The Shape of the Wind

The woman sat across from me, ankles crossed, hands in lap, classic clinical posture. The younger woman sat slightly to the side of me, a still yogic statue, big eyed. We made a triangle, sitting there in my office.

“I’ve got skin in the game.”

The women seemed to really like that statement. So real. So peer.

I felt tired of it all.

The crossed-ankle woman, the senior clinician, leaned forward, her face lit up with an idea. “What if…what if you came and told your story to _____?”

I kept my face neutral. “Yeah, maybe I could do that.” I shrugged to emphasize my ambivalence.

Thought to myself, “Well now, how would that go?”

Imagined the scene, the big table and torsos surrounding, the smiling faces, the kind expressions, the hands clasped on the table. The windows and the sharp-lined slats of heavy brown shade contraptions, blinds. The look of the day outside, the look of the light. 

I could feel my chest get tight just thinking about it. What would that be like? I would have probably about 10 minutes, which may be stretched to 15 for people to ask me questions about my lived experience and how that impacts and adds value to the work I do.
Note: by adding value, I mean to say that I give significance to my workplace experiences that other people may not give to their workplace experiences. However, I also mean that my lived experience and the insights it brings to this work adds value, in that it means something to the people I work with that I have experienced some of the things they have experienced, and that I understand that my experiences of things like involuntary commitment are different than other people’s experiences, but that –  hey – I have had something like that happen to me.

I find it so distasteful to sum up entire pivotal life experiences with phrases like, “I got sent to the hospital.”

There is something silencing in being expected to do that, preferred to do that, for the sake of being concise, brief, not going into to much detail, too much trauma, nothing unnecessary, and be linear, do not loop back to how the experiences connect to each other, just like my going into medical shock after I broke my elbow at age 8 never would have happened if I hadn’t broke my spleen on Christmas Day, age 6, and spent those months in the hospital, which I hardly remember at all, save for two distinct memories. What those experiences have to do with me losing my mind years later.

How would I tell my story to those people?

They don’t want to hear my story.

Not the way I’d tell it.

I was 12 in 1988, when the market for adolescent psychiatry opened up in a big way. I had grown up on family land, the land my father had grown up on, the land my great-grandmother still lived on, an old woman with her face slack on one side from a stroke.

I loved her. She played cards with me.

That year, I rode the bus to school from one of the bus stops in the subdivision that had been built, over the two previous years, on our family’s land, which was no longer our family’s land. We still had a pocket of woods, at the back edge of what my great-grandmother called “the neighborhood,” and we still had our house, and the pasture, and my great-grandmother’s house, the little house behind it.

Our road was still intact, up until the paved road crossed it.

From that point on, our dirt road was gone. There were houses on it. A girl I knew from school who was from Connecticut and had yellow goo on her braces all the time lived in the first house that had been built on top of our road. The first “phase” of the subdivision was complete, just three streets, with stubs of paved road edging up to pine trees and palmettos, waiting in the hot Georgia sun, for Phase 2, and Phase 3. More naked lawns, more sod, more stump removal services, more holes dug for pools, mailboxes, the cul de sacs like cocks and balls as I rode my bike on the new pavement, swooping around the streets like I still owned the place. Riding through yards, going around in circles, an adolescent vulture in a tee shirt and white Keds, because that’s what all the girls at school were wearing.

I had never been popular, because I didn’t know how to talk correctly when I went into elementary school, and had to go to speech therapy for four years, and I wore glasses and brought my bear to school, and karate chopped a kid over a marker set in Science class. I lived in the woods and my nails were bitten and my mom cut my hair.

I got a perm in the sixth grade, and started wearing contacts. I knew how to talk by then, how to say my own last name.

I started blow-drying my hair, pushing my bangs up and freezing them with hairspray like a wave. I could get very tan, and my family – suddenly – had money, a white Jeep Cherokee.

Besides, school was full of new kids, Navy kids. Kids who did not know anything about me or my speech impediment, my elementary-years oddness.

The Base had gone into full operation, quietly at first and then with a great influx of personnel and a regular launching schedule for the nuclear submarines that were sleeping out in the water by Crooked River, out by Cumberland Island. The population expanded by something like 20,000 in two years. They had to build a new school. It smelled like paint, and was shaped just like Phase 1 of the subdivision, a line with three lines extending from it, like an E.

There were kids who had lived in Guam and California and Connecticut and Virginia Beach, Alaska even. With the influx of Navy personnel and their families, there was an influx of new cultures and subcultures. Many of my friends had Filipina mothers, Chinese mothers. There was suddenly punk rock and rap and new accents that were almost non-accents, because none of the military kids lived anywhere for very long. One new girl came to school with a shaved head, a fringe of bangs, a skinhead haircut and a bomber jacket.

That was the year I was 12. I had started smoking cigarettes with some of my new friends, had started to like the feeling of rock and roll. I was sobbing in my room, I was laying there stunned in the morning. I refused to go to school. I was on-guard, not at ease with anyone. Only at ease by myself, and not even then. Never at ease.

We pulled into the parking lot in the mid – morning, a low light blue building, Southern office space.

“Faith, we’re concerned about you. It will be good to try to get some help.”

The rooms were bright along one side of the building, the white light of sun through plastic blinds, glaring rectangles in the walls. There was hardly any furniture in the room at all. Chairs, a wicker and glass table, some brochures. A desk.

With each test, they explained what I needed to do. “Tell a story about why what you see,” the psychologist held up a picture of a furtive looking woman, a young man in the distance.

I went on and on, creating an entire exposition of friendship and misunderstandings, family conflicts.

In a room with no windows, they had me lay back on a reclined exam chair, and affixed the electrodes around my hair line and along my scalp, told me to go to sleep. I woke up surprised that I had slept, and they told my mother and I that I do not have epilepsy.

At the end of the appointment, the psychologist lady sat down with my mother and me in one of the bright rooms. “Your daughter is very intelligent,” smiling a peculiar stretched smile in my direction. They spoke for a few minutes about how I was smart, right on the edge of genius.

My mother nodded along, “Yes. She is so smart.”

“However,” the psychologist shuffled papers on her lap, “your daughter also seems to be showing signs of depression, which is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.”

They talked for a few minutes about counseling, about what to do if my depression got worse, and we said goodbye, walked out into the blare of sunlight and raw parking lot heat.

I felt a new sort of quiet, a new unease. I didn’t know what to say to my mother. She didn’t know what to say to me. We didn’t say anything.

I still had the electrode goo in my hair. I felt tired on the way home, crossing over the bridges.

Walking into the wood-smell of home was a sweet relief.

Nov 23 (1 day ago)

to me

Today is the day that I am going home. I will keep driving on the road on I take to work, will go right past the airport, and on down over the mountains, drop into the flat lands and then further down still, trace along the coast in the dark, and I will be there. I woke up early, two and half hours before my alarm went off, and felt calm, a little disconnected from the reality of this trip.

My left turn signal went out last night, on the way to drop off my daughter and then go to the store. “I will go to the oil change place and get it fixed. I want to have a turn signal tomorrow.”

The young blue-clad tech shaking the car as he wrestled with the bulb. Exclaiming a few minutes later, calling over his coworker. Showing me, “See, this looks like the same bulb, but these connection points here, see how they are lined up.”

The two silvery nubs sat right across from one another, perfect orbit.

“Look at yours,” he held the two orange glass bulbs beside one another. The connector points on the bulb they had pulled out my car were positioned at an angle from one another, like 6:05, instead of 6:00, or 12:30. 3:45, 9:15, etc.

I made plans to go to an auto – parts store, probably in my hometown on Friday, because I didn’t want to try to find an auto parts store on Thanksgiving Day, when I have a Mexican Fiesta to attend and traveling to do.

At the grocery store, after paying, I had a brief moment of wondering if I should not go. If I should stay home. Get the light fixed. Write here, in the mountains.

I do not know if I should trust the part of myself that pushes up the idea that if I don’t go, I will have made a grievous error, that I will regret it, that some pact I made with myself will be broken and unfortunate (or simply null) consequences will result.

There is a little bit of pressure with that notion, that this is something I, ahem, must do.

How do things like this, strong leadings, fit into non-attachment, or being in the present?

I guess it is in the attachment to outcomes, the expectation that if one does a) then a desired b) will occur…there’s where problems could occur, attachment and disappointment, hurt over the way things are.

How does that fit in with hope, that motivation to create something, that longing for certain things to come to be?

Acceptance would mitigate disappointment, a focus on the learning and growth that comes from deeply hoping and not getting what you hoped for.

Those who believe in a higher power that works within their lives in “mysterious ways” might trust that something was in store for them, that their higher power had reasons for denying them their hopes.

I think Garth Brooks wrote a song about that once.

I have some discomfort in the thought that our ego’ed perceptions and interpretations of what God wants of us, what we ought to do, are apt to be sorely misled.

I need to go pack, ready the house for caretaking. Go.

There is so much in this life, sitting in front of a fire while the sun comes up and the day begins. With children across town, and family out in the valley, and a place down the road, and objects to move, things to do, so many people, all with their own vast lives.

There is just so much.

I am excited to go home. To see what happens.

I do not know what will happen.

I will be okay.

10:04 PM (17 hours ago)

to me

It was nothing at all, stepping back into this house. Pressing down the latch of the door, pushing it open to scrape across the floor in a way it didn’t before. Either the hinges are sagging or the house is sinking. I haven’t been here long enough to know.

This is the dome. I grew up here. This photo was taken, incidentally, from the same vantage point as where I lay 35 years ago and could not breathe, because my chest and abdomen were filling up with blood spilled from my broken spleen.

Walking back into the house, was nothing at all. I’d done it a million times. Easy. The latch on the front door is still bent from where I slammed it so hard when I was a teenager, walking out or walking in.

I crossed into GA right at the precise moment of sunset, but it was cloudy and drizzling and low-skied, so there was no sunset to speak of, just a quick fade from dim to blue to black.

For most of the drive, I felt glad to be traveling, but not totally engaged with or excited about going home, though a timid happiness was stirring around every once in a while.

I listened to the radio and danced in the car and smoked cigarettes and drove the speed limit. There were hardly any other cars on the road for most of the drive, because it is Thanksgiving.

I got here in under 7 hours, like time had slowed down.

Right after Savannah, it hit me. Just a low rumbling around my heart, a shaky full feeling. I put my hand on my chest, made myself breathe more deeply. Checked my speed. Felt my butt in the driver’s seat, my sore hip.

Used to be that I’d have expected myself to fall apart about going home. I figured I might feel some feelings, but have been fairly committed to staying out of anything oriented around despair. Love can feel a lot like despair sometimes.

A massive joy rolled up out of me, made my whole head tingle, the points across my cheeks and jaws prickly and electric feeling, the very top of my head, where my skull used to be soft, bristling and warm. I felt my whole belly fill with this bright blue excitement, and my face lit up smiling in the dark, driving alone.

I needed to eat something. I was hungry. My blood sugar was probably low. I opened the window, turned off the radio.

I was happy to be going home, happy to have grown up in a beautiful place.

The sensations of my head about to explode with eustress subsided a little, and I took a deep breath,  turned the radio back on, some random country song blaring, but I threw my fist in the air beside me anyway, out toward the empty passenger seat, “Hell, yeah!” I hollered, “I’m going home!”

I threw a couple of right hooks, just to shake off the jolt of thrill I’d been riding with the past few miles.

I thought that it’d be strange, turning onto highway 40. It wasn’t. It was the same as it was, basically. More cluttered, more lanes, but the same straight line it always has been, with pines and pavement.

Before I came home, I drove downtown, to go to the Oak Grove Cemetery, to see if I could find my great-grandmother’s grave, my great-grandfather ‘s grave. It is Thanksgiving.

It was well-past dark and though I remembered which row they were on, it was hard to remember where exactly in the long and haphazard row their graves were. I had to climb over two walls, twice. I tried not to walk over any graves, but it is an old cemetery, very crowded, some headstones only nubs, some graves not marked at all.

I am hardly afraid at all anymore.

It didn’t seem remotely creepy to be wandering around out there at Oak Grove. On my second pass along the row, I almost didn’t look at the two graves near the wall. I was sure that I had checked them before, but decided to check them again anyway, fairly certain they were a King or a Gross.

The name of my great-grandmother lept at me in the light. Bam. There it was.

I wiped off the soggy oak leaves that had piled in the center of the big marble slabs, noticed the simple inscription, At Rest. Patted the headstone. Said hello. Sat down on the wet stone, watched the wind blows through the moss.

A golf cart drove by. This is now the sort of town where golf carts just drive around downtown.

Entering the subdivision, I found the roads torn up and a bizarre mess of cones snaking through the rubble. A bulldozer was operating, at 8:00pm, on Thanksgiving. Huge worm-like hoses coiled up near the cones. Great mounds of sandy dirt were piled along the edges of the road.

There was another bulldozer back near the house, parked where the old Arnow house was, building another road.

I didn’t feel much about it, the bulldozer, the road. I just found it interesting.

I would think that maybe I’d be triggered into some outrage about the machines and the land, the gouged earth. While I found it ugly, brutal, the torn up woods and dug up soil, the machines grinding and roaring, I didn’t *feel* much of anything.

When I walked into this house, it was just like it always has been.

Warm and wood-smelling, seeming to smile in the eaves and in the roundness of the dome.

“Hello, house,” she said as she pushed the old door open. “I’m here.”

9:00 AM (6 hours ago)

to me

I woke up early again, at 4-something. By a little after 5:00 I was running down the dirt road in the dark, passing by the surveyor flags and bright reflective flashes on the hulking dump truck that sat in whatever was once the small pasture by the barn. My plan was to run all of the streets in the neighborhood, and then – if I felt like it, to do it again, and then again. That’d end up being a long run.

By the time I had looped back through two cul de sacs, passing by only a bored – looking small dog and a raccoon skittering up a lawn, I had started to decide that it’d be okay if I only ran the streets once. My hands were cold, my head was hot. I took off the headlamp. I didn’t need it anyway. There are streetlights here.

I felt alright running, an easy pace, but not sluggish, breathing well, thinking about the idea that I’d had, to run around the neighborhood, raising the dead.

Well, not the dead, exactly, but the spirit of this place, the spirit of this land and all the people who have been here before what is here now.

This felt like something I’d like to do, as a way of honoring this place, and affirming all the life in this land, these waters.

As I curved around the cul de sacs, I waved my hands toward me, thinking “C’mon, C’mon, wake up…”

I was talking to myself more than anything, trying to find some alertness or great feeling, some energy. I was awake-but-not-on-fire, running through a boring late-20th century Southern subdivision in the very early morning.

There is an aspect of my experience which involves nearly constantly wondering if I am crazy. This consideration is largely reflexive, and is more analytical than it is judgmental.

“Is it weird to think that just because I was a kid here, and feel connected to the land that I can somehow summon the spirits of this land? Is it weird to even think about these things?”

As I write this, I am grimacing a little, both because I  am cold and because I am realizing that, yeah, it’s weird.

Who is to say that there are even spirits in land?

I don’t mean spirits. I mean electricity, atoms. Molecules. Energy. Who is to say that the things that have existed within and have been a part of land areas, whose bodies and old-time forms have been buried or burned into the ground itself…who is to say that any elemental remnant of sentience or soul remains?

Crossing back by the road that leads to the dirt road that leads to home, a road with a street sign that has my great-grandmother’s name on it, I looked at the silhouettes of the remaining pines and oaks, situated at the edges of yards, at the back of the lots, and felt a fondness for them, a fondness for how familiar they are to me, the look of them. The tall trees are the same trees that were there twenty years ago.

“They are just trees.” The land didn’t feel especially alive to me. It was just a place. I ran a little faster, and imagined my footfalls, tiny vibrations, making their way down through the pavement, into the earth, the small spaces.

The wind felt good, gusty and full of river, cold. I stopped thinking about raising spirits and whether that was weird or not, and just focused on running, trying to feel good running.

The neighborhood is the most boring place ever to me. I don’t know if it is so much boring as it is deeply baffling and disgusting in ways that act so powerfully as to shut me down to any feeling or thinking at all, because what is there to feel, what is there to think.

Oh, so much, and nothing at all. It is just a place. A truck pulled to the end of a street named some made-up name. Two of the streets in the neighborhood are named for my great-grandmother, and one street, the one closest to the highway, is named for the family who owned the land before my family did, the family whose house my father took apart to build this house with.

All the other streets have made-up names. Oak Stump Circle. Longwood Drive.

The truck paused, and I was a woman running in the dark, wearing a hat, my glasses reflecting the streetlights.

“Nobody knows who I am here. I don’t live here.”

I liked that thought, but it was still odd to me, that nobody knew that I lived here before they did, that this land used to be my home. That our road runs right through their living rooms, even if you can’t hardly tell there was a road there at all, except for the gap in the trees running straight up through the neighborhood.

I had a couple friends on every street when I was in middle school. I slept in at least one house on every street in the first section of the subdivision. As I ran, I thought about the people I knew who lived there those first few years after the land was developed. I have no idea who lives in those houses now. I don’t know what their lives are like.

I wondered if it was crazy to be running through a subdivision at 5:00 am. I didn’t feel crazy, though I didn’t much want to be seen, which was part of the motivation for running in the dark. I didn’t want to be looked at. I could wear a hat and put my hair in a bun, and wear long leggings or big socks to cover the tattoos on my legs. I would have a sweater on, so my back and arms would be covered. I would have on my glasses. Nobody would recognize me, would stop their car and want to talk with me. Some of the people back on the land near our house, people who live in my great-grandmother’s house down the river two bends, people who build houses on the pasture, cut down all the pear trees, a couple of them might recognize me. Maybe not.

The chances of me running into somebody at 5 o’clock in the morning are pretty slim.

Besides, the part of me that thinks about what a good time to raise spirits might be figures that the pre-dawn hours would probably be alright. I wasn’t looking to raise anything malevolent (haha, famous last words). I had thought about what the inclination was about, what I was hoping to accomplish by this thinking about raising spirits.

Peculiar, I am picturing a male psychologist type fellow, sitting cross legged in a chair, a clipboard on his lap, khaki pants, a lot of sandy beige tones. “So, do you know what you were trying to accomplish with the, um, spirit raising? What did you hope would happen?”

Ugh.

There is such a taboo about things like raising the dead. Jesus Christ.

I ran down the long swoop of road that is the main artery of the second subdivision phase. Remembered once being out running when I was 14 or so, on that very same road, in blazing summer midday heat, being startled when a car pulled up beside me.

It was my smug and smart-alecky used-to-be-a-delinquent-in-New-York-City-look-at-where-I-had-my-ear-pierced psychiatrist in a Mercedes, smiling, saying he was just taking a drive around. It wasn’t that surprising that he’d be in the neighborhood. His office was right up by the highway. He said it was good that I was out running, that I looked healthy, and then drove on away.

I intensely despised that man.

It was getting colder as it moved toward sunrise, and my knee hurt just a little, my lower back pinching every so often. Another car was coming up from behind me, and I broke into a sprint to hit the corner before them, to not let them catch up to me, pass me.

My hair was down, in thin triple braids all the way down my back, like three ropes. I was wearing purple sweatpants, an old moss colored sweater. I was probably a strange thing to see in the early morning. Running as fast as I could, turning that corner tight.

I got a wicked cramp as I moved from the pavement to the dirt road, and slowed to walk, pressing into my side, breathing slowly and deeply. I was in the section of woods that always terrified me when I was a little kid. The land that had been cattle fields that was then planted over in start straight rows of pine timber.

When I was young, I would get a forceful panicky feeling in those woods, like something was rushing at me. I felt the edge of that sort of fear walking in the dark through that corridor of pines, but I could see the lights from the houses that were built by where the road used to fork, and I asserted that nothing in those pines could hurt me, that I didn’t want any trouble out there in those pines, on that dark road, that no trouble ought to visit me, wasn’t welcome.

I straightened my posture and felt more at ease as I walked past where the old Arnow house used to be, the house my father took the wood from.  There was a tremendous grove of redbuds there for a long time, amongst the stray bricks and old rotting wood, rust – crumpled nails. The shape of a backhoe was sleeping there. I felt nothing.

The water in this house is sulfur water, from a freshwater well dug way down into the earth, down further even than the bottom of the river. Some water underground, a lake under the river. When I was a kid, I could not smell the sulfur in our water, because I was used to it. This morning, the smell was strong, but I didn’t mind it. I liked it. It smelled like home.

I wanted to be sure to be out on the dock at sunrise, though the sky was cloudy again. I wanted to see what they day would start out like. I walked out over the water and sat down on the cold wood, looked over to the new dock built out from near where that my brother and I had found those dead baby boars in the burlap sack.

The day would come on weak and grey, the sun just a dim silver behind the clouds. The light went to blue, and the marsh began to get some detail.  The sky was soft and grey. A November morning. Even with the clouds, I could still see shapes. A rolling wave shape along the upper ridge of one of the cloudlayers caught my eye. The shape of the wind.

1:11 PM (2 hours ago)

to me

It occurred to me that I ought to be reverent. Here I was, back home, watching the day come slow and grey. Here was the sky, the very first skyscape I ever studied. Above the rolling ridge of clouds, I saw a shape like a triangle, and thought about the drawing I had done the week before, last Friday morning, picturing what spirits rising and saying goodbye to this place looked like in my mind, a dispersing strand of triangles over a field that loomed vaguely like the sky, with a river drawn in under the layers of chalk pastel, covered up.

A dark shape like a heart formed up to the left of the triangle shape. It was the sort of heart I have thought about getting tattooed on my middle fingers, there between the first and second knuckle, one heart facing out on my right middle finger, one heart facing in on my left middle finger, little hearts that are clean edged and deep-clefted.

I took some pictures, because that is what I do when I see something I want to remember. I take pictures, and I think about how I might write about that moment.

It was cold on the dock, and right before I realized I ought to be reverent and look around, feel a little fucking amazed why-don’t-you, you are home, you came back to this place, here is the river, here is the sky,

I had been thinking about this interview with the musician St. Vincent that I think about every few days lately, how the artist was saying that it just doesn’t matter at all whether someone thinks you might not be okay, not in this day and age. It just doesn’t matter.

“I have a cowardice in me.”

These words rose up and I sat with them, knowing it was true and feeling all my reasons and all my justifications, all my explanations, rise up behind them.

“…but . . . but…”

“I have a great cowardice in me.”

Maybe that is how I will start the introduction, begin the query. It is not such a complicated scenario. I have been writing for over seven years. I have a book in me. At least one book, probably more.

Driving last night, there on I-95, I thought about the possibility that I might find my team of collaborators and that we might successfully create a book containing this story, which could ostensibly be marketed as a mental health memoir documenting the intersections of fucked up genius, psychiatry, and spiritualism, but which necessarily delves enough into my experience of psychosis and subsequent recovery to explore frameworks of understanding extreme states as a function of unique styles of cognition operating under the duress of sustained stress and trauma responses. In discussing the ways that psychosis manifested in my life, I will not be able to avoid talking about what was going on in my head and heart when I tried to prove God with pictures of clouds on the internet.

“What was I thinking?”

I will need to explain my reasoning, and share details of moments when reason faltered.

I have so much old humiliation around those times. I think that is where my cowardice comes from.

However, I was thinking last night, there on i-95, that I was bound to have to face some flack if I tell this story in a way that helps it to do what I want it to do, what I believe it needs to do. Probably quite a bit of flack. A lot of people will call me crazy, and will make fun of me. Some people will try to discredit me and make me out as a fool.

Some people might hate me.

I have read a couple mental health memoirs before. There are some books that almost every person with a certain diagnosis in a certain demographic has read, e.g. Jamison ‘s Touched by Fire, white middle class American women and their mothers. Why would someone who wrote a mental health memoir be scorned, ridiculed?

In most mental health memoirs, things like trying to prove God are written off as psychotic debris, delusions of grandeur, mania. These experiences are offered up as evidence of how truly sick one was, to be thinking and feeling and believing such outlandish things.

I would like to explore the conundrum of my experience as an atypically intelligent person with a remarkable set of life circumstances happening upon a series of expansive ideas rooted in empirical observation and a priori experience. I have no interest in considering my experience of believing I could prove something like God (or at the very least offer an elegant theory on the origins of human written language and iconic composition, or provide vernacular data to support an existing theory) as a dismissable by-product of mental illness.

 

The ideas I had about God and clouds and patterns in nature, about sense and language and sky-watching…those ideas are still solid in my mind, tenable. I do not know if my theory would hold up to further inquiry, but I’d like to find out.

Just a little bit ago, taking pictures of vague cut outs and reliefs of perfect equilateral triangles in the thin wisps of clouds out over the river, I thought, “Dang, it’d be nice to know how that happens, how a triangle shape can be cut out like that, how another can form from gathered clouds?”

There are so many things I’d like to learn about.

Sent: November 24, 2017 8:57 AM

2:43 PM (1 hour ago)

to me

The warmth of the dome has a soporific effect on me. The sun hits that room all day long, arcing it’s way across the sky, heating the space up like a incubator. After I came home from running, took a sulfur water shower and wrote for an hour and a half, took pictures of the sky from the dock, sang a warbling and quiet amazing grace, because that is something that has helped me to connect with my own spirit, thinking about the times I have sung that song, various circles I have sat in, singing with elders and wounded folks, lifting our voices. At some point, watching a heavy shred of dark cloud drift down in the mid-day, I shifted my humming, to Prayer in C, a another song that connects me to my spirit, taking segments of video a minute long, a minute and a few seconds.

I took a nap in the mid-morning, woke up feeling warm and logey, dull in my mind, sort of blank feeling laying there in a sunbeam. I remember that feeling, of being tired and sort of blank, from when I was young. Warm and wilted, content to just lay like a cat in a swathe of sun. It was okay. It made sense that I was tired. I work hard, had traveled the day before, got up hours before dawn, ran in the dark. I let myself lay there a bit longer, got up, ate some bread with peanut butter, drank a few tablespoons of honey, sat on the deck outside of my room for a few minutes, wrote some more.

“I have a great cowardice in me.”

Maybe that is how I will start off my introduction, begin my query.

I needed to go to the autoparts store, to get a new turn signal bulb, and I had the idea that I ought to go into town and find some WiFi, go sit at Seagle’s or the Riverview Hotel downtown, copy some of these recent messages to myself into a document that I can edit with no Internet. I also had the idea that I wanted to get the small tattoo project I had had in mind done, here in my hometown.

I thought I might stop in at the tattoo shop I’d seen by where the old papermill used to be, but driving downtown I saw another small shop tucked into a mid-80s shopping center, beside an Army-Navy surplus store. Turned onto the street that ran alongside the building and cut through the strip of grass to the parking lot. Young man with a big ol ‘ beard, like he was from the mountains, a riot of old ink on his arms, a small line-work bird on his left hand. I made arrangements to come back in an hour.

The bar at the Hotel was closed, but the woman sweeping the floor of the lobby said I could use the WiFi anyway. There is a row of typewriters here on the bench beside me. I like this place. It is nice to know that even when the land and the dome are sold, there is a place that I could come to. We stayed here once or twice, at the Hotel, when it was the only hotel here in town.

We were having the house fumigated.

Sent: November 24, 2017 1:08 PM

[Note: I have actively avoided opening my computer today, despite the fact that I came here with the intention of writing. I have been writing, plenty. 8000 words over a couple of days. On my phone. While participating in family and community activities, and then travelling. I haven’t begun the documents that I set out to create. This visit home strikes me as a significant starting point. There is a lot I want to take note of. For example, this evening, as the sun was setting, I decided to take a walk around the old place, the little hemmed in area of land around the house. See how things look.

As it turns out, things looked weird, old and broken, in abject disrepair, covered in moss and leaves.

The old screendoor lay flat on the side porch, the wooden walkway was broken through, a part of the enclosed pool collapsed under the weight of a fallen limb, some hurricane or another. There was a massive mound of fallen and cut branches and limbs near the barn. It took me a full two minutes to walk slowly around it, filming with my phone. I don’t know why I like to do things like that lately. Probably because I am a latent cinematographer or something.]

While I was walking around the big pile of limbs, I caught glimpse of part of an old cedar tree. I could smell it. Decided I’d cut myself off a chunk of it. Got the saw out of the car. I brought a saw, a phillips head screwdriver, a flat head screwdriver, a small trowel, and a pair of bypass pruners, a sharp pair of scissors.  I almost brought a stapler, but who the hell needs a stapler while traveling?

I brought tools in case I needed to cut any branches, scissors for paper. The trowel for any small digging projects I may encounter or be inspired to undertake.

As I sawed, I looked around and noticed more wood I wanted to take home, and also noticed that the sawdust from the cedar tree was a dark pink. When the split end of the torn log I was sawing came loose from the rest of the fallen trunk, a segment split off, exposed the perfectly smooth and dark rose heart of the tree, the first decade of growth.

I pulled the small jagged tears of wood off the main trunk, saved them for my dad for kindling, a holiday gift. Moved the cut log and the kindling over near the car, set them down like luggage waiting to be loaded. In the little tidal wash to the left of the house, where the water comes up high sometimes, there was an old river beaten cedar trunk, bleached white-gray, all the places it’d been cut were worn smooth by water.

I had seen it the day before, and though – hmmm – I should take that home. I like sticks. Branches. Especially if they come from a place that I love, from trees that I know. It was kind of a big stick. The trunk of a small tree. I picked up one end, sizing the length, the potential that it would fit in my car. I was feeling less attached to the idea of taking it home.

I don’t know how I didn’t see them before, but when I was standing there holding that tree trunk I looked down and saw that the tide-gathered marsh grass was littered with bones. Hip bones, shoulder bones, something of leg, an animal leg. Probably a deer. They had been cut in places, and were not old, still yellowy, not bleached, not dry. “What a weird fucking place this is.”

I took a picture of the bones. As I was edging around to check them out from another angle, I noticed an amazing twist of old root. Possibly even from the cedar tree that had stood there when I was a kid, the one I was hoping to take a dead or dying branch from, to sit with. It isn’t here anymore, that tree. However, there under a scraggly palmetto, was a root, damp and smooth and twisted into all sorts of forms and figures. I leaned down to pick it up, half-expecting it to be caught, still attached to something big under the ground, the rest of the root structure, but it lifted easily, was light.

When I was young, and growing up here, and when I was older and coming home here to visit or to live for brief periods of time. I would find things on the river bank, feathers and old bottles, once a broken figurine of two people dancing, both missing their heads and their feet. I consider those objects to be of the utmost importance, the things that I got from the tides, and they occupy protected areas in my home, mantles and high shelves.

The root will go home with me.

I set it with the cedar log and kindling, then moved it to sit atop the electric box, the dull green box that wires this property in with the town’s electrical grid. I could quite get the frame and light right for a photo, so I filmed it slowly, moving along its form. It was challenging, and my hands shook. My foot was in the first effort, and so I did it again, and it felt like tai chi, to hold my hands as steady as I could and to move my body to move the camera. It was fun.

Figuring I’d take a picture of the dumptruck in the pasture and the spot in the woods where in a dream I had when I was a kid I saw a mirror hanging in the branches of an oak and when I turned back to my family, who was walking on the dirt road with me, they were gone. There are more roads back here than there were. A backhoe sitting smack dab in the middle of the spot where the old Arnow house had been, a monstrously huge machine where there used to be a house, where now there is only a chimney standing solitary in the woods.

I looked down the pine road, and saw that it was beginning to take on that creepy feel in the fading light. “I should walk down it,” I thought, “and then walk back. I will walk down the road I was afraid to walk down.”

Because I had been videoing various segments of this trip, small portions of mediated experience, I decided to video my walk down the road I used to be scared to walk down. Such straight pines, so much burnished brown on the sandy ground, bone colored ground. The space around the trees was darker than the trees themselves, so they stood out, straight and in a line. I looked around as I walked, holding my phone in front of me. Noticed out of the corner of my eye that, so far, the video was going to just look like some Blair Witch Project shit. Kept walking. Noticed how, all the sudden, it was dark on the screen, except for the cutouts of the shapes of trees against the getting-dark sky.  Noticed, also, that I hadn’t hit record. I started videoing 1/2way down the road, only slightly disappointed that I had missed the first part of the walk down the road I used to be afraid of.

The tree shapes were compressed into inspecific contrast forms on the tiny screen of my phone. I felt a little nervous, walking down the road, just my footstep sounds and the sounds of a few late-day birds, some early night insects. I wasn’t scared though.

Watching the trees in front of me and on the screen, which was also in front of me, so that I had a split view of the world, in real-size and in miniature, I saw that there was one curve that traced through the branches that looked like a snake, and that there were globs and cuts and triangle shapes shifting up in the trees as a I walked, like a kaleidoscope animation, the overlay of different branches, clumps of leaves. It was beautiful, the shapes and how they transformed as I moved under them, one thing turning into another, turning into nothing at all.

I turned back, still recording. The video was getting long, but I didn’t want to miss my walk back through the woods, especially because the light from the still not-totally-set sun was twinkling at the end of the road, a flickering point that, as I moved forward, became bigger, a rectangle. The trees whirled their dark shapes against the sky, and the moon came into view, a bright white smudge on the screen.

I was having fun, looking at the world I was walking through, imagining different ways to see it.

It is morning now. I went to sleep early, the dome a dark circle, squirrels on the roof, something moving around under the house. There are so many noises here.

Twice, I have heard what sounded like footsteps, felt the house move a little, but nothing came of it, and I wasn’t scared. There are big machines working everywhere during the day, sawing noises, engine noises, heavy objects slammed on metal. The hollow ring of brick on brick. Today, I will saw some more cedar logs, and try to push the fallen leaves off of the porches with part of a broom I found under the house.

“What is going on with all these doors?”

“Doors? What doors?”

“In the barn, in the front part of it, there are 165 doors.”

“What? I don’t know anything about any doors.” Calls to my father, “Do you know anything about 165 doors in the barn?”

She speaks to me again, “He doesn’t know anything about it either. Hmmm, who knows?”

The doors probably belong to the person who is buying this land, who will own the barn. He is in, predictably enough, the construction business. Probably got a good deal on a lot of doors. 165 doors.

That’s a lot of fuckin’ doors.

This morning, I woke up later than I have been, at 5:22, and wondered why the alarm I’d set for 5:05 hadn’t gone off. Ah, it is not programmed to go off on Saturdays.

I checked the sky for daylight, but it was still very dark.

I had ½ planned to go running again, do the same loop around the neighborhood, the most boring run ever. A subdivision in the dark.

It is good for me to do these things, this running in the dark, going down unpleasant roads, because it forces me to try to find something of value in the experience, some way of tolerating it, of not quitting. Today, I got a stitch in my side at the beginning of the last mile before I was set to turn back, and I slowed way down, but I didn’t turn around early, though I almost did once, in the middle of the 2nd road that is named for my great-grandmother, tract houses and Fords, flags and bumper stickers. So many people live here.

Yesterday, when I ran, I pretended/imagined/considered raising the spirits of this land, and this morning I briefly revisited that notion, curving around a cul de sac.

It felt silly to me. Almost something to be embarrassed of. Creepy.

This morning, I wasn’t feeling much of my audacity. I felt a little old as I ran in my purple sweatpants. Didn’t really care.

This whole season has been a process of resolving my core sadnesses and ousting my longstanding insecurities.  Making peace.

Nevertheless, the doubt that undermines, again and again, has been leaching into me this morning. Sits in my belly like a goddam sinker, solid and heavy. This choking fucking doubt.

Doubt and my cowardice are bedfellows.

I have written 10,000 words in several days, and have felt good about what I have written, as I was writing it, but then that horrible doubt seeps into the good feeling, whispering, “You won’t actually do it, won’t actually finish. Even if you do, nothing will happen. You won’t do anything. You’ll embarrass yourself.”

Oh.my.fucking.god.

Enough.

See, the thing is, I know where that voice in me comes from. It comes from motherfuckers is where it comes from. People who have been dicks to me.

So, for that reason, if for no other reason, it is important to me that I go ahead and say fuck doubt, and go through the motions of doing this thing, in the best way that I know how, even if the doubt gets so strong that it crumples me inside. I can edit when I am doubting and have nothing to say.

I probably won’t be doubting so much as I have heretofore tended to, because, like I said: Fuck doubt.

It is an uncomfortable feeling, the doubt. It is in my body as much as it is in my head. Sensations. Feelings. A sense of weight across my chest, forgetting to breathe. My lower lip pushes up at the left corner, my heart hurts. Doubt makes my heart hurt.

She got up from where she was sitting with her back against the warm, south-facing wall. Slumped into an air mattress, the blankets making lumpy ridges underneath her. She was not uncomfortable in her posture, and the sun beaming through the plexiglass triangles of the dome room was warm on her legs. Her heart hurt a little, though. Felt soft with some tightness in its core.  Something bitter, like the taste of pennies. Her head got foggy when her heart felt like this, all the sharpness gone, just vague and distracted thoughts, a rummaging through times her heart has felt like this. Such a basic human tendency, to struggle to turn from discomfort, to remember pain.

She got up from where she was sitting, and moved a few objects around, put clothes back into her bag, put her vitamins away. She’d go back out to the dock. Sit in the sun. Be there for a minute, think about this doubt that had crept up in her. Try to get rid of it.

As she crossed the small strip of yard between the house and where the bank of the river began, she thought about how she had come across those bones the day before, how weird this place was now. Creepy. So much moss. She walked her heavy heart out to the dock, sat in a square of sunlight, looked around.

To the east/southeast, there was a broad swoop of clouds. Cold weather clouds. Wisps of ice hanging up in the sky, barely stirred by wind. She saw that one of them looked a little like a fist, another like a hand. She looked for the clean lines and angles that she found especially interesting in clouds, because she didn’t understand how such a perfect line could be made with something so soft as air and water moving in the wind.

Immediately, she forgot about her doubt. “It comes back to this,” she thought. “The shape of the wind.”

There was no wind up there, so the clouds just stayed in the forms they were in, only slowly shifting, another line, a triangle, a well-spaced grouping of density and light, a graceful curve carved cleanly. “This is all I want to do.” She felt that kickback, that backlash, doubt re-ignited.

She knew that it was possible to construct a life in which she got to spend more time in beautiful and tragic places that mean something to her, to spend more time gawking around at the sky and the trees, taking pictures.

My interior experience when I am watching clouds is one that I have come to think about as a state of attentive awareness, an open, but observational perspective. Noticing what is happening in front of me, what my reaction is, what thoughts and feelings are inspired. What comes into my mind.  I try to maintain focus, but let my mind drift. I am careful to split my attention between the image on the screen and the actual, real clouds.

I like to study them on the small screen, because the image – a big, big sky – is condensed, and it is easier to see some of the formations. When clouds are strewn across the sky, it is difficult to notice and to see the different parts of them, the eye is pulled in so many directions.

I look for lines, and angles. Also forms that look like something, a figure or a wing or a letter, eye-shapes. There are some compositions of cloud clumps that remind me of the points of light around the heads of saints in stained glass windows, such perfect spacing.  Other groupings of clouds look like stories, arrangements of cloud-ridge figures, standing and crawling, a tendrilous arm outstretched. I look, also, for letters, ways that the angles and lines arrange themselves in such a way as to resemble scraps of written languages, strange partial symbols, pulling together and then dissipating.

“Maybe I should call it a project. Just lay the whole thing out.” She balked inside at the thought of it. However, she knew it was a good idea, that these plans and notions she worked on tirelessly in her head were, by definition, a project. A big idea with several different components.

Her audacity is inspired by cloud watching, because her curiosity is inspired by watching clouds. “If nothing else, I really just want to find someone who can explain to me how that happens, why triangle shapes form in the clouds, and at the edges of trees.”

She knows that she could probably research this, and could likely find an explanation, some physics of patterns in nature. However, she thinks it will be more interesting to try to find someone who might help her to understand this atmospheric phenomenon by writing a book and starting conversations about rudimentary patterns in nature and the origins of written human language and religious iconography.

The crowd boos and hisses. “Get the fuck out of here, Audacity.”

The woman pulls Audacity from out behind the curtain, says: “Take a deep breath. It’s no big deal. We don’t have to listen to them. They’re just haters. Doubters. We can do this. I can do this.”

She holds tight to Audacity’s hand, feeling the bones of it. Begins to step forward, feels the resistance, the holding back.

“I can do this,” she thinks. Turns, studies Audacity, who is not feeling so audacious at the moment, who is actually cowering a little, meek around the eyes. “C’mon,” she urges, pulling audacity forward, “I can do this, but I need your help.”

She knows that all she needs to do is to go back downtown, to sit in the lobby of the Riverview Hotel and to upload her 1:00 videos to youtube. To put together a post of the 11,000 words she has written, spend some time in town, write some more. Saw more cedar logs. Write a letter.

She came down to the coast to construct a query, to devise a way of introducing herself and her work which encompassed the scope and vision of the project, but which was brief and charismatic, though not gimmicky, sincere. She thinks that being direct in what she is seeking is probably the best way to go, to simply offer some information about the situation, in the form of a longitudinal multimedia project proposal, and request consideration.

I might need help creating the proposal though.

That is what I was supposed to be doing while I was down here. Creating a project proposal, drafting a query letter. I have gotten off-track with those goals because I have been documenting my experience of coming back to this place, what I have been thinking about, what I have been noticing.

However, I think that I am closer to having a project proposal created than I was before this trip, because I have a better understanding of what it is that I am proposing. A book, yes. However, if a book is created to do something in the world other than to just be a book, a story on bound pages, then it becomes a project. I could – and may – simply write the book the best way I am able, but I feel like I’d be well-served by some guidance and feedback in the process, keeping in mind what the function of the book is, who it is being written for, what the aim is.

[Hours later…]

To make a golem for a book, you must first have the idea, driving alone on an interstate several days before you go out of town. Your friend from New York City told you about golems, explaining as he brought in a bundle of sticks gathered from the perimeter of the woods on the northern California coast that one could bring something into being by creating a representative structure or object of that thing, and imbuing that object with a will that what the object represents will come into being.

“I will make a little book, to symbolize my book, and it will be a golem.” You think this to yourself, though you don’t know anything about how to make a golem, or what materials ought to be used. You forget about the idea, forget to looks for a sharp needle and strong thread, for binding a miniature book. Wonder briefly, when the idea returns to you, feeding the dogs the morning before you leave, if you should you bound the small bookform in the scraps of peacock blue leather you have in a bag in the closet?

You did not bring leather. You did bring paper though, plain printer paper. You found a perfect small box in the backseat of the car, something that came with a cellphone, a tiny flat brown box. No stickers, no printing, sealed by two small flaps. The perfect box for a little book golem.

Driving into town night before last, when it struck you that you should go visit your great-grandmother’s grave, you had the thought that some of the dirt from around where she is buried might be a good thing to add to a golem, to give it the oomph of ancestors that love you, to connect your great-grandmother to you in this endeavor, to help you to remember that it was her, before it was anyone else, who told you that you were a wonderful writer, simply wonderful.  It was her, before it was anyone else, who taught you how stories could take you places, give you pictures in your head, feelings. She was a good storyteller, and you would beg to hear your favorites again and again, for years.

You almost forgot, that drizzly Thanksgiving night at the cemetery, to get the small spade out of the car, the old jam jar.  You didn’t though. You remembered, and said thanks to your great-grandmother as you scooped the dry, soft earth into the glass.

After you got your fingers tattooed yesterday, you saved the section of papertowel with two small blood-and-ink hearts on it.  You saved your fingernail clippings from last night, when you sat quiet against that wall in the room you couldn’t breathe in. The nails were from your hands, built from your cells. You fished a small coil of hair, pulled free in the shower, one single grey strand, out of the garbage, and used a hammer to split a piece of skull bone from an antler you found by the barn.  You took the feather from a downy woodpecker killed by a hawk out of your wallet. Your father had given you three of the feathers on Wednesday. “These are some special feathers.”

My father says lots of things are special.

Lots of things are.

