
The event is focused on gratitude and appreciation for the people and places that have been there for us during rough times. It’s a brunch, with art and music in the afternoon. I have been working on trying to pull it together for weeks and weeks.
I usually feel calm and happy and beaming when I spend time at work talking with people about gratitude. So, I figure it will be okay.
I’ll bring the sea animal waffle iron, for dolphin waffles and crab waffles. People like waffles. They like Dolphins.
This morning is a blur, a conversation with a young assistant manager at the u-scan aisles. “I’ll be back tomorrow morning, okay?”
I don’t remember what songs were on the radio. I will probably remember in a moment. Traffic has been bad lately. Sunrise coming later. It was dark when I drove home, 11 hours after I left home. An email from some city planner, about not sending emails. A zoning shenanigan I have gotten involved in, for reasons I am not entirely clear on, except that I seem to have a little energy to support a neighbor who has let people know he is not being heard. There are so many other things that I ought to be going to City Council meetings about – transit and police funding, affordable housing, decriminalizing homelessness, converting unused parking lots to green space and gardens. Why this? Maybe it’s accessible enough and finite enough?
I felt bad that my neighbor was having such a tough time getting the city to hear his point about this peculiar discrepancy in a district proposal that would allow for a 5 story building to be built in his backyard. Currently, the property adjacent is zoned to allow for an 8 story building. Three stories would be more appropriate, because there is a lovely view of the mountains at the top of the hill.
It’s mostly the view that I am inclined to defend. We have one neighbor left on our street that has been here for decades, and every day when she comes home, she sees that view, those western mountains. When she walks out to her porch in the evening, she sees that view.
I do not want my neighbor to have to look at a building where the view she has seen for 40 years used to be.
I understand things change, and that’s precisely the point…things change.
Like I said, only one of the families that used to live on this street still does. Like all the areas surrounding the district adjacent to this neighborhood, this little street is affected by the tendencies of gentrification.
Why, I myself was in the first wave of gentrification in this neighborhood…me and my family, the college renters, paying the mortgages of property investors. The neighbor of mine whose home would be very near any development that happens down in the proposed district, he is part of the gentrification of this neighborhood.
The house he lives in was an ugly house for a long, long time…squat brown modular, a groundhog posture there by the kudzu and the trail that street kids and day-drinkers used to get from the convenience store down by the railroad tracks up to the big street, closer to town, to the park, to the towers.
Over the past 5 years, he has made it a beautiful home, with gardens and a massive prickly pear that lives through winter.
It would suck to work to make something beautiful and invest in something only to find that a big ass building blocks your view and all you see all night are halogens and the lights of other people’s lives behind the shades.
There are bigger problems in the world though, for sure. We are lucky to have to houses. To have computers to look at zoning code documents when we could be doing art, or sitting with another human being.
I really want my elder neighbor to keep her view, but I might not be able to be of much help.
All I want to do is write a poem, offer it as a presentation during the public hearing, make a point that way. I don’t have much time to write poems on PowerPoint lately. Things keep happening. I get tired. The thought of working on a digital presentation project, of turning on the computer, looking at the computer, is off-putting.
So, there was that email, after a meeting, part of a class…painting the word Thank You in big curling letters, a blazing heart punching through the space between the words…painting with two other people…later in a parking lot with my back against another human being ‘s back, sitting in a chatty meditation, some unintentional gestalt experiment in connection through facing away from one another. The intimacy of human contact, but with no overtures of the sort of performative sexuality or sensuality that characterize many of the modes of physical connection that people seek out.
I hung up paper cranes folded from cloud photos in a maple tree.
Stopped at the store at the way home. Bought paper plates and plastic forks with my own money. Ran in the dark with the dog for 40 minutes, even though traffic was backed up for miles and I got home late, 12.5 hours since I’d left home this morning.
It’s 11:09. I have some clarity around a couple of things now.
…and I am tired.
Sep 28 (11 days ago)
Oh, jeez, this morning – foolish, foolish – I looked at my stats, because there had been an odd day when someone or something from Canada had riffled through quite a few of these longer, more recent posts…I don’t know if they actually read them, or just scrolled down . . .