I walked out to the dock, and stood where my friend had been sitting just a little bit ago. My friend and their lover had stopped by to say hello, travelling north. I stood there for a minute, glad that my friend had been there, then walked back to the point, stopping at the end of the dock to pick up a perfect sprig of cedar that I walked over with a friend who cares about me.

I hadn’t made a tiny book yet. I did have a piece of paper though, that had been folded and noted with page numbers on it, for a mini-zine project I did several years back. It had been sitting on my desk since I moved rooms back in the mountains, and before that it was on a shelf with books I value, and those felted wool figures from far-away Hastings Street, a red and white striped giraffe crocheted by someone who was a dear friend for a moment, and a hat I’d made for myself, a hat like a bird’s head, its beak like a pointed bill, stitched from felt, with scraps of red linen fanning back as feathers.

I decided that the sheet of paper with page numbers would be my golem book, and I gathered all the things I’d collected – the box, the cedar sprig, the piece of bone, the feather, the papertowel and fingernail crescents, the coil of hair – and went back out to the point.  Sat down on the ground and wrote a simple statement on the sheet, set a straight-forward intention.

Not asking, telling.

Stating what will happen: This book will be written by me. Stating my desired end: In service to the greatest possible good.

Folded the page and signed it with my full name, unfolded it, I put some of the dirt from my grandmother’s grave on the page, my hair and fingernails.  Poured a small amount of water from the well deep below this land onto the paper, watched the ink run, folded it again and set it down into the box, with the heart-stained piece of paper towel, the piece of bone, the sprig of cedar, the woodpecker feather. Found a spot on the point right between the oak tree and the cedar tree, where one can stand to see both the sunrise and the sunset. Cleared back the grass, dug a little hole. Such soft earth.

I got the thought, out of nowhere, that I needed to include a piece of copper, a small copper bird, in with my golem book and its hosts of offerings.  I ran back upstairs, got a bird that I had already made, that I had brought with me because I thought that I might work on holiday gift crafts while I am here, if I felt like it.

The sun was setting as I wrote out a small prayer on the bottom of the box, set it into the ground, covered it up, and then uncovered it, gathered a small scoop of marsh mud from beside the cedar tree and packed it over the box containing my book golem, covered it all back up.

My friend says that making a golem is a way of setting something into motion, and –yeah- it’s not magic, you still have to do the work of creating or becoming the thing which the golem is made for, but it creates an impetus, an intention, almost like a pact.

It really comes down to a couple of different theories.

The theory that I find the most interesting and worth considering is the one involving metapatterns in nature and how, if closely observed, the natural world may manifest the symbols and compositions that human civilizations associate with divine presence and/or workings, that these patterns in nature are mirrored in our written languages and iconic compositions.  There are sub-theories associated with this idea, involving how/why some people may be more prone to see shapes in the sky than others, and fuzzy concepts about the metaphysical mechanics of forces at work in shaping the world.  Some of the tertiary theories get a little weird, a little out there. They become problematic – untestable, speculative.

Another theory is that I am crazy, and nothing means anything.  That I am deluded.

That theory isn’t very interesting to me.

If I approached this idea of mine, that patterns in nature have a lot to do with how God and gods have been conceived of throughout the ages, and have mightily influenced our iconography and text-based languages, as a scientific inquiry, I would need to do rigorous research on the origins of written language, related theories, the aesthetics of icons across world religions throughout recorded history, incidences in sacred texts that may allude to the physical manifestations of divinity within the natural world, then I would need to document phenomena that I perceived to support my theory, and catalog those incidences, as well as consult with others, specialists in the field…whatever field such an inquiry may exist within…cultural anthropology?

I would need to be open to being wrong. I am open to being wrong. In fact, for a long time, my weblog was called Prove Me Wrong.

It was both a challenge and a plea.

While I was driving to the grocery store, to buy snacks to share with the visitors, my friend and their lover, I saw another triangle in the sky.

So, so many triangles in the sky here the past few days. I think I know how it happens.
If two large currents of air meet, intersecting at an angle, the way two currents might come together in a river…? If the temperature or air pressure or relative humidity within those currents, clouds may either dissipate or accumulate near the point of the two currents meeting (the apex of the triangle)?

Sometimes the appearance of triangles may be an illusion created by the layering of clouds and empty sky?

Yeah. That’s probably it. An illusion.

(Note: I sat in the Riverview for two hours, waiting for pictures to sync from my phone to my cloud-stored photos, tried to find the best ones to add between paragraph breaks. They were slow to sync, and I listened to a white-haired man sing Hallelujah, other old songs. At least three of the songs had mentions of books, of stories. The other people in the room and I talked while the musician took a break. Turns out that I was the only person in the room that is from this town, from this place.)

Nov 29

I planned to come home and work out a study+research of one particular form I’ve noted in the the clouds as being suggestive of some elements of written human language or iconic composition, explore the history and mythology of – for example, a trident or a triangle. That shape that looks like what I’d call a 3, but that someone else, from somewhere else, might see as something different, a shape with a different name, a different meaning. I have a small library of books on symbols and patterns in nature, and I have the internet. It was a helpful thing for me write out what I might need to do to approach this as a scientific inquiry, because while and not equipped to do exhaustive interdisciplinary analysis of weird clouds, I am excited about seeing what I can learn. I don’t know why I wanted someone else to help me to understand why I see what I see, and how these sort of structures in the clouds are formed, whether or not it is possible that other people, in other places, have – throughout history – also noticed these particular forms.  It’d be nice to be able to talk with someone about this, but I can do research, and write about that process, interesting bits of information I might find.

I am not opposed to being incorrect in my ideas. I just want more information.

The biggest barrier to me doing this sort of informal-but-purposeful survey of easily accessible information and related, but possibly less obvious, resources of knowledge is time. it is almost midnight now. I have slept an average of four hours a night recently. It’s not that I am not tired (I am tired), or that I cannot sleep (if I closed my eyes right now, I’d be asleep within two minutes). I have a lot I want to do, a lot I need to do. Also, I am experimenting with the possibility that I can train my body and faculties to function more adequately under adverse or stressed conditions, such as slight sleep deprivation.

There are things I want to do and be a part of that will require me being able to stay late and still be thinking clearly, functioning well. So far, my experiments have turned up some astounding insights…I do pretty well on scarce sleep. I don’t feel bad, I am not cranky. I feel a little more…but, I like feeling.

The other morning, when you walked out to add the slip of paper that you’d written the word for truth in Hebrew on 9 times to your little book golem box, you found that something had dug it up, left it laying on the ground, box pulled open, but contents undisturbed. You picture a raccoon, maybe a possum, smelling across the surface of the ground, pausing to smell the faint whiff of my hands, buried under the roots of the grass, pawing through, lifting out the box, pulling the flaps open, finding not much of interest, paper and dirt, human smells, tree smells, dry bone smell.

You set the folded paper into the box, brush off the little bit of mud that is on the cardboard, close it all back up, and take it inside, take it with you.  There is enough buried out there, left out there.  You feel good about the little book resting in the ground for a sunset and a sunrise. You wrap it up with paper, and tie it with a string. Put it your bag to go with you. Something out in the world, traveling close.

12:11 AM

Every Tuesday for the past 3 weeks, I have been leaving core sadnesses in the woods out at Pisgah. I have been running fast in the dark.

I don’t know if am actually running fast, because perception of speed changes in the dark, everything around you sliding by in shadows.

Even with my eyes closed, I know when I am running fast. I can tell by my breathing, and by my body mechanics, the posture of my arms, the way my feet hit the ground and lift. I don’t close my eyes when I am running in the dark. There is no need to.

I make sure to be off the root – rugged trail by the time full dark starts to settle in, back on the flat trail that I know fairly well. My night-vision isn’t wonderful, and the first thing to go after sunset is my depth – perception. I cannot run down rough hewn trails in the dark.

That would be stupid and dangerous. 

Tonight, I even brought a headlamp, but the bobbing light in front of me made me feel woozy, so I turned it off, and ran in the dark.

I have not run during full daylight hours at all over the past couple weeks. Early mornings and waxing sunrise in Georgia. Sunsets in the forest. Looping the dog around by the Hot Spot, down the big road, past the convenience store and public housing neighborhoods, past the store fronts and rowing machines and not-wonderful paintings. Past the people sitting and smoking outside of the old hotel, now apartments. Up the hill, racing up the steep slope at the corner, full sprinting up a hill, the dog exuberant, wide open.

I think I will need to do that run tomorrow night, take the dog out.

I don’t know if I will go back to that trail in the forest that I’ve been leaving my core sadnesses on. It’s a pleasant enough run. Not too challenging, but – overall – not too easy.  The second half, the way back, is easy. The first half is mostly easy…except for that hill. I had planned to run up that hill today, even if I had to go extremely slow, a quick upward March. It starts off with a slow incline, and then becomes steep, going up the hill.

I think it is mental, my resistance to this hill. However, I know – also – that my fitness and strength is still warming up to hill running, and that I probably need to quit smoking again. I can find other ways to modulate my norepinephrine levels, to produce dopamine and raise my serotonin levels. I will not go on a psychiatric medication, like wellbutrin.

“There is an urgent call for you,” my supervisor had come down the hall, down to the basement, to the laundry room, where I was folding sheets that burnt my arms, felt good to fold. I set the sheets aside, a big metal cart with rattling wheels that I loved to pull down the halls, stocking the laundry shelves, that hot dryer smell. The dust smell of the closets set into each long hall, rooms evenly spaced, like a hotel or a hospital, a school.

The place used to be a hospital. It was still a place where people came to die, came when there was no help at home.

My supervisor and I probably made small talk on the elevator ride back up to the main floor. The lobby desk. She liked me, liked my husband.

He worked in the kitchen, managed the day shift. Made me eggs, over hard, chatted with me as I got a bowl of cereal.

All the residents thought it was wonderful that we were married. I had just found out I was pregnant the month before, just a few days after our courthouse wedding. I found out that I was pregnant while we were down in Georgia, with our families gathered for our “real” wedding, there at the place where I grew up.

I had just had my first appointment at the ob-gyn. That’s who was calling, my doctor. There was no small talk. “Are you still taking wellbutrin?”

I felt relieved. I hadn’t taken it in months and months. I had stopped taking it, because it made me gain 30 pounds in one month and made me feel terrible, made me feel sick.

Two years before, I had swallowed about 30 wellbutrin, along with an entire prescription of opioid painkillers, that a different ob-gyn had given me, for a pain near my ovaries, an internal inflammation that I was given no explanation for, only a prescription. I hadn’t taken many of them. I had a lot left. 

“You know you could have really died,” the doctor told me, his face distorted because my pupils were so contracted and I was grimacing, so sick. Sick in every cell of my body. Poisoned. 

“I know.” 

I wasn’t yet glad that I hadn’t died. 

The following year, at the turn of this century, I ended up in the hospital again after “the bad morning,” the era of sitting at my grandmother’s card table shooting cocaine with the man who tattooed wings on my palms. I don’t think that I had experienced a rush of dopamine in a long, long time. I understood that I could easily addicted, because my brain got such a powerful signal that, “Hey, this feels good. We should do more.” Dopamine is how we are encouraged to participate in the activities of survival. Hunting and gathering. Wanting, pursuing, achieving. Grooming. Love. Drugs or activities that stimulate a dopamine release are interpreted by our brains and bodies that this cocaine or this new pair of shoes or this Facebook like or this new date must be incredibly important to our survival, that it really is something we have to do. 

“How are you?” He asked. 

“Immediately glad I did it.” I replied, without any hesitation whatsoever, but a wash of bitter in mouth and my heart pounding, stomach recoiling. I didn’t care that I felt sick. “This shit could kill me.” I knew that right off the bat, one second in. “This could kill me so, so quick.” 

I don’t think I ever really wanted to die. Not enough to do something that I knew would kill me. The thought of dying from a drug overdose or a rapid emaciation, arms addled with pocks and bruises, under the Burnside Bridge, some terrible thing or another happening to me and around me…this was not an appealing potential end for me to consider. 

Maybe I did want to die, enough to risk doing something that I knew my kill me, like taking all those pills the year before. Cutting so close to a major vein on that bad, bad morning. 

They sent me home from the hospital with a prescription for wellbutrin. I didn’t take it long. 

“No,” I turned my body in towards the wall, away from the women at the front desk. “I haven’t taken it in months.”

I had stopped taking the venlafaxine as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Drove cross country with a new husband and two dogs in the wintertime, coming off of effexor.

I didn’t know that what I was feeling, such sickness and volatility, was due to me being in a psychiatric drug withdrawal process. I thought I was just fucked up, that maybe I was sick and emotional, lying in the back seat of the car, woozy and tingling and jolting, at the very edge of vomiting for state after state after state. I tried to have fun, visiting relatives in California, eating pizza, listening to music. 

“That’s good,” the doctor said, sounding relieved. “Okay.”

“Why?”

The doctor passed, then told me that the drug I had been taking causes birth defects. I wasn’t taking it anymore, but I still felt sick.

8 years later, I would get an abortion, because I was pregnant and did not know it, and they did not give me a pregnancy test at the outpatient program I was court-ordered to go to. They prescribed me wellbutrin, which I was court-ordered to take. 

So, no, I will not go on a psychiatric medication. Those drugs only did me harm. I’m glad some people find them helpful, but they almost killed me, were a major factor in severe life disruptions and disasters. 

I would like to run up that hill. So, I will need to find a way to approximate the neurochemical effect of nicotine. Not right now though. Right now, I am enjoying smoking cigarettes.

There are hills I could train on near here. Work up to it. I run further up it each time I try. I could simply keep trying and then, one day, it will be done.

Tonight, there was no way I was going to run up that hill. I had planned to do it, half-wanted to do it. My head had hurt all day, and each footfall was like getting hit in the temple.

I thought I had talked to people for four hours, but as I started the run, orienting to where I was at, what I was doing, reflecting on the albatross of experience that is a day working in a state – funded behavioral health services program, I realized that, no, it’d been five hours. Actually more like 7, because even when I wasn’t doing a class or having an appointment tent with someone, I was still outwardly attending, talking and listening, sending emails while I ate a sandwich.

“What the fuck…”

I felt heavy, tried to enjoy moving through the forest in falling light, head pounding. I had decided that morning that I would dismantle a specific fear as I ran up the hill, a longstanding and especially pernicious fear, a prickly fear, that under its pervasively nuanced operations within my life has the power to completely shift me into a state of experience that, quite frankly, fucks me up.

I had been feeling the fear since it had mostly recently risen up during a conversation had in a parking lot. 

It was probably good that I was talking with people all day long, because if I am talking  with people, that fear eases back.

I think that part of how this works, this process of writing and reflecting on experience, is that I will set forth a statement, such as all my recent assertions that I am not scared of much anymore, and – then – a couple days later, something will arise that challenges whatever I might have momentarily believed was true. I probably, in this process, seek out challenging or incongruent evidence in some subconscious fumbling around trying to confirm whether what I said is true…or not true.

I don’t think I am scared like I have been before. I have fear though. In my body.

Someone told me recently about how to train elephants to stay in one place. How to put a collar on them that causes pain if they move out of a certain perimeter. Eventually, they stop trying to move beyond the boundaries of the collar, even if it is removed.

They just stay where they know they won’t get hurt.

Of course, there is a critical deprivation that occurs when an animal is not able to move about much for fear of being hurt. A slow, deep hurt, a gradually death of motivation.

Learned helplessness, yo.

Psychology researchers shocked dogs to learn how much it to took to make an animal scared to even try to get out of a situation, to give up.

While I had been feeling the fear – which reflexively comes up when I make small progress in my aim to be slightly more free within my life and who I am, what I involve myself with and how I spend my time – most of the day, went to sleep with it last night, waking up with it this morning, I didn’t fully feel it until halfway up the hill, and it closed my throat up, my eyes got wet. “What the hell? I don’t cry when I run.”

I think it frightened me, to find myself about to sob out in the woods with the sun going down, cold and damp with sweat. I kept running, and as the run got easier, the fear got bigger in me, edged into anger, into grief, made my throat tight, my heart beat even harder, my arms numb, my body a strange vehicle for so much feeling, so many thoughts and images, rapid fire reactions, the effort not to fall, to watch the ground, to remember that I am running.

Usually, running makes me forget most everything other than running. The fear, the body response, the felt sensations, the psychological phenomenon of a cluster bomb of flashback moments…it made it hard for me to remember I was running.

I kept going, because the only way back was forward.

While rationally I am so done with that fear, I still have that fear in body, telling me not go outside the boundaries set for me by other people under specific and longstanding threat relating to my family structure, inclusion/alienation within my family. To not even challenge those boundaries, or ask questions about them. Or even acknowledge them. To smile and be cooperative with the agreement, the arrangement. To me, family conflict and the probably – not-great outcomes that may come from self advocacy efforts within the current circumstances of power and reality that define my family, the impossible nature of the situation, in which if someone has a problem with me, it is likely to create problems for my kids…its not worth my sense of self-interested freedom to compromise the peace and relative stability within their family. While no one can take my kids away anymore, because they are too old and there is no justifiable reason, other than . . . oh, snap…other than idiots are likely to read this not as a dynamic work of creative nonfiction by a persistently inquisitive self-documentarian, but as some crazy shit that means I’m not a good mom, because I dont talk much about being a mom here, just talk about weird stuff and banal but sparkling everyday phenomenon that nobody cares to hear about, but that I would like to remember. Talk about big questions, meta-curiosities. Things I don’t talk with people much about, in my walking-talking life. 

I don’t think I can publish this writing, because it is just too personal. It is my most private and real fear. It is the soft core of me, my quicksand.

Who needs it?

I don’t want this to exist anymore, this situation where I have fear that keeps me from doing things that are important to me, like being myself, not a role-parsed and segmented self, all the most real aspects of who I am a secret. 

It is the time of year when I am on my commute during the moment of sunrise, when everyone slows down, because the sun is so bright, and the accumulated deceleration backs up way down the road.

It’s fascinating to me, the sunrise traffic jam.

Nov 29

Epic detours, such a lightness, some fun in crossing back and forth over this river. I am stopped in a parking lot, about to go walk in the forest. I think I killed some fear last night. The songs on the radio are encouraging this morning. Feeling stronger everyday.

 https://youtu.be/Mh3Kk5tZSmo looking  for the Logical Song, by Supertramp, because – yeah, story of my life, I found this song: https://youtu.be/-1rzsT2t2YY 

I am looking forward to today.  I love my life. 

Without Ceremony

I think constantly about leaving my job because I want my headspace back.

There is a sense of twisted solidarity with people who do not want to go to work in the morning. 

Internally, I have a comprehensive knowing that I have drifted from an imagined purpose, and that I have become detached from myself. 

I am no longer a good writer, and I haven’t done artwork in weeks. Throughout my adult life, even in my late-adolescence, I have held a belief that I should be doing art. It never goes away. It nags me and nags me. I think of paintings and fiber sculptures that I would like to do. 

I run out of hours in the day. My energy is low. It’s all overwhelming. 

I want to go to sleep.

(This is dog fur.)

“Pulse is slippery,”

woman in white coat declares 

fingers warm, press soft 

It’s entirely possible that I have been dissociated since the end of May last year, or possibly earlier, and/or that I am dissociated now. I am living in my head more and more, spinning out ideas and intentions that I am beginning to recognize are quickly forgotten, and are forgotten so thoroughly that they may as well have not existed. I am sitting alone on the front steps, contemplating my heartbeat – wondering if my pulse is faltering.

I am changing my practice, or – rather – my practice is changing. My tendency is to start sentences with ‘I am trying to…’ or ‘I am going to…’ However, these linguistics of striving set me up to be in tension with my action, prepare me for a push, set my jaw and move me toward a course of action that I have decided is the correct path. 

For me, there is so much error in that. 

It is difficult to develop a practice of not doing, because the willful  aspects of my personality tell me that practice is doing, that a practice is something that you do, that you hold yourself to doing. 

Several months after the global pandemic made landfall in the U.S. and crept its way to the smaller cities of the east coast, I began to take longer and longer walks in the mornings, before my teenage kids got up to sign on to virtual school and before my first Zoom meeting of the day. 

I’ve broken my year-long streak of 10 miles a day. After a week of waking up tired with my heart pounding and a dull headache, and getting out of bed anyway – pushing through, I thought: “This is beginning to feel a little stupid.”

Last Sunday morning, as I was running on the greenway, in mile 4 or 5, I stopped to take a picture of a goose on her nest built into the grass at the base of a tree by the river. Another runner paused as I put my phone away and picked my stride back up. “How far are you going?” 

“I’m not sure,” I said, really not knowing. “I try to do some combination of walking and running 10 miles every day.”

“Wow. Are you training for something?” 

“Just to stay sane.” 

“Fair.”

The question the runner asked me was a good one. Why – after all – was I running so fucking much? Was it actually keeping me sane? 

I did not (and do not) feel especially sane. I’m not insane, but suspect that I am not entirely whatever sane might be. 

I just accidentally deleted a lovely draft of a dream and I wonder if my subconscious did this for me, to keep me from sharing my dreams. 

I sat down to draw a picture of a dream, or – rather – and image from a dream I had in which three GIANT feathers were hanging in the trees, not tied or suspended, but caught in the branches, loosely held by twigs. I couldn’t imagine how big the bird must have been, the bird that the feathers had fallen from. Could an albatross really be that big?

The feathers were the size of a child. 

In the dream, I thought, and fell a sense of wonder, excitement, disbelief, and wanting.

I wanted the feathers. 

The light was beautiful, a green springtime light coming down through the trees, filtered by leaves like beech trees and like chestnuts, hickories. 

A feather fell, heavy and with little grace, a matter of fact falling. 

There was a road, a forest service road, gravel and with small tufts of wild forest grass, low mounding, soft growing wild plants. Flea bane and dead nettle. 

The feather that fell lay on the left side of the road, just a few feet to the right of where I stood. 

I couldn’t believe my luck, and I was quick to grab the feather. 

(May apple/Mandrake)

It is morning on the first day after the first full moon of spring, the full worm moon. Before the sun rose, the moon hung pale glowing in the early spring pastel dawn. Easter palette of soft pinks and gentle blues, the brightness of new growth green.

I woke up early, because sometimes I sleep less during full moon times and also because I knew that I would have a lot to do today, a knowing that showed up in my mind as the image of my calendar, the thin lines of blank white between blue and red blocks. A busy day. Meetings and conversations. An appointment at the YWCA in the afternoon with my daughter, masked movements on elliptical machines, miles counted in orange digital font, the suck of fabric against my mouth and sourness of my own breath breathed back.

The puppy was quiet in his crate, being a good dog, whining quietly – minimally, barely a whimper, more a whisper in dog voice – while I began to move in the dark.

There is this birdsong 

The sun rises steadily 

Morning air water

This morning, I went to a work meeting and realized that I have become almost completely disconnected from all that is happening there with this city money and the hotel rooms for the people who are being cleared out of camps. It was like I had become a different person over the past few days, with my hair pulled back from my face, sitting at my desk not even trying to pretend that I had been around. Over the past two months, the organization’s annual budget has ballooned by over 400,000. New ESG money, state money from the feds. A doubled grant, a new contract. COVID has been a boon to the nonprofit industrial complex. The city can move people into motel rooms. Pay 3300.00 a day to keep them from camping on the greenway during tourist season, keep the homeless off the streets. Burn through the money allotted until winter, go back to business as usual. Code Purple shelters and not enough beds, probably. 

Good luck. 

There will always be people sleeping on the street, so long as there are people who can’t – or won’t – follow the rules put in place for them, people who miss the bus, people who can’t get in on time. People who would rather sleep outdoors than jump through the flaming hoops of paternalistic bureaucratic bullshit of most services – or who have no choice but to sleep outside because they are not able to navigate all the processes and procedures and communications and rules that come with shelter. 

(Later)

I went to another work meeting and had the experience of almost desperately wanting to be away from the work meeting, not wanting to listen to the people.

(Later)

I am so exhausted. 

(later) this small screen keeps snapping back to the beginning, but it doesn’t really matter, the sequence of words that tell stories in no sequence. 

I don’t think I understood the depth of my fear before. I did not know it’s origins. “This is a problem with me, that I have this fear of being myself.” 

I didn’t quite grasp that the fear was learned, taught by cruelty and reinforced by the quiet codes of normalcy. 

How is it that some people don’t have this fear? People like Lady Gaga, or Little Nas X, people like…well, any real artist I could think to name. 

These people didn’t waste their whole lives mentally wringing their hands in fits of social neuroticism and egg-walking. Did they?

I mean, for me, the social fear and fear of judgement+punishment runs so deep as to be woven into almost everything I do so far as it relates to other people. 

I can recognize now that this is not a rational fear, that there are no people waiting to judge me, to have conversations about me, to talk behind my back about how I am this that way, and – besides – who cares?!

(Later)

I just submitted a poem for a contest being held by the Fairview branch of the Buncombe County Library System. I worked pretty hard on it, really challenged myself to feel out the nuance and sounds of the words, read it outloud alone in my room and noted a change that needed to be made.

today, I have thought a lot about how there is this pressure to make a good product of yourself, and that – in the United States and westernized world – that means doing some slick thing that looks good and is technically complicated enough to be interesting and engaging in a media-saturated landscape of quick, bright images, pushing buttons of appeal.

That assumption – that in order to be seen as valid and not a sad loser, one has to put together some mediated self that is consumable in ways that make sense, that aren’t just you rambling about your life in a poorly lit room with crummy audio and weird facial expressions – is a huge barrier to me doing anything creative that is shown to other people. However, that assumption – which stems from a deep wrought belief that if I show my actual self – knowing that said self is likely to continue to evolve and that various aspects of said self may emerge in strange, inconsistent ways which obfuscate or contradict other aspects of said self, and that whatever might be most authentic is that there are mutable complexities that constitute this being a human being in society and that no matter what I bring of who I am, no matter what I show, as soon as said self is witnessed by an external entity, their perspectives becoming the dominant defining voice. Because I grew up female in the 1980s and 1990s in the American South, I have a tremendous amount of psycho emotional and relational baggage around physicality, desirability, and likability. 

When I picture the vague person and/or people that some really immature and unconfident aspect of myself is terrified will make fun of me or create harm in my life if they know who I really am, or found out about this thing that I do, this writing and thinking about things like I do, they would make fun of me and create harm for me, these people show up in my head as a messy collage of faces and voices, sneering drawls and middle school cafeterias. 

Is it really possible that I am stifling my inner drive to create and to speak, and to make art and share it with people to be able to say what I want to say because it’s not even that weird, and it’s definitely not (in the broad context of human experiences) crazy, because of worrying about what people from my dumb hometown would think? 

Oh.My.God.

I mean, I guess that sort of fear – the fear of social judgement – lives in a lot of people, shows up in a lot of ways. 

That fear has no business in my life anymore. The fear of exhausting my life trying to make other people happy doing things that I’m just not that into anymore is greater than the fear of negative evaluations from people who don’t know that much about art, neurodiversity, and/or poetry to begin with. Even some experts are idiots. If a person looks at what is favorably evaluated by haters, it doesn’t take much to realize that some opinions don’t matter at all anyway. 

(from earlier)

It’s a little heavy outside, muffled with clouds in the late-sunset time. Suddenly a new season, the dissociation from the wintertime.

Fall into sleep in the mid-morning

fuck it, doesn’t matter none 

She knows she’s slipping, being birthed out of one life and into the next. 

(This has happened before.)

When she recognizes that she is increasingly disjointed from the world of her co-workers and their lives, from her partner even, ending the relationship, re-committing her…

(Ugh) that is the sort of writing that comes from a tired mind, a mind tired of talking. I think it’s a matter of needing to diversify my modes of communication and the different parts of my brain activity. Like a lot of middle-class, educated white-identified people, I have become very rooted in text-based communication styles, and – notably – writing on my smartphone. This a certain mode of operation. I conceptualize and express things differently when I write by hand, or when I am painting, or playing music. 

Some things she has thought about this morning:

– filling out the physician’s referral form to the Asheville TEACCH Center https://teacch.com/ because I want to have a conversation with an informed and ethical practitioner about the possibility that I may meet diagnostic criteria for an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or whether my neurodiversity factors may be the underlying ‘disorder’ in my ‘mental disorder.’ My bias in considering this is that I already believe, as an informed and ethical practitioner myself, that the way I process sensory and cognitive information and how these processes impact my nervous system and learning plays a HUGE part in whatever expressions, tendencies, and behaviors constitute my perceived mental disorder. We are not working with a clean slate. All of the experiences and micro-evolutions of being that make up my ‘life’ and ‘who I am’ have led to all sorts of interactive and reactive conundrums, compensatory measures, learning how to smile and make eye contact, learning to do whatever you need to do to put other people at ease and not give them any reason to think you’re weird or crazy 😑. 

I mean, I have been doing this ‘social survival’ stuff for a long time, both consciously and unconsciously. I have never felt – to my recollection – a usual, everyday, impulse to be around people or to talk to people. I do not maintain friendships well, and relationship is completely fucking exhausting for me. It’s like whatever is happening with other people consumes my attention when I am around them, because you have to pay attention. I have happenstance friends, who I consider to be more allies and teachers, or someone that I am ‘supposed’ to be around for some reason known only to the divine workings of all things. Which is a hand-wavy way of saying God. Sometimes, the people I feel most a sense of friendship with are the people who I believe crossed my path for some purpose that is greater than me and my stupid will and intent. 

This morning, ________ came to the house at 7:00 am. I was bustling around with a cup of dog food in my hand. The puppy was barking and bouncing around at the cat, who was enticing him by rolling on the floor and running around the rooms of the house, getting him to chase her and bark and make a big ruckus. I felt stressed, and didn’t want to see ________ at 7:00am. 

“________, I’m feeling stressed.” The woman opened the gate, moving the old wire tray from a rabbit hutch, the split spike of an old fence picket that closed off the yard. She 

watched the elder person’s slow climb up the stairs, noticed the dog calm down and stop the mischief business with the cat and say hello in his doggy way, sitting and standing, smiling, tail wagging. “Why you stress Miss Faith, what’s going on?” 

It was a good question. Nothing bad was happening. The dog was barking, moving around in a way that was distracting. She worried what the neighbors would think about the barking so early in the morning. She wanted the puppy to be a good dog, not a barking dog. She was getting ready to take him out, put him in the car to go walk. He wouldn’t walk in the neighborhood, because he wants to stay home and play with the cat, go to the neighbor dog’s house. He won’t leave the proximity of home. 

“I’m getting ready to go over to AHOPE and meet up with _____ to fill out the forms for the Asheville Housing, put me on the list for Lee Walker.” The new apartments on the hill across from the little store where ________ likes to get a Tahitian Treat and a scratch-off, talk to the countergirl for a while, used to be called Lee Walker, now they are called something else, but nobody remembers the name. They still call it Lee Walker, from the old apartments that they moved everyone out of, bulldozed. 

She is sitting on the porch smoking, thinking how it worked out fine to give ________ a ride, and how the elder person fell asleep in the car on the short trip to the homeless services day center which wouldn’t even be open for an hour, how she figured she ought to just take the dog down to walk by the river and let ________ sleep in the car for a while til the place opened. 

She and the dog had a nice walk and even ran a little, her still wearing her house clogs that make her taller, a poppy red dress. She was happy to be out, happy with the way things we turning out, the chance to look around, notice the grasses in morning light, wind, the way the river looked green in reflections of trees. 

________ getting to rest, small mercy. 

Lately, I’ve been having re-experiences of the very best moments I have ever had. Laying on the pallet of blankets I’d made on the floor of the upstairs room at the house in Portland, 4317 NE 7th, baby blue and red trim around the windows, the paint thick and textured from a hundred years of simply covering the layers that were falling away, sealing them under new layers. Late afternoon after painting the walls in the near empty – the south-facing rooms lit up all day, the kitchen shady and moldering in the way of old houses, crummy sticky-gloss white cabinets, thin sheets of wood with handles screwed on, hinges gummy and painted. She loved the house, the way it looked a little like a children’s book illustration, even with the old burgundy carpet stapled a million times to the paint-splattered hardwood floors she was trying to uncover without having to call anyone. Pulling away the stained disintegrating carpet, it’s fibers joining the dust of the place. Prying out the staples one by one, wondering whether methamphetamine was involved in the carpets installation. There were thousands of staples jammed into the floor. She became a strange machine, hunched in a crawling child’s pose, moving along the haphazard staple lines, a screwdriver and a pair of needlenose pliers, her eyes trained on staples and the details of the floor of the house she had persuaded her mother to help her to buy, in lieu of going to Australia with a backpack to ride a bike to Adelaide because she liked the sound of the word, it’s blue green feel, like wind coming off the ocean, a graceful turn there on the coast. She had planned the trip impulsively, used her credit card to buy a ticket, filed the Visa request, got a passport, and then – while briefly residing in the stifling hot back room of a house she’d shared with the roommates who still lived there, on NE 17th Ave, she began to forget why she wanted to go to Australia. Two black and white kittens were found in the dumpster of a produce market managed by her former roommate. She adopted the kittens. Got birds tattooed on her feet, the words hope and courage in her own handwriting. Saw the house on the downhill slope toward Fremont for sale. The slope of its roof like a wave, square windows on their side as diamonds set into the walls of what she would discover were closets the size of small rooms themselves. She didn’t want to go to Australia anymore. She paid 75.00 to cancel her flight, and began the campaign to buy the house in Portland, to fix it up. To move back to the Pacific Northwest, away from Georgia, where she had returned the year prior to attend graduate school in Athens. She moved back home to St. Mary’s after a legitimately dangerous suicide attempt after dropping out of graduate school because she just couldn’t make her brain do the tedious work of research and citation, the expectations of consistent participation when there was a hurricane (Floyd, I believe) threatening the coast she still – at that time – thought of as home and which she had psychologically and emotionally problematic attachments to in that she felt grievously sad and longing to go home and yet when she was at home, as she’d been the previous summer before moving to Athens, after moving from Portland, driving crosscountry with her mother in a full Honda Accord, her hair short and wearing the nerdy glasses of the PNW to pose for a picture at Arches, slim black pants in the desert. Will Oldham was playing the 40 Watt the day she got to Athens with her mother, rented a room on the far side of town, tired of eachother after the last leg of the drive, Jawbreaker’s eye 5 playing too loud through the arteries of traffic in Atlanta. 

Her mother seemed confused about the certainty that it was a good sign, to find Will Oldham playing the day she got to town, and she went to the club and stood by the wall and smoked cigarettes, felt her heart big with some of the songs, dislocated and flat in being there, knowing no one and not seeing anyone she especially wanted to talk to. She spoke to no one. That felt appropriate.

(Later still) it is almost 4:00 pm. Today, I have taken the dog for a walk up the street with the cat, gone to visit my mom, taken my daughter to work, repaired and improved the front gate, cut back some sprawling hedge branches. Painted a little – noticing that I am immediately – lately – dropping into hyper focus on the fine lines and layers. It’s only been the past few years that I have emerged with a style of painting that is my own, washing thin, watery layers over one another again and again, so that everything appears as water, sinew, or wood. 



(Later)

My children seem to have this idea that moms cannot be artists and that it is irresponsible for moms to want to quit their jobs and devote time and energy to developing a different career that is more in alignment with values, motivations, and sustainable skills and which – truth be told – would probably be way more lucrative than the current situation. It’s not as though this artist thing is coming out of nowhere – as evidenced by this record. It’s not like I’ve been working in accounting forever and have a good salary and a 401k and insurance that I can actually afford to use. A 7,000.00 deductible. Give me a break. 

It’s not as though I have zero talent and haven’t put in the time to try to spend time developing my art, my voice, my purpose as a artist. It’s not as though I haven’t been making sacrifices for years to be able to do art, or have not compromised my participation in other aspects of my life for the sake of an art project. 

Why do my kids have this kind of harsh set of narrow expectations around what I am supposed to do and not supposed to do. The cult of White Middle Class American Motherhood and all its misogynistic trappings?

It doesn’t matter what they think so much as it did before. They are almost grown. 

If they have a problem with the way I am living my life, well – that goes to show how little they know about just how crummy parenting can get, meaning that – for the most part – I am a really, really good mom, and – besides – the ‘mom’ role is shifting. 

People always be thinking they can think something about other people’s life. 

My kids both have really good boundaries around how much commentary and opinion I can have on matters that are really none of my business. However, they haven’t quite put it together that they have limited domain over the person that I am. 

(this has looped back to the beginning again)

Note: Depression Spectrum image 

Okay. So I am really fucking sick of computers. My phone is okay-ish. I can maintain a pretty well-segmented consciousness when I am writing on it – meaning I can write and still be sort of present in hearing the birds sing and noticing the world around me. Sometimes, when I write I can get into a semi-trance like state, where it’s like I’m suspended in this voice and there is a swirl of image and a sense of knowing behind the words that speak themselves through my voice. That is not all the time though. I don’t use my phone to write as much if I am feeling anxious about the small screen, or if I am feeling cognitively blah. 

Omg. The spectrum of depression. I am finally figuring out how to manage my depression and I realize, as I feel better, that I have been seriously fucking depressed for a long time. 

(later) 



The morning was spent writing and spending time with the dog, the easy rhythm of feeding animals, brushing hair, putting on the red-orange dress again. I have three of the same red-orange dresses, and the same dress in multiples of black, multiples of pink, a single yellow, a sole light mint green. I’ve been wearing the same dress for months, despite having many clothes. I am comfortable in the dress and so I keep wearing it. 

I have done this my whole life. Clothing jags, food jags, schedule jags that feel like compulsion. Last year was intense with the walking/running 10 miles a day, the routine of pre-dawn circles at the track, watching the clouds in the dark sky, seeing stars, the cloak of fog, veils of rain in the streetlights, trying to keep my heart alive and strong, to know what I want and don’t want early in the morning, to get clear on that. 

(before)

I spent the last 5 hours painting. I think I really might be something like an outsider artist. Thank God I didn’t stop doing art or trying to write. I mean, I don’t think I could have given up this part of myself – the artist part of me, which is way bigger and more important to me than the working-in-a-non- profit part of me. 

I mean, Jesus Christ, I lost legal custody of my kids because of an art project (which was significantly augmented by mental health challenged spurred on by traumatic grief and a possible spiritual awakening). 

 “Let’s not say possible. Let’s say definite.” 

Really, though, it was the art project that really raised concerns, at least at first.

I don’t talk about any of this, but the reality is that for the past 10 freaking years, ever since I lost legal custody of my kids, I have been trying to be as normal as possible, and – if not normal – then at least some minimally achievable measure of responsible, meaning that I maintain employment with an external wage-paying entity for the purpose of meeting my kids’ needs and being a good example to them. I have kept myself shrouded in employment as a Certified Peer Support Specialist, surrounded by mental health professionals who – theoretically -could vouch for me not being crazy. 

I am so sick of earning wages. Literally, mentally ill with wage earning work. 

For the past week and a half, I have barely managed to work. Last week, I was almost certain that a heart attack was imminent. 

Is it crazy to believe that if I don’t do art, I will die by some hand greater than me, the currents that fire my heart stymied, staggered bolts and flutters, my life seized by the hand that governs poets, the cost of my stubborn, fearful silence. 

Gods laugh at me, “Lord, child, all you have to do is the thing that makes you joyful and everything will work out fine. All you have to do is let us guide your hand, speak through you. Do your job, the work that you were wrought to do.” 

My ancestors, in concert, shake their heads patiently, wring their hands in the center of my anxiety – which goes away entirely when I am painting and writing – hoping that I will not let them down, weary of waiting for their will to be done. 

Their disappointment is my depression. 

Is it crazy to feel these beliefs with a sense that is like intuition, a deep clear knowing, the bell of myself ringing with something like akin to truth?

Delusions are disorders of belief, malfunctions of intuition, confusions of truth. 

I don’t believe that it is crazy to believe that my ancestors are with me, or that something like God has a hand in my life. Many people believe these things. 

My experience of believing in ancestors and God – how these beliefs show up in me through thought and impression, how these beliefs integrate into my meaning-making processes and lines of reasoning, my weighing out of what’s important, what feels important – may be different than how these beliefs show up for other people – like, maybe a person believes that their ancestors are with them only when they are struggling or on anniversary days, or when they see a butterfly, and that maybe someone believes that God wants them to buy a bunch of guns and kill innocent people because their skin is a different color, and maybe some other person believes that it is the Devil itself that drives the war machine, and maybe…

You get the point. 

I don’t think that it is crazy to believe in my ancestors presence with me at all times or to believe in the infinite and stunningly beautiful complexities and mysteries surrounding this world and our collective sentience, the wisdom of the workings of all things, to want to understand how those workings work in my life and experience, or that I believe that it is supremely important for me to not sell myself in order to participate in an economy and lifestyle that doesn’t suit me well, that impairs my well-being and my relationships, that asks me to compromise my human right to be with my mother as she navigates an imminent death, to be present in the rituals and preparations of my children leaving home, to have the headspace to be a good steward to them, to be there for them during this time in their life. It is so fucked up that these human rights to participate in our own experiences of what it is to be human are undermined by the demands placed on us by our fucking jobs. I am super privileged in so many ways, especially when considered in relation to global measures of wealth, housing quality and stability, and access to health supporting resources – like food and clean water and clean air.

—-

Dear Potential Ally, 

My name is Faith. I am reaching out to you because I’ve found myself in a bit of a predicament. 

I am seeking assistance from the community of my unknown peers. 

She sits on the front steps, sunrise pink slipping toward the pale gold that ushers in a hot, clear day. The air is still cool, mid-Spring alive with birdsong melange and the rising buzz of one-season lives just beginning. Her hands are cold and she stumbles over what she is saying, what she might be able to say about the situation she has found herself in, the situation of her life and endeavors. 

It’s unreasonable – and off-putting, she thinks – to just launch into a whole life story. What could she possibly say to even begin? 

Would she sensationalize the high-drama of hospitalization? 

Is there an emoji for that? 

😳

Exactly. The world is cluttered with people talking about themselves. 

(The stories of our experience are sooooooo important. Really. They are.) 

There is no precedent for the letter she is trying to write. (That is not true. For as long as there have been artists, there have been letters asking for help.*

*The image of a project, a collection of letters written by artists to people who they believe may be able to help them to be an artist. Efforts, antics, and earnest intent. A beautiful book. A collaboration. My need to learn – ah ha! – from the community of my unknown peers, who – as it turns out – may not be the poets and artists who have ‘made it’ – who are recognized for their work in the arts and who are uplifted in simply doing their art, who are not expected to be able to do anything other than their art and that which supports their art – whatever it’s process may be, whatever the peculiar requirements to achieve the consciousness of being a conduit for the workings of ones own subconscious, but also – perhaps – for the subtle (and not so subtle) voices, whispers and commandments, of the larger ecosystem of phenomenal experience, nuanced communications – such a fragile thread! – with ancestors, earth, the memory and knowing of all things coalesced. 

Ugh. 

Why even try to name the gracious state of existing a little closer to the world where everything is sentiently alive and God is real? 

(That is what humans have been trying to do for as long as we have had the consciousness to try to explain our experience in the world to ourselves? To name and describe the experience of being uniquely attuned to the mind-blowing matter-of-fact existence of oneself in the midst of the precise workings and beautiful relationships that create a simple blooming flower, the seeming miracle of breath and sight and thought itself, the sensations that tell us we are alive, we are dying?) 

She has paused in her writing, walked around the yard with the dog, slants of sun illuminating the still-tender green of new growth so that the air around her is a wash of green, a watercolor blue in the lightening sky behind the trees. There were no trees 11 years ago. She used to be able to see the sky more; She could watch clouds. The bricks had grown into the soil in some places, laid like teeth to make beds that have since settled and sprawled toward indeterminate tangles of violet, wild rose, the English Ivy (curious. auto-correct will not let me uncalitalize those words) that is strangely thriving this year, choking out the (scientific name for poison Ivy). She had made a small pile of loose bricks the day before, right at the base of the curly willow, to the southeast of the grave of the dog under the small path bracketed by a volunteer hibiscus, a sky-stretching peach tree that had grown up from the small fallen fruit of a peach tree planted for her by the father of her children. The year the marriage ended, the peach tree took blight, thick black-orange fungus around the trunk, seeping down into the roots. The tree didn’t live through summer, but somehow small peach trees sprung up around that corner of the yard every year. She didn’t tend them or coax them in any way. They are not there anymore except for the one very tall peach tree that somehow, despite disregard, took hold to bloom pink every year, the first sign of spring, well before the lilacs, right after the single orange crocus that holds a space for itself in the winter-cleared yard. 

She pulled a few bricks up, and liked the cold familiar heft of them in her hand. There is nothing like a brick in the hand. In the year 2000, after she had dropped out of school, gone to the hospital, had her stomach pumped, and moved away from Athens, she and her father stacked bricks at the edge of the small clearing by Catfish Hole, the land she grew up on, where she was going to move back to, build a small house in the clearing, figure out something to do with her life since she hadn’t fucking died. “There are old those old bricks out there,” her father kept mentioning, intimating that any building of a house would be predicated by doing something about the two big mounds of bricks that had been taken from the falling chimneys of the long-gone Arnow house by the edge of the pasture. The bricks were heavy, covered in old lime-brittle cement, mossy and crumbling, damp. Others – the ones near the top, perhaps, in sun and in rain – were almost perfect. “We have to knock off this old cement.” Her father is holding a hammer and a chisel. 

(note to self: find out names of all viney weeds.)

Hi, my name is Faith Rhyne and I am the great-great granddaughter of Judge Marcus W. Beck, who reportedly accepted the monument to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain on behalf of the South. 

I have spent a great deal of my life in efforts to understand and reconcile what I know of the history of my family, the state I grew up in, and the country I live in. 

I am deeply anti-racist and anti-colonialist, and yet am continually awed by how thoroughly white supremacy and capitalism have entrenched themselves in my most basic worldviews (to see a tree as ‘a thing,’ to think in terms of value/worth and productivity, to feel my own self-esteem wither in the culture I am immersed in, and even in the rate of my breath in response to certain news, certain figures). 

All that is to say I am still unlearning and will continue to unlearn until I die this condition of being seen as a “white American female” in the 21st century. 

Like many people in the South (and in the world), I would like to see the monument to the confederacy at Stone Mountain, Georgia removed by whatever means necessary, with respect to the earth form which that grievous memorialization of an American insult to humanity is carved upon. 

I understand that many activists and legislative advocates have been working on creating a path to the removal of the Stone Mountain monument through legislature, grassroots campaigning, and tireless prayers for justice. 

There are many ways that a person could help to support the work that is already being done, and I am reaching out to you to see if you might have any suggestions as to how I might best contribute to the efforts to remove the monument at Stone Mountain. 

As the great-great granddaughter of the man who accepted the monument on behalf of the South, I would like to do my part (whatever that may be) to aid in the gathering of a resounding rejection of the monument by the people of the South. 

I am not able to contribute more than a few dollars to campaigning. I am a person with a disability who works part time in the nonprofit industrial complex. However, if there are key ways that I might support monetary contributions, let me know. 

Professionally, I have a background in community behavioral health and recovery support services. I could offer you more information about education and experience if you would like to consider ways that I specifically may be an asset to the effort to remove the Stone Mountain monument. 

In any event, I have subscribed to your newsletter and am so supremely grateful that the Southern Vision Alliance exists to do the work in the world that you and all the many allied organizations and networks that are working with you do. 

Please let me know if you have any idea how I might best fit into this. 

I don’t want to do some rogue thing like make a long-winded YouTube about how my great-great granddaddy was a judge and in the Klan, etc. etc. where I look half-mad and don’t even know wtf is going on with all the work that has already been done. 

I’d like to extend – humbly and graciously – the offer to help in the effort in whatever way might actually be helpful. 

I want to see the monument come down, and to help use the opportunity of bringing it down to shape a new narrative of Southern History. 

Let me know if/how I might help. 

Thank you for all you do.

——

Privet cathedral

Street light silhouette, green glow 

Arc of all movement 

Yesterday was a wash. I couldn’t write for shit and my brain was a fuzzed out. I wanted to sleep, but couldn’t quite take a nap. The morning was rainy; there was a damp dog around the house for hours. The evening time was like an Easter egg – all soft and pastel blue, soft after-rain blue, very white clouds, gold light. 

I didn’t go outside. 

I was just wandering around the house and trying to figure out why I couldn’t make my brain fucking work. 

“Just sit down and say the things. Do the things.” 

I understood the sequence, and had a dim, forgetful awareness of what I needed to be getting done, but I felt seriously stymied in doing it. 

“Is this just me being lazy? Just me procrastinating an unfun task?” Or is it a problem in the action-initiation process, the movement from intent to behavior, the doing of the thing. Am I stuck in thinking about doing?”

(Note to self: behavior can predicate the process, meaning if you engage in the actions of behavior without motivation to begin, one might then shift into the sequence of the behavior, the state of the behavior – meaning the parts of the brain and body and nervous system that are operating to create and sustain the behavior?) (so it goes both ways, a person can muster a behavior by will and intent or through simply doing the behavior. The same neural pathways become activated regardless of whether the initiatory impetus was will or action?)

Anyway, I need to open my computer and do the damn emails, communicate something to my employer about what the fuck is going on with me. 

I actually spent a lot of the day yesterday considering and lightly researching the phenomenon called ‘autistic burnout’ – in which people with sensory, cognitive, and social differences which impact their ability to comfortably function in and participate in a world built for people who are fundamentally not like them and who have very little awareness or shared experience with them (them, here, is people who are differently abled in such a way as to be diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. I think that the phenomenon of burnout as it intersects with mental health tendencies and vulnerabilities – regardless of diagnosis – is definitely worth contemplating. It’s basically the stress vulnerability model, huh? I guess what’s missing in the stress vulnerability model – and most models of ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ – is the reality that some people are discluded from full (safe) inclusion and participation as who they are in social and economic structures that are designed around the abilities and preferences of people who are not like them in areas of mobility, sensory processing, social and communicative abilities, and other access factors. 

Access doesn’t just mean getting in the door, it means being welcome in the room and being able to stay in the fucking room long enough to be a part of whatever it is that is happening in there with all these conversations at the same time, and people moving around and saying things and touching my arm, and omg, there is a radio and a television on and I hate this fucking song, and holy shit, what is anyone even saying, I’m sitting here smiling and feeling numb and my mind is blank and what the fuck am I even doing here, I fidget with something, maybe stand up and stretch, try to see if I can help with something, seem happy and well-adjusted, laid back, cheerful and smart or something, don’t over-disclose, don’t over-disclosed, connect, but don’t be intense, try to connect, try to connect, where do I need to be here, there is no place for me here. I am wearing clothes that look like pajamas, I don’t want any of this fucking food, I hate Walmart, I am about to jump out of my fucking skin with all the noise and movement. 

I feel a longing – an actual, sickening, swooning longing – to be at home, in my car, outside, away. 

#workmeeting 

Jesus Christ, it’s almost 9:00. 

Yesterday, I went to a meeting on zoom and the rest of the day was for shit. I couldn’t write. I didn’t paint. I drew a burdock in the work meeting, and that was the only thing that made it bearable. Burdock protects against the evil eye and I have a ton of it growing in front of my house. I think I will leave it. 

I did a couple of work related emails – which I now am having trouble remembering, though they seemed to take a while? Reading the documents, saying the words. Making the commitments to continue showing up, though not indiscriminately and not for everything and not forever because this is the year that is mine to emerge within, festooned as I may be with 12 years of problematic and occasionally beautiful bloggage in my wake. 

It can take a long time for a person to find their voice, a long time to find the line. 

This morning I messaged a person that I knew through the radical mental health movement – a person who is a mentor and an inspiration to me because they seem to understand what it is to be deeply post-modern without trying to unbelieve, and they are a fucking genius. 

Which brings me back to the unknown community of my peers and who those people might be. When I was losing my mind and had a sense of great certainty that I was somehow connected to a tremendous undoing of ideas and illumination of the human condition for the purpose of contributing to the salvation of the history of the future vis a vis proving God with pictures of clouds on the internet and realizing the extent to which I, personally, was seen and ‘understood’ in ways that were totally idiotic, diminishing, and ill-informed, not to mention cruel and insulting not only to my ego, but to the person I am in my most raw humanity – who is a person that does not want there to be any more avoidable suffering in the world because there are ways to do anything that reduce suffering and we should not be doing things that create or necessitate the suffering and harm of sentient beings or earth forms older than we can even fucking imagine, or the waters of the earth itself – also eternal – and I am mostly just trying to be a good person in a world that I only feel safe alone in. 

(Weird sentence – figure out some other way to say In this world, I only feel safe when I am alone. But also when I am with children, dogs, and trees. Birds, too. Once other people get to be a certain age, they start to see me differently, in ways that are bizarre and inaccurate and partial. In their perspective, I am not who I am to myself and this creates enormous confusion, because as they are interacting with me, they are interacting with their idea of me and who I am and what – based on that idea – I should be doing. Mothering, daughtering, friending, meeting, etc.) 

Today has been slightly less mind-blitzed. It might srsly be the zoom meetings and the need to attend visually and auditorily and be conscious of what my face is fucking doing because my face does peculiar things at times.  I had one zoom meeting today and it was only with one person, but still I was struggling to attend to what he was saying, and distracted by the space behind him and the look of his face moving and my face there being tiny and yet knowing it was huge on his screen. Aye. So unnerving. I started externally processing my thinking and had a couple of collisions of visual thinking narrative and concrete actionable steps in linear progression, kept repeating to myself what I was committing to doing – making a flyer, setting up a Google form. Those things wouldn’t be hard, right?

Now, hours later, I am noticing that the process of doing these things – these relatively simple tasks which actually have a few different tasks nested into them – is looming, feels daunting. 

I need to balance my writing and observation of primary thought line on various topics with observation of secondary and tertiary thought lines, somatic and visual impressions associated with the thought expressed. Also notes on the external, a woman sitting on her porch, face cool and clean from washing with water from the kitchen sink, a day during which a dog was walked, a meal was prepped, conversations were had with the eldest child, the younger one. A silly song was sung. Someone was taken to work. ________ walked by the house in the rain, but didn’t come up, and I didn’t call them up to the porch. Wondered if maybe my recognizing the warding off properties of burdock and arranging the bricks in a square form that could approximate the same general dynamics of the Turkish kilim for burdock might be keeping at bay the troublesome aspects of the person. The person is not all trouble, but has some trouble. They are welcome here. I am sure they will be back when their check runs out in a couple of days. That’s a crummy thing to say, but it is within the realm of possibility given previous behaviors. 

I will see. 

They may not show up when their money runs out, or they may show up with a winning scratch off. Who knows? 

Anyway, I feel reasonably at peace in my response to the situations that showed up at my door and the efforts I have made to be a friend and to balance the complex needs of multiple parties myself and the primary inhabitants of this privilege-gained house included. There is a part of me that thinks it would be totally reasonable to invite the person to stay here, to have a room until their housing works out. My son said he would move out. My daughter does not come downstairs with ease when the person is here, rummaging through their box of belongings on the porch, using the bathroom, sometimes resting in the living room. Part of me thinks it would be equitable and entirely fair to let the person stay here and part of me believes that maybe God wants me to let them stay here and that by not letting them stay here, I am committing a sin of some sort. It’s that old belief I have that if I see a way to help and do not help, I will be disappointing some great higher good that works in the world. I am constantly trying to figure out what God wants me to do. There are so many ways to help so many people. How can I know what I am supposed to do, what God wants me to do? I have been caught up in some really bad situations because of poor discernment about moral obligation and the potential judgement of an omniscient force or set of sentient forces in the universe. There is such a thing as trickery, I believe. Fuckery. Ego and misleadings, warped intentions. Then, there are also a lot of fuckin’ hustlers and predators and chaos-makers in the world. I have no innate sense of suspicion about anyone. It does not occur to me that someone could be awful to another person, could take advantage of them or hurt them. I have only been instinctively leery of people a few times in my life. My instinct is not strong about not entirely good people, but is strong about very good people. I tend to pick up on the good in people – even people who have learned to be bad or who have gotten caught up in some bad business with the living and dying world. I have been taken advantage of many, many times. 

One morning, I woke up and couldn’t imagine myself going to work, pictured the hardware store and its classic rock and paint spattered patrons, the bell over the door and the expectation that I would smile, that I wouldn’t break into tears…it all seemed totally impossible. 

The only thing I could think to do at the time – in state of desperate anxiety and panic – was create an injury that would necessitate me staying home, so I cut my arm open in the single bare bulb light of the bathroom in the very early morning. 

It wasn’t until much later in the day, in the blue of late-afternoon night, that I went to the behavioral health triage center at the hospital. I didn’t go about my arm. I went about my mental health, the feeling that maybe I should go to the hospital or talk to someone or something. After several hours of waiting, I talked with a nice therapist who gave me a referral for low cost counseling at a graduate program, and encouraged me to explore getting back on medication. 

Right before I left, referral papers in hand, the therapist asked if there was anything else I needed help with. I calmly pulled up the loose sleeve of my sweater to show her the paper towels wrapped around my arm, blood seeping through them. 

“I think this might need stitches,” I said as though the four inch slice through the soft skin on my wrist, right through the tattoo of blue roses like an open mouth, was not that big a deal at all. 

I did not get to go home that night, and rode to the emergency room in the back of a police car. 

When I was young, a teenager, I used to punch myself in the face and bite my hand when I got frustrated or emotionally overwhelmed, which was a lot of the time. 

I am a person who was diagnosed as having a “Severe and Persistent Mental Illness” at a young age – 13. I am a differently-abled person who learns, processes, experiences, and expressed themself in ways that are outside of what is considered to be “normal,” both statistically and – in some settings – culturally. 

When I got the results from the psychological evaluation and read through the information about how I learn and how I process information differently, how that can impact emotional processing, and how only 2.6 % of the tested population processes in a way that might be similar to mine, with high levels of capability in some areas and thoroughly average ability in other areas of so-called intelligence, it was like a question I had long forgotten that I was asking was answered. 

“What the fuck was wrong with me?!”

That question, which I had asked in ways both quiet and screaming, and which had been answered in mysterious and disparaging phrases about brain diseases and chemical imbalances and severe, persistent character flaws, had a new possible answer. 

Maybe the way I processed information and emotions had something to do with why I got so tired and depressed and overwhelmed and upset and rage-full and impossible to have a calm conversation with? 

Maybe I wasn’t exactly mentally ill, but mentally different in a way that made me vulnerable to certain struggles, or to struggling in certain ways, but – as the little double lines of test results showed me – I also had gifts. I was, in fact, really smart in some ways. 

Right before I became a CPSS, I had been hospitalized involuntarily and court-ordered to attend intensive outpatient treatment and to take any psychiatric medication I was prescribed. After a year of profound mental health challenges – which edged into a glorious and then chaotic state of wonder and divine possibility that was clinically described as “psychosis,” I was in the process of losing legal custody of my children, who were 6 and 8 at the time, due to concerns about my mental health and my ability to make good parenting decisions. 

I had been with my children every day of their lives. For months, I was only permitted to see them during supervised visits. I cannot quite name the heartbreak and wrenching, gasping frustration, outrage, and grief that resides in a mother who cannot see her children, who is being kept from her children. There is some twisted cruelty in telling a mother that she must remain calm as her children are led away from her crying. 

In order to be able to have shared physical custody of my kids, I had to follow court orders and DSS recommendations. I had to, first and foremost, get a job to prove that I was “emotionally stable” enough to have my kids in my life – and for me to be in their lives – on a regular, unsupervised basis, to live with me part-time and their dad part-time. 

In a swooning, numbed-out neuroleptic fog, wearing an old brown sweater and driving around on grey days, I applied for whatever job I thought I might be able to a) get, and b) actually show up for without falling apart. I had worked for nonprofits for a long time, but I had never done well working full time. Everytime I worked full time, I ended up in the hospital after about a year, unable to show up for work without crying, trying to commit suicide because I couldn’t figure out a way to be in the world without causing either myself or someone else pain and disappointment. After an adolescence of psychiatric drugs and hospitalization and social victimization, I was pretty fucked up, and lived with a lot of emotional agony and existential uncertainty for many years. I wasn’t kidding myself about being able to jump into some full time job where the long, same days under fluorescent lights and the empty tasks and small talk and forced smiles and everyday noises would slowly wear down my resilience, where I would begin to waver at the edges, cry in the bathroom, in front of customers or clients or students, say inappropriate things in an over-intense way, not be able to think straight, begin to forget how to do the simplest things, to make a phone call, to say hello. I would freeze and panic, try to bite back the deep, animal urge to leave the building, to walk out into the day, to go home and be alone. I wasn’t going to be getting any full time job. I couldn’t even go in the store and see a mother with her kids without crying, having to turn around and leave. I slept as much as I possibly could and when I couldn’t sleep anymore, I prayed to get some disease that would kill me in a way that would let my kids remember me graciously and with kindness. The medication gave me vertigo and I would lay in the bed and watch the tilt of the walls and ceiling, stunned and unable to move, imagining myself attending my son’s high school graduation in a wheelchair, catatonic. Whatever might be called my “mental health” – at that point – was absolutely decimated. I was absolutely decimated, a washed-out shell, the worst possible failure. A bad mother. 

That winter, it was only the kindness of a handful of people that kept me from slipping down into the void of speech and action that I could feel inside of me, a black hole. The first person I ever wrote a poem for, a boy whose heart I later broke, reached out to me, and gave me small jobs for a business that – now – I wonder if he had made up just to give me something to do. Talked to me about his life and his family, his work as an engineer, how hard it had been to go through his first divorce. Told me to keep going. Wrote back. 

Downtown playing banjo, I met an old man who sold tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market. His name was Peter and he was staunchly Catholic. He talked to me about saints and had me drive him all the way to the next county over to eat at a Bojangles one particularly cold and rainy night. He came over and let me record him talking about his life for a couple of hours, showed me the rows of chrysanthemums that were starting to come in. Talked about his bad leg. 

A 15 year old kid in Serbia who I met through an Illuminati forum on Yahoo wrote to me about his church and the weather and his parents and whether or not he wanted to join the Illuminati. Talked about New World Order like it might be a good thing. Told me about his girlfriend and going for walks in the snow. Told me to “get back on horse.” 

A scammer from somewhere who crafted beautifully composed stories of tragedy and funds that needed to be claimed didn’t seem to mind when I wrote back to them about how my life was falling apart. 

I started posting to the forums at The Icarus Project (now Fireweed Collective) about the egoic and philosophical outrage that had spurred my psychosis and created a disjuncture between my reality and my reality of self and the reality of my family and how they were seeing me, how they were understanding what I was going through, how they had understood what I went through, what they had put me through, what they were putting me through, with all that mental illness, chemical imbalance stuff. I mean, c’mon – I was an artist and a mother and a hard-worker museum educator that had been laid off during the dissolution of a marriage that had been really terrible and difficult for a long time, and I had just seen my beloved dog get hit by a car, and I was having to force my kids screaming to go to their dad’s new house, which was in line-of-sight with the house I’d shared with my husband and kids and which I now lived in alone with them. I mean, of course I was going to need some time alone to paint and draw and cry, figure out who the heck I even was after being told so many different things about myself and my motivations, my intent, my character, my mood disorder, etc. 

The irony of it all was that I wasn’t crazy at first. I was actually doing pretty well after the divorce, still working, keeping up a rhythm of activity in the home. I was stressed af, but I was okay-ish. It wasn’t until people started to ask me if I was okay that I became not-so-okay. To me, it made perfect sense to want to be alone and draw, to write and take pictures of clouds. I didn’t understand why people who said they loved me wouldn’t leave me alone and stop expecting me to be okay when I was clearly “going through some things” during a really intense transition year.

I had started a weblog on Blogger the year before, when I started my draw a picture every day for a year project. To be honest, my drawings were strange from the get-go. It was as though the artist part of me came out all in a jumble of image, figure, and myth-feels. 

[Draft email to employer, written last week…]

Hi you all – to get right to the point, I am not doing well. My brain is just totally blown-out as far as being able to formulate professional sentences in a consistent tone, or hold technical information in my head for more than three seconds, or to figure out what to say. I am isolating socially (which I am fine with), because I am so socially and politically fatigued by everything that goes on with people and relationships and collaborations. Emotionally, I feel numb and shut down, and am noticing that I am unable to care about or be inspired by things that I recognized I used to care about and be inspired by.

I am beyond burnt out.

Current:

It makes a lot of sense to me that – at this point in my so-called recovery, which really has been a process of exploring and experimenting with my personal wellness, which led me – necessarily – to consider all the factors which are at play in creating my experience of living and my participation in my life, what I do and don’t do and what happens to me and around me and what any of it and all of it means at any given moment, both in my own perspective and in relation to the larger world – that I would feel I may need to step back from the world of nonprofit services to vulnerable community members, the grassroots recovery complex, funded by HUD, FEMA, and SAMHSA, the US Department of Labor – which recognizes that an opioid addicted workforce that is committing suicide after beating their kids because of their own multigenerational PTSD is not good for business. 

Bounding, fractioned, prismatic 

illustrative early morning feels 

hue of rod and cone 

explosions in range

shifting, flashing 

the bright shine of rain 

caught in sun 

illuminating the simple intake breath 

of witnessing the morning 

slick plastic packaging 

the youth we remember 

Clorox mold smell, broke linoleum

scuffed out at the counter 

soft bills in hand 

light blaze through plate glass

hum of stubborn coolers

unwanted 

ice cream sandwiches 

stacked 

wax paper bricks

Clerk says nothing, 

doesn’t look up

Extends the hand, takes the bills

It is happening again. The forgetting. 

This morning I woke up and had some work to do for wages and to uphold commitments I’d made before my brain started to go all slippery with poetry and painting, before I got so tired for those few days. I had poetry – just a little feel of it, a taste prompted by the challenge of naming color (haha – autocorrect just changed naming to manic. Um, not hardly…) and then a flash of plastic yellow wrapped, and remembering the Swanee (sic) Swifty convenience store, the Mom and Pop’s. Candy of my youth, then cigarettes, fountain drinks in styrofoam cups that still linger in the soil, the smell of gasoline and Georgia asphalt. Blaze of sun, hot white glare, the sudden cold of the store, the blare of summer insects upon exit. 

…back into the living world. 

“Everything will be okay.” 

“Will it?”

“It was a difficult year.” 

Wild rose climbs the curly willow, fragile – almost unoticeable blooms up through the branches. Wind turns the leaves of the maple, showing the silvery undersides. The movement of trees in wind. May 5th. 

I was saying that, again, I am forgetting myself – who I am and what matters most during this brief time. 

Each day, I am awash in ideas. Small unfurlings of possible endeavors, art projects and banjo music, my collection of hats, a finished painting, a story written. Conversations with friends I haven’t seen in years. The potential for new friends, a peer group who actually knows me for what is most lasting of myself, and that actually sees me a little closer to the way I really am, to who I really am, and to what I’m really about. 

I don’t really care – anymore – about having friends. I have come to thoroughly accept – and even breathe a sigh of relief in – the risk I run of being alone for most of the rest of my life. 

Acknowledging that this is being stated during a time in which I have hardly been alone at all – meaning always someone else in the house – someone around at some point in the day, some time spent in relationship with people external to me – I can say that it is possible that I will experience great loneliness when my children move away and my mother dies, my father grows old and we walk around the yard together, quietly caught in a mourning all our own. It might be cavalier to say that I think I will be okay. That I think I can stand and even transcend and even love even savor whatever loneliness might come. 

It is sad that my relationships have been such that the only solution to the problem of me needing a lot of time alone is to not be in deep present relationship with another person external to me, to not have those sorts of sustained contact every day lives intertwined kind of arrangements with people. This doesn’t mean I will be alone. I will always have someone to connect with, so long as there are people, and then – in their absence – trees, and animals, and even the wind itself, my own memory and imagination, my sense of ghosts and ancestors, the quiet pulse of the earth itself and everything that has ever lived, that vast almost unimaginable that I can feel at the edges of everything. 

I am never alone. 

All of that is well and good, very stoic, etc. Let it be known though that I am in the final few days of a long process of uncoupling from my bound-to-be eternal love, or – rather – dramatically changing the system of relations that constitutes our knowing of one another. Un-girlfriending. 

The enormity of that reality – that yet another person is about to exit my life because I simply can’t deal with the constant social pressure of contemporary normative relationship assumptions – offers me a hint of the loneliness that I might feel in the coming seasons. 

My hope is that by positioning myself to experience a desperate revival of the faculties of so-called madness and an immersive inhabiting of my right sided brain and sensory self, by using my hands again and by creating space for my voice and expressions in inspired modes, I will be able to potentially find a few members of the unknown community of my peers – people who might be more like me as artists and in process, people who might appreciate who I am exactly as I am and not expect me – without even knowing they do – to contort and mitigate myself so as to be palatable and functional in popular settings of work and socializing. Even people who think I’m wonderful just the way I am don’t really know anything about the way I am, and only see me in small segments. 

Many people who know me do not know that I am into writing poetry, or that I am an artist.

They know me only because of my peer work or my mental health history. That makes me feel reduced and isolated in my experience, fragmented and confused in my Self. 

(Later) back to what I was saying at the beginning of this: I had some work to do despite having woken up with poetry, and I did the work – some of it – and the poetry left me, and my mindspace felt dull and clanging, digital font.) 

I think I only have some measure of attention for computer-based tasks and for the past couple of years I have used the vast majority of that capacity – or perhaps I have gone beyond capacity – for work tasks. It’s not surprising to me that I haven’t made a beautiful website. 

A person only has so much bandwidth in a day, and only the lucky few are able to pivot back and forth between the suspended and meandering consciousness of art and poems and the concrete linearity of certain work tasks? 

I keep going over made up FB posts in which I concisely and eloquent state that I am leaving peer support work for a undetermined period of time, and that I intend to throw myself wholly into art and formulating a niche for myself as a voice in the world of madness studies and creative nonfiction, experimental autoethnography and – perhaps – poetry? Maybe painting, maybe consciousness studies, maybe large-scale conceptual art actions, or portraiture of plants, bones? 

Writing can – itself – become problematic, because I use a lot of my time writing, and less time painting, and less time writing by hand, and less time playing music or moving the bricks around in the yard.

05/10/2021

What I need to be doing, rather than writing all this stuff about things that happened years ago, is write about what’s happening <right now> – during this small window of time in early May, leading up to the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s death and the day my mom called and told me she had cancer, the afternoon I yelled at the person who I was partnered with, the person who was supposed to be my so-called best friend, that I couldn’t be in a relationship with anyone who didn’t understand, recognize, and support my profound need to be quiet and be alone and to not have to have someone else around, interacting with me. 

In the oxytocin, dopamine, and adrenaline flushed early months of our relationship, I appreciated that we could walk alone together, that we did not have to always be speaking. 

I did not detect the silent pressure exerted when someone is restless with silence, the creep of anxiety and flee of ease that doesn’t let my mind wander and demands my attention.

The person who was my best friend – and who might still be my best friend, because sometimes best friends go through times when they rupture their friendship, then repair it – had begin asking me, as a conversation starter: 

“Have you had an interesting thoughts lately?” 

For me, this question was a terrible inquiry – full of value uncertainty about what constitutes interesting, how to express what I experience as interesting thoughts in a way that would be coherent, appealing, and consumable to someone external to me, and – more and more – the sneaking suspicion that the conversation or the interests in the my thoughts had very little to do with me at all – that I was a person doing people things, walking and having a conversation about interesting thoughts, that I was in the role of a person who was supposed to be interesting to the person I was walking with.

Anyway, that is not what I wanted or needed to be reflecting at the moment. My friend moved their stuff into storage today, returned the truck. Has a job in Maine later this month. 

I spent a lot of the time these past couple of years being sad and confused about the friendship, about the relationship. I am not sad and confused right now. Right now, I am doing pretty freaking well – despite the fact that I am smoking again, and that I seem to have found myself almost entirely unable to the work I do to earn wages. It’s like my mind just goes blank and my voice won’t work at all. Everything I do to earn wages feels separate from me, disconnected. It is not something I am doing for myself. It is something I am doing for someone else, so that they will pay me. 

“Yes, Faith. That is called working.” 

Is it though?

(“Yes. That is working.”)

I was lucky (privileged) to be able to earn wages doing work that somewhat mattered to me in a way that wasn’t entirely corrosive to my soul/humanity. However, for a long time, I have thought that maybe my work -the way I spent my time in interaction with the world around me to earn my way or fulfill my purpose or make my contribution has been changing, or – rather – I have conceived of more effective and efficient ways to do my work – which is to leverage my unique lived experience and atypical skills to create catalytic media that explores and destabilizes personal narratives through autoethnographic inquiry and shares the process of seeing the world differently.

Chromocytes know nothing.

Heart race red pigment,

low iron from the summer 

I started wearing a t-shirt

oversized to hide bones 

that aren’t bleached 

trying to be pale blond

reading: “Love Animals,

Don’t eat Them.” 

Doe-eyed cattle in brown and white,

ducks always like a nursery rhyme,

always in a row,

under lights that have no hue at all

flicker blanch and sickly sweat,

smell of cafeteria,

veins as ribbons of twilight sky under skin.

They say it’s different when you bleed.

They say it’s all the same.

Only my blood knew

the rush of capillary

standing to speak 

correctly at last 

under static lights 

with the day bright and thriving outside,

pulsing in shadow and sun,

spectrum of lifeways

pushing through single windows.

I did not know 

that not everybody 

considered the ethics 

of a rainbow

without questioning 

the simple fact 

of blurred lines 

bending waves, 

water caught in air

none of the trouble 

of human rights,

and human wrongs.

I thought everybody knew. 

your “Nothingness” fills 

conversational spaces 

you blather your zen 

Warm day, gas shortage 

parking lot shimmers in waves

“…this is so stupid.”

Lebanon goes dark

bread cold in candlelight 

stars look on, brightly

Yesterday and the day before were tired, tired days. Tired like the moon waning and the Spring striving and the year near 1/2 gone. I slept a lot – a stuporous dreamless dozing, dog at my feet and not caring at all that I was sleeping all day. I felt no motivation to do anything at all. My mind was a sludgy list of all the reasons I would fail, how much of a fool I’d make of myself – blah, blah, blah. It’s such a stupid headtrip – the way I move a little closer to stepping into some more bold way of being who I am. Not necessarily stylistically, though maybe red lipstick will be involved on some days, just as maybe haggard af and 1/2 crazy looking with weird expressions and twitchy eyes, an ugly uncertain mouth wearing red lipstick. More honest is what I mean to say when I say bold – less masked and postured and trying to fit in. 

I read an article about avoidant personality disorder and how so little work has been done to learn about the internal experiences of people with APD. I don’t know if I have APD, but I was identified as having ‘traits’ – of the disorder in some psych eval where I was trying to make a good impression ‘cause of the accusations that I was crazy to the extent that my ability to parent was compromised. 

At some points, I probably was crazy in ways that compromised my ability to be a good parent. However, in the family structure I was in, it was not okay to say, “you know, I’m stressed the fuck out and have been through a lot and for some reason I can’t stop fucking crying and feel so upset sometimes that I want to literally punch myself in the fucking face, and – you know what – I am not able to deal today and I need to rest and be quiet and not be momming for just a little while.” 

I mean, a person could not say that. Anything remotely like that was responded to with derision and a stern imploring that one simply needed to get over themselves, stop acting like a baby, grow up, and deal because all the other people in the world deal. 

Why couldn’t I?

Of course, they then called you crazy anyway. 

So, it was a double cruelty of supreme invalidation and mental health stigma. 

I think a lot of families are like that. It’s not like my family was this terrible family. It was a normal family. In normal families, it’s not okay to not be normal – at least in some key ways involving emotion regulation, tolerance for small talk and pleasantries and appropriate conversation topics, not being too much or too little, being – as it were – neurotypical, or – at the very least – trying very hard to pretend you are neurotypical because it is a learned fact of American life that one will be socially punished and ostracized for not being neurotypical. Or something like that…?

Anyway, I didn’t set out to write about that stuff – family and normative neuronormalcy. I set out to make note of the fact that I felt extremely low for a couple of days, almost to the extent that I wondered if I was under some kind of psychic attack by a malevolent force or family curse or…deep learned socialization that permeates my conscious and subconscious mind-experience states with extremely stifling (silencing) self-doubt and social trepidation. 

(the next morning, cold like March in the mountains though it is May, serviceberries small beads of scarlet like a calendar leading to the end of the month, when it would be warmer and the berries would be full and dark, almondine seeds tucked inside. Last year, she had filled buckets and bowls and Tupperware tubs full of the perfectly free fruits that grew on the trees that seemed suddenly all over town, but had been there for years. “They have cyanide in them, and sugar, and the cancer cells eat the sugar and die from the cyanide.” She cites clumsy quasi-scientific explanations for her daily campaign to pick berries down by the river, over by the gas station across from the VA, in the park by the brewery, downtown near the courthouse, at the base of the bridge to the west side of town.

She found all the trees, spotting without looking the particular red green of a serviceberry tree in full fruit as she drove around town. Her eye had become quickly trained to spot them when she realized with a sort of childlike hope that maybe if her mom ate enough of the berries, that the cancer killing her via what she called her “lady parts” would begin to die. 

She was very good at finding serviceberry trees. Once she learned to see a form, she could recognize it without trying, see it everywhere. She doesn’t think much about her brain and her eyes constantly scanning around her, picking up patterns and breaks in the pattern, the almost imperceptible slowing without braking and without signal that meant a car was about to change lanes, a vulture flying in high loops up at the edge of the sky, barely a spec in the otherwise blue and white. She was constantly looking around without even trying, without even knowing she was doing it. 

She has meant to write down, these past couple of days, the experience of painting, and maybe she has written a few words, before the subject meandered into some wavery field of memory, perspective, idea and politic, all her internal voices clamoring for notice. 

It’s easy for her to forget that anyone external to the creation of this narrative has no idea at all what she is thinking about as she writes, no idea other than what makes it to the page. She has – in an effort to not allow herself the privilege of forgetting about hate crimes against Asian women, the severe and persistent white supremacy woven through America, the names and stories that are testament to how brutally dumb and fucked up this country is. Sometimes she writes in simple, almost adolescent statements, because the enormity of American atrocities and the larger context of globalized exploitative capitalism, the ongoing end-results of grievous errors made in the course of the past two thousand years by powerful men with weaponry and resources, oceans filled with plastic, internet filled with complete and utter shit, tons of frozen fish, petro by-product mistakes, hungry children, burning forests…sometimes, it’s overwhelming. 

As a person who was trained in social sciences, she cannot separate out the multitude of factors and realities that constitute the present moment of her sitting on the porch, trying to make her way around to writing about painting and reminding herself of the reality of people driving to work and workdays just beginning, the day rainy and cold like February now, workdays just ending, ugly apartments and bad relationships and all the grief behind closed doors, the comfort of her own children sleeping still, teenagers in their childhood rooms, the end of the school year. Maybe she would make pancakes this morning, before she makes herself sit down and file for unemployment, write some emails, remind herself of loose ends and potential new endeavors with the time she has now found in the wake of the past few weeks during which she has been calmly unable to perform the duties of her job because she can’t focus for shit on any of it and her brain just shuts down and her body freezes and she feels fuzzed out and anxious. Just thinking about the experience of trying to make her brain do the work, make her voice type messages in a professional, succinct and linear tone. 

It’s a blessing in disguise, this failure, because she has no choice but to do the things she is able to do, which seem to be writing on her phone, taking pictures, painting, doing yard work and making food, studying Norwegian on Duolingo, hanging out with her kids and her still-dying mom, her aging father, her dog, going for walks, and thinking about things she wants to think about, making plans for the future that she is on the edge of, and trying to savor the curiosity that notices behind the weakening fear – which is a double entendre because the fear is both getting weaker and has a weakening effect on her. 

Her son telling her, without cruelty, that he didn’t respect her, that in many ways her considered her to be a failure left a dim and unconvincing despair in her stomach, which she recognized as some egoic garbage left over from her socialization to care what her children think of her, when she has taught them not to care what she thinks of them, because their lives are their own and her opinion of their evolving choices, at this point, is null. 

It is freeing. There is a satisfying sense of economy in recognizing that in already being proclaimed a failure, already having lost respect, she is given license to fail further, which means that she can try. She no longer has to compromise her deep, intrinsic motivation towards the arts trying to be some kind of successful wage-earning professional. She failed at that. She can let it go. 

Without ceremony, the morning seeped toward full day, grass drying under sun and all the almost unnoticeable murmurings of the wild rose and clover rise to hover and drift in the also unoticeable breezes conjured by the Sunday walk down the hill, two men pausing under the weary limbs of spruce and sycamore pass a bag between them, such a small mercy on a warm day, the blue sky shaded and the street quiet like it is. 

Of note: it is incredibly important, if one is going to be an artist, to claim oneself as such and to keep close to you people who see you and appreciate you as an artist, just as you are. This doesn’t mean that your art has to be amazing and impressive to everyone – it means it has to be your art and you need people who appreciate your art for what it is. Not to say that you have potential if you just did this or just did that, or maybe if you…but, to just love it for what it is and to see value in the fact that you created something and that you love to create. 

Of note: the person who was my friend was a presence in my life that felt like both a gift and a test and – at times – a trick, a diversion, a detracting and confusing force. I guess love can be all those things. What I now know is that there is a peace in alone-ness that cannot consistently exist in being with another person. While it is true that in some friendships and in some loves, one can feel the peace of alone-ness in the company of sacred others, but eventually the logistics of daily living creep in. The meditation ends and someone has to pee. There is a tea pot to wash. Meals to be made. Budgets and transactions to agree on. There are egos and emotions, vestigial wounds. I suppose that maybe people living in a spiritually grounded communal or monastic structure might be able to – with practice – suspend all of these dithering distractions from our awareness of the miracle of existing at all and the wonder that nothing is the same moment to moment to moment, or they – again, with practice – find ways to integrate the state of deep everyday connection with going to the grocery store or talking with someone about the light bill. I guess maybe that’s the goal – to be able to feel that peace of alone-ness  regardless of whatever one might be doing, regardless of the presence of others and their communications, their demands, their troubles. 

The peace of aloneness is not the absence of human connection, but the presence of connection with everything and with oneself as a small phenomenal facet of aliveness in the midst of so much living and dying, breathe and wind. 

(Later)

Without ceremony, he left the house as she was laying in bed, awake in the mid-afternoon.

Sandblasting the Monument

Perhaps this will become

A petition to discharge debt 

incurred in the process of trying to prove myself in the form of academic accomplishments and the possibility of potential to create some great change 

that may save the world 

by quietly naming the fact 

that we don’t know how to see things

that our names are all wrong 

She is a woman sitting on the front steps of a house that is not immediately crumbling, but that shows – on closer inspection – paint peeling from the eaves in sheets like birch, worn by the air if nothing else for years and years

(a place impossible to reach) 

(can ladders rest on steps? Seems risky?)

She went to get her bag of pencils and wires and books – near blank journal and planner with the squares almost empty. Couldn’t find it, and felt – immediately crumbling – the vision of her drawing a picture of herself, knees up and glasses on. Hair a collapsing bun and wild tossed strands like marsh after a flood. 

(Who am I to name my despair a hurricane?)

A petition to discharge my debt, with a letter from my very first psychiatrist, and interviews with former employers. “She did a good job, but wasn’t quite well.” “She struggled to be consistent.” There is the image of a woman on a wall phone, a nondescript hall, short by the nurses desk.

The profundity of the fact that she remembers the phones in clear visual – every phone in every hospital she’d ever been in. Calling the plumber Tammy who worked at the hardware store. Listening. “I knew you’d cut yourself. That it wasn’t an accident.” 

“Can you bring my bear?” 

Slamming the phone down, the short breathless walk to her room, you have to go out the same way you came in. There is no other way. The windows do not open. 

8:24am

The woman gets up again. Realizing that she may have found a thread, the sense of a line she can run with, a fragile constellation comprised of the thoughts and images of the morning, a press of not wanting to work, the morning thoughts of absenteeism, of calling out, not showing up. The contemplations of disability that have been with her for years. 

I AM A DIFFERENTLY ABLED PERSON. 

All the hundreds of essays on that topic of ability and aptitude and tolerance or lack there of.

The twisted cord of solidarity with all the people who are differently abled and yet show up to work anyway because they have no choice and who die inside to feed their children and keep a roof of some sort over there heads and all the brightness in them dies under fluorescents and they can’t smell flowers for the oily scent of blood and sweat and chemical concrete dust recycled air and not a single shaft of sunlight the endless beeping beeping beep beep beeping clawing clanging, boring ass days that bring no joy but release the brief journey home…some sneering internal voice that tells me I need to get over myself and stop complaining, to go to work, to get my act together. 

Get. My Act. Together. 

And how much I hate that shaming voice, and how it has been spoken by people I love and who I want to love me, which means to see me, and to understand that I am trying my best, but cannot help who I am and what I am.

“You are not disabled.” 

“You are a bad mom.”

“You…”

The voices coalesce, become an amalgamated blur of scorn and dismissal, pity and disgust. 

Something about the Protestant Work Ethic and the leveraging of shame to compel participation in an economy that does not benefit you or your family or your community, an economy that uses our vital labor – our time and energies and talents, our lifeblood – to produce billions of dollars of profit for a very few people at the expense of global wellbeing on this planet. The terrible and withering shame that has been enacted to force us to compromise our instincts, to drag ourselves from bed with the noise from the day before still clanging in our heads, and our teeth worn down from grinding, keeping our mouths shut about how much we hate our fucking jobs…

I am lucky that I don’t hate my job. 

I am so endlessly compelled to name how lucky I am and to then explicitly say that luck has nothing to do with it, that I am privileged. That it is the privilege of my father’s people that have put me in a position to have a job that I don’t hate, but also my differences in ability, also handed down to me from my father’s people, and my mother’s people, good people who want a just world, good people with unblemished and determined hearts, hard working people who give up themselves to show up for their family.

My mother. It occurs to the woman, still sitting on the steps in the cold air of a late April morning, sun rising and world coming alive in bird song and green light through new leaves. 

[She takes a quick video. Noticing the way the cars go by, but that she can still hear the birds. Persistent birds. An entire history of a race called ornithological. The miracle of birds. The truck approaches and she imagines the smell of vinyl and carpet on metal floorboards, the dull stink of heat from the vents. The beginning of a workday.]

[imagined conversations with her children, now almost adults, about her smoking cigarettes again. ‘People use drugs and do dangerous things all the time.’ Considering the ways that her heart began to hurt when running, the shortness of breath and bounding pulse in the sweaty dark of early morning. 

(Later)

The reality of what she needs to do has been clear to her for a long time, and becomes clearer as she understands, with the beat of her heart, that she will not live forever, and that she will not be able to construct the artwork that is hers to construct – which is not one artwork, but many – all tumbling into one another over time and across subject – if she continues to give herself over to the needs of affairs that are not hers to tend to, the affairs of organizations, and of people who want to use her energies for their own gain and satisfaction. 

Her head hurts. She called out sick from work this morning after a wave of light-headed nausea hit her at the gym. She walked into the bathroom, thrusting her bag at her daughter as the girl complained to her to come on, come on. There were things to do, get over it. 

“No, really,” the woman said. “I feel sick.”

Her pulse had been up all morning, the machine telling her to slow down to reduce her heart rate, even though she was going slow. The machine had taught her to pay attention, and had given her a metric, a reading that – while it may be inaccurate – was consistently inaccurate. 

She would spend the day trying to hold onto the thread she had found, would weave enough to know that she could come back to it, continuing working and building, find the voice again, the language that is hers to speak, the words that are hers to say, the stories only she can tell about who she is and why she is the way she is. 

Yesterday, she spend 4 hours on Zoom, an Alternatives to Suicide facilitators training. “What is the name for your despair in your own language?”

“What is the path you found back from your despair?”