This morning, I was thinking about the interactive quality of scrolling down a Web page …words sliding in a blur of grey and broken lines, images unloaded, and then – something catches – a space, a header.
A color or slight form. Some shred of text itself. A phrase.
Considering this possible mode of interacting with online content, I felt a little less indulgent in regard to this habit of long-form accumulations.
“Think of the reader! You have to think of the reader!”
I don’t expect anyone to read all of this. I, myself, can hardly read through the entirety of a post, here or elsewhere.
I do like to scroll through pages though, and sometimes make a game of what sort of information catches my eye.
Maybe that’s how this ought to be read?
Speaking of being read, I foolishly checked my stats this morning and saw that on Saturday someone read a really naive and kinda stupid post I’d made, about a naive and kinda stupid thing I’d done in response to a ______ and kinda ______ idea that I had had.
Good to know.
I am aware that part of this whole thing was to display the process of going from a fairly sane and generally well-functioning if not a little quirky mother of two -> sliding in a relatively earnest and variably clever, lovely-but-exceedingly-foolish-crazy-world that was probably worth experiencing and that I am glad that I survived -> life coming apart at the seams, the most basic frameworks of connection and affiliation, identity and cohesive reality eroded and reconfigured – > a person who is okay, healthy even, and doing pretty darn well at all she is trying to do…who still has quirks, maybe even more.. definitely more…but, who is happy and able to show up for most of the things she is committed to showing up for…including this…
…and this pie, which I made with molasses and demerara sugar, with coarse salt…because I was out of brown sugar and only had coarse salt.
The people whose opinions of me would generate embarrassment are not the people I am writing for.
I am trying to own my story, even the embarrassing and humiliating parts of it, because I think it is important to learn how to admit that I am an idiot, and sometimes have dumb ideas that seem like great ideas…
I respect myself for being brave enough to have ideas, and to experiment with different ways of perceiving things and for trying to do something that might make a difference, that might help a person out…or, better yet, somehow, might help save the Panthers, the wolves, the Dolphins. Salamanders. Fish. Everything.
This is what happens when you grow up with parents who are naturalists in a town that is home to a nuclear submarine facility.
I don’t ever remember my parents talking about the base. They mostly just talked about the garden and the road and the trees and the tides and what was happening with the weather, watched the news about the war.
Before, I have written about finding that pamphlet in the chest up in the loft, in the dome that was our living room. Nuclear reactors on the cover, foreboding skies.
I have been terrified of “nuclear” since I was little kid. The Chernobyl era. My mother’s stories about hiding under the desk, her explanation of what the faded yellow and black sign on the side of the courthouse meant.
How can anyone begrudge a person the desire to help the world?
Sep 30 (9 days ago)
As they rose, we all stood still
The lights drifting up toward the moon
And wasn’t there something
In all the love
That rose with them
And wasn’t there something
Of a young man
who loved to play the trumpet
And the freedom of his younger brother
In the keening cry of that lone bird
That flew over the thousands
There in the night
As the band played on
I have to believe that the world
Still has that spirit
That the best of us will never
Will never be forgotten
Will be with us always
In the sound of young people playing music
In laughter by the creek
The smell of pencils and the quickness of smiles
And in, of course, the color orange.
[These poem-like thoughts were quick-written the morning after a memorial vigil held in honor of two young lives lost, an effort to concentrate the feeling of so much love and sadness and beauty and sorrow of that one evening, the sound of crying young people, that girl in the band who sobbed so openly, so raggedly. The pretty lights. That one bird who flew overhead as one of the kids’ best friend spoke, “He loved pencils.” There were over a thousand paper cranes at the vigil, and I couldn’t help but to think of how I had a bag full of cranes in the backseat of my car, and that I had hung them from the tree the night before as an act of remembrance for those lost, not knowing that at my daughter’s school, all the kids were folding cranes to honor their dead classmate.]
[I started a painting of the lanterns rising over the trees to the south of the school, drifting east until they disappeared, the way the air around them glowed, and then they looked like the moon. I would like to finish it someday. That is worth finishing.]
Oct 2 (7 days ago)
On the radio this morning, driving through sun-steaming hills, quiet pastures, I heard the sound of gunshots and people screaming through the speakers. “No known motive,” the broadcaster said, “a lone wolf.”