The facilitator had show slides telling how indigenous youth who know their language are less likely to commit suicide.

The woman wondered if maybe there was a new way of seeing white, a way that erased white and gave people back the best of their ancestors – not the twisted teachings of the industrial western world about who we are and what we are, but the best of how people understood themselves and understood others, the languages that were spoken long before America existed as a warped concept, culture, and economy wrought upon a place and upon all people. 

“He was devastated,” my father spoke. “When the Consolidated Timber Company failed, he was just devastated. He had worked so hard to try to set things up so that my mother would be able to take care of herself.”

“When all that collapsed, he was just devastated.”

I do not know what that devastation meant to my my great-grandfather, a man I’ve never met and who is rarely spoken about. His name was Clarence, I believe. Clarence Moeckel, who everyone called Meck. His wife was my great-grandmother Rachel Beck, who wrote to her brother, Marcus Jr., that Meck was getting nervous again, after he ran away to something that was later called a circus. His letters named it otherwise, a swift retreat, a longing to be free, a turning from what was wanted of him by his father who – ten years after the death of his namesake son in the First World War, accepted – on behalf of the South – the monument to the Confederacy that was carved into the rock face at Stone Mountain, Georgia. 

My great-great Grandfather was Judge Marcus W. Beck. Georgia State Supreme Court. 

His sister was Leonora. 

(Later)

_______ came by, and I was glad to see them. I wrote them a note this morning explaining I was tired and resting, saying I’d check in with them later. I ended up being happy to see them at the gate, dapper in a tucked in blue plain twill and matching navy pants, a glowing white sweater and their No Hate In This State hat. The letters bright with the sweater.

I was happy to see them. My little dog, who I haven’t written about, because I have been busy and not well, disconnected from my voice, full of stresses and distractions, frontal lobe a cluttered mess of other people’s business.

She walked into the kitchen to find it dark and stinking of a hot oven. A plastic husk from a three pack of chocolate lay on the floor, dishes still in the sink. There he was in his mark-down sneakers, glaring white soles. “Hi,” he looked sideways at her. She set the brown bags from the grocery store down on the washer in the corner, head still pulsing a little, smell of something burning thick and acrid in the kitchen. As soon as she saw him she had felt herself clamp down inside, steel her face against his voice and plastered-on persistent ventriloquist smile. “Lurking,” the chorus of herself spit out, “lurking around in my house.”

“How are you?”

______ was friendly enough, blameless in his delivery.

“I’m well.” She felt her face dour and stern, unbecoming with her hair pulled back, the grey wires at her temples, the thin mouth set against anything that may be interpreted as a smile. Mustered a neutral assertive voice. “I am trying to keep my focus centered.”

______ looked at her. “So, if I seem rude, if I don’t say anything, it’s because I am trying to keep my focus, and that means not saying anything to anyone.”

(Ironically, he has just walked up the gate from the front steps where she is sitting in a white rocker carried down from the porch. She is not surprised to notice that she is unhappy to see him, but then he is carrying boxes for storage and 1/2 empty jars of Tibetan incense, a brass bell made of a fish.)

She was happy to see _______ She ended up being happy to see the person she had been in love with, and who she still loves, but who she no longer wants to be in a romantic relationship with and who she no longer wants to live with.

It’s a long story, like most love stories. In order to tell a love story, she’d have to name and describe all the small marriages and small divorces that shaped the time they’d spent as lovers. 

She doesn’t need to do that now. 

She would never have another lover – never be anyone’s girlfriend or wife. Never again. 

She felt completely at peace in that, excited even, to have finally put all that behind her, to have finally learned enough about love to know that it is marred by words like girlfriend, marred by words like wife. Words like mother. 

I only want to be people’s friends, and only in ways that do not ever preclude me from spending time with other friends, which include birds, trees, wind, my dog, and myself, and drawing, and reading. It is not that I don’t value my human walking-talking friends, the people I’ve met with whom I have shared some connection and who I have endeavored to maintain contact with and to continue to have experiences with. Let’s face it though, the wind is much simpler. Dogs are much more straight-forward in what they want and how they see you. There are the tricks of identity and learning, the ghosts a d shadows of people as they play out what they know of love, of friendship. 

Only people can break my heart in certain ways, and I am tired of having my heart broken. 

Let me clarify what I mean by my heart:

I. My physical heart, the organ that pumps my blood through my body, and which I rely upon to continue living as an animate being. My physical heart is structured in the ways of my ancestors hearts and has been further formed by the experiences that I have had which have either strengthened the fibers that – held together and moving in rhythm – keep me alive, or have damaged them in either acute or chronic ways due to exposure to certain biological chemicals and the processes that they catalyze (a constriction of blood vessels, a hardening of arteries, an accumulation of fat and cholesterol, a rush of fluttering beating, a pounding due to lack of oxygen, the lungs compressed, unable to hold air. 

As she writes this, she remembers – her heart beating fast – the exact feeling of laying on the couch in the dome, warm sun of Christmas Day and the creek glittering brightly through the plexiglass triangles that made up the walls of the room. Oak trees blew in wind from the ocean, from the swamp, east to west, from the south, the big warm ocean, the north, the big cold ocean. She lay their with her wrist on fire, the air still knocked out of her, still gasping and then breathing as deep as she could, breathing harder, trying to take in air, and not getting enough air, the sun hot and bright on her face as she tried to make a voice from the small push she had in her as her lungs were compressed from inside, some unseen force inside, the dull ache that had become her body, not even attached, where were her legs, where was her arm, there was only the pressing of her lungs and the tightness of her thin breathing trying to call her mother.

“Help…I can’t…I can’t breathe.”

She remembers trying to walk into the hospital, oddly dark, near night. Her father carrying her. She doesn’t remember anything else for a long time. Weeks maybe. 

Because it was Christmas Day, and a fog had rolled in somewhere beyond the glittering creek, they took her to the hospital in an ambulance, crossing the St Mary’s River to get to Jacksonville, where a child who can’t breathe after falling from a bag swing and flying across a pasture might be properly cared for. 

“I thought you would die. They told me you would die.”

This is what my mother tells me of that day, when I broke my spleen and filled up with blood.

I was too young – only 6 – to operate on, and perhaps there was no operation to fix a busted spleen, a spleen that had ruptured after the girl’s young body flew out into the open air and landed with a skidding thud onto the thin grass ground. 

They must have had to keep me still. Must have had to keep me sedated.

The only three memories I have of the hospital are waking up terrified and crying for my mother, laying flat and trying to be still, but crying, and somehow knowing my mother wasn’t there, and crying for that, a keen panic in me. 

A. Two years later when I was 8, a boy named Scott W. pushed me off a wood frame treehouse at the house near the corner of Osborne Rd and some street whose name I can’t remember but that Greys Gallery sits on the corner of, the place where

my mom’s friend Elizabeth taught me how to draw and paint a little, and where I later had my grandfather’s Lebanese hands cut off of a photo that I was having framed for my mother. Upon receiving this gift, she exclaimed, “His hands! Where are his hands?!” 

She loved the way they looked on the mirror glass table at the Florida Milk Co office, where her father worked. I do not know if the office where the photo him, sitting while white men in 1950s business suits flank him standing was taken in Jacksonville, where he suddenly died of a heart attack when my mother was 10, leaving my grandmother (who I am named for) to care for her and her two older sisters, all young adolescents who adored their father, alone. She died of complications relating to emphysema and dementia. Her dementia was probably caused by emphysema, at least in part. The brain needs oxygen and the heart works hard to supply it. 

My father has hypertension. 

When I fell after being pushed off the tree house, I landed at an angle on a pogo stick laying on the ground. The pogo stick held one part of my arm up while the other part of my arm kept falling an inch further. The angle of the impact drove the joint that holds the radius and ulna to the humerus part and lodged bones that were intended to stay in the low structure of my arm up into the space that was only moments before my left elbow. I stood up gasping, my breath knocked out of me again, but determined to cross the yard to the plasticky round patio table where my mom was doing mom talk and not paying attention at all. 

10:08

She crossed the yard dead-calm and not breathing, her broken elbow making her arm flop awkwardly and impossibly, her efforts to keep it from swinging, to hold it in place, to make it unbroken were mute flailing of muscle and bone that were all fucked up. “Mom,” she said. “I think I broke my arm,” holding up her arm from the shoulder, so that the limp sack of her unbound ulna and radius hung at 90 degrees from the arm that should have been outstretched. 

She does not remember anything after that, though has a mental image of the inside of a helicopter, the sound and smell of the small space, the man to her left. She does not remember being in the hospital. The reason they had to life flight her was because she went into medical shock, meaning that her heart could not keep up with the demands of her body for oxygen, that something had flooded her and she wasn’t getting enough oxygen, even though her heart was trying to beat. 

All of that is in my physical heart, as are all the times I got so upset, all the times I was scared and sad and angry. All those seering and tearing times. 

All of those are in my heart, too, in the form of tendencies and scar tissues, adaptations to less than ideal conditions and disrupted normative operations. 

(Memory: Visiting Dr. Buckingham, the brutalist orthopedic surgeon who removed the pins from my elbow with only local anesthesia, so that I could look down my arm and see the incision being made, see the pins being pulled from the bone, the dull pressure of my arm being held, the pulling of the pins, the way the skin poked and broke with the suturing needle. Dr. Buckingham gave me the pins and I later gave them to another art teacher who had been my mother’s student. Pam Johnson, who kept borzoi and horses.)

II. My emotional heart. See above re: ill-tendencies and scar tissues (literal in the physical heart, and also – here the in the figurative heart of feeling wounded in our heart due to the shock and grief of losing something or being very afraid to lose something that we feel like we need to survive, something we love.

(Note: there may be additional thoughts here, re the intertwining between dependency relationships, needs both real and perceived based on experiences within relationship and culture and economy, and the ways that people and places become things in our internal seeking to feel safe or to reconcile some deficit or disparity or dissonance. I do not like it when people love me for what I offer to them, and say that they love me – because if they loved me, they would leave me alone and not want me to be any way other than who I am when I am most myself, which is here, in writing and in art. The voice that I use to speak to the people in my life about who I am and all the daily trifles and arrangements, apportionments of energy and attention, the things and people external to oneself that need what they call love, but what might actually be closer to egoic demands for attention, validation, and connection. I have no problem loving people, and am happy to give love freely when my heart is nurtured and healthy, but if my heart is not nurtured and if a relationship actually causes damage to my heart in the form of stressful shenanigans of communication and things like food and going places and having conversations that are interesting and enjoyable to all parties…or wounded by people being dicks and actually not seeing me at all, and only seeing some mysogynist charicature of who I am based on some garbage that happened with their mother or their ex-girlfriend, and expecting me to just be what they want me to be, and scorning me when I can’t or won’t. Then, additionally shaming me because I get upset when someone is man-splaining me to myself and totally invalidating whatever it is I am telling him is my own motherfucking experience, and saying some bullshit like what I understand in that moment to be true of what I am experiencing – based in my own observation of what I am thinking and feeling and the images and sensations that are occuring in my body and conscious mind, which gets flooded with amplified trauma detritus files when dudes talk to me and look at me in certain ways that – let’s face it – are fucked up. 

Unlearn the way they taught you to hold your face, dude. Unlearn your face, if you’re so smart. At least respect what I’m saying when I say that your smug smirk and flinty eyes and set jaw freak me out, because you are already invalidating whatever I might say before I even say it, so why say anything other than Fuck You.

This is what I know of friendship:

A true to friend to me is someone who recognizes me for both my strengths and limitations and understands that I am a person for whom the normative experience of being a human being in America has typically eluded me, in that I have no fucking idea what it is like to not think the way I do or remember the way I do or speak the way I do in my most true voices, I have no idea what it is like to not have a visual memory and a visual processing style. 

Haha – autocorrect just changed style to “farts.” 

Anyway, the normative experience of being a female human in America has – unfortunately – not eluded me, in that I have basically been seriously fucked up by the way that my physical body has been made into this thing that has to be a certain way in order not to be scorned or ridiculed or shamed, and that the person I am is a being that should primarily exist for the satisfaction and service of others which while this may not be true philosophically, on the basis of how utterly fucked up and dehumanizing (somehow I kept saying de-hymenizing, which is funny because just today I was thinking about how completely disgusting it was that my young male psychiatrist shitbag that I had only just met during an extremely traumatic conversation with my parents who were leaving me at the fucking hospital after this asshole asks me all kinds of personal questions about smoking weed (which at 13 I had never done) and having sex (which I also had never done), but which he accused me of, and then proceeds to do a vaginal exam which my impression was solely for the purpose of determining that I was lying about not having lost my virginity yet, and then acting smugly surprised when he learned, by putting his fingers into my vagina, that my hymen was intact.

Despite all my compassion and understanding of the ways people get fucked up in this culture and this economy, I seriously want to punch that smug look off that motherfucker’s face.

The reason I was thinking about that guy, who I believe is still in practice, if he hasn’t died in the past couple of years, is cause I need to request that he write me a letter regarding my treatment with him throughout my adolescence, from ages 13-17, which includes two hospitalizations at the now defunct due to Medicaid fraud and other disgustingness involving the unlawful hospitalization of elderly people and kids with problems because they’d been through some awful shit in their families or towns, all to be diagnosed as having a mental illness, a chemical imbalance. 

I know my records do not exist, due to the dissolution of Charter Hospitals as an entity, and the fact that the receptionist at Dr. Martelli’s office told me they are no longer available. I have written about that conversation somewhere. 

I need to call him and ask him to write me a letter to try to flesh out my mental health history for the possibility that I may need to apply for disability, depending on what happens over the next year or so, and whether or not my perimenopausal process and the imminent death of my mother while my children are in the process of leaving the home we’ve shared, signalling the end of an era that has been extremely difficult and beautiful and fucked up, like most families. 

(Later)

I have had an amazing day. I called out sick to work and spent the whole day writing and thinking about ideas. I added some to a drawing I had done the day after Lisa Montgomery was executed and felt good about revisiting this image. I considered last words and the significance of them, and wanted to study all of the last words of people killed by the state, wondered what art exists of those utterances. 

Driving to pick up her daughter, little dog in the back seat and on time so far, she considered the conversation she’d had with her mother on speaker phone while she brushed her hair. “I feel better, had the nicest day. I just wrote all day and thought about ideas and spent time with the dog.”

There was a walk-with to the corner and back. Training sits at the edges of streets, hurry-hurry at the crossing. When the little dog pulls, she stops. He is learning to sit patiently, and likes the pauses, the time to look around. 

“I want to talk to dad about Meck. I am curious about that, and want to hear more about him. That whole part of the family.”

I can tell I am getting tired because my writing is lagging and undetailed. The bigger sense around the subjects shown is muted. There is no mentioned of the internal questions that rise around my great-grandfather, who he was, why he was nervous, what that meant and what happened to him. 

“Also,” I mentioned, “I was trying to find information about Judge Beck’s role in the dedication of the Monument to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain, and I found in a newsletter archived by the Sons of Confederate Veterans that he – Judge Marcus Wayland Beck was a primary speaker at the event and that he – my great great-grandfather – accepted the monument to the confederacy at Stone Mountain, Georgia on behalf of the South, and that – well, that is interesting to me.”

She walked into her room, laid her brush down. “There is an organization called ——— that is working with communities to take down these monuments, and well…”

Her mother shifted into the detached conversational tone of politic-talk. I think they just just take down the signs and put a new sign that says “Never Again,” and just all keep working toward…”

She can’t remember the phrasing of her mother’s watery wish for equality, for unity.

“I cannot say anything about,” she found herself saying. “I have no idea how it feels to be a person who is the descendant of slaves, whose ancestors were brought here as enslaved people and to see a monument to the structures and systems that has harmed their families for generations right there in the middle of the town I am trying to call home. I don’t know how that feels and so I can only say that I can imagine that I wouldn’t much like it.”

“I mean,” she continued as she pulled a pair of socks with deer who had flowers in their antlers standing amongst trees, a bright blue background. Perfect socks for Earth Day and the day she’d had considering who she was and what she needed to do to take care of herself. 

“That monument is a blasphemy in stone,” she felt a thought rise as she left the house, and drove north to pick up her daughter. Her great-great Uncle Marcus, the Judge’s son would agree, and she felt something like his dark-eyed spirit flood quietly into her, smiled to feel him close, and understood that this idea was a part of what she needed to do to take care of herself, which was to make some acknowledgement that though her family, the blood that made her blood, were good people, wise people, they were a part of something treacherous and ugly, and that needs to be spoken and – more more importantly – that fucking monument must be returned to the stone that it was, though it will never be that stone again, because that stone took thousands – millions – of years to carve as it was and will never be again, carved in tribute to brutal lunacy of America and the lust for property, the lust for power, the lust for pride and a personhood above other persons, the idiocy of the trick that had been played on the poor men and sons who died in the Confederacy fighting for the rights of so-called white property holders to continue their supremacy not only above the African people and the indigenous masses on colonized lands, but their supremacy over the worker and the farmer, the poor sons and daughters of immigrants who themselves had fled. The masses, the masses, the masses. The insidious tricks and lies that had been told about the chance to rise above someone, to have your own place, a fence, a pantry, land to work, safety and belonging. The myth of the American Good Life, dangled like candy as an enticement to turn from injustice and support a system of economy that only works for a select few, and was designed as such, while the masses do the work, all the drudgery of production and consumption in a supply chain of enforced dependency and debt. 

God, America is a crying, bloody Shame. 

In some hearts, shame becomes hatred. 

Trygve Gulbrannson Beyond Sing the Woods

The original quote says that in some “mean hearts, shame becomes hatred.” 

There may be mean hearts. 

Some places make mean hearts. 

America makes mean hearts…and so many other sorts of hearts…brave hearts and wild hearts and sad hearts and broken hearts…and joyous hearts, too. 

It’s possible that joy is not made, but simply allowed for in the spaces between fear and anger and grief, the lifting awe of looking around at the world, of being alive. 

I want to write an email to ——— and share an idea to ———- by ———— a ———— (haha, don’t worry, surveil, it’s just a survey. 😂🤦🏻‍♀️

If it were up to me, I’d sandblast the motherfucker back to smooth stone, and do nothing else. Let it be an erasure, and then leave it alone, let the water flow down it in rains and the sun beat down all summer. Let tiny pools form between the latticework of stone, to freeze and refreeze, small particles lifted away like dust year after year, knowing that nobody alive today will see the stone face that once held a monument to the confederacy be anything other than a sanded smooth surface, with – perhaps – a small engraving at its base that simply reads NEVER AGAIN. 

If it were up to me, that’s what I would have done to the monument accepted on behalf of the South by my great-great grandfather, Judge Marcus W. Beck, father of his namesake son, the bright eyed boy who died trying to make his father proud in a grueling made-up world of races and wars.

I’d have the monument sand-blasted.

10:26

In between the bracken and the stream, under rocks and water-slick stones, there is a poem about what happened the year the willow tree fell and the cherry tree died and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. 

-/-/

In whispers it came, a hush and slow-spread

not wriggling or slithering, or crashing

just drifting, hanging in the air, caught in the pearls of breath 

sparkling over everything we sigh about 

replicating in the darkest creases 

deep in our heads and chests 

just a few days left in winter 

as the news turned to silent city streets 

ships made into hospitals

close down the schools,

we have to learn this now.

as rains poured down the runnel streams

the folding of the mountains, fog gathering

the ghosts of the girdled giants 

the echo of their fallings in the forest 

no more coffin wood, big bright spaces where once there was shade 

and the animals all scurried,

digging in the leaves 

forget the leaves, their hunger said,  

Now we are learning this

In the summer, grass grows

up through the pavement

empty school lot 

There is no going back 

To the world we knew 

though the spring will come 

again and again 

and the small shoots of new growth will push up through the soil 

made of the dust 

that was once a mighty American Chestnut, small trees 

not yet girdled by blight, 

growing, seeking the light

because that is all there is to do 

until you die.

Now we are learning this. 

Vernal

It’s notoriously hard to study – to measure and analyze – oneself or members of one’s own species, because our mechanisms of perception and understanding are inescapably biased/distorted in ways that we cannot even see, and which may vary wildly from person to person, culture to culture, moment to moment.

This means that the human study of almost anything is liable to be flawed.

Humans don’t see things clearly.

The ways that we even define what we are studying can be deeply flawed. [insert examples re: definitions of psychological wellness and illness that are based on Western norms and values/ drapetomania / and the science of forestry and natural resources. Note the estimate re: percentage of scientific literature that is bunk]

This is not an essay about that.

[I ended those thoughts and that writing – done while walking a familiar circuit down McDowell, the Choctaw Greenway, a short stretch of broad sidewalk along a street named Choctaw, beside a stream called Town Branch and Nasty Branch (recently featured in an article explaining that Town Branch was called Nasty Branch by the Black families who lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the stream, for the pollution by way of parking lots and streets sloping southward, the edge-of-downtown industries of oil changes and dry cleaners, all the garbage of the small city in the mountains running in streams that converge with the bigger river between the hills and rising lands that are East and West. The article advocated for the stream being called Nasty Branch because that is what the people in neighborhood – not the first people, who called the big river Tah-kee-os-tee and not the second people with names like McDowell and (insert interesting names of mid-era residents), who probably didn’t think much of the stream at all other than considering that it might be a convenient place to throw household wastes or to let loose the effluents of the fledgling industries surrounding the bigger river – which, as I mentioned, was called Tah-kee-os-tee by the first people, the Cherokee people.  There were, I believe, at some point large stockyards, organized by a Black man who has parts of his story printed onto a display down by the brewery that boasts a sign declaring ‘A Stream Renewed’ over a drainage channel bracketed by manufactured concrete composite blocks, planted with service berry and tall grasses.)

(I interrupted this writing to take a brief video of my black and white cat, whose name is Bandit. She was crouched and scratching, sharpening her claws on the rotting bench that sits over the yard-grave of my cat that died last summer, an event that I didn’t even write about much, because I have been stunned and silenced – at least outwardly – for a lot of days these past few seasons.)

(I interrupted my writing of this to notice I was cold and to look around. The thin shadows of thin branches – leafless maple and thin-leaved privet hedge grown all the way into the sinewy-smooth barked trees they are constantly striving to be – cover almost everything. There is no bright sunny place to be. At least not here. I am still interrupting my writing of whatever it was I was writing about by now thinking about going to the track and looking for a sunnier, warmer spot up there. I ran 7 miles in the mid-morning. There was a wind blowing hard from North to South and I kept my eyes closed on a lot of the stretches, opening one every few slow breathes, taking a scan of the lane rounding the bend before the branch of oak straggles out over the track because it’s hardly been used for a year because of the pandemic. It’s almost funny to me to mention so casually that schools have been closed because of a global pandemic that has killed well-over a half a million people in America alone. To almost forget that stunning reality. We just lived through – and are still living through – a historic event. A truly historic event that is still unfolding. Holy shit.)

What was saying, that I then interrupted, thinking about how sometime soon someone is going to unceremoniously cut back the branches of the young oak tree that is growing out over the Lane 8…

I just go around the branches. Step into Lane 7, then return to Lane 8…

I scroll up to see what I had been thinking about, and am aware that my posture is horrible right now. I am sitting on the steps in from of my house, and I am cold. I am hunched over, typing into my phone, wearing all black on the second day of spring, except for bright blue flip flops from last summer.

Ah, yes, the cat…

No. I was writing about psychology, and then I was writing about the river and the Branch.

I was walking yesterday along the stream that seems nameless, but that has several names, and is defined by me and understood by my family as ‘that little stream down by cat alley’. I walk along the stream on the Choctaw Greenway at least a few times a week. It is one of my circuits, one of the places that I go again and again, a path I travel repeatedly.

I used to take my kids down to the stream when they were little. It was one of those close-to-home adventure places that young mothers and fathers create for their very young children who don’t yet see that the world is big.

Lately a pair of ducks has been spotted in several locations within a quarter mile of where the mouth of the culvert emerges from beneath a field.

About six years ago, I was walking down the small hill that I lived on the north slope away from toward the even smaller hill that runs over the little stream down by cat alley. Ralph Street. If there were a street address for cat alley, it would be somewhere on Ralph Street, down by the Glen Rock Hotel that is now Section 8 apartments and the walkway with the bald cypress whose branches are all cut off on one side because they grew over the black walkway railing. The stream goes under a bridge there, and a sand, almost beach-like micro-delta is forming where sediment is left behind at the edge of the culvert. A couple of weeks ago a big piece of concrete painted a gloss red showed up on the sand. It looks a little like the shape of the continent called Africa.

I was walking down toward Ralph about 6 years ago, puzzling a little over how unenthused I’d been feeling – meaning that I had been depressed, because I experience depression and have since I was about 9. The word unenthused is a euphemism for terribly depressed, sometimes dangerously depressed.

On that unenthused walk, I saw a group of black and white kittens playing in the privet by the used-to-be-empty house at the bottom of the hill, and I felt something like happy for the first time in a while and realized that I wanted a kitten.

A few days later, I went out to the backporch and a little tiny black and white kitten run into the pile of wood that was stacked in the corner of the porch. We had to use a hav-a-hart trap to catch her, and caught a possum in the process. I named her Bandit. She is totally tame now, and is my cat.

Bandit showed up on the back porch right over a cat named Boober’s final resting place, under the porch beyond the reach of any implement, a dark form that the flashlight seemed to strain toward, but never quite reach.

Things I want to speak about.

There are many things I’d like to speak about, and they all run connected. I start speaking about one thing, and end up saying something about something else.

That’s okay.

I am going to speak today about what this project is and why I am speaking at all.*

The idea for this project emerged from thinking about – but, not saying anything about – suicide, about how I want to make a chapbook about staying alive, and how I think about plans all the time, but never do them, but that it feels really important to me to try to say something about suicide, to speak about suicide.

*note: not this project, but some other project that I haven’t actually worked on. A project in which I speak – about Suicide among other things.

She woke up sleepy

rain was falling in the dark

floor cold on bare feet

1-5

In a dream, lights out

electrical surge, flicker

no green numbers flash

Held, remembering 

how blankets become bodies 

when we are asleep 

Water is always 

Mud-slicked ground, pooling rivers

Always is a coast 

Room an inky seep

pocket of blurred boundaries 

liminal slipping

 

Pupils dilate, no

Constrict, aperture shifting 

seeking out the lines

 

6-12 

Clouds silently swell 

breathing up the fog between 

Valleys and rivers 

Constellations spin

mute points of light radiate 

reflect back to space 

[to complete later…]

Vernal equinox

Emergence, warm water scents

everything, Spring

1-5

Mountains shade new leaves

verdant, cooling sunburnt flesh

such a sweet relief

Piquant, sweet sap blood

taste of grass between the teeth

warmth of earth itself

Find chance balance

Rare moment, regular time

galloping daylight

night falls slowly, wait

I don’t want to go yet, no

I’ve just now begun

Stand like DaVinci

Fingertips touch dawn and dusk

Perfectly distant

6-12

Word like a rustle

Whisper, shifting grains of sand

old bone, ash displaced

Are the shoots green there,

underneath soil still warming?

Pushing up to sun

break ground, mountain rise

as the husk is shed to die

growth quickens, bounding

cotyledons rise

earnest leaves, like arms open

welcoming the world

in the dark below

lacework and lattice of ice

softening to steam

Wake robins stirring

bracken spirals unclenching

Sightless, determined

What joy, great lifting

thrust of all to the warm light

breath of plants, damp musk

13-17

Mycelium webs

tremble between roots, pulsing

Sending out signals

Highways sunny day

windows down, first time you sweat

since late last summer

Change out the displays

Fill the shelves with pastel eggs

grass chemical green

Drag out of bed, still dark

Body says to sleep, clock trained

lusty animals

Cleaning up the yard

a breeze that smells like semen

Bradford pears in bloom

It’s the day after the new moon, an astrological occurrence that would seem to suggest beginnings, but during this cycle is ‘more about endings.’ At least that what an article briefly skimmed on the internet suggested. I like that the moon phases are never really beginning or ending, that completion could be measured in darkness or light, and that – furthermore – the moon doesn’t care and strives for nothing.

Today is so-called Pi day, and circles don’t end or begin either unless they are drawn and the thing that is begun and ended is not the shape, but the line that makes it.

Somehow, the vernal equinox is a week from now and the clocks moved forward today. I stayed in bed this morning, in and out of lucid dreams between the alarm clock tone.

I needed rest, and so I rested.

With the one year anniversary of the declaration of a global pandemic having recently passed, I have almost met my goal – or, rather, completed my experiment – to walk/run 10 miles a day for a year. It was not an actual experiment, as there was no way of controlling for all the tangled variables that constitute a life, and – furthermore – the results are not measurable beyond my slightly improved cardiovascular health and running endurance. Some days I have chest pain and am exhausted and wonder if it’s possible that I might have damaged my cardiovascular health or if – like my Lebanese grandfather who dropped dead of a massive heart attack 15 years before I was born – I have a secret weakness in my heart, or if perhaps the duress of severe mental health challenges and chronic states of stress have worn out my heart.

The pain is on the right side of my heart, a tight ache, not enough to make me wince, almost more of a sensation than a pain. The pain is in the part of my heart that sends oxygen depleted blood to my lungs.

When I run and notice the pain, I draw deep breaths toward the place where I feel it, and try to slow my pulse down, open my capillaries up.

I don’t know what to say about the past few months. I have faltered badly in writing practice – but, have maintained a 63 day streak on Duolingo, where I am re-learning Arabic and learning Norwegian.

I don’t want my writing to be reduced to lists of the things I have done and things that have happened.

It might be that way for a while as I find my way back to practice.

I consider the possibility that my writing mind has been colonized by my employer for the sake of grant proposals and securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in program funds that have little to do with poetry other than the wrecked lives the funds are intended to assist and the folly of the ways that money is spent to clean up the messes made by the poverty and trauma of capitalism.

The winter is almost over. I wonder sometimes if I am 1/2 dissociated, the way I lose time and slip through days. It is seemingly a part of the adult experience that  time seems to move more quickly, that the passage of time itself accelerates as we age. This is not true, of course. Time can neither speed up nor slow down. Time doesn’t even exist beyond our temporal sense of existing.

I can still remember, from being young, how long a year can seem. Now, here a whole season has passed and I feel like I’ve barely found my footing in the new year, a quarter over already.

I have noticed that time slows when I am doing work with my hands, when I am engaged in raking or pruning. Sweeping or scrubbing. Sewing and baking. I think it is because it is possible to get a great deal done during small segments of time that it seems time slows. I know there have been episodes during which time, in my sense of experience, slowed to almost a stop – to the extent that I might comment or exclaim, “how is it possible that only a half hour has gone by?! I did way more than is possible within a half hour!”

Experience is such a layered and complex phenomenon – external actions reflexively dancing with the internal states of sense and reflection, analysis and memory.

She sleeps in her own room again, having left the bed she shared with a man at the end of the hall. The bed is small, a twin bed that was once used by her daughter. It is tucked perpendicular under a double-sized loft that nobody sleeps on, save for the cat.

The children would find the spots along the bank where the tide had eroded the sandy earth out from under the trees, making damp ledges that held pockets of cool air, roots washed clean and dangling from the walls. These eroded spaces were like tunnels, like burrows they could crawl through. The brightness and heat of the above-ground day seemed far away.

Maybe the universe is hurling itself toward destruction with every counterclockwise turn, the whirling spring wound tight

I have not written at all recently.

Let us define recent: I am referring to the better part of the past several weeks. Which isn’t really so long, but for a person who generally spends time writing fairly regularly, to have not written at all is fairly significant. For the past several years, my writing has been limited to the strained utterance and lament of the busy and distracted. I am conspicuously aware that there is a state of consciousness that my writing is born of, and that I have not been inhabiting it. A small slough in a wide beach with waves that stretch along the coast and all the blocks of business and home crowded close to the shore. If there was a place in me where poetry is born, it is in that slough left by tides, where water still flows from the push of the biggest waves in a runnel that is carved like a river, like a canyon.

I feel as though I have been trapped in other states of mind for a long time, the busy-ness brain with its lists of things to do and the press of deadlines, the social mind blathering and fretting about what to say and what will people think, my anxious preoccupation with the condition of the cells in my body, the meaning of the small streaks of blood on bright white paper.

She heard the footsteps in the dark outside, heavy and clomping. She recognized the sound of men’s boots, too big, and the definitive footsteps of the sore-footed. It was _____ Parker. _______ was actually a __________, but the woman had mis-learned her name two years prior and couldn’t unlearn it. She didn’t know who _____ Parker is, but she called ______ __________ by that name. “You know me?” The older ________, would ask, head cocked in question, the woman with braids down to her hipbones, the woman who wore loose cotton dresses to her knees and still thought of herself as a girl despite being in her mid-40s. “Yes!” The younger woman would exclaim, pleased at acing this pop quiz of familiarity that was given almost every time they met for the first 7 seasons of running into one another near the bus stop at the bottom of Murray Hill, on the sidewalk down by the Greens market where the city’s last remaining payphone leaned incapacitated at the edge of the parking lot. “Hey, you got a couple dollars I’m tryna get a pizza down here at the Green’s. They four dollars for two pieces, and my friend – man – my friend, see she was supposed to lend me 10 dollars til I get my disability and so I rode the bus all the way over here from Tunnel Road, and now she ain’t even gon’ answer the door.” _____ dressed like a man, and walked like a man. Kept her hair cut close to her scalp like a man, but still called herself ______.  ______ was almost 60, and despite her feet being sore with bone spurs, she walked quick and with a gait of driven purpose. She didn’t amble or stumble or drag. She walked like she was going somewhere, getting to the bus stop, going uptown, trying to go by and see a friend of hers, trying to get her 10 dollars to get something to eat. ______ was always busy.

Sometimes, Faith would walk down the big hill on S French Broad, cut over by cat alley to avoid having to run into ______, cause she knew that she’d get hustled before she even knew what happened, she’d be running – literally running – down to the Greens and getting a box of pizza from the little glass display crammed on the counter by the shiny goldtone pot leaf pendant jewelry and the plexiglass display of lottery tickets. She’d be buying an extra soda and a pack of cigarettes and paying 2.00 to get a 10 out of the rinky-dink atm to give to _____ to go over to the pharmacy, get _____ prescription. She didn’t like saying no to _______, couldn’t ever quite justify not helping her, and so sometimes she avoid the stretch of sidewalk leading down to Depot.

The elder woman rocked her head back in a question, “You know me?” Faith smiled cause ______ never remembered knowing her, and said, “Yes. Your name is ______ Parker.”

“My name ain’t _____ Parker! My name is _______. ________. I’m a ________.” She dropped her voice and Faith knew what was coming. “Listen,” ______ said, “I’m trying to get…”

The forecast was for rain and snow and ice accumulations of up to an inch – but there was only cold rain and the sky is blue now, the last winter storm of the season having passed with little incident. Over the past couple months, I’ve been delegated three grants to write – my headspace and energies and faculties used for the purpose and gain of an entity external to me. Not that getting funds for nonprofits is not an alright thing to do, but the nonprofit industrial complex and the systems of HUD and SAMHSA are pretty disgusting to me and I don’t really give a shit about impressing the city officials or the governing agencies charged with the care of the suffering.

I am not impressed.

Every day I want to quit and make art, allow myself immersion into the poetic consciousness and the time to work on painting a picture all damn day if I want to. I have an irrational fear of walking away from the structure of wage earning, the security of a paycheck – albeit relatively meager  (less than 2,000 a month and no benefits, no paid time off even).

I could probably make enough by other means…

It comes down to faith, to believing that God will have my back, will help me if I am brave enough to step into being what I am and doing what I am led – by a sense of numinous vocation – to do.

There are sharks and whales

that live in the sky above

Cloud strewn wonder loft

Mind rape of television

Feeding wild foxes

walk barefoot in snow to know

how living stings, burns

I don’t need you to send me

pictures of the sky you see

I see my own sky

A Haiku Set is a construction of 18 individual haiku. One anchor haiku, placed at the top of the page, and 17 expanding haiku in vertical columns of 5, 7, and 5.

Each of the syllables of the anchor haiku are represented in the expanding haiku, inviting consideration of the power of singular sounds and compact words to conjure vast associations.

Snow slumps into slush

robins gather in maple

hinting at new leaves.

Crystalline water

reflecting all in convex

white is illusion

I was doing my morning medicine run at the track and even though it was time for me to go home and get ready for workday, I decided to walk a circuit through downtown – just for the sake of keeping moving and to see what I might see. Sometimes, I stay out a little longer on these very cold mornings to remind me to remember I am blessed, and I make sure to see the people who are moving slowly out of the doorways as the sun comes up, and to give them a warm good morning. I refuse to allow myself the comfortable privilege of forgetting that there are people sleeping outside every night, regardless of how bitterly cold it might be, regardless of whether it’s raining or snowing.

This morning, right at the edge of downtown, I ran into my friend – a kid I knew from Brevard, who was homeless there and then became homeless here. My friend has mental health issues that make it hard to keep up with them, and isn’t very interested in jumping through a lot of hoops or filling out a bunch of forms. They have had a bunch of case managers and have been enrolled in a lot of different programs to try to get them housing, but they are still homeless.

I don’t think that it’s their mental health issues that give them a keen sense of right and wrong, and help them to maintain a gracious se la vie attitude toward the hard times they encounter. Usually, they are smiling and optimistic and seemingly without a care in the world. They have a benevolent and happy soul, it seems.

Trance Running

There is the push of wind, that seems to tell me go, keep going, and finds my back as I whisper and then speak “the way that God whispers to us” and I hope and then pray that my message is picked up by the branches that are black on indigo in early morning, waving and scraping small tones, small tines, a phonograph and a seismograph, play the measure and report, report, report – whisper in distant ears…

She resumed her sleeping alone in a narrow bed, the bed her daughter slept in as a child, once a loft and now with legs leveled to nestled perpendicular under another loft, the one that she once slept in and then became her daughter’s, a loft the cat now rests on and which she throws her pajamas in the early morning. She likes sleeping in this small space, a bunk above her just like when she was small and her bed was under her brothers and the wood was heavy and rough, unsanded, built by her father.

Alternate clocks

How can we not see

Rivers in our very own

branching, beating heart?

I’m trying to not know what time it is. To forget the hour, forget minute measures, these hard line technical segments that feel like the legs of centipedes and the countdowns to explosions, the ancient beauty of numbers turned to a business tool, the start of school. I get tired in the afternoon, in the hour before the bell rings. Even though I dropped out almost 30 years ago, I still feel thirteen when I walk alone in the late afternoon, wanting a cigarette and a set of railroad tracks to sit on, casting eyes to left and right waiting to be caught and loving the smell of creosote and the slant of gold light through pine trees after school telling the time of day by the shadows of their trunks and the glow of the needle. I am trying to forget the calendar and the schedules that are made for me, to feel my life unfolding, unfolding, unblocked, untimed.

Feeding Wild Foxes

Today is Christmas and the ground is covered with an icy snow. It is night time, and I will go to sleep soon. 

Yesterday, I ran in the heavy rain at dawn and felt solemn. In the mid-morning, I drove to my folks’ house with the winter mountains grey and dour, foggy clouds caught in valleys as the rain kept falling. All the creeks were running high and muddy. All the animals – deer and squirrels, foxes down in dens – were surely all curled and huddled as close as they could be, trying to keep dry and warm, haunches trembling, eyes slow blinking as the water dripped constant and loud from the leaves.

My mother made little effort to hide her petulant mood, admitted that she was trying not to feel bitter.

We made gingerbread cookies and cheese wafers cut into the shapes of hearts. There was a comfort in the process of mixing and rolling and cutting, rotating hot pans in and out of the oven, the smell of molasses and cinnamon, butter baking. I would sleep the rest of the afternoon, and be able to feel good about resting, having gone out to say Merry Christmas to my mom.

The rain finally turned to snow in the early evening, swirls in strong wind lit by street lights, pooled water freezing in the gutters. 

This morning, I ran in the snow before the sun rose and watched my tracks form a braided perfect path around the track. It was 18 degrees. I took pictures of the marks made by my footfalls, the tapering made by a slightly dragging heel, a bird-like pronation in the even-space prints made by my feet. 

“This is what practice looks like,” I thought, pausing to take a picture of the path stitched in the smooth snow after I’d run a mile. 

I do not listen to anything or watch anything when I run at the track or walk through downtown at sunrise. I only move and breathe and look around. 

It is the best part of my day, even on days when it is exceptionally rainy and cold. Sometimes even especially on days when it is exceptionally rainy and cold. 

I appreciate the direct sensory experience of extreme weather – the biting sweetness of cold and push of wind helps me to remember that I am a creature and reminds me to consider the people who live outside, and the animals in their nests and in their dens, huddled and waiting for storms to pass, accepting freezing rain for what it is. 

There were fox tracks crossing the path from the break in the fence behind the utility shed at the edge of the field. 

All of this feels very theoretical as I make this effort to describe my daily practice of running in the pre-dawn dark regardless of the weather. I have run in the still-spinning remnants of every hurricane that moved through these mountains this year. Yesterday and today, a timespan that held what was undoubtedly some of the worst winter weather we’ve had in several years, I met and exceeded my daily 10-mile practice benchmark. 

There is something very much like poetry in the way I feel and the quality of my not-quite-thoughts when I am out alone moving as the day breaks. 

This afternoon, an hour before sunrise, I packed my backpack with 9 cans of cat food grade tuna fish, three old biscuits, and an expired jar of sunflower seeds. I put on a second pair of socks and a second hat, a merino wool base layer, two scarves. Gloves and liners. I walked down to where the stray cats live by the small creek that feeds into the river and left tuna in the snow under the tree where I had seen them eat. I left a biscuit broke into pieces for the raccoons. I saw a swollen-bellied black cat hiding under a car by a bank of dead kudzu snarls encrusted with snow and ice, upended a can of tuna onto the frozen ground at the edge of the wild, tangled slope down to the railroad tracks. Walked up the gravel road to near under the bridge, left more tuna for the cats who are hiding. On the way back toward the house, we saw fox footprints cutting up through small paths. I left canned fish dumped in the snow near their tracks.

Libidinal hoax

Limbic synapses fire

Oxytocin drunk

Under holy skies

Talented flashing

Toothless mouth, toothless

words with no bite, no cutting

pablum dribbles out

Slow, vapid, lagging

pulse is missing around here

mind glutted with junk

Email inbox trash

landfill of commerce and work

Buy this – do this…now!

Constant Black Friday

Can I unsubscribe from all

Nagging me to spend

Don’t these places know

I hate capitalism

I don’t want any

Look, the mall is here

dying slowly, fast enough

Walkers plod along, numb

My poetry is dying

mind dull and lifeless today

lilting and lurching

This potato is an anomalous heart.
This heart is an anomalous potato.

[reckoning w/ scarcity]

If I were a character in a myth, I’d be a woman with long braids who made herself wake each morning before dawn to circumambulate on a track atop a hill, going around and around in the effort to make her mind clear and to somehow keep in motion some movement toward the future.

There is something in her like a black hole, a sucking whirlpool –

(a vortex of bad metaphors! 😂)

– that she feels right at the edge of her life some days, a field of inspecific orbiting dread.

It is inside of her and outside of her.

[She is probably just hungry.]

I won’t name the era

small sliver of June

knotweed in bloom

by the river that swirled brown

sometimes a blue mirror,

showing shades of grey

that have nothing to do with black and white

simple haze of water gathered

small spheres we cannot see

Holding us in convex arc

Two days past the day

back in May

when they killed George Floyd in the street

for the whole world to see

the feet of millions stomping back

current of outrage rising to flood

again, and again, and again

into the sequence of news

(How many have died since then? How many names have we already forgotten?)

(Why can I not forgive myself for not doing enough?)

(Am I a fool for even trying?)

This era of my walking

for three laps, less than an hour –

fog gathered, Day of Mourning,

two seasons held

bright white, black text

the names of my mother’s pathology

jumbled with the grief of the world

a causeway of flesh and blood and bone

sweat of stories held back by masks

the details of us merging in singular voice

demanding justice

again,

and again,

and again…

How long has it been,

since I said anything here?

At least a few minutes…

Three years ago, I ran in the dark of the early morning on the streets that were paved over that woods I grew up and I tried (very hard) to focus (not quite my mind) on raising the spirits of the land, which are the spirits of the people (Utina) and the spirit of the animals (panther and possum and boar and Luna moth and ringneck) and the spirit of the trees (oak and hickory, bay and gall, and pine – my God, planted in rows by the remnants of the barbed wire fence, planted to rise to the sky and be felled for paper, lumber, whatever…)

I feel in my lungs, not quite my lungs, my heart not quite my heart, some interstitial passageway between my cells, the water of me in small vibrations, tremors that make my small hairs stand, small wind that finds the pine, the oak, as I walk around the track (orbiting body, moving clockwise) and look at the branches all beloved all beloved and feel a sense of weeping rise, a need to fall to my knees for the beauty of these simple trees in the early morning…

She moves in and out of feeling safe. This is something she has known about herself for a long time. It makes sense to her that she would easily shift into a flat guarded numbness. Her earliest immersive experiences of humans outside of her family – the preschool play yard, the elementary classroom – had taught her that people were confusing and unpredictable and that, furthermore, they would laugh at her if she opened her mouth to say anything much more than hello, looking at her strangely as the r sounds slurred and tumbled, soft and without growling.  She was a peculiar child that did not know that she was peculiar, and this led to her being the subject of many baffling cruelties over matters ranging from the voracious chomping of her celery sticks at the school cafeteria lunch table, to her insistence that she carry her bear to school well into the third grade, to her polite excusing herself when she passed gas.

“Excuse me. I passed gas.”

This is what her great-grandmother had told her to say if she passed gas, and yet when she said it, the kids in the desks around her just about rolled into the aisle laughing. She had no idea why. It was confusing to her. Hadn’t she said the right thing, the polite thing?

She learned not to talk about things she liked, and especially not to talk about things that she loved.

Cradling the translucent husk of a cicada’s exoskeleton as if it were a fragile treasure at the edge of the recess yard there was a sudden crowding around her, the sour musk smell of children after lunch on a warm day, a damp forearm crowding against her in the jostle of inquiring voices, “what you got? What is it?” And then a grabbing of her hand, small perfect shell of insect falling weightless to the ground like nothing.

In the morning, she considers the way that the sky always looks like a bowl above the ledge of flat land that the track is set on.

There is a curvature to the dark; The stars seem to hang at angles from one another and the night itself seems convex.

Through the winter trees, she is able to see the bridges lit and largely empty spanning the river. Cars are only occasional. She wonders where people are going with Orion still so visible. It is always quiet at the track even if she can hear the sirens drifting through the spaces between the streets moving toward the hospital.

It’s the last day of fall and the sun has gone down. I ended the day by sweeping the floor and putting on a Dirty Three record from the late 1990s, trying to move the air in the house around. I haven’t written in days, other than proposals for work. Emergency Solutions Grant, Phase 2. Street Outreach.

I drafted a conflict resolution process for a fledgling nonprofit that nobody will read and posted replies to a couple threads on a forum that I joined. The forum is hosted by a musician that I used to listen to, but that I don’t listen to much anymore.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, and the shortest day of the year, which means that the days will already be getting longer again.

winter solstice dusk

slow pulse of lengthening days

orbiting heartbeats 

She opens a new email, no addressee and no subject. Walking around the track, she tries to hold the phone at chest level because the back of her neck hurts from looking down so much these days. When she remembers to, she told s her chin toward the sky and tries to type without looking, <~ it amaZes her, when she looks down, that there are as few errors as there are. She would expect more.

Even cold, her fingers know where to go, where to land their  littletapping pulses to make letters. She can see the QWERTY keys on the screen in her mind. This is something she has learned.

The sun will rise in 28 minutes; when it does, she will be at the house, passing by the hot air exhalation of the pellet stove in the entryway room, glass black with smoke,  the burnpot meek and hunkering, stubbornly combusting the pelletized pine that falls into the fire.

It is an old stove.

Now, however, she is walking around the track as the sky slow lightens and fog settles on the river down the hillside, frost feathering on fallen leaves and cold-dried grasses.

It is the first day of winter. The shortest day of the year.

There is a quiet as she looks around, still moving.

She doesn’t have to watch where she is going here on the track.

For the past several days, she has been reflecting on the events of the year – as many people do during the in-between days of one calendar drawing to a close and the new year not yet starting its slow movement toward spring. The year has gone by fast, but she has a poor sense of temporal orientation. Small amounts of time can seem very long to her and months can pass by quickly.

The family of crows that lives in the neighborhood are fussing about something. Yesterday, a hawk was sitting in the tall oaks in the yard two doors down. It wasn’t quite full light, but she could see that it was a hawk by the shape of it on an uppermost branch, and by the way the crows flew toward the tree sounding their single caw alarm cries, bring more crows to hassle the hawk.

She writes as she runs. Rarely do words make it to the page, but the telling of experience rises and circulates as she moves around the track in the dark. Circumambulating. This going around in circles? It is a theme. She laughs a little internally, silently pleased at how she is able to make fun of herself, the ways she has become humble.

The sun rise is making fleshy raw pink in the eastern sky. Not delicate at all. Light like torn flesh or blood in water.

She reminds herself that only the things that get to the page exist outside of her. Nobody knows what she is thinking, save for maybe the theoretical wisdom of wind and small birds. When she realizes this, that she has said so little of what she would like to say, she is overwhelmed, a feeling of wanting to fall down like the man she talked to on the phone last week. “I just started thinking all of these negative thoughts and I got so miserable I just laid down o

“You vocalize everything,” my 16 year old daughter says, annoyed in the passenger seat beside me after I sighed and declared that I was tired. “You don’t have to say everything you think.”

She continues, “Nobody cares if you’re tired. Stop complaining.”

My daughter is a wonderful young person.

This is the way of writing for her. She begins somewhere and wanders, sometimes going in circles.

Three years ago, she was on the verge of finally putting together a writing project that would help her to find mentors or at the very least someone who would tell her – honestly – that she needs to give up. She traveled back to her first home by the river and slept in the abandoned house that she grew up in, watching the lizards crawl in and out of the walls and listening to the raccoons thump and shuffle across the roof. The house would be torn down within six months, after the final sale of the land that raised her.

There was something different about that time of declaring that – finally – she would put together her book.

Perhaps it was the sprig of cedar that he had walked over at the edge of the dock, tied carefully to the outside of the parcel that she buried in the sandy soil on the spit of land where the river split into three branches. Maybe that was what brought him so devotedly and consumingly into her life.

Maybe it was her own psychology of barriers and sabotage that manifested a perfect lover to take all her time and energy in those fragile few months of beginning?

Maybe it was some trickster force that undermines a certain willing light to come into the world, tangles the feet of the determined?

Maybe it was just love, oxytocin and old attachments and a sense of storied romance?

Whatever the case, she did not write a book.

It is Christmas Eve and dull cold, drizzly. There is something pouting in her. “This should be snow.” She should be merry, and there ought to be an excited warmth here at the edge of dawn on Christmas Day. The rain is blown by a wind from indeterminate direction, sometimes seeming from the east and sometimes from the north. She pictures it swirling like hurricanes do, like an eddy in the river. It pushes at her back when she is on the south straightaway of the track and blows against her face as she completes the clockwise orbit, backwards here – against the directions of the lanes.

In her mind, she rehearses what she might say. Amicable. Respectful. Apologetic, but not tearful.

It’s the end of a day that began with the setting of the last full moon of the year, a big orange sphere low in the west like a setting sun.

Yesterday, I ran 10 miles without really trying, and this morning I considered stopping at 6.5 miles – which is my usual morning run distance.

I had more running in me, and so I sprinted to the bridge to try to see the full moon set, and only caught a half-globe on the horizon behind the shopping center across the river.

The morning has been an amazing time lately, full of gifts and wonders. It is easy to wake up early, because I don’t want to miss the dawn. I am excited to walk out into the dark and begin running, not knowing how the morning will end up feeling.

I used to wake up with horrible anxiety and perseverative thoughts about things I didn’t want to think about. I still do some mornings, but running for at least an hour every morning before the sun comes up has somewhat transformed my early-day chemistry.

Also, I’m sure that getting back on medication after ten years of not being on medication is a major factor in the phenomenon of me feeling better.

I have been doing an inventory of the year, as many people probably are. I have walked and run well over 3,000 miles this year and maintained a daily practice of at least 10 miles of movement the vast majority of days. I quit smoking, again and at last and for good.

I successfully wrote about 500,000.00 worth of grants to fund non-profit recovery organizations. I began to learn to listen to my gut about what I needed to spend time doing.

I showed up for my mom during her months of cancer treatment and took a nap with her in the little hospital bed after she had her surgery.

I ran circles around the track and pictured white-blue light suffusing my mom’s epithelial cells, light burrowing into the tumors.

I fell in love with my daughter again and helped her to get her first job. I made myself a room.

I talked with my son about college applications and stayed out of his way when he said he wanted to handle his own applications. So far, he has been accepted at every school he applied too.

I stopped eating animal products and realized that I am not able to digest some sugars.

Right now, I am walking around the track after running 6 miles. I can move faster than I have ever been able to move before without even trying much or thinking about it at all. After five years of practice, my body has begun to learn how to run again, how to pick my legs up and move from my hips, how to breathe and keep my chest open, how to forget that I am moving and simply move.

When I go out in the morning, sometimes as early as 5:00am, regardless of the weather, I realize that I am an eccentric person – running in the rain for the sake of feeling hurricane winds and tasting the water lifted from the ocean hundreds of miles away. The day after Christmas it was 10 degrees and felt like 1. I wasn’t cold at all, despite only wearing my usual layers. For the last mile of the walk, I took off my gloves and breathed deep to keep my fingers warm. When I got home, I found my friend sitting in front of the fire, just waking up. “See,” I extended my hand, “not cold at all.”

I don’t listen to music or podcasts or anything at all. I keep my phone in my pocket, carrying it only because I don’t have a running watch and I like to track my miles. At this point, I can tell how far I’ve gone by the feel of my legs. I know that at three miles, I will naturally increase my pace. At five miles, I will forget that I am running at all.

It’s the full moon and I didn’t sleep well last night. It wasn’t a fitful or frustrated lack of sleep. I was just wakeful. I still share a bed with my friend and he holds onto me through the night, pressing his warm body against mine, scooting closer until I have only the edge of the bed to lay on.

When my children were little, they would do the same thing.

It’s a very human thing to do, a very animal thing to do – to seek a warm body to hold onto in the night.

My friend and I are approaching our three year anniversary. It is, in fact, tomorrow. New Year’s Eve. Incidentally, that is also the three year anniversary of the last night that I ever spent in the house I grew up in. The house my father built. The house that no longer exists.

Before the relationship with my friend, I had been celibate for five years. I think a lot about how much I am drawn to a lifestyle in which I devote myself to spirit and work, how much celibacy and quiet contemplation feels congruent with my values. How right that feels to me.

I have spent the past 18 years raising my children and working in the nonprofit world with people who are suffering and struggling in ways that most everyday middle class white Americans probably can’t comprehend. I’ve never earned more than $19.00/hour.

At the end of the day, I mostly want to be alone.

The kid moved toward her across the parking lot, and she recognized his eyes and stature despite the mask covering the lower half of his face. He raised his hand and asked how she had been doing. She told him that she didn’t remember his name.

Her name, he showed her, had just been tattooed across the back of his left hand, with a blocky cross as a center piece and the letters curling like somebody’s girlfriend’s name.

She understood, as he continued to stand there, that he was going to ask her for something. That he wanted something from her. “I’m trying to get a ride to pick up my guitar.”  She knew she couldn’t give him a ride. Positive tests were on the rise, doubling and then tripling. Thousands of people a day are dying.

She remembered him and his girlfriend riding around with a kitten they’d adopted. He came to groups at the center to fulfill program requirements, go to 1/2 a group, get the paper signed.

He was a nice enough kid, interesting. His own sort of style. Into parkour and art. Played guitar with an edge of charming narcissism that made the missed notes not seem matter.

She saw herself talking to him, woman in the parking lot. Car and groceries. Mask. Saw herself saying, “I don’t know…” and feeling the fawning as he pressed just a little. “It’s not far.”

“I can give you gas money.”

She was immediately aware of how small the interior of the car was, how his arm was close, his mask bunched and a little dirty, one of the reusables from the big grocery store out on Tunnel, lined up by the end caps of the aisles. 

It is the first calendar day of a new year. I woke up and rain 6 miles in the rain, being sure to hold my hands palm up in front of me for small stretches to feel the washing of the rainfall and imagine that – somehow – it was cleansing me, blessing me. It is the first day of a new year, and I couldn’t see the waning moon because of the clouds, but stopped to take 10 seconds of video of the flashing fluorescents in the empty 6th grade classroom as I walked by the school, briefly appreciated the seeming pulse of the building, the patterns that show up in movement and light.

I intended to write yesterday. Probably a lot of people intended to write yesterday. It was one of those days, the end of a long, strange year. The last day is an obvious opportunity for reflection and commemoration.

She purchased a pork loin and 12 ounces of applewood smoked bacon. Smoked trout. Brussels sprouts. Almonds covered in dark chocolate. A small bag of pecans. That morning, she had cried by the fire as she looked at her friend. Real tears, a substance thicker than just salt and water. Dull clenching and unclenching in her actual, physical heart – somewhere around the crossing of the left and right ventricles. “It hurts,” she said, a small whining lift in the statement. “I don’t know what else to do.” Tears, hot and viscous, mixed with mucus from her sad running nose, and she realized that she would not be able to write in the morning. That she had spent her writing time talking with her friend and crying about the necessity of ending their relationship.

It’s the second day of the new year and she is certain that she made the right decision. Her intuition had been nagging her, strongly every morning and through the day, telling her that something was not right, something was not working. She noticed the way her jaw would set at the sound of her friend’s voice.

It’s not that she didn’t like her friend, love her friend. It was more a matter of simply wanting to be left alone, to be alone. To have long stretches of time during which she was not beholden to orient her attention to a person external to her, to listen to what they are saying, to smile and nod, to laugh. She is a person who needs enormous amounts of time alone, and she thought she’d been clear about that when she agreed to enter into partnership with her friend. She knows she told him clearly at least a hundred times. Sometimes she yelled at him, frustrated and tearful. “Please,” she would say, “I just want to be left alone. I just want to be alone.”

She came to believe that he was not really her friend because he seemed to disregard her need to be alone.

It is the third day of the new year, a Sunday, and the fog obscures the lights down in the river arts district, but somehow amplifies the sound of traffic going over the bridges coming into town, an anonymous rush and sigh to the west. Water falls from thin branches, arrhythmic and sparse.

She put on new shoes this morning, figuring she must have run 500 miles in her old ones, and noticing they felt flat and hard when her feet hit the ground. She had found a clearance deal in the fall –  $40 a pair for good running shoes. She bought 3 pairs, figuring that some single pairs of shoes cost 130.00, which she could never afford. Her feet slap the ground, awkwardly loud in the near-silence of early morning.

She breathes as she runs, starting off too fast, slowing down and breathing through her nose. Transcendental meditation calls for a person to say a phrase again and again, a mantra. She considers this as she runs, thinking about the email she needs to write, the request for her help writing a grant with just two days notice, the way she’d felt anxious about saying no, not right about saying yes. She had been avoiding being in touch with the people who’d asked for her help, because she did not want to say no and she did not want to say yes.

There is an anxiety, a tightening in her sense of attention that she doesn’t like. (Even writing about it now, she feels anxious – and that is good information for her to have. At least several times a week she quietly considers the possibility that she could go on a sabbatical from working in nonprofit human services. She could get a job at the grocery store down the street – independently owned and operated, specializing in re-sale lots of an ever-changing assortment of near-expiration health foods. She goes there almost everyday anyway. It’s only a 1/2 mile away, her neighborhood store.

She has almost entirely stopped going to ‘the big store,’ a regional chain supermarket that has too much of everything and is too bright and loud for her to navigate with any sort of ease. Two days prior, on the first day of the year, she had met her mother and father at one of the remaining unimproved small stores in the big chain’s list of locations, out on the highway alternate heading toward the east end of the county.  She had forgotten to both get and to soak black eyed peas for the new year, and so she was meeting her parents in the parking lot halfway between her house and their house to pick up peas her mother had soaked. A water-filled Tupperware and a small plastic bag of collard leaves from her mother’s garden. They had died and then grown-back, as some things do. 

Her mother was waiting for her in the car when she got there, sitting in the backseat like a kid. “I got out of the car and then I got cold,” she explained, putting her raincoat on over her other jacket to go into the store. Inside, they looked for her father, but didn’t see him anywhere. Not in the produce section, or among the old-fashioned energy-wasting open cooler bins that run down the center of the store. “We’ll find him,” her mother said, as if losing her father in a relatively small grocery store were a regular occurrence. 

In the cereal aisle, they spotted him moving in the direction against the flow indicated by the arrows on the floor, looking stunned and even weaving a little. He was the wearing purplish reading glasses that he’d gotten after his recent Lasix surgery that corrected his vision to the extent that he no longer needed glasses. He had worn glasses for so long that he immediately took to wearing a low prescription pair of readers that he got at the drugstore. “Are those purple,” she had asked, carefully and casually as he cleaned them on a recent day before driving her and her daughter back into town.  “No,” he glanced briefly at the glasses before putting them on. “They are brown.”

It was in the cereal aisle that they found her father, staggering a little, seeming bewildered, list crumpled in his hand. “I couldn’t find anything, but I got bananas and pears, and then I went to find ____, and she wasn’t in the car and so I came back.” The list was assembled less as a list and more an erratic constellation of items penned in her mother’s scrawled hand. Her mother had made her lists like this for years, on yellow legal paper with tomatoes and kitty litter and ketchup written at angles, defying all of the lines and columns pre-printed on the page. Some unimportant items appeared to be written in bold. Paper towels. The letters gone over and over again, probably while her mother was on the phone with one of her sisters.

Anyway, when she thinks about the fact that there is a world in which people aren’t constantly obsessing about getting grant funds for nonprofit human services work, not constantly considering homelessness and suicide, the delicate relationships with ‘community partners,’ the politics of doing good work, the allowable activities and funding restrictions and…any of it…there is a world where people are talking about art and ideas, and savoring the sound and feel of poetry and – my God – they are laughing…and she wants that. She wants to be in that world. 

She wants to take a sabbatical from the work she has done for 25 years.

Note: She wants to remember the question of why someone else’s need to talk about themselves and their ideas would supersede her need to sit quietly and think, to allow her thoughts to focus, to consider her own ideas.

Note re: need to research external processing and internal processing, possible intersection with socialized gender roles.

I decided to draw again, and in the absence of inspiration, opted to sharpen my technical skill and practice by drawing whatever was on the page of a book of clipart that I have had since 1999. Axes and hammers. Breaking and building.

Entelechy

She was born into a world at the edge. A hospital beside a river, a house beside the marsh, outskirts of town at the end of a dirt road. Ocean stretched out beyond the line of horizon, led to the slow-crumbling coasts of lands on the other side of the world, places that were only ideas to her, colored splotches on the curve of a globe, flat shapes on a page, the enormity of the world reduced to glancing scale. “Oh, here is the United States,” smaller than her own hand, “and here,” tracing a journey in a few seconds with the tip of her finger, “here is Lebanon.” She found Germany, and England. Norway. Pivoted her pointer finger from the anchor of her thumb like a compass, connecting the places that had become bound in the chromosomal twining of her DNA – her brown eyes from her mother, her strong jaw and the silky fineness of her hair from her father.

There were no edges – really – though she did not know this when she was young. 

When she woke up in the morning, after going to sleep as a strategy to avoid the fact that she did not feel belonging anywhere in her life, with anyone, not for more than a moment, went to sleep to avoid this knowing and dreamt of a huge mountain house left behind and full of lamps, woke up to the same knowing that she felt belonging only with herself and only when alone, she noticed that there were spider webs strung between the power lines, strung with droplets of water and thus visible.

entelechy

From Late Latin entelechia, from Ancient Greek ἐντελέχεια (entelékheia), coined by Aristotle from:

ἐντελής

(entelés, “complete, finished, perfect”)

(from τέλος (télos, “end, fruition, accomplishment”)) + ἔχω (ékho, “to have”)

   IPA: /ɛnˈtɛləki/

Noun

entelechy (plural entelechies)

   (Aristotelian philosophy)

The complete actualization and final form of a potency or potentiality, or of a conception.

A particular type of motivation, need for self-determination, and inner strength directing life and growth to become all one is capable of being. It is the need to actualize one’s beliefs. It is having a personal vision and being able to actualize that vision from within.

Something complex that emerges when you put a large number of simple objects together.

The other morning, I saw one of the stragglers from the Leonid meteor shower burn across the western sky at 6:10am. It was the biggest shooting star I’ve ever seen, with a broad comet-like tail that glowed greenish in its incineration and stayed in the sky as a dimly haze – like a faint contrail – for a few moments after the bright burning path of the meteor had disappeared. At that moment, running in the dark on the eastern straightaway of the track at the middle school, I’d been thinking about entelechy and the process of potential, of disparate parts making a coherent whole, and also about why it is important to me to be a good steward of my headspace and to use my time wisely.

It is not important for me to be a part of some conversations.

Hulking flat land beasts

never move from where they sit

watching sun lit plains

 

Columns, brick, steel blades

spray down the floors twice a day

still blood-streaked, sticky

 

Damn thing never sleeps

all day long it eats and eats

belches, hisses, grinds

 

mouths open toothless

for the rolling-eyed to roll

scared when they smell death

 

there is no stampede

tight funneling corridors

green glowing lights swing

 

men who were children

stand for hours, legs aching

disposable clad

 

hands into machines

no talking over the din

You are there to work

 

Smell seeping into skin

wife doesn’t cringe anymore

She is used to it

 

Do you remember

how beloved the cows were

cattle fields back home

 

heavy bodies, slow

gentle eyes gaze ahead

calves rest in the grass

 

grandmother tends them

swatting haunches, gathering

a procession home

 

She taught you respect,

reverence for what feeds you

kindness, dignity

 

don’t know different

Born onto feed lot acres 

living in our filth

 

cannot imagine

fresh air, sweet grass, open space

don’t know to miss it

 

I read an article today about how Waterloo meat bosses made bets on how many workers would get COVID and forced them to work, killing at least five people.

The meat industry is disgusting.

Processing plants are giant machines, do the dirty work of eating animals for us. Turn people into teeth, cutting up the meat.

Let us not forget

Modern American normal

a middle class dream

 

We live in limbic

Autonomic responses

That we call true love

 

Wring your hands, asking

Will things go back to normal?

Subjectivity

 

cement mixer spins

Highways, capillaries pulse

Shuffling papers

 

Curl up your bangs, girl

Fix ‘em so they look like waves

tease the locks, ratting

 

mascara lashes

leaning in close and focused

Breathe in, mouth open

 

anti-rebellion

enter the card numbers, pin

Fashion a rebel

 

Sit by the bookcase

Near the plate glass windows, watch,

be watched watching

 

explaining everything

(Coffeeshop philosopher)

to everyone

 

Convenience store

familiarity, smiles

go everyday

 

social code: no eye contact

The wind in the mountains has been carrying water from the ocean for weeks. A vague salt at the edges of scent, a humid round warmth despite November. These winds, stirred up by storms that form in the tropics, hundreds of nautical miles away, make the coast feel close, and the dry rattle of oak leaves gone scarlet for the season is the same here as it is on the edge of Georgia.

Isn’t it such a human tendency to think of home in certain breezes?

Her mother ordered the tulips last spring, selected them from one of the catalogs that comes to the mailbox down at the end of the road. Thin paged and dense with small rectangles of blooms, the made-up names in bold. Comet Tail. Jeffers’ Blue. Occasionally there is a 1/2 page photo of the fields at the flower farm. Rows upon rows of blazing color under unwaveringly blue skies, a row of trees on the horizon suggesting that this is a place adjacent to a regular place, a place with trees and perhaps a road, a road that somehow connects to these fields of flowers.

> Sitting at the kitchen table, other catalogs piled on the left, a dogs’ tennis ball in the bowl of fruit, a legal pad to the right of the frill-edged placemat where she would write down things she found interesting in the paper or in the catalogs. Book talk at library, 6/26, 4:30. Lion’s Mane. Reishi mushrooms. Hummingbird Migration.

> The legal pad was an extension of the bulletin board in the laundry room, where articles or photographs were clipped from the paper and pinned to the cork. A brief list of trails from the Travel section. The Trail of Tears and the Oregon Trail. The Iditarod. Two pictures of owls cut from a magazine. An article about chipmunks preparing for hibernation. The phrase Or Better handwritten in bold, thick Sharpie, partially layered over by an out of date piece about the blue moon, the hunters moon. A ballpoint pin map of the 7 apple trees planted behind the house, circles for each tree, their names and variety written inside. Jonathan. Fuji.

> The legal pad on the table accumulated these small notes written in diagonals across the pages until it was full and fat-seeming from having its pages folded back over each other, edges curled and a little dip at the top of the pages where they’d been flipped back and held down by the weight of the pad to expose a new page. There was a cardboard mailbox under her mother’s desk that held several legal pads and folders with more legal pads in them. Some of them were barely full. This was her mother’s way of keeping a record.

> Somewhere in the legal pad of last spring, there are probably the words “——“ and “—-“ These are the names of the bulbs she ordered from the tulip farm. 

“Put them in the place by where we tried to grow vegetables.” She stands in the kitchen by the window, directing my father and I to look at the small rectangle on the back slope of the yard, where young collard greens are coming up in a row still.

“You mean the garden?”

“Yes, I want to be able to see them from this window. There are two kinds of purple. Just mix them. I don’t care how they are planted, but I want to be able to see them from this window.”

The soil is loose and sandy. Grass is easy to pull up and the dirt falls from its roots without resistance. Beside her is a pile of plucked grass, pale capillaries exposed to the drying air. Tulips don’t like their feet wet, her mother has told her, and she hopes that this far up the slope, in the plot beside the young collards, the soil will be dry, will drain well.

The land here seeps with underground springs that sometimes push up through the lawn to burble into streams that run under the house. 

The day was warm, and despite the leaves having fallen from the trees already there was a slight benevolence in the slant of sunlight as the afternoon slipped toward evening. It felt to _______ like a different time, a different decade, one of those days that reminds you of the feeling of youth somehow, of how it felt to be young. The mountains get cold quickly, and then warm again for several days at a time depending on what sort of weather is happening in the surrounding regions. Last month, there had been humid storms one after another, the remnants of hurricanes that had moved up through the Gulf Coast in a ragged swirling mass dumping water from the ocean onto all the land-bound fields of Alabama. Sometimes there is snow from Canada. Rarely it seems does weather form in the mountains to go elsewhere. In valleys and coves and up on the balds scraped clean by fire or the wanton grazing of yesteryear there are pockets of aberrant and interesting weather that form depending local conditions, moisture trapped in the shaded folds of a river’s path, exposed fields of wind-flattened grass and low growing scrub in the high elevations. Small storms spring up, and then dissipate, never going far. It may rain on one side of a mountain, socked in with a roiling primordial fog that gathers as heavy droplets on the leaves of rhododendron and mountain ash, held in the brackets of spruce branches to drip and fall like rain onto ground that is never quite dry and spongy soft with needle duff and moss. On the other side of the mountain, the sun may be beating down to ripen berries and warm the rock faces for canebrake and copperhead to rest on.

However, no big storms form in the mountains to move along to other places. Any weather that is birthed here stays here, doesn’t go far at all. _______ wondered if it would snow much this year, and considered the broken branches of the hedge trees that still hung dangling in the side yard. The snow from a few years back broke them, and they’d not yet fallen. They looked painful, the straight-down angle of the branches and the wood at the break split like a bone.

The question of snow lingered in the humid air. Though it was too warm to snow, the clouds were stolid and dark.

I put together a book of poems and realized that I had the layout all wrong, but that it didn’t matter because the whole point of my putting together the book of poems was to learn more about what I am doing wrong – or, rather, what I could stand to strengthen, what I need to learn to pay attention to.

A lot of my language is flat these past few months, but I am trying to be patient with myself here now 8 months, almost 9 months, into the pandemic, 6 months since my mother’s diagnosis, 6 weeks since her surgery, 2 months since her last chemo treatment, 6 weeks since the old orange cat died in the living room, stretching and grimacing and cry out a ragged meow as his body systems shut down finally after weeks of not being able to eat, staring at the water in his dish as if divining a glimpse of what might come next. He had cancer, too. My daughter has been working for 6 weeks, and Thanksgiving/Day of Mourning is on Thursday.

I am focusing a lot on the concrete, the material, the things I need to show up for. However, I am also still very much trying to keep one foot in the liminal, to not forget the mystery and the enormity, the phenomenon of so many lives and movements sprawling out from wherever I might be standing.

The goal of running/walking 10 miles a day has continued to be met most days. On days that I do not meet the goal, I come close, and I make up the difference over the days that follow.

The deer was a streak of movement in the dark, almost silent moving at the perimeter of the track. I knew it was a deer because of the soundlessness, the way the form moved in the pre-dawn absence of light. It is easy to recognize some things, especially if you’ve seen them hundreds of times. The smooth line of a running deer is familiar, even when there is no light. As I round the curve of the track the deer cut right, bounding and leaping across the football field to the other side of the track near where I had first seen it.

We repeated this five or six times. I ran toward the dark end of the track and the deer skirted the edge, a stealthy blurred form near the fence, then ran across the field to the pocket of the shadow by the ditch and a small oak only to break into a cruising run as I approached again.

As I write this a day later my eyes are heavy and the mind-space is fuzzy, a little blank. There is no sharp sense of inspiration or vision, though I have thought determinedly about poetry every morning as I run in the dark at the middle school. I remember several laps in that thinking never got me much of anywhere and that poetry is far more likely to find me if I am not thinking of anything at all, if I am just breathing and watching the silhouettes of trees slide by against the inky sky, noticing the fog settling over the lights by the bridge across the river down the slope, the way the world disappears right before dawn.

My mom is supposed to get out of the hospital today, pending some business with her bowel. My father was vacuuming when I called him this morning. My son left the house early to run with the cross country team as part of the effort to prepare themselves for the possibility of a state championship despite the pandemic. My daughter will be going to work this afternoon.

I have to clock in to work in three minutes. I don’t remember whether I mentioned here that my cat had died.

What a fucking week it has been…

Somehow, I am still okay.

They live in marshes

make intricate homes of reeds

arches like tunnels

 

Floors always sinking

Watery perimeter

flocks of birds visit

 

Those who live without

states and tariffs, taxes

useless by design

 

antagonism

sneering kings with no power

drain the wetlands dry

 

reeds dry in the sun

slowly crack and turn to dust

civilization

 

dinosaur sludge blood

grand machinery digs deep

fires catch, the earth weeps

 

innovation sold

leveraged for the profit

of the immoral

 

huge opulent rooms

islands built where there were none

shaped like the palm tree

 

sand is cold at night

the only sound is grinding

hungry metal groans

 

we are never clean

oil and dirt under the nails

skin lined, dark rivers

 

we all want the world

to be as we believe it

ought to be, by God

 

noble, to be brave

close the cockpit, brace yourself

ground tilting, rushing

 

impact nullifies

any past, future, bravery

you become ashes

 

names forgotten quick

not even spoken in news

never said aloud

 

at home, mothers cry

mourning the death of brave sons

wear black forever

 

there is no noble

wasteful acts of explosions

in a world on fire

 

You were lied to, kid

by someone playing a God

they still sleep at night

 

take the road straight north

following fence lines in pines

gates are on the right

 

guard from Ohio

nineteen years old, just last month

signed on with no choice

 

No good options there

Fast food, gas stations, drunk mom

land grey, flat, endless

 

Sit in the booth, wait

Headlights approach, slow down some

a window opens

 

soft arm extended

plastic badge held for passage

proof of belonging

 

nobody knows where

bombs are asleep under ground

under surveillance

 

24 hours

7 days a week, all year

never rest easy

 

the local paper

claimed great opportunity

put the place on maps

 

there was no report

on the nuclear weapons

sleeping by rivers

 

submarines are fish

floating in the docking bays

men in their bellies

 

fathers and brothers

soft skin under uniforms

beige, identical

 

out to sea for months

cruising oceans far away

gathering data

 

degaussed, signal stripped

invisible hull cutting

under the big blue

 

the officers sleep

safely in big houses

bricks under oak shade

 

there was no war news

no warnings issued to us

bombs ready, waiting

 

We rode the buses

sat still to learn history

laughing, no knowledge

 

invisible place

studied by men all over

war men, generals

 

 

Tone like a tiny stammering heart

a bird or a shrew, something much smaller

hidden or flying, always fleeing

the cadence officially wakes you

though the ocean falling

had you tossed, turned

rolled over like a shell in the dark underneath

waiting for the sound that forces a move

one direction or another

get up or stay down

and you listen to the water

hitting the ground

and consider the fact

that the hurricane rain

is a special event,

fast moving and not to be missed

this chance to smell the ocean

carried to the mountains

by winds that were born

thousands of miles away

the rain is heavy on your face

and you call it cleansing

even though you’re not sure

if you believe in anything anymore

and you think about the trees felled

yards flooded

babies crying

dogs swimming

waves swelling and lines falling

notice the rough shine on the streets

ragged in the gusts

and you run

like you used to run across the sand

fearlessly crashing into the water

At the curve by the shed

you consider your mother saying

that she was glad

she didn’t have to get the pelvic exams

anymore

and you wonder why she didn’t

is this something that happens

between doctors and old women

the abandoning of the ‘girl parts’

as your mother calls them

‘lady parts,’

not spoken about or examined,

until the stomachache

the changes in bowel and bladder

“I can’t eat the tomato sauce anymore,”

she explains last fall, telling you

she has heartburn,

that you don’t ask about,

until you notice

that she’s rounder than she has been

doesn’t eat hardly a thing

looks like she’s gonna have a baby,

but she’s old,

too old to be having the pelvic exam,

much less a baby,

still you say,

“You should maybe go to the doctor?”

and on the curve by the shed you wonder if that man who raped your mother years ago, when you were 12, when she was buying presents for you and your brother at the mall that doesn’t exist anymore just down the road from where the Black man running was beaten and shot, where your mother was pulled into her own car and raped, if that man made her erase her girl parts, her lady parts, if he – in way – is responsible for her dying of cancer.

concepts of half register as a plinking

dull pulse of meaning, relevance without substance, no real spelling out of quantity or quality, only an amount that you recognize as a portion of another amount which you equally cannot picture when they talk about half gone half destroyed half burnt half cut and, also, half-hearted the way you want to know the fullness of this thing they say, that half of them are gone, the totality of where the half went, this half that is gone, this half destroyed, and you are only half certain that you want to know the whole truth of what has happened and what will happen.

Inside, there is a constant shuffling, a rearranging, constellating of factors

too numerous and small to even imagine

the respiration of cells ,

 the minuscule tremor of cytoplasm

dilation of vessels and gas exchange

in the alveoli, cilia wave like grass stirred by wind while deep in the tissue the nuclei release the signal to die, or to grow, to divide and to divide and to divide…and so it goes a billion times over all day and every day,

the interchanges of evolution writing out new possible futures in the space between heartbeats, the pause between breaths…

All day long, my future is re-written.

As soon as the sun rises, I don’t want to write. This is, of course, because it is time to write. I’m sure that if I aimed to write a 5:00am, I wouldn’t want to write then either. The sequence of my mornings from mid-summer and on into the fall has been to be at the middle school track early, running around and around, studying the line of trees that marks the perimeter of what remains of the Clingman Woods, now a small strip of oak and hickory on a slope too steep to build on, home to the screech owl I hear only occasionally and a number of other creatures.

Here is the problem with writing: There is too much to say. I have 34 minutes before I have to clock in for work and here I am thinking about the deer that was at the track with me last week, maybe late the week before. All the early mornings blur together. The deer must have entered the track at the break in the fence behind the storage shed on the southwest corner of the baseball field that is adjacent. There is a door-sized section of chainlink missing there where one fence ends and another begins. The deer must have gotten in there, at the break in the fence, not realizing where it was going or how to get back to the small line of forest the separates the middle school perched on its hill from Clingman Avenue down by the River Arts District. I might have written about the deer, or tried to for a few minutes at least, or maybe I only thought about writing down the way I recognized the running form of the deer.  Even though it was dark I could see the pale of its haunches and the lightness of its running-with-small-trotting-leaps. I saw the movement at the edge of the track and despite it being dark and me being alone and the school being on a street where there are sometimes sketchy people because there are poor people who have been through a lot and poor people who have been through a lot can sometimes be sketchy because they are trying to survive and sometimes under the influence of drugs or bad ideas or trying to get some power over something or somebody because they ain’t never had power or all there power got took and so they might be wanting to take power from someone else just for the feeling of having a little control over something, despite all that and the fact that sometimes the track is eerie at 5:30 in the morning, with just the wind in the trees or the stillness of no wind and the smell of someone’s campfire out behind a building somewhere down closer to the street or tucked up into the woods trying to stay warm, it wasn’t scary to see the deer. Not even for a second. It wasn’t scary. As soon as I saw the movement I knew it was a deer without even trying to know.

My boss just texted me about some grant I am supposed to start working on at 9:00am, in 22 minutes.

I forget about the deer, about how I felt grateful for seeing it, and for knowing without trying that it was a deer, and for the way it leapt when it ran across the football field to be further from me.

So, as I was saying, the problem with writing is that there is just too much, and all of it strings together, is connected en masse and thank god for poetry because that might really be the only way to say anything about what it is to be running around in circles before dawn every day and to watch the sky be doing whatever it is that it is doing without knowing it is doing anything at all, existing with Orion clear and to the south covered or not covered, clouds moving or still, the moon in its phases and the winds moving in currents over the bowl of the field, warm moving up from the flat river sides, the paved streets and rock-heap rail bed, the flat lands way down yonder baking under the sun yesterday and warming up the air to be carried by the storm all the way here in these mountains, that storm that came all the way up through the Gulf of Mexico, pulling up water from the ocean to rain down on me in the morning before the sun even rises.

This morning, I was thinking about anticipatory grief, and how I haven’t said anything for a while, about how my mom had her surgery and has been home a week and a 1/2 now, staples out and abdomen deflated from the volleyball-sized mass of her fused ovaries, uterus, and segment of bowel, the high-grade serous carcinoma that originated in the epithelial cells of her Fallopian tubes as a result of a few strands of damaged DNA. She is much diminished, my mother.

I can hold my hands in a circle-shape, a dilation-shape made with just the tips of my pointer fingers and the tips of my thumbs, and still not even have to try to encircle her thigh.

Her arms are showing their bones.

This morning, after reading the pathology report given to her yesterday by her doctor at the post-operative appointment that I did not attend due to having a racial equity committee meeting scheduled and needing to give my daughter a ride to work in the mid-afternoon, I thought about anticipatory grief and about how I am watching my mother die, just like I watched my great-grandmother get old and die, just like I watched the land I grew up on and loved get torn up and paved, just like I watched the marshes begin to die, and the wild places on the sides of roads get cut down for some drab square shaped place, and how I am not watching the whole world struggle with this complex sickness and the country I live in slowly collapse under the weight of its own dysfunction and ugliness…and how there is not much I can do about any of it…

And so like I was saying, there is too much to say…

I have to go to work in 3 minutes now, and I haven’t even begun to spell out the feeling of grief that lives in me lately and has lived in me for almost as long as I can remember.

it is easy to name the thing that kill us

we can call it by one syllable, by two,

three if we’re being technical

summarizing in simple terms

the ways that cells refuse to die

or die all too quickly,

the details don’t matter

in the way we speak about these things

these things that kill us

A young working man

To walk like a whisper

imagine air as body

and watch where you step

you can be soundless

almost anyway – quiet

quieter than most

body as air, rise

don’t try to beat gravity

it doesn’t exist

Today is Halloween or Samhain or the evening before the Day of the Dead. Saturday the 31st and I missed the sunrise for the first time in weeks, but that’s okay. It is a hazard of sleeping in a dark room. You are not quite sure when the daylight comes.

Today, I drew a 6 of spades, and a Queen of Clubs, then an ace of spades, which ignored as a sign I was being willful. I put them all back in the deck and drew an 8 of hearts encouraging me to be mindful in keeping a positive attitude. It’s another all or nothing card – the eight of hearts, like the 8 of diamonds. The eight of hearts also signifies poor returns on investments and deals falling through at the last minute. It’s not an especially favorable card.

I am going to start writing down the cards I pull, because there are definite patterns and tendencies. Earlier this week, I pulled the 5 and the 8 of diamonds two days in a row despite significantly shuffling. Similar occurrences have taken place with the 8 of clubs – my birth card.

Right now, I am supposed to be writing poetry for a contest I intend to enter. Recently, however, I have been reminded that it is important to be taking notes and that I need to resume and sharpen that practice. Taking notes is the precursor of poetry, because it limbers my mind for writing and also creates a space for noticing.

I am learning about the formalities of poetry from the 3rd edition of Babette Deutsch’s Poetry Handbook, which is a dictionary and guide to poetic terminology and forms, with explanations and examples. I found the book in a free box somewhere. It has library binding and once belonged to the Jackson County Comprehensive High School. It is in alphabetical order, but contains cross referenced entries. The book is full of words I’ve never heard of and I understand that if I actually want to learn what the book might have to teach me, I need to take notes. That is how I best learn, by taking notes – writing things down.

 

An Imperfect Qasida for a Sick Mother

It’s evening time after a monumental day of traveling the parkway to the cancer center, where I sat in a rocker by the fire with my mother and sewed a new button onto my bag, a mother of pearl button in the vague asymmetrical shape of a flower, selected from a basket of buttons brought in the car by my mother upon my request, after I’d decided to carry the old tapestry sack purse with the broken button closure and the images of medieval seeming animals – a hare, an antelope, a pheasant – frolicking on a red background amidst a vining fleur-de-lis in shades of country blue, green, and gold. “It will give me something to do while we wait for your appointment.”

I didn’t, of course, need anything to do, but the thought of sewing a button on my bag on the day of my mother’s prognosis was satisfying in the way of a small ritual.

I used pink thread and briefly remembered the winter I was in college and decided I loved the color pink, and my mother brought me a pink wool sweater. Today, I wore a pink cotton dress under a grey wool sweater, my hair in two long thin braids. I wondered, as I sat across from the vitals station where they weighed my mother, if wearing my hair in long braids to the cancer center was rude or insensitive.

Now, the next morning after waking up too early and going to run in the dark anyway. It is better to get out of bed too early than to lay in the bed and think about cancer, the giant masses in my mother’s abdomen.

The chemotherapy, we learned yesterday, did very little to reduce the ‘disease burden.’ This means that it did not work, the chemotherapy. “We have mixed results,” the physician’s assistant with a country-sounding name of Raeleen informed us, looking owl-like through her glasses behind the full facial shield she wore in addition to her mask. “The left ovarian mass has reduced from 8cm to 6, and so that is good. We also noted a slight reduction in the fluid near your lungs. The areas on the colon are the same, and the lymph nodes are the same,” Raeleen explained as my mother listened, eyes blankly stoic above her mask and below her hat.

I reached to put my hand on my mother’s back and felt the bones of her spine under the sweatshirt she wore. “They are giving the good news first,” I thought to myself, recognizing that the matter-of-fact Raeleen seemed to be mustering to deliver an update on the right ovarian mass. “The right side…well, the response to treatment is a little disappointing.”

We’ve all noticed that my mother’s belly stands out like kwashiorkor, like pregnancy. Her midsection is hard and round while her arms and legs have become spindly and thin.

Her body looks like a misshapen cell.

Nonetheless, my brother was hopeful, and my aunts were hopeful, expecting a miraculous proclamation of a cure, or at least a surprisingly good response to the treatment, significant shrinkage.