Oct 2 (7 days ago)
It’s hard for me to think about this right now. Genuinely challenging, with my mind being pulled in at least 12 different directions, lighting on images, remembering things I need to do, anticipating the next day, later this week.
I talk with people all day long about being present, about learning to shift attention. I am still learning how to do these things, and – as I explained to myself previously – finding one’s attention oriented to realms of life that one is not currently inhabiting but that nevertheless exists within, as a part of some reality over the mountains, a participant in some situation that has not yet arisen…well, isn’t that being present?
Recognizing when one’s mind is elsewhere than where one’s body stands, and noticing the ways we aren’t present, paying attention to where the attention wanders?
As I was saying, I am having a difficult time focusing.
This makes sense to me, given what I have asked of my attention today, the myriad people and scenarios that I was present with, the sheer detail of so many moments.
One idea that resurfaces is to compose broken prose poems of details, images…segments of the day stripped of context and singular. It would be an inventory of sorts, hot concrete and worn corks, slumped shoulders, the color red, the taste of honey, and the smell of paint, a word mouthed “aberration” – some fumbled answer to the question, what is your philosophy,
and what a good question that is…my philosophy, what I believe, how I believe, the construction of my knowledge and ways of knowing…my values, worldview. It’d be nice to have a simple answer to such a complicated question. I muttered something about postmodernism, and then quibbled with myself about why I don’t entirely embrace postmodernism, and don’t really know anything about it, other than that it allows for mutable truths and thrashes the conventions of modernity, bends them, makes them absurd. Picking up the broken lamp, the shattered shade from the floor of the classroom. Deconstructivist. I don’t know shit about all these ideas. “I think there are some things that are true.” I painted a thin purple line onto a background of blue, felt the familiar discomfort of believing in truths, that second guessing and skeptical reflex. Driving to work, right before I heard the story about the gunman on the 32 floor, I had been thinking about why it is that I still find it difficult to sit with the potential criticisms of the narrow minded, the sanist. Why do I care what anyone thinks? Why in the world would I feel such a deep and withering dread in imaging other people’s judgments? I know, thinking – wise, that it doesn’t matter what people think and that, really, the only way of being free is to simply be who you are and not let haters and shitheads get you down.
Why is that so hard for me?
I am not running around as the picture of conformity. I have tattoos on my hands and dress a little bit like a pirate or a Cossack, but still have this nagging fear and ugly imagery – jeering, flat faces, men sneering, eyes rolling, the posture of awkward embarrassment. I know what it is, where it came from…I learned to care what people think about me. I was conditioned to consider impressions that others might have of me and to anticipate possible negative reactions. Really, even thinking about this, naming it, creates a nervous system response in me, a tightening in my chest, a drift into worry. “Oh, stop your agonizing. Just be you. Don’t be so scared.”
right after I was thinking about why in the hell I still have this hang-up around jeering criticism even though I know that this fear is foolish and will limit my growth and potential, I heard about the gunman on the 32nd floor.
“Well, of course there was a motive. There was something that this person wanted to accomplish, or do. Some motivator.”
People lose their minds sometimes, do terrible things. Atrocious acts. I think about this on the way to work.
This morning I was thinking about that person, that man on the 32 floor, and I thought about that song Sin City that I like to sing sometimes, one of the few songs that I really sing.
When I heard the man’s name, I imagined him poor, or lower middle class. Isolated, with a roommate he never spoke to.
These are assumptions, the images I had…my biases and prejudices, the conclusions I might make about perpetrators of terror based on limited information.
Note: Oct 09, I have forgotten the man’s name. How is that possible? I have forgotten so many names.
Oct 3 (6 days ago)
…oh, and here I am again…lamenting the barriers to writing…it’s ridiculous, how often I end up here. I have been trying to map it, the faltering of intent, the insistence of inertia and scarcity.
I am trying to learn how to bend time, to fit more into less time…this is not simply a matter of efficiency, of structuring a life that allows for maximum output and synthesis in the least possible time, utilizing the most accessible resources…that often results in shoddy construction.