My father has been convinced of my mother’s imminent death and the incurability of the disease since they found it back in May.

In the early weeks, his death prognosis seemed to too much, and I was bothered by his crying in the living room, his bewildered statements about “the man is supposed to go first, the man is supposed to go first.” My father comes from a long line of tragedy, like most families. However, some families write their histories by the tragedies that befall them and some write their histories by how they overcame. My father had the hospice nurse come out to the house within the first month, when my mother was still puttering around in the garden and hadn’t yet decided on chemotherapy. “We just want to keep her comfortable,” he would say with grave resolution while my mother was standing at the sink doing dishes. Like any good connoisseur of family tragedy, my father told anyone he could tell that his wife was dying of stage IV cancer.

He spoke to the scheduler at his eye doctor on the phone in hushed tones, “Well, we’ve just found out my wife has terminal cancer…”

He returned bearing condolences from the veterinarian where he’d had a dense tumor-like mat shaved from the right flank of his golden retriever. My mother bristled, “I’m not dead yet. You send condolences when someone is dead,” she spit out the word dead, “and I’m not fucking dead yet.”

On Oct 1, 2020, at 6:54 AM, Faith Rhyne <faithrhyne@gmail.com> wrote:

This morning is the day that I take my mother to the doctor. I will be the first person to have ever been allowed to accompany her to an appointment due to the provider precautions in place because of the pandemic. It has seemed cruel to me, to make a person sit alone and hear that they are dying, to have to make notes about the size of their cancers, the names of the chemicals they will take, the months that they may live.  They are allowing my mother one accompanying person for this appointment, which follows an imaging appointment that she attended alone two days ago. She had one additional round of chemotherapy early in the month. The purpose of this appointment is to learn whether there may be the option for surgery and – if so – what ‘debulking’ might entail, as far as the partial removal of organ systems and the recovery process from such a surgery, the likelihood of recovery. The other option that we anticipate may be put forth is the option that is offered when there is no other option. The acceptance and management of eventual imminent death.

My family chose me to accompany my mother to this appointment because they have the impression that I am able to absorb information reliably and be calm-headed and diplomatic in a crisis or an emotional situation.

This, to me, is ironic.

Nonetheless, I suppose if the choice between me and my father must be made, it is better to not put him through the experience of having to maintain social composure in a strange environment and to ask intelligent questions about medical prognoses when he is being informed that his wife of 47 years is going to be dying sooner than later.

So, my brother will be bringing my mother to the parking lot of the Ingles on Hwy 74-A, where I will meet them to drive my mother down the parkway to the Hope Center. My brother will drive alone back to my parents house to wait with my father for the phone call from the physician, which is how they – my father and my brother – will be attending the appointment. My mother and I are going to be recording the proceedings on our phone and there is something very grim to me about the prospect of having a recording of the news of my mother’s imminent death, the technical details of the cancer that seems to have gotten larger from the looks of her abdomen, though that may simply be the effect of the rest of her having shrunk significantly.

I am at the track walking in the dark and typing into my phone. I swerve slowly between lanes, not looking where I am going. I ran 5 miles, then stopped to walk so that I would have a chance to take notes before I go back to the house to shower and drive East for the morning to begin.

My right hip is slightly injured, a bursitis or inflammation of the piri formis, but if I tilt my pelvis back and run fast it doesn’t hurt.

Running on the flat track in the dark gives a person a good read on what is happening with their form and mechanics.

The moon was full yesterday, the harvest moon, and is still bright in the western sky. The air is clear and cold.

Yesterday, I submitted another poem for review and felt good about meeting the goal. I wrote the poem as a modified qasida – and felt okay about using the ancient Arabic form because my mother is half Lebanese and I studied Arabic for four years and know how to write qasida in Arabic.

More and more, I appreciate the importance of learning and understanding the proper forms of things before breaking form. I guess in some respects, it could be argued that all forms are inescapably the constructions of men and thus there is nothing much sacred or timeless about them. The forms are tests and games. Fuck forms and their expectations, their constraints. Write how you want.

I like games, though, and even enjoy tests at times. There is something satisfying about working within constraints.

This past couple weeks has been busy. I have been working and running and writing. I have spent a lot of time with my 16 year old daughter. She wants to go visit my mom everyday, wants to drive from the Ingles, stop and get coffee, listen to the radio, talk about her professors at the community college classes she is taking, the work she has due, the ways that her old friends have disappointed her. She is going through a lot this season, but is shrewd in her emotionality. She may be repressing a lot, or just happened upon the perspective that it is no use being sad or stressed about anything you have no power to change and that if you have a problem you can change, you should change it and not complain.

She is not a sympathetic person in general, but does have compassion for animals and for homeless people and for old people who are alone.

Everybody else, as far as she is concerned, are complaining about first world problems.

I found a big box of apples at the bus stop by the school, and made pies for the equinox to share with my parents, my aunt, and with the women who give my mother reiki and make her tinctures for nausea that don’t really work.

An Imperfect Qasida for a Sick Mother 

The river has no way to remember

the sound of her voice speaking low

naming the sun in early September

rising to leave us far below

We trust that the day will last forever

forget the eventual night

she loved the clarion calling of dawn

the announcements made by the light

spartina alterniflora, juncus

sway and sigh in the saline breeze

nephila web crystalline with the dew

the cats’ lazy yawn, stretching ease

“Look here,” she would say, “here is the water,“

“…and there,” arm swept wide, “there is land.”

“Now,” she would whisper, reaching to break surface,

“look what I can do with my hand!”

brackish current clear in the cup of palms

fingers pressed close, hand curved to hold

offering the gift of a simple alms

made of water and salt so old

The sky was in the ripples, silent cloud

seeking out the deaf waiting shore

“You’re holding the ocean in your hands,” spoke loud

grinning while saying nothing more

How could you name the sound of wing-made winds,

air stirred by the heron and egret

the slap of a fin, the echo depends

noises made with no hint of regret

She taught the language of awe’s quiet gaze

upon the world born again new

each day unfurling in amazing ways

what can a person really do?

This was the question, the legacy left

the weight of seeing beauty true

some stolen long glances, some returned theft

impossible to unsee you

We rose and ran, delighting in the air

as it cooled with coming autumn

gobbling the sweet wonders of the fair

wheeling whirling, brilliantly dumb

Now at the end, unexpected and close

swooning sick as the ride clatters

burnt fruit, sizzle fat, varicose

wasted time that suddenly matters

We woke up one day to notice at last

the marsh pocked and balding in spots

the land itself disappearing quickly

washed away like our worried thoughts

The forest does not ring with echoed names

the house is gone, the road erased,

buried with the fields of our old games

and with all the maps home misplaced

She looks across the hopeful orchard trees

dying with a damp weather blight

watching birds before migration journeys

saying nothing of mortal plight

chemicals can keep it back, slow it down

see the cancer with big machines

measure, cut, induce a deep sleep and drown…

turn the body into ravines

They give fresh words for death, carcinoma

to be fed the juices of plants

they create ports and install the stoma,

build the body’s brutal entrance

She sits and gravity wins yet again

She walks with the slowness of time

She holds in hand the shaking pen

letters sprawling goodbye, no rhyme

The grace of somniferum slurs the clock

ferries toward the warm coming night

steers the creaking ship away from the dock

catching a certain lilting light

My mother will die this season, we know

report on this like the weather

she is graven, cold, grey, slow

we hover as birds, together

The substance of her laughter, her living

vengeance silent in the dead breast

All these forces explode, justice giving

May they never be laid to rest

The river cannot remember the skies

the way that you and I might

but, has knowing that never lives or dies

never names the wrong nor the right

I will travel with the name she gave me,

with my Faith, with my mother-name

casting ashes in the river-to-sea,

all is endless, final…the same.

The Apertures of Morning

Yawn, oh great cloud break

not witnessed in the pre-dawn

opening above

 

The breath of owl song

a thread through trees, pushing soft

making sound-cut spaces

 

Tilt of the orbit

positions a planet near

closer to the moon

 

The woman pauses

never noticed that before

Looking up, surprised

 

There are slim chances

brief windows, prime conditions

sap rise, season shift

Burgeoning, winning

the thrust of diving hawk flight

cutting through the fields

 

unspool the wires

use the hammer to break glass

open up the line, please

 

She felt it, knew it

Somewhere over the mountain tops

where Chance is slow born

 

Full crowning takes years

and it’s easy to forget

we are in birth-time

 

dailyness of days

the whirlwind blur not seeing

but, moving forward

 

Sometimes the movements

are small, stuck tight round and round

some motion skitters

 

There are tangles, traps

vines of kudzu, busy

forever tending

pull back your shoulders

throw your fist in living air

you are really free

 

Find moments of breath

to see the shape of wind waves

carve dances in trees

 

The gods sleep gape-mouthed

Crawl in like a dream, settle

as a prayer-thought

 

They will wake with you

in the turning of the winds

the spinning of time

 

when widening luck

and rich configurations

clear the space ahead

Also worth noting:

It is muscadine season again. This one is a bronze variety, a rare double grape.

This palindrome felt like good luck. The number 99 bracketed by the 3s that multiplied make 9 – a very satisfying arrangement.

Voice —> Text

[This is an assortment of writings from the first 1/2 of this strange year. Portions of this were composed using voice-to-text and are distorted in their syntax and precision, words misinterpreted by my phone. Eleven years ago today I started this project. It’s changed over time, like most things.]

Faith got the cryptic text message from her mother after she left the meeting, crossing the parking lot of the grocery store on her way to get the bread and avocados for the sandwich her mother wanted to try to re-create. “It was at the Kona Coffee Shack and it was this good whole grain bread and avocados and tomatoes, with just a little bit of onion.” Her parents had lived on the Big Island for a few years a quarter century earlier, when her mother was just a few years older than Faith is now, and when Faith was still smoking cigarettes between Smith and Kramer before working her student job in serials department on the third floor of a building whose name she no longer remembers, entering the new editions of Egyptian newspapers and Arabic magazines that nobody read but that the university kept receiving in carefully packed boxes with thick soft paper the color of moss laid between the issues of newspapers already a few weeks out of date by the time they made their way to her small work area in the back corner of the 3rd floor by the fire escape, with a narrow window looking over Broadway, pigeon spikes on the ledge. 

Since her mother’s diagnosis she has been wanting comfort foods, familiar foods. Faith’s instinct is to create buffets of all the rare favorites – coconut cake, kibbeh, black bean soup from The Columbia restaurant in the historic district of St. Augustine some 10 hours southeast of the mountains where here mother has lived the last 13 years of her life, which – as it turns out – really are the last 13 years of her life. Faith wishes she could get her mother a fried grouper sandwich from the shitty hotel they stayed at on the island of Eleuthera in 1986, where there were ominous schools of remora in the already-bleached corals in the snorkeling coves and mucosal snakes of sea cucumber slime rolling and writhing along the white sands under the shallow water that was warm like a bath. “Those grouper sandwiches were the best,” her father will still declare every several years, usually prompted by a less spectacular fish sandwich. No fish sandwich would ever compare to the grouper sandwiches ordered at the bar in the hotel at Pineapple Bay, or whatever it was called. Faith has no doubt that the place no longer exists. It was destroyed by a hurricane and if it wasn’t, it probably just quietly died as a failed tourist destination owing to the Caribbean trap house cinderblock architecture of the hotel itself and the fact that the waves at the destination surfing beach down the coast was full of chicken feet and feathers from a poultry processing plant just a little further (but, not far enough) down the coast. Her father’s surfboard – the one with the big dolphin on it that he had has since as long as she could remember – was stolen at the airport.

Faith likes to wake up early to go places like hikes or walks. She prefers to wake up early for long trips, but hasn’t been going anywhere lately and so she likes to wake up early to go for walks, to leave the house just as the day is slipping towards pale light. When she was very little, her mother and father would take her and her brother to the beach at daybreak, leaving in the still-dark to drive the 30 miles to the ocean so that her father could surf at dawn. It must’ve been exhausting for her mother, to go the beach with two small children so early in the morning. 

Faith is laying on the upstairs deck of her parents house in Fairview, with the sun blaring down on her face and legs. She is wearing a grey spaghetti strap tank top that she got at American Apparel on King Street in Charleston 15 years ago and cotton bike shorts she ordered from the Internet a few months back. The thin sweater she found on the racks of the resale store last week is laying on the patio table with one arm hanging off and barely blowing in the breeze. The sweater is the color of saffron or butternut. It is golden. She has worn it every day since she got it, even though it is summer time. She is writing down her thoughts about her mother being at the funeral home to make arrangements and about how the day is bright and warm and full summer, just a week before her birthday in late July. Her mother’s birthday is on the 30th, and today when she was on a Zoom meeting with the team lead at the respite house and the meeting they had scheduled with the state for the afternoon of the 30th was brought up, she didn’t say anything about it being her mother’s birthday, probably her mother’s last birthday. She will probably make plans not to be at that meeting, but it is still several weeks out, and so she hasn’t said anything. 

On Saturday night, she heard a brief burst of a drum line cut through the dull haze of ambient noise in the center of town, the traffic and the drone of lawnmowers in the evening. She was on the porch eating dinner and she set her plate down and stood abruptly, walked down the steps and toward the center of town where she had heard the sound of drums. She never did find the drums that night, but learned where they’d come from a few days later. 

People do oral history because the oral historian decides that somebody’s story is worthy of whatever might be called history, which is the written or otherwise documented record of events occurrences and other noteworthy happening in the unfolding of what we understand to be reality. Some very important histories mean absolutely nothing to me. My own history, on the other hand, is of interest to me. I’m driving west on 74A having just been out to visit with my mother and father. I make this drive almost every day ever since my mothers stage four cancer diagnosis. I drive out and visit for a few minutes and drive back into town. The mountains look different every trip. Today they’re lit by clear and hazy sunlight it seems to somehow be shining down through and under heavy hi cumulus clouds. The edges of the trees, specially, or illuminated in the texture of the wooded slopes and ridge lines is very pronounced today all bright sun and dark shadow. I tried to record my mother and I talking for a few minutes, with the idea that I would do an oral history of my father and my process of going through the family papers. So, I ask, when did you first become aware that the person you had married Was a part of a family that had been toting around boxes of old papers and documents for over 100 years? Very early on my mother explained, and then more so when we moved to Saint Mary’s. St. Mary’s is the town where my own history normally began. However as with all families the history of who came before us right histories of who we are within our own lives. I recorded a few minutes of conversation with my mother and what she departed from speaking to me about The papers saved by my father side of the family and begin talking about her own childhood in Miami telling me how idyllic it was how they were these on. My mother would use this word several times in the course of our conversation enclaves. She told me a little bit about her father’s family immigrated from Lebanon and the 1890s intending to move to Albany New York, but instead ending up in Albany Georgia. Her father was born here in the United States which makes her third generation immigrant. I recorded a few minutes of conversation with my father in which he talked about a box to eat found going through the numerous boxes of old papers in photographs found some wonderful photos of markers and more letters. I told him I have tried to contact the Georgia Historical Society, and he was very pleased. I’m looking for a transcription, I explained on the voice message, of the speech that my great great grandfather Marcus Beck gave when he accepted the Stone Mountain monument on behalf of the state of Georgia. Please call me back. I could easily do a history of my father.

It would make a lot of sense to do an oral history of my mother, given that she will likely die in the next five years if not within the next year. She has advanced stage for ovarian cancer spread throughout her entire abdomen. She is going to “try some chemotherapy”, she’s now decided after having previously decided to go ahead and sign up for hospice. She says that she realized the 3 to 6 months she was given to live didn’t just continually renew – stretching on and on as time passed –  that as she stayed alive the amount of time that she could be expected to continue living decreased. So 3 to 6 months became two to five months, one to four months and so on. I suppose after three months passed she would just begin counting down from three. Two, one, and then into the borrowed time, the defiant extra time. 

I’m not ready for hospice care, she decided After doing the math of how her expected amount of time to continue living would decrease through the summer and into the early fall, until the winter – the last season she is predicted to see if she does not pursue treatment, and she would likely die. So, she’s going to “try some chemo…”

This is the language she uses like she’s trying a new restaurant or going to see a movie that had gotten mixed reviews. 

Today she’s sitting in the chair watching the weather channel after feeling sick following a lunch of grilled cheese. She has not started chemo yet, has not even gone to the orientation. She would have been to the orientation two weeks ago, had she not canceled the appointment after deciding to just go the hospice route. Now, she has to wait until Friday to even begin the process of receiving chemo a month and a half after her diagnosis. Everybody is accepting and patient of the process. Today she is sitting and watching the weather channel with the sound off, and she hasn’t been on chemo, so she still has all of her hair – bright white, still thick. My mother has beautiful hair.  The other day she was talking about going to get it cut. My daughter may go with her. “Do you want to come?” She asked like a lunch invitation, something fun. I think that for me it’s a waste of money, a salon haircut, and the ritual of going with my mother to get her hair cut feels too heavy, too poignant. I am sure that I will regret everything that I choose not to do with her. 

My own hair is long and fine, my braid making a small rope all the way down my back to brush the top of my hips.

I have my father’s hair. 

07/08

Is it possible to do an oral history on yourself, by yourself? Would you ask yourself questions? If so, what questions? What stories. What stories are worth telling? Or worth telling other people? What stories are important for yourself? I am doing an oral history on myself because although there are many people who I would like to speak to at length, who I would like to interview, whose stories – I would like to hear none of them are as accessible to me as myself. So, because I have a busy life I will start here, and perhaps learn something about how we gather stories and what stories matter. Oral histories can be done with any sort of person, plain or famous. I like the history of the common. The every day. Small moments that are big events and singular lives.

I am doing an oral history of myself as I experience the season that my mother begins to die of stage for ovarian cancer while my father and I begin the project of going through family papers carried around in boxes for over 100 years. There are some letters that were written in 1820, which make them this year 200 years old. That is very old.

I’ve been aware of the boxes since I was a child. 

The way that I am doing this oral history of myself is I am taking voice to text notes on my phone while I am walking, or while I am driving. So there is no sound recording. I may record myself – capture my voice. However, that would require some transcription. It’s interesting that – because I have been doing voice to text for about a year now – My speaking voice when I talk to my phone is such that there is a slow cadence to the words… An intentional pause, a clear annunciation… I speak the punctuation.

In an edited voice to text compositions there are many mixed up words in garble phrases objects become strange for a name and actions become objects. [<~ that sentence is an example of what happens in voice to text]

Meaning is slurred and sometimes inverted, as is a code or a subtle message from some that I don’t understand because I personally don’t know Have some words spoken clearly become other words entirely.

Often, people will begin history by telling about the place they were born or the circumstances surrounding their birth. They may give a brief statement about the people that come before them. For example, I might say that I come from a long line of anxious people. 

For a period of time I had that statement written on a piece of paper taped to my refrigerator, so that I would Remember. I also come – on my father’s side – from a long line of people that were remembered for being brilliant. My great great great aunt Leanora Ellis Beck for example, has newspaper articles written about her that in the headlines declare her to be ‘A Brilliant Woman’ as if that were the news. My great great grandfather, as I believe I already mentioned here was a supreme court judge in the state of Georgia in the first decades of the 21st century. 

The way the people know their stories eerily straightforward, an eight on a logical account vents in the surrounding circumstances.

[voice to text…hahaha]

I personally, I’m interested in beginning this oral history with information about The circumstances that are surrounding its development, and the methods by which it is being conducted. 

As I said, this is an oral history of myself and right now I am walking a section of Greenway on the east side rather the west side of one of the oldest rivers in the world which flows through the center of the small southern mountain city that I have lived in for almost 16 years and That many generations before me my ancestors lived near. I did not know this until I had been here for several years. 

Good morning –  here it’s foggy and cool. It is 8 July, 12 days before my 44th birthday. I’ve just begun walking on a half mile stretch of undeveloped Greenway, which is more like a trail with Sandy Brown unpaved ground and blackberries mullein And Vitex crowding the edges of the path. Their are camps here alongside the river that the city ignores, allowing people to set up temporary shelter. 

10:56 0709

A lot of the time I don’t much feel like saying anything. I don’t feel like taking notes. I think about what I might say I might take notice but the active documentation isn’t as appealing to me as it once was. I want to just walk, say nothing. This morning I left the house at 6:45 AM and made my way over to the park to walk the big loop that I walk every day. It was cloudy and cool, early morning. The blackberries do not become ripe all at once, But take their time, a staggered procession –  with some berries hard and completely underripe, while others are so ripe as the fall off the spiny stems. 

I saw a bluebird sitting in the red clay of the dirt path and it was beautiful for a moment before it flew away. 

This morning I have been sulking and unhappy for no real good reason other than my own shitty psychology and tired Stance of dumb resentment. Right now I am walking on a small stretch of Greenway to the south of the hill the houses sit on. sometimes you can see deer down in the bottoms by the drainage creek. It’s nice of the city has left a small wild place. 

This Afternoon I’m going back to my parents house and I intend to spend two hours looking at photographing and transcribing items from the collection of old family papers. This exercise is one that will teach me patience, slow regular progress toward finishing a job. 

I have in my mind The idea that I must be able to throw myself entirely into a project or a task in order to do anything with it. It’s part of my all or nothing thinking. Which is so deeply ingrained in me that it creeps in almost anything that I might do. I just saw a hawk. 

723 pm 0709

I am taking a walk after spending some time in Fairview visiting my parents. My father and I sorted some of the old family papers and found that letters from the time that my great great uncle Marcus was in the Marine Corps were stored with letters from the time that he had run away from home to join the circus just a year before he died in the Belleau woods in France. 

The experience of going through the letters and papers wasAn immersion, a fit of hyperfocused sorting – the emergence of an impromptu system of inventorying, photographing and storing in archival plastic the old letters. Both my father and I have a propensity towards hyperfocus when we are interested In a task and when we have a system of working together we work well. 

it has been a long time since I enjoyed spending time with my father. We had a great time. I Briefly visited with my mother, and pleased her by successfully setting up an email account for my father. 

The rest of the day was spent doing workFor wages, and attending meetings on the computer. 

I have a habitual resistance to having to work, that is immature unhealthy. I always have had a difficult time doing things that I’m not interested in. This afternoon I went to the gas station and the clerk was saying that she was sleepy and that she was a little bored Because of the person who worked the shift before her had already taken care of everything – the cleaning and stocking.

Can you look at your phone? I asked her. She said that she played around on it just a little bit but not much because, as she explained, they don’t pay her to look at her phone. And I thought to myself that I get away with doing as little actual work that I am not interested in doing as possible. And that I wouldProbably go crazy if I had to just stand at a convenient store register all afternoon and wait for people to come in so that I could be doing the work I was paid to do. I guess I could clean or inventory or stock when there weren’t customers in the store. 

I worked in the hardware store for for a little while when I lived in Portland Oregon, during the season just prior to making a big cut in my arm because of a suicidal depressionThat came in the aftermath experimenting with what it was like to be an intravenous cocaine user. The experiment landed me in the hospital with a big cut on my arm that I made in the morning because the thought of going to work at the hardware store was absolutely unbearable to me and yet I thought of calling out sick or simply not showing up was also unbearable and so I made a big cut on my arm and fabricated a story which,Incidentally, nobody believed about having cut myself badly while I was doing dishes. The man that I was living with at the time who himself with a recovering heroin addict who is also an artist with soulful eyes that seem to recognize something in me. Took me to the emergency triage department where I try to get a referral for outpatient mental health services, about my depression with my bleeding armWrapped up in a paper towel underneath my sweater. As I was getting ready to leave they asked if there’s anything else that I needed help with and I showed them my arm and said this might need stitches. The wound was gaping though  the bleeding had slowed. I did not get to go home from hospital that day. Nor was I allowed to drive myself to the emergency room to get stitches. I got to ride in the back of a police car, as if my self harm was a crime. It was my second gesture of suicide in less than a year. The first  was Following my departure from the graduate Department of sociology at the University of Georgia and could have actually killed me. 

I am lucky to have a wage earning job that affords me a small paycheck for doing things that I am somewhat interested in, or that or at least not incredibly stressful and tedious to me. I sound like a spoiled brat when I talk about the difficulties I have with work. I have profound learning differences And significant sensory immigration issues. I am probably on the autistic spectrum in someway or another or would be evaluated as such. 

Like many people on the autism spectrum I am in underemployed adult who is very intelligent and yet cannot seem to put together a functional life for herself. I am continually trying to make peaceWith this reality. If it were not for resources afforded me and my family which allow me to maintain a stable pleasant home and to have a somewhat reliable vehicle to drive I would probably be homeless. That is the reality. It would probably be homeless and have severe mental health issues more severe than I have because I probablyWould have experienced tremendous trauma in trying to make a way for myself. Maybe I would have found a case manager who helped me to get onto disability or helped me to get into some sort of housing program. Maybe I could have found friends and a communal housing situation that would have helped me to become an artist or find a job that I could stand it allowed me to make enough to live on. Maybe I wouldn’t be homeless. Maybe I would have a life in which I was happier and healthier than I am. maybe I Wouldn’t have experienced tremendous trauma in trying to make away for myself. Maybe I would have found a case manager who helped me to get onto disability or helped me to get into some sort of housing program. Maybe I could have found friends and a communal housing situation that would have helped me to become an artist or find a job that I could stand it allowed me to make enough to live on. Maybe I wouldn’t be homeless. Maybe I would have a life in which I was happier and healthier than I am nowAlways trying to make my way in a Neurotypical world as a person who is not Neurotypical.

 I had a strange experience earlier today when I was walking and they almost exactly the same spot I am walking in now I saw a hawk fly across the road and I thought that it was interesting perhaps a good sign and then I got a message as I turn to walk up the hill from my friend who said that she had just helped a groundhog I was responding back to her asking how she helped the groundhog when she honked and called my name and she was right in the parking lot that I was walking past And the groundhog they’ve been hit by a car the concrete wall and was paralyzed was right beside my friend and my friend didn’t know what to do and so I called animal control and explained that the groundhog was paralyzed and was suffering and asked somebody please come and get the groundhog to help it be humanely euthanized and I sat with my friend and we marveled over how I have been right where she is with the groundhog as she was texting me about the groundhog and how I hadn’t even been planning on going for a walk I had noticed how sunny and warm It was and so decided to just go for a quick fuck it might be a good idea to go up not quite asleep in the sun a little longer and then happen to be right where my friend was trying to help the groundhog. 

So anyway, on the way home from my families house at the old papers with my father I thought about our letters are over 100 years old actually off… And how it’s amazing that they’ve been saved for so long and thought about the reasons that people say things. People save things because there’s a story to tell because they want people to know the story they don’t want the story to be forgotten and they save things, Also to reserve people or places if they don’t want people or places and I don’t think that my great great uncle my great great great uncle I believe he was left very much behind only drawing papers from when he was a child photographs of him. So everything that they had of him the letters that he wrote in the pictures that he drew the images of him they saved as a wayI’m not letting him die even though his body was killed in world war 1. 

This morning when I was walking up this hill passing by Bartlett arms I was thinking about what it is that for the vast majority of black Americans they may not know what country or village their ancestors came from. They do not know their ancestors names of languages that they spoke and how there is something very tragic about that. I Thought about how children were taken from their mothers and about the people who died in the middle passage- how entire lineages wisdom of their ancestors their family stories tied in with them in their minds and hearts died with them. And I don’t know what sort of reparation there can be for denying people the right to know where they came from, what their ancestors names were. Makes me very sad to think about that.

“You haven’t seen me since Wednesday,” her daughter was mock incredulous in the passenger seat, challenging the woman’s reluctance to go to the natural foods grocery on the other side of town, across the river from the direction they’d be driving to go out to Fairview, where Geeg and B – her parents – live. The reason she hadn’t seen her daughter was because the girl had stayed at a friend’s house the night before, not because of some reason that would somehow cause the woman to owe her anything like vegan sushi and coconut water, like the woman shirking her responsibility to spend time with her 15 year old daughter, or not being a good mother. She didn’t owe the girl anything, but got on the 240 going west, not East. 

The day was hot and full of glare, Sunday July the 5th. Summertime of pale hot skies and thunderheads building on the horizons. The natural foods grocery store had shut down a few months ago, suddenly and with only a few weeks of deep discounts that got deeper as the final days before closing drew near. Frozen shrimp cut to 50% off, selling out before they could get to 75%. Hardly anything made it to 75% off. Lipstick made of minerals the color of bloodstained clay, boxes of additives for a high-end water filtration and enhancement system, Gulf wax paraffin for 1.00. These items that the store could hardly give away looked lonely on the shelves as the woman walked through on the second to last day before the store closed, taking a curious inventory and buying three 1/2 gallons of organic milk for 1.66 a carton. The shelves were all but empty in the wake of the sudden bankruptcy closure. All the stores in the southeast were closing. She and her daughter had gone to have lunch there at least a couple of Sundays a month for several years. When she was pregnant with her daughter, a decade and a half ago, she used to go to the store in a shopping center on the way to the beach in a different city, down on the coast, buying little plastic tubs of shrimp salad with fine hairs of fresh dill, the perfect amount of mayonnaise. 

The stores had all closed suddenly following a bankruptcy announcement, then only one of them – the one in the stripmall by the river  – had re-opened under new ownership, and the whole place looked the same except the wood floors had been replaced with a springy feeling synthetic board in a moss grey tone and something – tho’ she was not sure what – had been removed from the produce section to make more room between the standing islands of fruit and potatoes. 

Everyone was wearing masks as she and her daughter moved through the aisles, because everyone wore masks now, because of the pandemic that slowly creeping around the world when the store had closed back in the late winter. She hadn’t been wearing a mask the day she bought the 1/2 gallons of milk, hadn’t been thinking about masks or how far she stood from people in line. 

There hadn’t been any lines that late afternoon with the sun almost set. The store had been about empty by then, with only one register open, longtime cashier with graying hair in perfect ringlets tearfully ringing up purchases saying how she trusted that everything would work out. 

“Do we need yeast?” The woman scanned the bulk section, where the bins of bulk foods held pre-packed bags of nuts and granolas, sharp edged noodles made of artichoke pressing at the plastic. “No,” her daughter moved ahead of her. “I haven’t been able to find it in the fridge, but it doesn’t matter.” Her daughter moved past the coolers, cashew milk yogurt and grass-fed milk in glass bottles.

02/29/2020

The wind that raised me

whispered

spartina alterniflora

juncus romanus

laughed,

in wavelets

brackish reflections

of a blue that we called ‘sky,’

at the way we try to name things

03/07/2020

She wanted to sit in the sun on the ridge line, where the winter trees stood silent as sentinels in the West waning sun, branches rattling in the cold wind of early March. The wind, in its rising and fall, sounded like the ocean, and she imagined that the wind – though it can’t be seen – is much like water.

03/08/2020

She has a sense of remembering that when she was very young, she had no idea of herself as a person, or of her home in the woods as being anything distinct or out of the ordinary in the slightest. She was ordinary as far as she was concerned, and her home in the woods was not the slightest bit unusual, despite the fact that it was built in the shape of a half-circle made of plexiglass triangles, a geodesic dome that her father had learned from a how-to book and from talking to an old man at a land co-op in Florida. 

There were deer skulls and rattlesnake skins laid on the shelves of the bookcase and there wasn’t anything weird about that in her mind. It was just the house, just the dome, just the things that her parents brought in from outside.

She did not question these things in the slightest, the simple fact of her existence and the place she understood to be home. Probably most children are like this – they are who they are, they live where they live. Their lives are what they are, without questioning, suspicion, or skepticism as to the rightness of what is, even if some aspects of life may be terribly wrong, and perhaps ought to be questioned. 

She recalls that when she was very young, she didn’t have any idea that she was strange, or that her family was strange (tho’ not extremely strange, and not strange in ways that were especially scandalous. Perhaps strange is the wrong word. Interesting might be more appropriate. However, whose family isn’t interesting? Even the most boring-seeming and usual sort of families are interesting – especially when you look closely, especially when there are secrets. There are always almost certainly secrets.)

She did not know any of the secrets when she was very young, did not know that there is even such a thing as a secret, or that people (her parents, for example) had lives that she did not see, that they had existed prior to her being born. Children are incredibly myopic in this way. They think that what they see is all there is, and cannot seem to fathom that there was a world before them and that beyond the scope of their limited vision, the world stretches out further than they can imagine.

She knows this now, as an adult who has taken a child psychology class, but as a child she was blithely unaware of the shortcomings of her perception, and so she spent her early childhood in the blissful naïveté of a world that was – if not small – very limited, especially insofar as her awareness of the lives and realities of other people were concerned.

There were no other children or families within at least three miles from their house back in the woods, and the children and families who did live close were out across highway 40. They were black families and black children. When she was young she only knew the Hubbards, Kelly and Caramae, and they were old. She knew the Hubbards because they worked for her great-grandmother, who – aside from Ms. Coleman, who was from Folkston and lived in the small three room house out behind her great-grandmother’s house – was the only person who lived out in the woods with them, in a big White House down the road. The Hubbards didn’t live back in the woods with them. They drove down the dirt road in the morning, and drove back out in the evening. Kelly tended the pasture and the yard and the things that needed taking care of around the house, and Caramae swept the porches and polished the silver that nobody used and made cheese straws that everyone loved. They never worked on Sundays.

It was only her small family back there in the woods and she didn’t think that there was anything strange about that. It was just her life, just where she lived. Similarly, she didn’t think anything about who she was or what she was like. She was a girl with a brother, who wanted to be a bear. A girl with brown eyes and a name that was made of the names of her grandmothers. Faith and Rachel.

She was a girl who didn’t know that she did not know how to speak correctly, that she couldn’t even say her own name. She found this out, that she did not know how to speak correctly, when she went to school and said in the way she had been taught to say, “My name is Faith, will you be my friend?”

She had no idea that she mangled the word friend, turned it soft and inverted in the beginning, saying fwhuh-end, which wasn’t a word at all. Fwhuh wasn’t even a sound in any word at all, and yet she could not hear that she said the word friend wrong, could not hear that she could not say her middle name, her last name. Way-chel. Whine. The word bird was flightless and dumb in the sound buhd.

She has no recollection of knowing that she could not speak correctly prior to going to school. 

“We thought it was cute,” her mother once told her. “We thought you’d grow out of it.”

03/25/2020

She wakes up in the middle of the night, clock reading 3:31, 3:33. Wide awake, and not unhappy. Not worried about not sleeping. Trusting that she will rest later in the day.

She has a clear mind, focus. Yesterday, she got up at 4:30 to go downstairs to work on a project for her job, her job that now pays her to work from home while everyone else is working from home, everyone that can work from home, everyone that has a job, everyone that doesn’t work in a restaurant.

It surprises her that she isn’t keeping a journal. Isn’t taking notes at all. What is there to say? There is a sickness that is shutting down the world as she knew it. Things are strange. There are some shelves at the grocery store that are empty. Toilet paper. Paper towels. Americans are funny about our necessities.

The other day, she sat down and recorded a 1/2 hour of herself talking about how to not lose your mind during strange and frightening times, ruefully making the point in the first minute of speaking that times have been strange and frightening for a long time, and that – for some people, depending on the circumstances that one is born into and the privilege that a person has access to – things have been strange and frightening since the moment they were born.

She doesn’t like the way she sounds when she speaks, thinks the things she says are not that important. Trying to speak quickly, she is forced to oversimplify.

People don’t have attention spans for any longwindedness.

She woke this morning, as she has been waking up in the morning – at 3:30am or thereabouts – and was aware that she was feeling fear, and that she was thinking about her family and thinking about whether or not she was safe in the house she lives in on the street that runs through town. The fear was like a current in her, making her awake, leaving her to lay in the dark and consider the ways that other people might be feeling, wondering whether other people might be scared, too. Thinking about her father and whether he is frightened. She needs to call her mother today. 

She had a mental image of herself holding hands with the three people she’d been meeting with to discuss the possibility of creating a healing space, creating a way for people to gather and share and be witnessed. The way they sat together in their respective homes, almost four corners. East coast and west coast, south and north. Centering and feeling out into the sound of digital currents, the whispered pinging and static of the internet in their headphones when things are quiet on the line. In her vision, they held onto one another’s hands and it was like they were falling through the air, as if they’d leapt from a plane or were suspended in a great open water.

“It’s like we are holding onto one another.”

She woke up this morning with letters to write, posts she might make. She hadn’t said anything on social media in weeks. What is there to say? So much. Where to start.

It seems stupid that she felt silenced for the winter. Seems absurd that she was ever depressed.

She wakes up in the middle of the night with great focus and clarity. She has work to do. These are not times for retreat, not times for hiding.

Sitting in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, when things were still somewhat normal, when I left the house to go to work, and the coronavirus was something happening in other places, I listened to a person who works for the city talk about the amount of work that has been done and the amount of work that needs to have been done.

“We’ve taken some steps, and – yes – we need to have taken like 10,000 steps, but we’ve only taken a few, and – yes – progress is being made, and – yes – it’s not enough and we need to do more.”

The person went on, holding both her hands up like a scale. “It’s both these things. We’re getting things done, and it’s not enough. Yes, it’s urgent – and because it’s urgent, we have to slow down.”

“It’s urgent. Slow down.”

The person went on to reflect on the need for grounded and informed strategy when responding to dire needs, and the ways that people operating under fear and urgency are not thinking about whether how they see things is accurate, are seeing things through the lens of fear and within the frameworks of the systems they are are existing within, are operating on automatic, with a distorted ability to see people and situations clearly.

The statement “It’s urgent. Slow down.” has been like a mantra to me these past couple weeks, as the world has begun to change faster than I can wrap my head around and I feel an enormous call to action, a clamoring to help all the people who need help, a middle-of-the-night urgent human instinct toward survival that makes me want to go to the grocery store and be sure that my family has enough food and  – just as urgent – makes me know that lots of people aren’t able to get what they need to survive, and won’t be able to get what they need to survive, because they weren’t able to get what they need to survive even before the pandemic unfurled and the economies began to collapse.

When I think about this reality – that within a city block of where I live, the people who were already not getting what they need are even more dependent on resources provided by grassroots community action and aid organizations and formal services of service I feel a great urgency, a fear and a sadness.

A human instinct to do something to help.

Last week, before everything started to close down, my daughter and I were walking around downtown in the rain, looking around. I carried an umbrella, and kept trying to share it with her, but she insisted that she was fine with walking in the rain, that she liked it. An elder man moved down the street toward us, carrying a plastic bag of cans. “Give him the umbrella, mom. You have to.”

Her voice was serious. “Give him the umbrella.”

It was not a suggestion. It was a directive. I understood that if I didn’t offer the man our umbrella, my daughter would be disappointed in me and that there would not be anything I could do to justify my not offering temporary shelter to the man walking in the rain. The man, as it turned out, did not want the umbrella, but explained that he was hungry and that he needed food. I gave him all the paper money I had.

The other day, my daughter came home from going out with her brother to get a set of string lights for her room. “Here’s your receipt, but I gave all the change to a man who needed money outside of the store. He was kind of old.”

Although there is a lot that I do to try to help, through my work and my ways of living, there is so much more I could do and I am trying to quickly figure out ways I can contribute more to efforts to create protections and supports for the most vulnerable people in my community.

I will be sharing more here in coming days, and reaching out more to people, offering more. I am trying to respond to the sense of urgency with a reminder to slow down and be strategic in my giving of time and energy. To not spin my wheels or waste my breath, to not re-create the wheel or be blindly reactive. To give of myself in ways that matter and ways that make an impact.

After I wrote for a while this morning, I went running in the dark of downtown. I was aware that I felt uneasy, or frightened, and that the streets were empty. My legs were strong and since I’ve quit smoking breathing is easy. It feels good to run, and I am able to run fast. I noticed that I was a little leery, running down the dark streets. The adrenaline of low-level fear was probably making me run faster.

On Haywood Street, the stores all still had lit windows, cute displays configured just right, white paper signs on the windows. COVID-19.

The stores won’t be open again for a long time. I’m sure that throughout history, when everything has suddenly stopped, people have marveled at the ways things were left the same at the moment the great pause settled upon everything, at the moment of departure, doors closed, locks turned, lights left on. “We’ll be back!” 

There are signs that say this. Optimism is high.

I slowed my run and took pictures of some of the store windows, aware that things may not be the same again, that some of the stores will close down, displays packed up and put away, sold on eBay to the highest bidder.

The young people will not have school for two months, not until the middle of May, if then.

04/01/2020

shakey legs don’t matter a’all

riding a bike down to the corner at the bottom of the hill where there wasn’t a stop sign before, but there sure is now

to slow down all those folks

coming and going

to work at the hospital

get home

at the end of the day

beginning of a new one

legs don’t shake at all

til the feet hit the street

remember gravity again

legs skittering on the concrete

like trying to break through

to fly away to the sky

or sink right down

into the earth itself

there underneath the sidewalk

shakey legs like dancing

in the best pants,

black socks pulled tight up to the knee

almost the same shape,

the calf slimming to the ankle,

as the case that holds the fiddle

except it ain’t no fiddle

it’s a damn vi-o-lin

in a proper padded case

not scuffed or scarred or dirty

in any sort of way

despite the ride down the hill and shakey legs on the sidewalk and the leaving the case there on the sidewalk wide open like that to catch anything that might be tossed

into the soft space

that holds the instrument

the man with shakey legs will play

Beethoven

with a steady hand

at the end of the day

while the sun goes down

04/08/2020

they walked slowly

because that is the only way to walk

when you’re old and dying

and it’s springtime

 

When I see old people walking lately I have to wonder whether they are

moving along the greenway with the grass damp at the edges and the

river swirling lusty green volumes while the cars move over the bridge

sparse, long moments between the sounds of the wheels on the concrete

overhead, the heavy cha-chunk of the metal seams that hold the

sections together and the people driving overhead not noticing at all

that there are elders walking on the path beside the water and not

wondering, like I wonder, whether these elders know that they might

die and whether, because of this fact, the fact that they might die,

they have chosen to go out to walk beside the sun reflecting on the

moving surface of the river that keeps on doing what it does, flowing

on and on, maybe not even knowing that it is springtime, not feeling

the warming of the water, not hearing the calling of the geese as they

travel back north, not gasping at the whisper of petals and dusting of

pollen that falls upon its surface, and surely not having even the

slightest idea or the slightest wondering whether these elders out

walking are out walking because they know that they might die this

season, that it may well be their last spring.

 

04/06/2020

I constantly begin with the phrase, ‘there isn’t much to say.’ I wonder about this, the state of pervasive silence in me. It’s not exactly silent. I have thoughts, nagging little streams about work, bothered nags, grievances. Uninspired thoughts. Ungreat thoughts.

I would think that in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, I would have something to say. There would be things to notice, to pay attention to. And there are. There are things I notice and things I think about, but many of my thoughts have taken on the feel of secrets, a drifting interior narrative, a woman walking down the street and feeling silent, disconnected from herself, voiceless.

She wonders if she has a curse on her, or if she is just out of practice. If she has let herself go quiet because she stopped saying things.

There is a bird that sings in the middle of the night, a mockingbird. The birds call in the dark, sings in the dark.

It doesn’t bother her the way she thinks it would, shelves empty and streets quiet. There is a part of her that is secretly pleased by the disruption of the usual. “Thank God,” she thinks as she walks, nearly basking in the stillness and bird sounds. There’s been a terrible racket, a roaring, for so long. The earth has stopped vibrating quiet so much, has stopped trembling and quaking with the movement of people. There is an article about this and she thinks about how she has never thought about how difficult it really is to get away from it all, how even if she is in a quiet place, the world feels very loud, the movement of cities outside of her sight still busy in her head.

The internet is full of articles on coping with the grief and disruption created by the global pandemic. Suddenly, there are ads for National Alliance on Mental Illness on the I Heart Radio station, encouraging people to seek help if they are struggling.