This blog, in ways, is proof of that phenomenon. (I will x through those words, because assessment of the shoddiness of this construction is based on subjective interpretation of what in this world is worthy of existing, what is solid and lasting…in terms of both ideas and objects. As an object, there are a lot of barnacles here…)
(These are incomplete thoughts, notes to myself to one day remind me of an image I held in my mind, the illusory permanence of the digital and of broken things on a low-tide bank. I am personally noting the deep satisfaction of double entendre, enhanced by the fact that, really, only a few people would get it, what I meant and why it makes me smile that a mention of childhood mudlarking could also suggest or at least very briefly nod to the possibility of economic collapse. Low tide banks.
Oh, shipwrecks. (Written earlier in reference to barnacles, as means of suggesting accumulations that obscure the actual form of a thing, that build and become stuck, concretized. Something one would need to remove in order to see what was underneath, what is bound up under all that accumulation.)
(Here, I am writing these words to help me to understand something about how I make art, and how I write books, about what – exactly – I am dealing with here.)
The other day, someone asked me what my philosophy was. I think capitalism is a terrible economic system. I have core conflicts about my participation in an economic system that I believe, by virtue of my observations and analysis, is toxic to all sentient beings and habitats.
My God, it is 8:33 and there is so much work to be done.
I ran in the forest today. It was okay. Not amazing. Just okay. I ran well for the second half.
It has taken me almost two years of running 3-5 times per week for my body to learn how to run again. I hadn’t run in such a long time, other than for very short stretches, small bursts of speed while engaging in non-running activities or play.
Last week, I was expansive and wide open, edged into adrenaline by lack of adequate sleep and intense activities, by running in the dark and going to the grocery store to get all those ridiculous donuts for that event at work.
By talking and listening. Scrambling from one thing to another. Telling myself to stay calm on the highway, endlessly on that highway, feeling the edge of the steering wheel with the tips of my fingers, looking at the cars around me, the change of seasons in the ditches, searching the edges of the woods for animals or objects. Looking for a song on the radio.
All that driving on that same road is strangely grounding. Gives me time to think, and to check in with myself…where my head is at, things I am feeling excited about and things that create anxiety in the form of a nervous system response, that tightening in my chest, the tangle of vague dreads and sadnesses, the news, lives…songs on the radio, what they mean to me, what the themes are.
I didn’t set out to say anything here tonight, because I have that sense of being congested in my head, of having too much to hold in the sphere of my conscious attention.
Sometimes, I wish I’d get to the point, because it is an important one.
Humans are social, and so it’s not like I don’t need people . . . but, my social needs are low, and my social attentions are limited, because people are not the only thing in the world and I have to have time to gawk around at the sky and listen to insects…and my world is full of people…so many people…
A person with low social needs and limited social attentions working in an extremely social capacity is bound to want to stay home alone on Friday nights.
Maybe if I had gone to school to be a librarian, and worked in tech services, I would have more social energy, spending the whole day with monographs and serials?
[Note fleeting deep desire to go to librarian school.]
Oct 8 (1 day ago)
When a person has too much to do
And too much that they want to do
They don’t know where to start
And get stuck on the porch
Deliberating over what most needs their love
How will the time be well spent
What and who can stand to be neglected
And they sit and watch the wind come in from the southwest
and can feel the warmth of ocean in it
The leaves loosening and falling in slanted spins
The acacia tree creaking an occasional creak
Limb against limb
Small sound in the world.
9:38 PM (1 hour ago)
I have been feeling homesick lately, in a second-hand way, wondering why I don’t miss my home like I used to, a little twinge of sadness at the lack of really feeling much at all about that place.
Yesterday, when the wind was blowing up from the south, that hurricane up from the Gulf, and the ground was wet and warm with leaves, it smelled like November in South Georgia, smelled like Thanksgiving Day, walking to my great-grandmother’s.
It has been years since I went home…4 or 5 years, a quick trip down the coast. Before that it had been 4 or 5 years, maybe longer. I have been home twice since I moved to the mountains, 13 years ago. It’s just right down the road, the same road I drive every day, just a few miles, a couple of turns.
If I called out of work sick and drove to Georgia, people would think I was not well.
What a crock of shit that is…
I have been in my habitual quandary of time and demands again lately. The slight footing I’d gained in working on an actual assemblage of a book has slipped, and I am sitting slumped in the dirt, my ass in the mud, surrounded on all sides by the usual clamoring of life as I know it.
11:44 AM (10 hours ago)
She cleans the house by entering a room and doing some small thing, pulling the broom out of its lean against the wall, sweeping the green painted floor, a few damp leaves by the backdoor and thin wisps of hair from the elder dog’s tail, which sometimes fall out in full locks, segments of fur that, when the dog was younger, looked like a plume, a wing.
The fur sticks in the drops of water that spot the floor by the sink, splashes and drips from the small thing she had done earlier, rinsing out her coffee bottle from the day before, setting a Tupperware into the sink.
“This is how she cleans the house,” she thought, and made plans to wipe down the crumbs of autumn- hued fish food around her daughter’s aquarium. She was still wearing the pants she’d slept in, but her hair was brushed and her teeth were brushed. She’d washed her face the night before, and it felt dirty because she’d been sweating at night again in the humid warmth that the storms had stirred up.
She’d wash her face before she left the house, later in the day.
It’s going to be warm , and the insects in the hedge – trees outside are making their racket in the October light, the August warmth, the watery air like maybe there is an ocean up here in the mountains, just over that ridge.
She has a dentist’s appt. at one. When the road will be blazing and busy. She will wear a hat, she has decided, because then laying there with a woman chattering over her and tools scraping around her mouth won’t be so troubling to her senses. She wore a hat during the labor and delivery of both her children, through a c-section and an episiotomy.
The broom is put away, and she thinks about how, when she looked at those writing school Web pages, she didn’t feel much inclination to go to writing school, or to pay for it, or to try to do that while she is working full-time and being a mom.
It didn’t seem fun to her, the thought of walking into a room of a strangers and trying to be herself as a writer. Scrolling through pictures and faculty bios, she feels anxious, and she knows that she feels anxious because she is intimidated, and she understands that her intimidation is an unhelpful and unjustified thing in her, that old fear, that lack of ease in what other people might make of her, of who she will be to them. She understands that she is being “negative,” and that she is being honest.
The awkward pauses, the cocked head, the rush of sensation across her chest, knowing she’d said too much, or too little. The conversation could not be saved. She excuses herself, to sit with good posture, smiling and looking around, feeling strange.
She read through her recent efforts to write a book and saw that they were total crap, for the most part. She didn’t even want to read it herself.
Going to bed, her comforter heavy and cool from humidity, her sheets needing to be straightened, changed, she felt totally at peace with the thought that maybe she was never a good writer to begin with and that it is okay if she never writes a book, that maybe this idea that she ought to be a writer, that this is how she will be able to most be herself and to do the most possible good she might do it the world…that maybe that idea was a stupid one, and that maybe she oughta forget about it.
She may have had a blip of dull sadness in realizing that she didn’t care much at that moment, going to bed alone, about being a writer.
She reminded herself to tell her mother that she does not want to go to writing school, so that her mom would not encourage her to go to writing school and would not begin to endlessly try to talk with her about going to writing school in her effort to be a good mother, to be informed and interested in her adult daughter’s life.
“Why have we never had the conversation about going to writing school?”
That was the question she had asked.
“I haven’t stopped writing, you know. For years and years, I have kept writing. I generate thousands of words. I don’t know what to do with it all, but I haven’t stopped writing.”
The idea of writing school has never been particularly appealing for me, and I think this has more to do with vulnerability and social anxiety than it does with anything else. However, yesterday morning, the thought of being in a community of writers, a group of people who get it, this way of being and of living that asks that we stay up late and get up early and compromise friendships and let the house get dusty so that we can get these stories out of us as words on a page. A group of people that understand the feeling of not doing that, of not writing, that heaviness and pressure, grinding silent frustration, and who know what it is to hold that secret, pushing belief that you have something to say, some story to tell, that the world needs to hear.
As I write this, sitting on the porch with the dog barking inside and the insects quickening their tempo as the day warms up, my dentist appointment looming, hat still unselected, I am noticing that a part of me, somewhere near my left shoulder, across my ribs, down into the pit of my belly and then looping up into my throat to push and to turn, genuinely longs for a community of writers, of artists, of extroverted introverts.