Strangely, she feels better than she has in a long time. It’s not okay, she understands, to say that the conditions caused by the pandemic – the closure of stores, cancellations of flights, schools closed, jobs lost, the profound disruption of the economy – have resulted in a world that she feels suits her much better than what had been happening before, the hurried pace and crowded streets, the constant churning awareness of a world that just won’t stop, factories in China ceaselessly spilling out smoke and plastic, boot camp soldiers pulling on their shoes, walking out into the day, the world as usual.

 

04/24/2020

The stories smelled

like the underside of leaves

that had just pushed out

through the flesh of stems

in a gathering of cells

quick as lightning to open

without knowing why

into the sun that warmed

the tiny chambers of sap and cellulose

to cast green light into air

and radiate the simple, fervent scent

of brand new life

out into the world

 

there were other stories, too,

some that smelled like wind,

the wind of the north

and the wind of the ocean

these were different stories

some more quiet than the others

some so quiet

they were barely more than a breeze,

a soft exhale through the epiphyte

they called Spanish

even though it knows nothing about Spain

or anything else in the world

where things and places

have names

The tang of dirt and green oak blood

is at the edge of some of the stories

some of the stories I used to tell,

about who I am, about who I was,

about the place where I am from,

which doesn’t exist anymore,

in the way that it did,

just like everything else, eventually.

The stories got told in whispers,

hot breath and mother’s milk,

smoke and beer,

the cold of ice on the tongue,

hollering across a blazing field,

speaking low into the night,

with the pine gathered close and quiet seeping

the sharp smell of a home

I will not see again.

04/25 7:38pm

I walked across the bridge, river glassy cool and green beneath me, taking notes on what I am thinking and feeling once every hour or so, paying attention to whatever narrative is prominent and the emotional resonance that accompanies that narrative, also noting any ideas I might have, inspirations and noticings.

My idea is that maybe doing this rigorous ‘checking in with myself’ will help me to be more intentional in how I am inhabiting my experience and participating in my life, and may help me to identify patterns and trends. Of course, the sheer act of making note of ones experience is going to skew the subjective report on what’s happening, and it’s possible that simply paying attention will emphasize some aspects of my consciousness and experience and circumvent other aspects entirely. 

It would be completely fine with me if my taking notes on my experience totally and completely killed some components of my so-called shadowside. My so-called shadowside is the reason I believe that taking notes on my experience may be a helpful – if not necessary – thing to begin doing. I don’t know if the shadowside is the right name for this thing in me that seems determined to destroy my self-esteem. I think shadowside is the term used by Jungians to talk about the parts of us that are the greedy sides of generous people, maleficent desires and bitternesses. Grandeur in the humble mind, etc.

I have those shadowsides, too. However, they aren’t of much concern to me. What is concerning to me is that there is an aspect of my self-concept that believes that…

Ugh. It’s so hard to write it out. I can’t write all of it out at once. 

Anyway, the point of this checking in with myself regularly is to take inventory of what I am thinking and feeling, etc. – as I noted above.

So, now – at 8:07pm – I am thinking about how the sky is still light and there is wind outside, and last night I camped under old hemlocks in the cloud forest up by the Middle Prong wilderness, and today we ambled down toward the gap through a few different ecosystems – full of trout lily and false hellebore, May apple and Fraser fir interspersed with red spruce. Little slate grey birds hopping around in the native azalea not yet blooming, clicking chirps that sound like static electricity in the air. Thinking about wanting to write and illustrate a children’s book about what trees feel, and trying to hold onto the experience of yesterday when I was walking on the little underdeveloped trail beside the river here in town and my friend was talking about how trees have sense and memory in their root networks, and I wondered how it is that trees feel, and felt deeply sad and grieving imaging the quiet terror of having ones biggest limbs cut off, being pulled from the ground, and felt very much connected to everything in the world. A few minutes later six or seven vultures began to swoop and circle low over the trees on the ridge above the trail, making shadows that seemed to move faster than the birds in flight and projected huge across the trunks of trees and tangle of honeysuckle on the hillside.

I’m sitting on the couch with my daughter and we’re waiting for a tornado to come, because my mother called and told us a tornado was on the way.

I need to be succinct. It is 8:25 and I feel calm in my body and my thoughts are fairly grounded. I wonder if I should do work tonight so that I don’t have to do it tomorrow and notice a small, stressed feeling in thinking about that.

VOICE to TEXT

04/26 6:55am

I am running around in circles on the middle school track. I don’t run fast and the ground is flat and predictable, so I can type while I run. I am watching the clouds at sunrise, and they are orange. I will try speaking the text for this morning, these notes on how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking with the aim of keeping myself out of the grips of that to the self destroying thing that lives inside my head. It’s morning I woke up with a little bit of a headache… Probably dehydration and eating sugar. Eating sugar is not the best thing.  It makes me feel edgy, tired, a little depressed. Running should help, even though I don’t run fast. My thoughts this morning or hovering around and wearing it that often, before the sun even comes up, I am thinking about employment… Things I need to do, without issues that I see with the organization… Thanks I wish I could say… Is things are in my head in the very early morning. I don’t think that that is healthy, so don’t be able to maintain the headspace three from responsibilities to the organization that pays me wages didn’t do work for them. I have a lot of thoughts about things they need to be done about work and I notice for the thoughts create sleep I think I feel the edges of my head. In the shower. Like I said, I don’t think it’s healthy for me. That’s that I noticed, recollections of the meltdown that I had yesterday because some small aspect of myself, that toothy lurking thing that is self destroying and they want to wreck havoc in my life Curity, interpreted it’s all thing that somebody said to be in something slight the other was intended in a great consuming feeling of sadness and dread and shame bloomed inside of me as I was driving the car down the mountain and watching the fog – what was it foggy at all, but was clouds rolling over the types of trees like the heavy vapors spilling over the edges that some kind of gray cauldron that I couldn’t see, felt happy… Delayed even… About the way that it makes so much sense for anxious people believe in spirits of the world, watching those clouds move through the trees like ghost. And then my friend said this one small thing about having been happier a few moments before when we were still walkingSo close to the woods and they were now driving in the car… And a great losing of myself Millatti and I will disappoint and be an adequate still not into me… And I couldn’t speak anymore and said do they could feel my energy that it was heavy pressing thing, thanks Zaidi… The same adequacy and sadness over the fax all exploding from my nervous system and pushing out through the pores Small vibrations me too pleasant for my friend to be feeling which made me feel, even more like I want to just be able to disappear, I’ve been having ability with my toxicity with something they could only be escaped by the removal of myself pushing away the people that I care about. There is a great deal of crying a few miles later it’s not beside the river in another giving up frustrated by the impossibility of not being Just an extremely fucked up person that causes harm to people that care about her and they can never ever really live up to being happy in her 80s. Then I need help and it’s true, I do. But, there’s a part of me that is terrified of trying trying real way… It’s still not succeeding in addressing the issues personality, and my insecure anxious Anxious attachment style… These issues are getting worse… And the fact every aspect of my life, the most basic components of my freedom, which is ease in being myself.

So I recollect, this morning, so if those scenes from yesterday by the river… And how I said I don’t want this to happen anymore… And I meant that. So, that is why I am going to try to check in with myself, as frequently as I can throughout the day… Check on into that Tuesday lurking thing and me, to make sure that it does not burst forth in a way that causes harm to me or to anyone else. I understand that with the lurking thing is not a bad thing he scored… In internal family systems theory they might call it the projector, and I have a very strong protector and wants very much for me to not be hurt shame, very much for me to not suffer any humiliation Or betrayal by people that I trust… Which, unfortunately, has learned that there is nobody that I can trust… This is what happens when the most trusted people cause great harm… The ability to be safe and being oneself with anyone is compromised… I can, occasionally she’ll glimpses of who I am… Mostly, these days, to strangers… Because they Who are their opinions do not matter to me it is suffocatingly difficult to be open honorable with people within my inner circle especially, the person who I understood to be my best friend… Until they tried to fix me… Or, rather, try to help me in such a way that I felt that there was something about me the tragically needed helping… And, obviously, there is…

I’ve been speaking these words as I’ve run, very slowly, around the middle school track trying to get my miles in a little early, at least some of them. Since the pandemic started I have been walking him combination of walking and running for at least 10 miles a day… I’ve only fallen ever so slightly short of my 10 mile a day goal a couple of days… And there are many days that I exceeded the goal. Running and walking, Staying moving, it’s pretty crucial to my middle health. I stop smoking before… Or, rather, while the pandemic was still slowly burning through China Iran and establishing a foothold in Italy… When the children were still going to school and I was still going to do groups at the jail and going to meetings all around town. I haven’t use nicotine in over a month.

I think, the walking and running I’ve taken the place of that drug for me… Which, it’s OK. As I have been running very slowly, around the track the day has become brighter with blue skies and clouds… It’s so cool in the morning because we are in the mountains… Even though it’s almost May. I’ve mostly been thinking about the things that I have been speaking. But also, having small thoughts at the edges about what I’m going to do today and noticing the sunlight hitting the tops of trees and the site smells something that would drive vultures over near the fence on the west side of the track. And, I am going to go home and I’m going to take a shower, And I’m going to ride out to visit my family in the side of the county with my daughter, where we will say hello to the dog and visit for a few minutes before riding back into town where I will take another walk… And then proceed on with my day. I have had a great deal of creative energy lately… Thinking about painting and a sense of poetry and me thinking about writing books. There is a lot of frustration and pain Around creativity… And myself as an artist… Is it sort of learned helplessness, I think where tries and tries and tries again and again to do a thing and they ““ fail in doing that thing we learned that it’s best not to try even if something is yearning to do the thing there gets to be a lot of sadness and frustration built up around the edges like a moat or four first wall covered with barbs…

It’s been a life death thing for a long long time this issue between me and my creativity and I wonder sometimes if I follow the way of death… In terms of having a tragically had a practice that I can’t possibly resume… Having much damage in the relationship with my creativity that it is difficult to even go near the practices and processes that used to be such a home for me. I know that these things are only true If I allow them to be true… And that if I choose I can quietly see the resenting the world and everything I have decided to blame for me not creating and I can live out my life as a sad quiet and a better person… If I choose that… However, I could also choose to continue to try to keep trying to do some small thing every day closer to who I am and my healthier self And so I think I’m annoying before I really truly give up, to try that and I really try… And this checking in with myself which may not be every hour although it may be a brief check in very often with a few longer check-in‘s, like this one… Well, this is a part of that effort. I have noticed calls this morning and a lot frequently these past few weeks and I’ve been taking pictures of them again… There is no great in mind blowing sense that the universe are some great power is communicating through the suspended elements in the sky… But there is the persistence of patterns the resistance of shapes that I see reflected in so many other things and language and water and my whole body even the whirls it make the shapes hands. And really, it’s just self similarity As above so below, etc. Etc. yesterday, before I had the feeling of great empathy in connection with the trees and with everything, my friend had mentioned that there is evidence that all life on this planet evolved from a single shared common bacterium a single shared rudimentary structure… And that makes so much sense to me and, if it is true then really we are all very much connected To everything.

04/26 11:01am

I am walking along the undeveloped trail by the river and am noticing that the question “Did you have any interesting thoughts this morning?” inspires a huge amount of social performance anxiety.

04/30 7:40am

I don’t think that I slept well last night up feeling edgy a film over my body or I sweated. Somehow got into the room and was a distraction in the night and I friend was awake a lot as well, getting up and moving around is hoping to worse. I woke up this morning and felt as I went over things that I need to do a definite feeling reaching critical overwhelm in terms of tasks sponsor billet he‘s Voice to text is such a piece of shit sometimes I don’t know why it wouldn’t do it but responsibilities has anything to do with billets what is a billet even? I feel like the part of my brain it is orderly and task focused the working part of my brain is very much overactive and kind of feel this in my head heavy sharp sort of sensation in the left hand side of my frontal lobe. The good thing is is that I’m not caught up in The miasma of my amygdala and I don’t feel like I am in having any sort of trauma response. I do recognize that the state of being stressed and having too much to do and the sense of not having enough time end of having too much to do across too many multiple areas that that is going to increase my vulnerability to being troubled and getting upset at some point in the day. That will be compounded the vulnerability by me not having slept well. The miasma of my amygdala and I don’t feel like I am in having any sort of trauma response. I do recognize that the state of being stressed and having too much to do and the sense of not having enough time end of having too much to do across too many multiple areas that that is going to increase my vulnerability to being troubled and getting upset at some point in the day. That will be compounded the vulnerability by me not having slept well.I think that it’s going to be important for me to try to take a nap and also for me to write out the things that I need to do because maybe then and get them out of my head. For years I have been trying to figure out how to be efficient enough to do all of the things that I want to do and all the things that I need to do. And really possibility, but I have developed some tactics and strategies to help me to be more efficient and I’m always trying to find new tactics and strategies to help me do use my time well. I can’t really think of things that I can cut out of my schedule. I don’t watch television I don’t watch movies I don’t really spend time with friends other than my primary friend… I’m walking but, that’s probably the time that other people would spend resting relaxing watching television or spending time with friends and my walking time is an important part of my getting things done, because I am able to take mental breaks but also at times able to think through what it is that I’m doing and what it is that I need to do. I haven’t even mentionedI haven’t even mentioned yesterday morning while I was walking I saw a man always jump off a bridge. He was on the big bridge the Haywood Road bridge that goes over into West Asheville and he was standing there in the bridge was closed and there are police officers and he was on the outside of the railing is yelling fuck you fuck you and I feel my heart go down to my belly when I saw with compassion with empathy because I know what it’s like I want to die but I’ve never stood outside of the railing of the bridge I want it badly to be able to talk with him and I stood there for a moment with all of my energy and all of my attention focused solely on figure standing outside of the railing And I wanted so badly to say something to him however what I wanted to tell him it’s not a thing that can be easily condensed into strings of words and sentences it is a feeling the feeling of help I wanted to somehow help him to believe just for a split second because that’s all it takes is there a reason to be hopeful and that he could possibly create a life that he wants to live a life that is not full of pain and suffering and that there is a lot a beauty in the world and there are things that he will see inside appreciate that nobody else in the world makes you appreciate it if you died in those things won’t be seeing those things will be loved and that will be a loss for the worldI saw a bright red cardinal flying over the path and I wished very hard with the cardinal will fly over so that he would see just for a split second because that’s all it takes for the world is a place that is full of light and beauty even though it is also a terrible place is full of sadness and suffering. When we got back to the car after I did a brief Facebook live video because were in the few moments standing and staring at that figure who is outside of the railing on the bridge getting ready to jump that I really really need to get overWhatever fear or insecurity leads me to stay silent about things like mental health and about things like suicide I have a lot that I could say about these things some of which might really be helpful to people. I don’t think that I’m being grandiose or rotations when I say that something I might say or the way that I might say it could be helpful to another human being.  I don’t think that is being on patients. Everybody has a potential offer something to the world that may be helpful to someone and perhaps the way that one person might say a thing to be helpful in ways that whatever anybody else might be saying simply are not in so I feel like it’s very important that I self learn how to say the things that perhaps only I might be able to say in the ways they perhaps only I might be able to see them. So I did a brief Facebook live video on the subject and then I posted it in later I deleted her later after walking up the hill after I had sent to theOfficer who’sWho’s vehicle was blocking the road that I was a peer support specialist in the organization I work for and told them that I was a suicide survivor and that I would be happy to help needed help and the officer told me people at the bridge it so I ran in there and by the time I got there the person was already over back on the same side of the bridge and they were on the ground and they were screaming but they were not going to jump off the bridge that morning so I walk home. I haven’t said anything about that yet.

I deleted that FB video. 

04/29 8:17pm

It’s evening time now right about sundown they’re still light outside though and I’ve gone out for a walk… The most immediate thing on my mind is that I only have 8.5 miles on my phone… Even though I just took a 5 mile walk and should have 13.5 miles on my phone but, because I left my phone at home for five minutes my phone. There’s a definite sense of compulsion around this and an irritation this is been bothered by the fact that I did not report this is my house the same thing happened last week when I left the house and left my phone in so did not get a segment of the. This, I know rationally, does not matter in the slightest however I feel bothered by the fact that there is not documentation of those miles and those miles will not be a part of my weekly average. I am out walking for mile and a half to get to the 10 miles that I would like on my phone which will really mean that I will have walk about 15 miles today which is a lot of miles into something that I actually feel kind of good about because walking 15 miles a day is better than smoking cigarettes.I think that my dopamine is getting rehabilitated and that is creating a motivation there are some very dark clouds right approach to me and I’m wondering if it’s going to rain it’s cold outside in the low 50s possibly in the high 40s even that was the last day of April and I live in the American south I’ll be in the mountains. For her to go for the walk I had a brief conversation with a person who runs a nonprofit start up is focused on supporting communities of color and healing justice and wellness. I did some voluntary grant writing work for them a couple months back I got an idea and what’s wrong with compelled to write it out. I was called to. The ideaWas based on what I heard community members at a listening session say that they wanted. So I wrote it up into a grant proposal which I develop and submitted for the organization. I had a brief conversation with the director of the organizations afternoon and I was filled with this very distinct joyful exuberance that makes me feel young and excited the way that I used to feel before I was broke out in a shaded in relation to this work in a nonprofit human service says industrial complex. Stoked excited and full vision. I’m going to go and meet with them next week.I have more to do than I have time and I don’t really know how I’m going to manage to get all of it done. Part of what I have been thinking about is developing a community or public messaging project related to people not killing himself or people saying alive as it may be I think that the messaging keep living is stronger messaging don’t kill yourself but I think those messages are important. I’m walking up a hill and it feels good everybody to be moving. I think that I may be a thingI may be developing into a person that walks a long distance every day. That’s OK with me. I like it it’s good for me. Better than smoking cigarettes. I need to resume doing artwork and I kind of trust that I will it some point start doing that again but it seems that a lot of my time is taken up by work in my way turning. I feel motivated and very task oriented but also a little bit serious in a little bit businesses. I think Some lightheartedness and some playfulness would be good for me.

> On Apr 29, 2020, at 9:33 AM

> 04/27 8:10am

>

> I thought, last night, about taking some notes that. After eating a dinner for Calvin beans and rice, which is favorite meal Celine and reading a short story and a book very fiction. Prior to doing all of that I’ve gone for a walk on the envelope trail by the river, and saw a family of docs with at least 10 ducklingAnd also a family of swans no… Not swans keys. I’m going to pause my speaking because I’m walking right now and I see a small female bluebird and I’d like to look at her for a few minutes. Chippeway. As I was saying, I considered taking notes before I went to bed because that would seem like something that would be infidelity with this practice I am trying to establish paying attention and noting through the day the way that I’m feeling and the things that I’m thinking about. I wasn’t feeling any sort of distress last night, that I felt good calm and centered… And I think that is as important to take notes when I’m feeling that way as it is to take notes when I am not feeling so well. The purpose of this takingI’m paying attention is, as I’ve said, to try to get a handle on some darker aspect of my narrative in psychology which have been really disruptive polity of life and of my positive participation within relationship. It’s possible that I may be in the process of letting go of some of these old narratives and that’s why they become louder, more intrusive, quicker to be triggered… However, I really can’t allow myselfTo get in to those sorts of states anymore, or some small thing that I thought you said something somebody has said shit for me in to this really dark in to the place you’re thinking and feeling in with my self worth is not all my advocacy as a human being is laughable, and it’s not safe to be around any other human beings. I mean really, that she was toxic. And I agree grassy field where the range time down by the river in there two crews that are walking in the grass. I’m going to look at them for a few minutes.They flew away. So, things that are on my mind this morning are hovering quite a bit around work… And ask for the day will entail. We are lucky to have a job there allows me to work and that it’s not too tedious. Probably about 75% of the time I enjoy my work and find at least a little bit of purpose in it which, I mean come on, so lucky to be able to say that. This afternoon I’m going to become facilitating a meeting With the state about restructuring some of the professional certification and licensure aspect the field that I work in. And I’m going to be interviewing somebody for service learning internship or a community capacity building project that I’m going to be working on for the next few months.I still think about art basically all the time take pictures of things to serve as references the paintings that I might want to do and sitter whether or not feeling any poetry noticing thinking about… And it’s there… I just haven’t given it a lot of time in terms of productive creation of work. But I really need to do is work on the website… That would be a good investment of my time Some of the times when I’m feeling resentful of my job but if I put even half of the energy that I put towards developing this organization toward developing my personal work I would probably not have to be employed as a wage earner and that would be much more ideal in terms of self determination of energy and endeavor and I commendation of my unique needs. It’s interesting to think about why it’s so easy for some people to give them selves overTo the needs of something external to them and organization of family… I think that women in particular they have a tendency to doing this to meeting other people’s needs into trying to wedge their own personal needs into the small spaces of time with the limited shreds or G they may be left over from doing things for entities external.

> voice to text. 

> Anyway, is interesting to me that even just after a day and a half of making a conscious effort to check in with myself about how I am thinking and how that is impacting how I’m feeling, I feel much better… And that even though this is an exactly writing… This is speaking of my face as I am walking… Which is a different thing than writing… But is still giving voice to… That even after just doing this a few times and feel much much better. My friend, down by the fast flowing river while I was crying, call meThat I needed help… And that I wasn’t able to help myself. But, I don’t think that’s true I think that for years all of that writing that was helping myself and that if I presume that checking in and noticing and support myself and then having that state then I will be helping myself. I already a.m.

>

> 1:04pm

>

> I’m out for another walk… Queen work meetings and noticing the warm room for the station in the center of myself and I recognize joyfulness… I think this is in relation to a relationship because I’m feeling grateful appreciative person that I am with feeling deeply loving. It’s a nice day… And go to my children is out riding around like this with The friend of theirs. It’s nice that you’re able to see him during this time. Right now that we relax. I have a lot to do, room. I noticed an email that gave some information about publishers literary fiction submissions without an agent. I think that made me feel hopeful and interested as well.Really. As possible came out we are losing touch with.

>

> 04/27 5:55pm

>

> Well. Eating people nobility to do that sort of thing is not exactly personal narrative in which I am person

>

> Ha ha ha ha well, there seem to be some type of issues and using voice to text in doing these chickens with myself and what I am thinking about and how I am feeling. What I was trying to say was that I just had an interesting experience in which I facilitate a meeting with 20+ people some of whom were state representatives and I did a good job and doing a good job at that sort of thing flicks with my personal narratives which you know me that I am a, ineffective be cup and see, basically Not the sort of person who would effectively be able to facilitate a large meeting with diverse stakeholders.

>

> It was a really good example of ways T personal narrative a.m.

>

> 04/28 7:08am

>

> I am slow running around the middle school track and it’s cold outside my hands sprain with the cold and my eyes are running. It’s almost me and so there’s a little bit strange to me in the morning should be so chilly. I didn’t sleep incredibly well last night, and had some issues with the blanket. On the morning I noticed grumbling in my attitude and the resentment about nice person that I was sleeping with because I have been laying on the blanket and keeping it keeping me from curling it around myself. This would be a very stupid thing to let foul up my mood and my feeling in the morning. I need to get up early anyway, because I have work to do… And then a meeting at 8:30. I was able to get a little over an hours worth of work done. And I am now running very slowly around the track at the middle school moving towards my mileage for the day. It’s interesting since I’ve been walking at least 10 miles a day I don’tDreaded or resist it in the slightest. I really feel good heading out the door. I think my body has adapted to this level of activity and now understands that it feels good to move. Even though I have been an active person for years, I still had to push myself or convince myself a lot of days that I want to get up and go move that I want to go to the why. But I wanted to go for a run. Dreaded or resist it in the slightest. I really feel good heading out the door. I think my body has adapted to this level of activity and now understands that it feels good to move. Even though I have been an active person for years, I still had to push myself or convince myself a lot of days that I want to get up and go move that I want to go to the why. But I wanted to go for a run.No, I kind of craving… And I’m excited when I’m able to get out the door to go and walk. I’m running very slowly and in kind of a Jocelyn way because I am taking more voice notes on my thoughts and experience for the purpose of checking in with myself and ultimately checking myself so that I don’t become a bitch over some dumb shit it’s lodged in my head and contributes to my bed psychology. My friend said that I needed help and that maybe somebody would be able to help me… I think I really just need to talk about this stuff I mean, that is what I would do if somebody were helping me… I will talk about this stuff and the act of doing that would help me aware of what was happening and that awareness is what we’re not really help me. I don’t need to pay somebody $75 an hour to talk about this stuff. I think that the huge part of why I have become somewhat unwell over this past year so it’s because I’m falling out a practice of self reflection and writing. That was a huge way for meTo take care of myself and keep my thinking is Felix right and he giveaways do things they were traveling to me so they didn’t just fixture in the way that things will fester if left on tinder to. This morning I recognize that I feel a little bit edgy I’m not sleeping in a little bit stressed because of the tasks of the day. I have a meeting at 8:30 that is of a somewhat troubling topic involving the miss use of state mental health grant funds for a poorly managed Program. Then I need to find someway to address racism that has become apparent in the organization that I work for. Actually it’s not so subtle… It’s pretty obvious, when people in leadership positions are making dumb ass comments about peoples race and that’s the city in the course of meetings. So, I noticed that those things were on my mind in the middle of the night… And I have a lot of frustration around the fact that I’m not being paid full-time wages and yet I’m doing the work That consultant and grant writers would typically be paid at least $50 an hour to do. And, I know that other people who work for the organizations are basically not doing shit during this work online pandemic situation and are getting paid their usual 40 hours a week wage. That’s fucked up. I noticed when I think about these things that I feel angry and indignant. I think that for me a lot of times anger is how I’m crossing of my boundaries shows up…And let me know if there’s something that is happening in my life is bothersome to me, but across as my boundaries values… That is not OK I think that a lot of the time I am in courage to flatten my anger to not be bothered by things and it’s true that it’s important to not be bothered by things do not let relatively minor things of little consequence unsettle ones peace and contentment in being. However, I think that if something is fucked up taking vantageOf or not respected or see something happening that is not right… That the feeling of anger coming up in them is not necessarily a bad thing… Of course anger comes up because of the tendency to want to defend oneself against a perceived threat. And so the orientation to solving the problem can start off wrong if it’s coming from anger. It sets up an offense defense dynamic. So I guess then it would be better or to neutralize the anger for the purpose of theThen being able to address the problem in replace of grounded Gallery or compassion and without that sort of judgment or defense that often comes with anger. So, that was a really good example of the way the talking through something or riding through something processing something on my own can help you lead me to a resolution of the issue. That’s why I’m doing this so that I can help to put my proper my feelings rather thinking in their proper place. So that I do not feel unhappyOr trouble in my life. It’s a sunny day… And I know that it will be warm later. I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully, I can go for a walk with my daughter. I think it will be a good day. I plan on doing most of my work early in the day and then having some time in the afternoon.

>

> 04/28 05:39

>

> It’s late in the afternoon and I walking up at Hill. It had a pretty full day for most of the computer meetings it was an effective day and a decent enough day… I also have been noticing that I’ve adapted pretty well with all my work probably because I have experience in working remotely from my time with you Chris project a few years back. These past couple years self very much I’m sort of centered around being a person who is disorganizedYou couldn’t manage my time things done. I can see objectively that I get a great deal done and often was surprised and capability throughout the week. A lot of my narratives are being challenged. That’s a good thing, because my narratives have forgotten pretty lousy. A lot of my energy has been going towards work recently I have my creative energy being dumped into those endeavors. I guess I’m pretty lucky to have a job where I am able to use creative energy and where I’m able He is creative energy who I’m able to bring personal strengths and interests into the work that I do. This afternoon I feel somewhat tired and my body a little weary… My head feels good mood is good. I don’t feel edgy or irritable. This afternoon and that was a good thing because I needed to rest. Somehow I have 17 hours in this pay period even though it is only Tuesday.

>

> 04/29 7:29 am

>

> I am at the track again running slowly so windy this morning the skies strangely overcast a little bit of metallic sheen flat Clements the sunrise is full of glare. I woke up this morning and strange dreams. All of my dreams have been single potluck deck, and this isn’t anything new… They been that way for years, perhaps forever. There’s always some kind of washed out please Summary please. Last night our flights… Scramble to try to work out lodging in a weird motel. The grocery store Shells we’re almost empty save for a strange Santa hat hanging and an N 95 mask which I considered buying because I recognize even in the dream that they are rare. Back. A small child the person of color, hugged my leg and looked up at me with absolute adoration and love… And I don’t know what this means that my ego is telling me some kind of antiquated wait save your bullshit perhaps!? This morning I woke up and felt ready to get out of bed because I enjoy the challenge of getting up and working for at least an hour before heading out the door to run… I updated the website sent you couple of emails out reach for a project and I considered making an introduction of myself Facebook group I have joined that is ministered by a local person of color who supports small businesses… And I considered making an introAnd went on and on in the way that I do… Hit select all and delete it saved it in the notes. I think I will ask how members of the group prefer the new members introduce themselves. Before I just go on and say a bunch of stuff. I feel fairly good in my head into my body this morning I’m meeting my goals which is encouraging goals for work goals for movement each day. There’s a wind this morning and I like it. Yesterday I read a Raymond Carver poem about hockey lost rivers and it occurred to me that simple poets are probably more brave and complicated or audacious poets. I haven’t written any times since the other day when I won’t grow one point.Prior to that I hadn’t written any forms. I see by glancing down at my screen that the accuracy of voice to text it’s somewhat lagging and that a lot of nonsense is showing up in this that I say. It doesn’t matter. Last night my friend asked me if I thought that when I spoke with her as we close approximation to the way that I write and I know it is not. Rain, yes. The part of the brain that speaks is different than the part of the brain that writes. And that my speaking voice is different writing voice unless I’m being oratory or rhetorical in that flourishing way when I’m feeling impassioned about something sometimes my writing voice slips out in that. We had a good conversation my friend and I about psychology and helping and healing doesn’t help. And I almost woke up my writing voice when I was saying something about self-determination be in the foundation Of any healing growth that may happen and that if there’s anything in the relationship that undermines her compromises our self determination, and ultimately healing and growth cannot happen. Especially, I said, for people who have long histories of having their autonomy compromised and having their boundaries repeatedly violated by forces or people external to them. Innoway, I think everyone because it is such a common thing in human relationships for us not to respect Or appreciate another person’s autonomy and to try to direct them where to control them or to manipulate them to meet our needs and desires and to be in integrity with what we think are to be happening he thinks they got to be doing this, I think it’s basically the foundation of every problem within relationships. Anyway, it was good to talk with my friend and I mentioned that I thought that it might be good but I reengage in my speaking voice in this process that I started with the AmyTo check in with myself so that I don’t get into an unintended and unruly headspace her way to feel it. It makes sense that I should call unaware and spaces I thinking and feeling they’re off and we just have an agency because to be honest I process things very quickly and I have a distinct visual and affective component to the way that I experience what might be called that. So, very quickly and outside of the scope of my conscious awareness,I can finally begin thinking and feeling about things in ways that really are very distorted and upsetting. Yesterday, I had an experience where my friend was being lighthearted and kind of playful in response to something I said I’m at the distance that I walk every day saying that I was basically as Walker now and he went on and on and I began to feel like he was making fun of me like he was making my practice of walking 10 to 12 miles a day out to be something more than it was. My friend is an endurance athlete and actually knows people that for all practicalRepresents our insurance walkers. I am not an endurance Walker. So, if you’re going to feel like my friend was making fun of me joshing with me a little bit like it at all it will do a child making more out of their accomplishment and it actually is in a kind of belittling way. It’s complicated, this thing that sometimes adults will do the children where they make a big deal out of something in the child is done and basically treat the child like an idiot as if the child cannot accurately estimate is her her complement and also it was ifThe child is gullible enough to send a hyperbolic ego inflation. I’m only feeling uncomfortable feel quiet and I said stop I feel like you’re in front of me. No I’m not in durance walker please stop I feel like you’re making fun of me. And then I could feel myself kind of shut her up go closed off not feeling it is anymore at the garbage and went for a walk and came home and ate dinner and it one point on the walk I told my friend I don’t not being distant because I’m hungryI’m being distant because I don’t feel socially safe. And I was like hell and, like I said dinner and we had a good conversation and I did not feel socially and safe anymore and I understood that my friend was just being playful. I knew that cognitively at times, but still my body reacted to it I could feel my heart beat faster and I felt embarrassed something like in dignity. In my experience like a child is being made fun of. Since then I would have this reaction so quickly With such ease because I was very much a child that was made fun of. The voice of Bel Air to me while I was feeling so sheepish and embarrassed and belittled was then I want to be taken seriously. And this is kind of a silly thing to want because how serious is it, really? This issue of us and our lives and our identities. I should be taking myself less seriously. This is like the serious year, Robert stop laughing and I get very very seriousAbout almost everything.

>

> And I hope that sometime I will be able to be less serious again Andrea have a lightness of being in the joy in being I think that if people feel that the very basis of them is not respected or held and dignified worth but a lot of their energy goes towards trying to defend that I’m trying to build that up and said they cannot and have it a lightness of being because they feel that some

> substance of there being is threatened.

>

> 04/28 7:50 am

> It is much easier to run slowly around the track while I am doing this voice notes because I am distracted from the fact that I’m running slowly around the track and that really running so late or on the track it’s not that interesting. I try to run 45 miles because that was helpful for me and meeting my mother calls today when it is supposed to rain it 100% chance of rain later in the day. I’m not opposed to walking in the rain and I may end up doing that. I don’t feel like I have much more to say on the subject of my thought of And feelings so I thought that maybe I might practice describing the wind where the light where the feeling of my footsteps just exercise kick you lading brain there’s a wind blowing from the south across the top of the new green trees and it begins the uppermost branches so that they look like sales and make the sound of wrestling and sighing a very gentle movement like rocking or dancing slowly I’m pausing as I’m looking at it because it takes much words away to watch the treesGo in the wind and the sun is risen to be well over the mountain that separates the east side of town from the west side of me in the peculiar glaring great clouds that I’ll get a slant in the sky this morning he burnt off that they’re still over the freshly risen son so that the light still has a behavior plan quality not bright her clean or clear but a little bit flat still a little bit glaring it’s right now it’s the impression of being yellow in the way that sunlightSometimes seems, especially in the spring grass is very green I can see the sunlight Glenn takeoff the small bits of shining rock that are in the asphalt that makes up the track but only at certain angles right now I’m running through the shadow of the school and on the other side of the track I can see that it is bright and it is lit but here it’s almost like the sun is still rising. I can feel my left hip the soreness my left knee also and then my right toe at the base of itDespite the Sorensons feel strong even though I am running slowly I feel like I could run for a long time my breath is coming very easily as evidenced by the fact that I’m able to continue talking in this way. I can’t think of any art projects that I wanted to do recently other than take a picture of the toilet paper in the bathroom which I took a reference shot of the other day in the afternoon light was shining through the old green curtain in a way it was early luminous.I got that curtain 20 years ago when I was living in Portland Oregon. And it’s silly to me that I still have it. I should get a new curtain that old one is worn out dingy. I snag leave my black thread or hindered from a long window panel years ago and didn’t bother to use the right color thread and didn’t bother to address the string tension on my sewing machine. In many ways I am careless person. A piece about that.There’s a bird that is singing off to the west side of the track in the trees grow on the hillside that the school since the top of. It sounds a little like a Mockingbird. I have noticed the birds a lot this season just like any other season but, it seems like they’re noticing of me has also increased somewhat this year we stop in regard another. At least this is how it seems to me. There is a big playerLayer of dark cloud hanging high up in the sky it is raining it and it reminds me of the coast like it like that I want to be hanging over the ocean I can see miles from here that there is a slight rain that’s falling from the cloud but here it is sunny.

>

> 04/29 9:13am

>

> The mockingbirds chase away the crow, just like the crow chases away the hawk. Everyone one trying to protect the nest, protect the eggs, and everyone trying to get fed.

>

>

05/01 8:02pm

I did not take any notes or do any observation this morning… Sleep for a couple of hours in the cloud on ahead with the plans as I conceived of them which were to go over to Luna court perhaps sleep out tonight. The interview was weird… And I got activated the restraint of boisterous social interaction well I was going to the grocery store and got very carsick… And then the trails were closed. So we drove back to Asheville and I took a walk and I cried a little as I walk because I felt so sick and upset still… And it was bothersome…And then we are going to drive up to Craven gap… Tired and it’s super far and so we decided to just go and walk by the parkway near Biltmore… They were lots of cars going bye and loud motorcycles that, that was OK. So I tried to do a thing today and it didn’t work out… And isn’t that what happened sometimes they try to do something and it just doesn’t really work… I had a headache most of the day and now as I’m walkingI feel a cramp in my side which is peculiar… I don’t think that I feel well I’m still trying to walk to get the 10 miles a day that I am compulsively committed to getting… I thought all day long but maybe things weren’t working out because they were something else that I was supposed to be doing… And figured that there was probably something very important that I was supposed to be doing that I was missing because I was trying to go and do some conceived an unnecessary outdoor pursuits thing… That was silly. I wonder what it was that I was supposed to be doing? This morning I woke up with a short story in my head about how people will leave notes for one another on some of the street signs and posts along the corners and I thought about notes that I’ve seen hey Billie, we had to break camp we have your stuff… Please call Jay. But I wondered what sort of story my school out from the beginning having to do with people leaving notes for other people on holes in the street corners maybe even written on the edge of the sidewalk. What were the note say? What would the story be that was told to mentioning them. Anyway, I didn’t have a very nice day because I felt sick and upset most of the day and I wonder about whether or not part of my feeling sick and upset had to do with me not having checked in with my cell and not have a take a note. I was aware of when I got triggered and why I got triggered and how it made me feel a hell son like the bottom has been dropped out I was literally kind of staggering and lightheaded… Because I was so surprised by what it happenedAnd then I felt angry… And I could feel myself I don’t get sugared up the way that I do and I stop saying anything stop speaking and just throw it in the passenger seat in silence… That was how I spent most of my day of sick and have to associated… There’s no way to live.

May 2, 8:05am

I am walking past the big brewery by the river the one that makes the city like Portland while they’re making their beer… Funny how some places become analogues for other places based on ascent geographic feature the way a River runs through the center of this town like so many other towns got through with bridges. The house that I live in there is the tunnel Japanese flowering cherry And overgrown privet short little tunnel just the distance in front of the house and it’s like that longer tunnel that led to the house that I grew up in. As I speak these words because I am recording this on my phone using voice to text a little bit of a pressure in my chest… When I mention the house and a part of this comes from realizing that I almost do not remember…When I was younger I thought that it would be impossible to forget something… It seems like the reality of the place and the feelings smells the realness of that place it seems like that would always stay close… And I marvel at how older people claim to not remember the claim only remember a few things… How could that be? I think In order to remember one Hass to tend to their memories to spend time with them… The mind can only take care of so much and we can’t rely on memories to maintain themselves and get overwritten by whatever is right in front of us whether we want them to or not… It isn’t it kind of sad that the places that have been lost in the things that maybe only we know that may be only remember they are gone Just like everything I guess… There is some rightness in the slipstream of all of that there’s nothing last truth in that however, there’s also for me anyway some truth in that there’s something very human about wanting to hold onto and reserve the things that we love the places that have meant something to us. And as I speak these words I notice a feeling in my chest again something something big is bigger than me… And I think about howYou may not realize it but we are well into the process of losing so many places that we love already lost so many places that we’ve loved probably everybody has lost a place that they love and I wonder if that in this new world that is being forged what is another thing that connects us all… That everybody has seen the world change in ways that are sad… But everybody has lost something that we love.

What I am noticing in my thinking and feeling this morning is that I woke up with a bad headache with my sinuses congested especially my left sinus pressure all along the side of my face tired and kind of ill… Didn’t want to be in the house and I feel tired tired I’ve been saying that for years but I didn’t feel especially bad this morning… Anyway yesterday was very difficult day for me did not feel well and I had emotional troubles in part because I didn’t eat quite enough and I’m part because I did not move quite enough and in part because my usual practice and routine has shifted and in part because I had an unexpected social situation in the entrance to the grocery store that was surprising and confusing and unsettling to me in ways that someone activated some Of the difficulty that I have in how I feel things. By the end of the day I felt OK… But, I didn’t think that I could use the day and the best way he said it may have been used… I felt like I have been missed lead missed lead myself and my goals and that my plans and that that misleading have compromised qualityOf my experience. I’m walking on and developed part of the trail now… And it’s quiet. I like it.

 

05/03 8:36am

I am at the track at the middle school doing my very slow walking kind of jogging thing… A very very slow but it doesn’t matter I woke up this morning I felt so fucking stressed out because of the amount of things I have to do tomorrow and the way these things thinking about them look up magnified like something that will take 20 minutes seems in my head ache five hours and I feel like there’s no possible way that will be able to do all the things that I need to do tomorrow and before tomorrow… Creates a breathless panic feeling in meI don’t like it… This feeling is the primary reason why I struggle with working and why a visit by job because anything that I have committed to do creates a feeling of me it seems… And I don’t really understand how that is or why that is or what I can do to make that difference… I think that is because I have low stress Holleran’s… But it’s also about the way that I think about things… Like I feel that anything anything that I have on my schedule it’s something that I have to do and then I reflexively just have all these feelings of resistance and apprehension and resentment about the things that are on my schedule to do so it is Lawrence he’s thinking about things in a way that’s really probably not very helpful… Thinking about things in a way that a, I have to do them which automatically creates resistance and resentment and be, thinking about things in a distorted magnitude Kind of way like oh this thing then I’m totally capable of doing only take 20 minutes is really really a Normas and it’s going to consume me and I feel this incredible amount of pressure… And so I’m not really sure how to adjust to that kind of automatic thinking about things thing is that I apply urgency urgent… And that creates stress I’m a fucking stress case. How do I get this This way? It’s not healthy… So these are things that I’ve noticed this morning am I thinking in my feeling that I woke up early with a feeling of overwhelm and stress about the amount of things that I have to do tomorrow and things that I need to do today in order to prepare for tomorrow… And I look around the house and I see all the stuff that needs to be done… And I think about all the things that I want to do today outside my daughter and I don’t know Do you want to spend time with me and how I want to spend time with my friend but I don’t think that we’re spending time with my daughter it’s complicated and that there’s like what do I want to do and what do I need to do I need to clean the kitchen floor I need to haul my laundry and I need to clean the bathroom… Possibly do these things and get out and go somewhere… It is feeling on the conveyor and then every corner there’s something pulling at me demanding of my time and attention And it’s not helpful for me to be thinking about these things feel that it’s more stressful… And although it was necessary for my nervous system to release the stress and urgency distress signals that I created in the way that I think about things it’s not helpful for me to reinforce the stress by speaking in this breathless kind of panicked way I need to use my skills and look around and recognize that hey, there’s nothing that I have to do right now other than run around the track…And that I feel OK… And then I’ll get everything done because I always do and that the less conflict I create because of my stress levels the better.I want to have a nice chill day… And that’s totally possible and that’s totally OK…

05/04 7:18am

There are interesting heavy Roos colored clouds to the north end of the west this morning and yet to the east the sky is more clear and so the bright golden sunlight of morning is shining over everything the flashlight under a blanket I feel well this morning despite not having had quite enough sleep and despite waking up in the middle of the night right in because I heard a cat crying and I knew that I had left the cat out it was terrified in the middle of the night that she would be hurt

I feel like I have too much to do and perhaps not enough time to do it… But, I am hopeful that I’ll be able to work it out… Am I feel strangely quiet this morning probably because I am tired… I miss writing poetry maybe morning as I run around the track very very slowly focus we’re taking notes on describing the grass illuminated by the slant If the sun while the rain heavy ceiling hangs low… And the field is empty a brand new green… Benches top game on scene… I don’t have a lot of poetry in me lately gotten very very serious because of all the work. I feel that I have allowed myself to become almost entirely colonized by my job Despite the fact that I earn less than $2000 a month. When I think about this but I have given myself over almost entirely to the task of an organization that I don’t even really respect for less than $3000 a month I feel kind of sad and angry. What does that say about the extent to which I value myself… Then I’m willing to show upAnd do really strong work minimal reimbursement and at the cost of my headspace joyfulness mobility to be present… Yesterday, my friend was telling me stories my friend is a good storyteller… And I listened and I laughed… And I also thought, what the fuck happened to me? Are used to tell stories… Are used to be lively in my mind in my sharing memories were close And I could paint incredible pictures just with words… Voice so that I am able to earn wages… And that makes me sad that I’ve become a doll person anymore so that I’m able to focus on work. There’s something that is not right in that… That is not right at all. However, I also recognize that you’re reinforcing the phone Phenomenon of my silence saying it’s not helpful is not productive. If I want to be less silent than I should be less silent if I want to speak freely then I should begin slowly at first to use my voice again. I should have experiences that are worth telling us stories not experiences that I feel bored by experiences that I feel ashamed of what I feel or waste of my time and potential serious does that make me feel like a fool. I have to practice And storytelling. I wonder if it is healthy for me to be trying to walk or run some combination there of 10+ miles a day. I wonder if it is breaking down my body? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem especially healthy… If I’m not on a through wear, the only thing I am tasked with doing is walking all day long and resting… It seems like a little too much to be walking running so much while also trying to work so much and also trying to shop for relationship and not thinking at all about art about relaxation… I think there’s a part of me that feels like there is a lack of solidarity and relaxing… That if other people are having to work so hard that I also should be working hard… That I should not be enjoying my leisure there’s some kind of solidarityPrint stress… But, that’s not healthy I think the back that is bullshit.