The part of me that is anxious and intimidated is the part that does not believe this is possible for me, that – inevitably – I will not find my friends and everything will just feel weird and I will not know what to do, or who I am.
She is thinking about this as she moves to go upstairs, turns around, gets a roll of paper towels from the closet in the dining room, pushing the door hard to close it. The wood is tight with all the rain. Everything in her house feels damp. She sets the roll of paper towels on the green table by the front door, to remind herself to clean up the fish food.
3:22 PM (7 hours ago)
She saw them through the window at the landing, mid-staircase, noticed that they had that look about them, the wisps of clouds cut by a roofline and a light pole, thin sliver of sky between houses. Went back downstairs and got her phone, which is also a camera. On the back of her house, on the second floor, there is a small covered porch, a tiny square deck that is open, the top of the stairs on the back side of the house.
The sun was a sharp white light to the south of them, squinting her eyes and trying to frame the photos so the sun was outside of the image on the screen, so that she could see what she was looking at. Nothing too mind blowing, but auspicious in the angles and relational composition between forms. The clouds were moving so slowly that she could not see how they shifted from one thing into another. The rays of a triangle smooth and then dispersing, curve of snake of letter, some waving breeze that I can’t feel, up where the air is cold.
Every once in a while, she tries to imagine, to remember, what if felt like to entirely believe that there were ancient letters and moving grace up in the sky, to step out of the house and be shocked, dumbstruck with awe, by the bizarre arrangement of the clouds and light, to be wholly convinced that something amazing was happening, and that she was seeing it.
(note: if this were an essay it’d end with me recognizing that something amazing was and is always happening and that I was and am seeing an endless procession of miracles…that maybe that’s the amazing thing, that any of this exists at all and that we, in our little lives, see so much.)
One day, I will probably not be able to see. My eyes aren’t good, and people in my family tend to lose vision as they age. Then, I will probably find music in birdsong and street noises. When I cannot hear, I will feel the feeling of my own body, the warmth of an electric blanket, the feel of the bones in my hand. I assume my sense of taste and smell will be diminished as I age. I will miss smell more than I will miss taste, though taste is amazing. There are not that many tastes that produce in me the deep sensory satisfaction that the smell of being in the forest does. It’s really that smell that I will miss, the smell of water and earth and sap, sunlight.
I know sunlight doesn’t smell, but the sun adjusts the quality of the scents, by adjusting warmth, the way that certain compounds and matter respond to heat, humidity. So, the smell of forest is a way, to me, to also smell warmth, or coolness, sunlight…these things that have no odor.
I was standing on the back porch, and thinking that maybe I had gotten a decent enough image, when I saw that the mass on the left of me had changed, the clouds to the south, and I couldn’t look right at them, because of the sun, but I could crouch low under the edge of the roof and look at them with my camera screen. It took a moment for my phone to pull the cloud into focus, with the competing wisps of wisteria and the edge of the roof, the blare of light from the sun, and then when it did I had, for just a second that feeling of awe, because I saw the cut out segments that looked like a letter, a symbol, and then, oh, then, there was the dog, “wolf” my mind thought, and then flashed to a person I know from work, that person who got lost in the forest, and I felt excited to post the picture, because, look, there is a wolf…it is right there…and then it is gone…and the shape looks more like the face of a panther.
“What the fuck is wrong with me that I can witness this totally beautiful and almost freaking miraculous seeming thing in the middle of my Wednesday afternoon, and I am not falling down in some sort of worshipping supplication, or at least some holy reverence?”
I still think a lot about trying to prove something.
I held the word holy in my mind, and said a thank you to the sky, to the wolf-panther, stood up and went lightheaded from the brightness, the stooping. My vision was spotted and flashing. I went inside, and thought about how I am able to see a remarkable thing and look at it, appreciate it, and consider it…and I can stay calm, not run away in my thinking.
I didn’t used to be able to do that.
Note: Later, I looked at the picture that I thought I saw the wolf in, but I could not find it, did not see it so easily. I saw the panther though, a cougar’s coloration in cloud density…the little punched out figure, the crossed line.