05/05 7:17am

It rained last night and they are slick we are puddles on the track. There is cool, like the slow build toward summer is even slower this year. Cock in a perpetual interest season between warm and cool. The clouds look like clouds over the ocean, remind me that sometimes I think about the ways that we are in I just first Oceana of sorts vapors pulling and flowing streams and currents all around us surrounded by water. I feel calm this morning, and slept well. I fell sleep I was immediately after I lay down. I still feel like I have too much to do but, that doesn’t stress me out the way that it stressed me out yesterday.As I move through the events begin to happen and even really think about them now I will do this and I will do that and all of the stress And dread about everything that I needed to do seemed silly and unnecessary as a move through the day of doing these things… The day did not go as planned, but that was OK. There was a major technical difficulty with the zoom link for a workshop that I was supposed to be facilitating because it had been scheduled for 4 AM rather than 4 PM. I didn’t up being all right because the community theater for the group hosted in the workshop with and I were able to discuss a grant opportunity they are consideringThat would support the development of a community culture of peer support in a rural unity county not by the border. It’s exciting for me to think about those sorts of potential developments peer support for everyone we are all peters the building cultural movement of good neighboring. As I think about that this morning I noticed the smell of wild onion in that wet grass is beside the track and lightning and enlivening in my body. It’s work that’s exciting for me.

I begin to take these notes he is a voice to text is an effort to check in with myself and to note how I was feeling and what I was thinking about going to figure out the possible connections between those things what I was thinking about and how it was feeling. Just the act of paying attention seems to help me to better regulate my mood and experiences of reality.

7:38

She runs slowly around the track not even running at all really. Every so often the flash of her shoulder and her peripheral vision makes her startled like someone is running up behind her that she had not heard. She notices the clouds, like the inside of a pillow today piled like that soft like that with, darker shadows giving texture to the loft.

There is a sweetness in the air that she only notices if she pays attention. The smell of new green and grass is already gone to seed hundreds of timelines unfolding the earth around her in orchestra that isn’t heard unless you pay very close attention unfolding of life to slow build of insects calling out to mate, to live, to move towards the hot days at the end of the season when they were slowly thrown out the final hours of their lives without even knowing, the lease not in a way that we know, that they are dying. She has an inhabited much poetry. Remind his friends working in ways that are concrete and precise. Designed to make sense to those who were moving about in the material world designed to be Consumable and desirable products. Deliverables. It’s a different sort of mind state in the mind state that elicits poetry that brings forth the details and subtleties have since association and impression. It’s not conducive to poetry to be working on budgets. Unless she can come up with a poem about how it How it feels in her body and then the specific firing of her synopsis to be filling in numbers, column throws, doing math that is intended to quantify and represent some reality in the world of objects and movement. As she speaking these words, she thinks about the look of a spreadsheet and how that look is replicated in the feeling in her body. Flat, Grid lines. Cells that look like boxes. She hasn’t seen the ocean for the past couple of years that her friend is quick to remind her that she saw the golf of Mexico in January 2019 for a few days on a brief trip. She doesn’t know how to be in Fattic in a way that will help him to understand the significance that for the first time in her for decades of living she has gone a year without seeing either The Atlantic or the Pacific ocean. Not the Gulf of Mexico. The ocean the big expanse of water on either side of this country that she lives in. That, the fact that she has not seen the ocean in over two years, is significant to her. She will need to do something about that soon. She is running around the track, running very slowly. It’s not even running, it’s the shuffling gait of the aged and And firm. Her knees are sore and her ankle hurts there may be a foot behind the knuckle of her right big that is fractured from her kicking the cabinet a week and a half ago when she was frustrated, the day before she declared that she would not get angry again in the ways that she had been getting angry which were like the ways that she used to get angry when she was younger and frustrated and felt there was no voice and her and no place that she could speak herself safely. She doesn’t mind that she’s running slowly, and she is shuffling. It is better than no movement and it is easy to speak if she moves slowly. She is not doing this shambling run for the sake of trying to be any sort of athlete. She is trying to stay sane, and thus, stay alive. It helps her to feel calm and strong in her body even ifShe runs slowly. She’s noticing that the sun has risen behind the clouds to the east end that polarized saving diffuse rays are pushing their way out from behind the clouds in Erie silver blue light golden edges.

She likes it she is able to move her body around in these circles and speak whatever comes on without worrying over his brilliance or relevance. Lately she has thought about how her social spaces she has become a witness, and observer, not a participant. She spoke about this yesterday, walking with her friend. Saying, I need to start speaking again, I need to start participating, not just as a listenerOr an observer but as someone who offered something of her self into the conversation or exchange. She has become careful these past couple of seasons through the long and difficult winter watching her words not feeling sure of herself a clanging damp depression stimulating doubts and second guesses for value, the value of what she might contribute. The winter has been very difficult, and she’s Struggled some with not exactly wanting to live in the way that she felt the blaring of hostile thoughts and impressions in her mind frequency. She’s not suicidal in the winter, not in the sense that she was seriously considering ending her life. She would not do that that would not be an action that she would take. However, she had the feelings and the thoughts of suicideAnd she spent a great deal of time trying to cope with those experiences of feeling suicidal even though she didn’t want to die, even though she wanted to live. The other day after she gets in the man on the bridge holding himself who are the railing and the physician the suggested but he would jump, all he had to do was looking forward to that girl. That was all he had to do. I made a commitment to herself that she would get over her fears and insecurities and she will begin to say things about living and dying, and what she had learned about living and dying. So far, she hasn’t said much, in saying something now that she’s running slightly around the track, she is holding herself accountable. So much of her writing and her notetaking was an accountability practice, And exercise so that she would not forget what was important to her what inspired her motivated her crucial to her survival and central to her experience of being. Sometime over the next few days, she has decided she will go through and find all of the messages that she sent to her self over the past several months and she will put together a post. She may not edit these messages that she is writing to her self using voice to text. Because there’s something kind of artful in the imperfectionOf what we try to say oh you’re speaking out loud to ourselves.

05/06 8:23 am

I’m on my way home now after running for about an hour or so… I worked on two different grants for community peer support projects… And that was good… Because I woke up again this morning overwhelmed and feeling like too much to do. And because I had things to do I was experiencing the resistance and hesitation around the things that I needed to do. This created stress response So, my solution was to get some work done on the things that I was supposed to do… And I was able to do that while I was running… Which was a really good thing. It’s nice to be able to run really really slowly and have a focus of mine. I got one of the grant narratives almost completely finished, which is amazing. And I feel much more ready for the day. So, that’s a good thing to know… That the solution feeling overwhelmed I have a few minute things to do is, sometimes, to a watch the way I’m thinking about the things that I have to do and make sure I’m not thinking about the things I have to do it’s more stress and be to just get some work done on the things I have to do because then I have less to do and feel less stressed. It worked out really well to do some work while I was running this morning. And reminded me of the ways that I would go to the Y and at the bike while I was doing some work. I think the movement It’s good for my focus.

 

05/09/2020

 

So, how does a person figure out what their gifts are?

During times that I have really been struggling to live, the idea that I might have gifts and strengths seemed pretty foreign to me since the space I am inhabiting whenever I’m having a hard time feeling enthusiastic about the prospect of continuing to live tends to shape my perception of myself and my self-worth through a lens of deficits.

That’s part of the narrative of my personal struggles with wanting to live – it’s a narrative of deficits.

That’s part of my experience of suicidality and part of how I know (when I am well) that the state of suicidality is a liar.

When I am well, I know that I have value and worth. I know that I have gifts and strengths.

However, states of suicidality obscure those truths and so when I’m struggling in that way it’s hard for me to think about what my gifts are. Sometimes, it seems like if I try to think about positive things about myself or my potential to have a good life there can be a really vicious internal voice that comes up in a backlash against the truth of my worth and potential, the truth of my gifts and strengths.

For me, a lot of what I experience during times of suicidality is rooted in compound psychological and relational trauma and is the echo and amplification of all the terrible things that people (who themselves were wounded and hurting) have said to me about who I am and what I’m worth.

That’s a part of it, anyway…

So, how does a person identify potential strengths when they’re in the midst of struggling to stay alive?

I don’t have a real solid answer for that.

For me, it’s been good to try to have a short list of things that when I am well I understand are true about myself, and a few reminders of concrete times that my strengths have shown up or that I have felt strong and happy in myself. If there is a memory or a moment or a song or a saying that helps you to connect with the part of you that is strong and hopeful and happy to be alive you can use that to help to tether to the part of yourself that wants to live.

 

(Note: If you feel sad or upset about feeling like you want to die, that’s a clue that a part of you wants to live.)

When I’m struggling with wanting to stay alive, it can be really painful to think about some of these things because sometimes trying to tell myself good things about myself makes that same internal backlash voice that says “that’s not true. that’s not true…not worth anything and your life is shit” come up in me, and that can be really painful and confusing and frustrating.

So, sometimes it’s better for me to not try to think about gifts and strengths and things I hope for when I’m really really struggling, because it can be painful and provoking of additional harsh self criticism and self-worth second-guessing.

For me, it works better to wait for a day or a moment that I feel more neutral or even good…

Even if I am really really struggling, there are still days or at least moments within days that I feel halfway OK, where there is a little respite from suffering, a small shred of ease or hope.

For me, it works better I think about strengths and gifts when I am feeling either neutral or good.

A big part of my personal path to a life that most days I am really happy to be alive in has been to learn to pay attention to the things that make me feel good about myself in a way that is deep and authentic – not good about myself because I am showing up how other people want me to show up or doing things that make other people happy, but good about myself for me and in me…

Those times when I am feeling strong and at ease in who I am are clues to my strengths and some of the things that might be my gifts – when I feel happy and at ease in being who I am and doing what I’m doing.

 

05/21/2020

This afternoon, I found myself saying that it is important to me to ‘do the work that is mine to do,’ and that it is important to ‘do work that aligns with my values’ – and both those things are totally true, but – wow – what a privilege it is to get to *choose* the work I do and to get to do work that actually matters to me, when a lot of people have to just work any job they can get.

The work that matters to me has everything to do with doing my little part to help create a world where everyone gets to do the work that is theirs to do – the work that uplifts their strengths and gifts and affirms their passions, the work that they are divinely inspired to do – not because it earns them a lot of money (though I wish that every person was paid supremely for the work of their hearts), but because their spirit sings when they are doing the work that is theirs to do.

I am not lucky that I don’t have to work some crummy job that I can’t stand and that does not benefit at all beyond providing a paycheck that is never enough. I am privileged to be able to choose the work that I do and to do work that means something to me. That shouldn’t be a privilege. That should be a Human right, extended to all people.

She sitting in her kitchen you Apple cider vinegar and where they were here I’ll be

Well that was silly she has been speaking for at least a few minutes about cutting up kale in the smaller pieces so that she could soak it briefly and apple cider vinegar to soften it enough to eat raw it’s part of us it’s part of the slaw that she’s discovered that she enjoys a great deal she mentioned that she had contacted a friend of her spontaneously usually she doesn’t call people spontaneously usually she puts off calling them if she contacts them at all or she calls them on a schedule resist and apprehend the the timer call She standing in her kitchen cutting calendar smaller pieces so that she can soak in an apple cider vinegar and she thought for a minute after she called her friend that it was 106° where they were which is out in the desert and she had mentioned that here it was cold in the high 30s this morning and it reminded her of the Pacific Northwest or sometimes the day would be quite cold if it was supposed to be she’s noticed that she’s noticed that lately she is head and that this may not actually be a healthy thing track instead she worked on document To help you keep track of grant funding that they are organization so that the organization actually do the work for the most part she doesn’t always always know if organization

May 10 7:40a

She’s running around the track, your energy is low today… In the morning it’s cold and bright, too cold for me but with the look of string with the early sunrise blue sky green during warm spell several weeks ago… It’s Mother’s Day, but it may be any other day. She does not do the breakfast in bed, and her children teenagers now can’t to forget that there Is the significance in her being their mother. She woke up early despite the fact that it is Sunday and despite the fact that it’s Mother’s DayBecause you had work that had rolled from the week prior into the weekend. It wasn’t unpleasant, simple really but still I think that she needed to do attend to. I think that made the day play entirely hers. It’s been difficult for her to get psychological space recently, the sense of an open it’s self directed mine. The impression of having too much to do but she spoke about last week hasRight on, regardless of the fact that she has insight into the phenomenon in which her feeling like she has too much to do tends to make her feel like she has too much to do. Walking through the woods day before yesterday before the rains came she said that anything on her schedule tends to represent it self with an out her portion magnitude, meaning the things in her mind it’s a bigger more complicated than they actually are in this understandably create a stress response She has a lot of altered and her practice of making notes to her self, noticing her thoughts and the way that she feels in her body. She may have even missed a couple of days entirely. She doesn’t know. She learned that she is able to work on documents as she runs because she runs to slowly and so she has been staying on the clock while she goes to the track is working on documents as she moves around and around. Today, she is going to make an effort to pay attention becauseEven though she tries to remember and to keep close to her who she is and the things that are important for her to do they get washed over and I’m scared for the demands of the day and the task that other people desire of her. Somehow, taking a few minutes to talk to her self either in this way speaking into my phone and she runs around the track who is writing helps her to connect with you she is it was important to her. She spends a lot of her time thanking about art projectsHand writing projects that she’d like to be doing but she doesn’t speak about these things anymore if she doesn’t make notes about these things anymore and so they are a little further from being real just thoughts, daydreams only. One thing that she thought about yesterday and she was running around the track and not working on a document and not taking notes but just running around and with a little tiny bit of psychological space was the idea of being a secret genius. Actually she thought about the phrase secret genius as a possible name for a small limited consultancy Business that she could conceivably start with a focus on nonprofit and community initiative organizational development and project design and grant writing. The idea of the secret genius is that she really actually is a genius, at least in some areas measurably and documented as being such. However she cannot say this thing about herself that she is a genius in some areas because this is noxious and offputting to people because she lives in a countryWhich values and is friendly towards the stupid end which scorned intelligence if it is forthright. However, she continually finds herself in these positions with her intelligence is leveraged and utilized to the point of always being exploited and yet she is not recognized or knowledge for being intelligent Nora she recognized for their experiences and do the hard work they have led to her intelligence she is an expert but experience in many ways… And yet she finds her self in these rules for people want to use her expertise and use her intelligence in these limited ways and then adds her out of other conversations and exclude her from other processes. That is fucking obnoxious. It’s stupid that she settles for such work, win and she has been saying for years and years she could make her own work and probably be more successfulAny more satisfied. Anyway she doesn’t really want to think about any of that right now because aside from those aspects of her life she is a body running in the morning with the cold air I guess her face and a vague collection of memories of the person the animal that she was before she entered into the world of commerce and value social capital need to make one’s way. In reality she wants very much to have nothing to do with any of that… She doesn’t really care about it… And she wants mostly to be able to look at two different ways but the light is held in grasses all the different modes of green. She wants to be able to spend the day outside not under fluorescent lights she wants to be able to laugh… And to be light in her being she has gotten very very serious over the past year or so and this is in part because Of the amount of concern that she has for the world. Over the past couple of years the climate emergency that she has frightened about since she was a child has become dire. And let’s search capitalism has become a rabbit force of busyness and distraction driving tire country into a state of frozen and panic collective trauma. And she sees this things the evidence of the brief segments of news that she may catch the front page of the paper as she exits the supermarket, And she feels as she’s help her years a great sense of urgency in the sense that she needs to do something. It is not going to help the world if she is only spending her time walking is relaxing and watching the grass grow. Even though that’s all she really wants to do. That’s not true, she wants to save the world she wants to help to save the world

May 10 6:27pm

She’s walking around the neighborhood looking over the little bottoms between Gaston and talk to her we’re drainage stream runs through and their rounds of kudzu from years past tall trees it’s a little green area in the middle of the neighborhood… The day has been good, and this morning when she ran around the track feels like a very long time ago She wrote out to the edge of the county with your daughter… Said hello to our mother had a work meeting is due tomorrow… Came home played still for period of time and then went out to walk… And then came home it’s pouring herLet’s talk at what she did when she did it she gets tired by the end of the day and doesn’t want to do anything much other then.

Sent have any amazing thoughts as the day wore on the way today is due.

May 11 7:25am

It’s a little warmer than it has been in the morning sweat under her jacket, finally mid-May. She’s running around the track gotten up early and done some work on a project that she is doing to outreach recovery resources under resourced areas. But she has realized the past several days is that people are not nearly as text inclined as she is. We’re not nearly as delightedTo see who all of words how she is she’s going to have to figure out other ways to communicate with people if she is going to do this project well and had a way that reaches people. She feels good this morning fairly clear in her head and it is in her body although she wore her old worn out shoes to the track by accident and she can feel that the impact is rattling her bones and she knows that you’ll probably be sore later on today.

[Inaccurate partial family history deleted.]

There’s so many things that she wants to say something about. So many things that she wants to do something about. It’s overwhelming to her and so she says nothing it does nothing.

May 13 7:40 am

Sometimes the clouds look like whales and  remind her that we’re not very far there is a deep called ocean with great bodies moving through water.

 

June 23

glabrous shine dark red

to black, a critical mass

sweetness building slowBeautiful people

all over the world, living

sad lives, scenic places

a chart, scatterplot

would show no going back now

too much ripe, ready

what is it to live

the last summer of one’s life?

…asking for a friend.

Next year’s cane reach bold

soft green, fleshy thorn, straight tall

not knowing, they’ll wait

Someone fired shots

into the crowd, a party

four lives are gone now

Last week, a surprise

to find the dark half globe hid

among the blood red

Now, everywhere

more than ever, dominant

look…then they are gone.

 

It’s not surprising, really, that I would feel unenthused in the morning. My mother has cancer. My job feels empty. I have taken the same walk almost everyday since mid-March.

I noticed that the wild black raspberries were ripening at an increased rate, the early ripening fruits having been sparse surprises last week and the week before. There will be a brief abundance and then the stragglers will have their short span of days, and then the fruit will be gone for this year. I’m sure it is a bell curve – the distribution of ripening.

Then I thought of the word glaucus, trying to remember the word glabrous.

 

DRAFTS without Recipients

 

02/12/2020

 

She sat on the porch with a clipboard, filling out the form. The form was supposed to have been filled out the week before, at the beginning of the class. She forgot to, sitting in the group of people and listening close to what was said.

What is a punitive justice system?

What did she know about restorative circles?

She had never heard of a restorative circle before.

She wanted to tell her story, felt this rise up in her, honest, the desire to say to this room of people the words that would spell a story, that would put them there, and put there in them. To show them who she was, because – increasingly – it felt strange to sit in rooms with people, being a tall lady with glasses, a funny way of sitting, a voice that speaks too loudly or too softly, a voice that shakes. None of these people knew who she was, and she did not know who they were. Names and bodies, scraps of undetailed lives offered up in the go-around at the beginning of the weekly class.

She could make a list of the week’s work, the week’s ideas. The way that she would name these things, if she were to try to tell a person about them, about the way they slipped from one thing to another, bright catches and a span of a day here, a few days there, the tumble into a slipping stream of work half-done, tasks forgotten. This was the way she did things now, imprecise and impulsive, drifting at whim or distraction. She told herself that she was in flow, but sometimes it felt a little like her mind might be going.

She didn’t care what she thought about restorative justice. The only thing that was important about her ideas was the urgency in her around the word ‘restore.’ The way it spurred a flood of stammered statements, a give-it-back desperation, a muttering about humanity.

02/27/2020

The problem with doing brain work for wages is that it takes up a lot of my head space and orients my cognitive functions and purpose toward the needs and tasks of the organization I work for. When I worked direct service, my headspace was glutted by work – but, I got to the point that I could leave work at work and shift into thinking/feeling about the things that I might a) personally choose to think about and feel out of my own self-directed interests and motivations or b) what might arise from my consciousness through open contemplation

Doing brain work for wages has led to what might best be described as a co-opting of my mental energies to serve the purposes of entities external to me, and it feels like colonization of my head when I can’t maintain mental boundaries.

This is seriously affecting my mental health.

03/01/2020

The girl grew up in a house without butter, knew only the shallow plastic dish of Fleischmann’s, bullets of corn shapes ringing round, the snap of lid and chick colored oil that rumpled and folded like damp sand under the pressure of the knife edge – and Crisco, a similarly snapping lid on a dissimilar container, a cylinder of cardboard that would seem to keep nothing fresh, but with a papery foil interior that somehow suggested freshness. Sometimes, she ate margarine, for the oily salt taste of light yellow and sometimes – but not often – she snuck a half spoon of shortening, for the slick, fatty taste of nothing at all.

There was butter at her great-grandmother’s house, sagging-edged slab on a cut crystal dish shaped like a casket on the dark wood ovoid table that silently rested under the tiered chandelier that once a year was deconstructed and cleaned by the black hands of the women who worked for her great-grandmother, the crystal beaded strands dipped in vinegar water and wiped clean with paper towels that formed a damp crumple at the head of the table where her grandmother sat, wearing yellow gloves and fussing with the clear glass teardrops like they hadn’t been cleaned clean enough.

The table was too big for their family, and except for the day that the chandelier was cleaned, hardly anybody sat at it except for the three days their family suddenly expanded to include two pale-skinned cousins and an aunt and uncle from south of Atlanta who they only saw on those three days – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter – when the butter from the previous holiday was set out once again, the stick slowly diminishing as the year wore on.

03/08/2020

surely as anything

the gleam of West waning sun

on tender needle swaying green

gleaming unseen save for their gaze

silent walking

(because what is there to say

after all, after she said

that her anger, her grief

her dumb opinions and analyses

mean nothing, are worthless)

 

young branches quietly illumined

at the end of the day

before time will leap forward

set the rising sun back

more grand than the overwrought courts

the 16th century

 

(whatever that was)

 

cryptic verse

persistent seduction

making women magic

not for birth or basket weaving

for warrior’ing or ululation

for rising bread

the alchemy of prayer and tincture

but, for the desire of men

 

(Romantic poems don’t move her anymore. Not like young trees do, anyway.)

 

03/11/2020

And she drove back from the conference, back to the mountains, she reflected on the experience of her heart beating so fast that it was difficult to breathe. Scary, she had explained, to speak in front of people. And it occurred to her that it was more scary to speak in front of people when she was really being herself, when she was really there.

03/13/2020

She keeps waiting for the unifying phrase, the sentence that will form the guts of the paragraph that will – finally – hold the whole thing together, that will form the fibers that connect one segment to another, that will allow – finally – all of these disparate parts to cohere.

She doesn’t want journal anymore, to keep a record of what is happening in her days, in the world, and how she feels about it. Yesterday, walking in the forest, her friend remarked that it was a quiet walk and then – a few minutes later – asked if she’d had any thoughts or ideas that day.

“I don’t feel like talking.”

She was unapologetic, looking at the buff and soft glowing gold-white dancing forms that beech trees make with their winter-dead leaves, studying the ways that dead fall dissolved, crumbled, eroded back into the forest floor, wood becoming dust. “Sure, I had thoughts and ideas, a couple, and there were a few synchronicities, but I don’t feel like talking. I am trying – “ She paused, briefly thinking and considering the irony of talking about not feeling like talking. “To de-center myself, to keep my attention on what’s outside of me, this place that is not about humans and what we think.”

Her words, her voice, felt invasive of the air around her head. “I don’t think that my thoughts are very interesting, and – sure – I could make them entertaining for someone else, but I don’t really feel like doing that.”

More and more, she liked to be quiet.

Yesterday, she noticed a tufted titmouse in the trees in the woods beside the forest service road, and – a little further down the road – a nuthatch. She never would have seen them if she’d been talking.

An interesting thing happened as she walked down the little trail that cut diagonally between one forest service road and another, the little trail with all the beech flats. She became aware, as she walked, that she wanted to walk off the trail, and to go to a stand of trees that she saw in the thin woods. It was not a strong wanting. It was a quiet wanting, a whisper wanting. Barely noticeable. “I want to walk over there,” she told her friend and – of course – he said that she ought to, if she wanted to. She didn’t expect to find anything, just a small clearing between sourwood and beech, pine. The small metal tag in the bark of the sourwood was the size of her thumbnail, aluminum and stamped with the number 3. The bark had grown tight around it, so that it wouldn’t move, could not be pulled out. It had been there a long time, the tag. She could bend it up and down, but not side to side. She didn’t want to break it. She wanted to pull it out, but would need pliers to do that – something she could hold tightly with, something that would let her pull hard. She had no tools and so she left it alone, but noticed that she had seen it, and noticed that she had seemed to walk right to it.

She looked around and wanted – without really wanting – to walk slightly Southwest, where she found an upturned aluminum can, that may have held Vienna sausage a long time ago, with the bottom pushed and rounded out, and small scratches all around it. The can was tucked into the base of a tree, and she picked it up, looked at it, and set it back down. “I’m finding all the metal,” she said, wondering about why she seemed to walk where things had been left by people.

03/15/2020

This morning, I woke up with the feeling of poetry in me, tenuous and slippery, grass in flowing water, the idea of a poem that had come in the night that – in the daylight – wasn’t a poem at all, but just a feeling, a few images of people and streets, sunlight golden and warm like in the morning. The glow of moss on stone. Not really a poem at all, just the feeling of a poem that came to her in the middle of the night.

She was grateful for the idea that she might still be able to write a poem.

Woke up and thought maybe she would be able say something beautiful, considered the possible way forward from the silencing winter.

She didn’t know how to begin moving forward. Felt strongly that there was something she might need to make note of or to reflect on in regard to the silencing winter.

There was no flow in her writing this morning, and she had to be okay with that.

There was a woman hanging out on the porch of the sober living house next door that had a laugh like a jack hammer.

Two days prior, she and her friend had been visited by what may have been a minor demon or catalytic purveyor of chaos inhabiting the form of a man driving a bullet-grey pickup. He stopped the truck right in the middle of the street coming off of the interstate called over the wood rail fence to where they walked in the park at the edge of the softball field. The day had cleared up some, flat grey giving way to partly cloudy, surprising pale blue and a gold afternoon light that surely meant that everything would be okay. “Hey,” the man called, leaning across to the open passenger window, “I need directions. I’m trying to get to Asheville.”

“Well, you’re in Asheville right now.” She told him. “Where are you trying to go?”

She and her friend had been walking back from the end of the greenway, where they had stopped by a bench to make an offering in the form of a mud-crusted baby food jar her friend had pulled from the bank, that they’d held together – her with her left hand, him with his right hand – putting their intentions and goodwill and energy into the grubby little jar. She’d held it until she could feel her hand begin to tingle and until the only thing in her mind was the desire to be able to help the forests and to help the people, to be able to write, to find help to be able to speak. “There,” her friend said, “now throw it in the water.” She wanted to throw it far out into the middle of the river, but when she threw it her arm bucked oddly, and she threw like a little girl, releasing the jar too late, so that it shot into the water right in front of her at a hard, frustrated angle.

She felt like she’d made a terrible error, had ruined her chance. Had messed up. Tears stung her eyes. “Maybe we’ll try again next year.”

Her friend looked at her, incredulous. “Are you being serious right now?”

She nodded, feeling embarrassed over her impotent throw. She’d wanted to throw the jar far out into the water, confident and powerful, to sink it surely into the deepest waters, but she’d fucked it up.

“Don’t you get that you’re missing the point? Listen to me. It doesn’t matter. Your throw was perfect. All of this is perfect. It doesn’t matter how you wanted to throw the jar. The jar doesn’t even matter. The point is that you tried and what came out was what came out.”

She felt crumpled and confused, because somehow she had messed up messing up. Not only had she messed up, she felt bad about messing up, and that was – itself – messing up. She felt too foolish to even exist. She knew she was missing the point.

They reached the end of the greenway path and her friend was still going on about how she was missing the point, and about how her trying to do anything was going to thwart her in her doing of anything.

“Can we walk back yet?” She was standing with her arms crossed and looking flat-eyed out at the river, her face held in stony neutrality, the posture and countenance of someone who wanted to disappear.

“No.” Her friend was sitting at the concrete picnic table, benches made miniature by the burying mud that build up the ground to be higher than it was when the bench was installed. “This is important and I don’t think you’re hearing me.”

She moved to stand slightly closer to where her friend was sitting and noticed that someone had written the name “Lauren” inside a heart on the stump of a tree. People wrote things on trees in the park, and she didn’t understand why. The name made her think of her friend who died, who tried to kill herself and then called for help, but called too late and died anyway. Her friend who died would want her to try, and she felt a small motivation rise in her.

03/18/2020

Someone said today, that it would be important to get a paper notebook and to write down what it’s like to be living in the end times. This isn’t what they said, of course. They said that we should take notes about what it’s like to be in the pandemic era, the COVID-19 era, where everything is closing down and the streets are as quiet as Christmas. The children’s school has closed down – like all the other schools in the state – and the YWCA closed on Tuesday, after the YMCA shifted the purpose of its facilities to providing emergency resource support and food delivery to vulnerable people.

I’ve been working from home all week. Making lists of online resources and sending out newsletters, scheduling zoom meetings. It’s not work that I love – the computer work, the document work. At least they closed the syringe services program at the health department. I was scheduled to work there this afternoon, but they finally got around to issuing the order to close the harm reduction clinic because it didn’t make sense for people with compromised immune systems and fragile lives to be going into the basement of the health department where the emergency services clinic was located just to get their needles.

Before I went to work this morning I went for two walks, one by the river with my friend in the early morning fog and one across the river with my daughter.

My daughter and I were going to feed the cats over the by the bridge. She is fifteen, and in some ways is very mature and in other ways is still very much like a kid. She is mature because she wears clothes that are too tight for her and has mascara under her eyes and she is like a kid because she still wants to go feed the stray cats. It turned out to be a waste of time, the feeding of the cats, because there was only two and they had already been fed, cheap cat food set into a paper bowl by the side of a dirt access road that led to under the bridge, red clay muddy ground, scrubby honeysuckle and catalpa growing up the hillside, last year’s kudzu vines grey and messy looking on the land sloping down from the highway. There were crumpled paper bowls all along the access road, and only two black cats. Both of them ran away as soon as my daughter and I walked up the road. We poured some of our expensive cat food on top of the cheap cat food, and walked up the road to under the bridge where random garbage was pressed into the dirt, and a camp was set up a little bit off into the woods.

We walked back down to the road and made our way across the bridge and up the hill to the shopping center where the cafe was closed, and

Today there was a young person of color walking beside the busy street leading up into north Asheville. A man. A young black man. He was leaning over and rapping his knuckles on the windows of cars, walking aggressive, carrying a small cardboard sign that said homeless and diseased, all block letters. Mighta just been fucking with people.

03/20/2020

(In the morning)

Lately,

there is something fleshy

in the early light sky,

colors like muscle fiber

pulpy and bleeding before the day settles into the grey it’s been leaning toward,

Lately.

the mockingbird has been noisy

at 3:00am almost every night this week

singing an alarm,

proclamation songs in the star magnolia outside the window

and so I’ve been starting out tired,

but somehow buoyed

by the secrets sung into the dark

Why does the mockingbird go on like that? Is it an idea that the bird has, a desire? Or is it just impulse, to open the beak and sing in the middle of the night?

It’s been almost a week since the schools closed, and we still have two gallons of milk unopened in the refrigerator, which is still keeping the food cold, bulb still springing on when we open the door. Some things we can still rely on.

I have forgotten about writing a book. It seems dumb now. An idea from another time, from when I was another person living in another world.

I went for a walk in the thin woods up by the river north of here and had to admit that I like walking alone, that I feel happy and relaxed, wholly untroubled, when I am walking alone. It’s easy for me to be socially distant. Social distancing is my norm, my comfort zone. I don’t get lonely when I’m not around people. I feel relieved, to be honest.

The other day, walking with a friend in the park before the restaurants and bars were ordered to close, we ran into people my friend knows and I wondered if they thought I was strange. Tall lady, older, hair too long and visible tattoos. I didn’t care if they thought I was strange, but I wondered if they did.

“People, ya know, they see us in these partial ways, these constructions based on what they observe and their assumptions about what their observations might mean.”

I am always a little curious about who I am to people, about what I seem like.

03/29/2020

The planets shifted as planets do. Moving into a different alignment with one another, edging and urging new ways.

There is something missing in me, something gone silent. I am consciously aware that I should have a lot to say, a lot to reflect on and think about. Many opinions and perspectives. The world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down so much that seemed impossible to shut down, seemed like it would go on and on.

There is nothing that I might say that any person could not say. I guess I could talk about my experience – but I don’t even care about it anymore. It’s not that interesting. I am a person. I have thoughts and feelings. I notice things. I have desires and aversions.

It’s just not that interesting to me anymore.

The weather report suggests that it’s time

in the broad forecast of things

to consider the open road

at least that is what happens in a dream

where people wouldn’t shut up

about Whitman

and what does it matter anyway?

Ain’t no one going anywhere for a good long while, whether they desire to or not.

03/31/2020

The raccoon ran toward the fence like a dog, climbed fast and looked down at us with something begging

pleading

a worried starving look

04/01/2020

It’s always some ruined city, some flooded place. Rickety bridges and roiling water swirling around. Buildings that were the shells of buildings. Light coming in through the spaces that used to hold windows.

Even though it is almost April, it’s been raining and cold for most of the day, and she is sitting in front of the fire, wondering what to do next. She had a moment of remembering scenes from all her lucid dreams about ruined, washed out places.

04/08/2020

I am very sorry that people taught me that use and it be with me if it is easy convenient or economically beneficial to them… Those lessons impact how they perceive and pay attention to things with in this relationship… I really don’t want to believe that you I like that and I know you’re not… And I know that you love me… It’s just hard if something triggers that feeling of being taken advantage of… It’s probably good, actually, that I get angry and I don’t want people to take advantage of me… But I’m sorry that shows up in ugly ways

04/12/2020

She wakes up when the morning still seems more like night, dark and still save for the few ambitious birds that begin to sing long before the sun rises. The aim is to get work done early – before anybody else is awake, while the house is still quite and there isn’t much happening in her head yet. She doesn’t bother with coffee, takes a caffeine pill instead and turns on the computer, gives her attention over to whatever task has been given to her by the organization she works for.

She has all but stopped writing, and her humor is almost totally dead. It doesn’t really matter.

She doesn’t care anymore about saving the world or saying anything beautiful. She used to think that was tragic, the death of her art and creativity, but she doesn’t much care anymore.

She might have to start over entirely.

This tells her that she cares a little bit, that she would write this about starting over. If she really didn’t care, what would it matter to her, why would she start over?

Her friend is always asking what she is thinking about, and she usually says nothing, but a lot of what she is thinking about is writing or art projects. She thinks about how she could try – if she cannot write an essay – to write a poem, and she watches the wind in the tops of the trees out the window as the day becomes stubbornly lit and listens to the sound of very few cars driving by, and thinks there must be a poem in that, the way the mornings are so quiet now that the world is staying at home because of the virus. She should have a lot to say about the whole situation of the virus. It has changed everything.

She cannot shake the idea that she must have a curse, or maybe brain damage or something because where in the fuck is her voice? Where are her ideas?

What happened?!

Is it possible that the simple fact of her being in a partnered relationship and having a job to earn wages has undermined her capacity for art making and word saying?

Really?!

She doesn’t want to think that her relationship has taken away her voice, but if she looks at the concrete information available to her, there is a definite correlation between the relationship and the saying less.

Interesting that as she was beginning the relationship, she was in a period of time in which she was strongly re-determined to make a book. There was a lot of power and a lot of magic feeling in that time a couple of years ago.

God, she is so not into her voice lately. It’s the most boring thing ever. Her Broca’s Area is a motherfucking wasteland.

This – she understands – is a waste of her time. Maybe she should sign on to working for the day, and at least be earning some money or take a walk, and at least be getting exercise. This that she is doing is a waste of her fucking time and that makes her angry, because it used to be a joy – the writing. It used to be a place for her. Now it is not a place for her. Now it is just something that makes her feel dumb and like she is wasting her time, and that makes her angry. She is so angry. She doesn’t want to be angry.

She cannot begin to associate writing with being sad and angry. It was the most important thing to her. Maybe that was the mistake. She just wants to be able to feel poetry again. She wants to be able to feel alive in her mind again.

This is such rubbish – this that is at the forefront of her mind, this messaging about how she has nothing to say. If she just wrote down what she spent her time doing, what she was inspired about, she would have plenty to say. A lot of her life happens in secret, in the secret of her own thinking, which is a murk most days.

She walks down the hill, feeling the soreness of her feet, her knees, her hips. Since everything closed, she has been walking at least 10 miles a day. Something happened when she began to do this thing, this walking. She wants to walk more and more, even though her knees are sore, her feet are sore. It feels good to her now.

Writing used to be a bright and bounding thing. She feels like a stroke victim learning to speak again. The words slow and uncertain, pushing to find their form.

This is what happens with any practice if a person falters in their regular doing of the thing. Their ability atrophies. Gets rusty. Gums up.

There are walls in this neighborhood that are painted the color of unripe papaya.

The rain stopped in the middle of the night, but the water is still running down the street in streams reflecting the blue sky, bright white clouds. Bluebird day, is what they’d say, old country people reflecting on the way a storm comes and then goes.

04/14/2020

She is speaking as she’s walking over the bridge over the river rather cross the bridge and your chest feeling great happiness, something like sadness… Earlier in the day staring at the computer screen a little bricks in the face is smiling in this week she found herself saying “maybe I’m not OK… Maybe I shouldn’t feel this numbness, this flatness. Maybe I’m not OK? “

She self excludes… And it makes perfect sense that she does this for all the reasons that the lady on the webinar suck about, the difficulties with other people, the trauma and harm. The self exclusion under minds and stronger than any effort to create community inclusion she self excludes, home… It makes perfect sense that she does she was a child first contact with other children of them laughing at her Every time she spoke because she did not know how to speak in the way that was considered correct. Shouldn’t know this about yourself, that she did not know how to speak. She learned this about herself when, every time she spoke, the other children laughter. The person not to be her friend, but who is quickly becoming like all of the other people that she’s talk to me Dash someone who she doesn’t feel safe around, someone that she feels guarded around, hesitant around Dash Says that she needs to drop this victim shit. And she understands psychologically but that is true. But the thing is the new matter how much she tries to unbelievable that people are harmful if they will eventually hurt her and betray her like almost every single person she’s ever trusted in her life… Or how hard she tries to unbelievable that, she can’t seem to shake it. Feels peaceful with this reality and only wants to the extent that perhaps your fine self living somewhere out in the woodsLike where she began in some sort of cabin or shop or in the bowels of some giant city where she can disappear in the anonymity keep your eyes down spend the entire day just walking around… Truth of the matter is that she really only feels peaceful when she’s by herself, that is the only time she really feels deeply it is… For a period of time she felt that sort of years with the person who is her friend, but then the old ones open back up and she began to Notice the way is her friend so many other people that she has not felt safe around… Feel unsafe. This is really hard for her, recognition of this transition within the friendship from being a relationship with safety and ease – a rare and singular relationship of safety and ease – to being a relationship like so many others in which she feels but she must hide her self so she cannot show herself in the mechanismsThey protect her are so terrifically strong that even if she wanted to speak… Even if you wanted to share her work her ideas her vision and her passion her secret world she could night. Her voice falters her throat closes up your mind goes blank. She doesn’t know what to do about this, but it makes her very sad.

04/16/2020

She has learned that it’s possible to walk around the track and write. Run even. She can type reasonably well if she moves slow enough, and she likes to think that maybe this will be a game-changer for her, a way to re-engage with her voice, so to speak. The only problem is that a lot of what she has to say is dull to her and – she imagines – would be dull to anyone else.

She reminds herself that poetry exists.

Lately, she’s been confronting aspects of her psychology that seem to want to destroy her and she wonders if these parts are all stirred up because something in her knows that it is more important than ever to step up and to speak out.

Over the past couple of days, she has been to a lot meetings. Computer meetings, zoom meetings. Three webinars. One was on community inclusion among people with mental illness. This was the language they used. Mental illness. She spoke up at the end when they asked about topics that would be good for future webinars – “Practical ways to create environments that facilitate inclusion, that take into account things like sensory integration issues or processing differences. I’m a person with lived experience and I self-exclude because a lot of environments and events that most people might think are fun are not accessible to me because of sensory issues and processing issues.”

My voice got tight and my breath closed off when I spoke, because that is what happens when I speak sometimes.

I have shifted over to the I.

“and in the moment that I finally turned, knowing that in the reasonable world I could not stay, could not simply live there beside the tree or curl up and die there beside the tree, and so turned to continue on the walk that I’d been on, I didn’t have any sort of name anymore, and scorned any idea that I might be called by sounds other than the utterance of my beating heart and the small vibrations at the edge of my breath, and there was a weeping desperate keening in me, like something surely that a small child must feel when pulled away from a safe embrace, a howling and kicking sort of sadness, with hot tears and shaking shoulders, not wanting to go, not wanting to go.”

It was kind of like that.

Also, “She saw that it could all be torn away, cut and bulldozed, and that it had been cut before, and she pictured the forest on fire and cried about it burning even though there was no sign that it had burnt recently and she knew that the tree would die, that the forest did not last forever, and felt a huge sadness and fear in her about these things and yet because already she had begun to think again as she moved toward the road she’d been walking on she knew that everything dies and even though she knew that it was not a grown-up or equanimous accepting way to feel, not a mature way to feel, she hated that about the world, that so much that she loves gets taken away or hurt, eventually dies.”

04/18/2020

The periderm is a word

for what we say as bark

which is a single syllable for a billion

cells and bindings,

small exchanges of acid and water,

warming, cooling, slow arc of sun

gather of rain in just the right wind

an empire for ants

and other things we never see

To break a curse of silence

you lay in the bed for hours each morning

before the sun comes up

considering all the words

that you haven’t said,

the way you stopped speaking

almost entirely,

save for words like, “good.”

and “fine” and “yes,”

“no.”

And you feel the weight of all those words

in your blood and how your heart beats more slowly.

04/22/2020

A Brief Essay on the Toxic Culture of Hustle and Urgency within the Nonprofit Human Services Industrial Complex and the Mechanisms by which the Overcompensatory Tendencies among Trauma Survivors and the Well-Intended Motivations to Create Change and Healing within Poorly Designed Systems while Desperately trying to Earn a Fucking Living are Leveraged to Create an Exploited Labor Force of Helpers

05/23/2020

She was born into a world at the edge. A hospital beside a river, a house beside the marsh, outskirts of town at the end of a dirt road. Ocean stretched out beyond the line of horizon, led to the slow-crumbling coasts of lands on the other side of the world, places that were only ideas to her, colored splotches on the curve of a globe, flat shapes on a page, the enormity of the world reduced to glancing scale. “Oh, here is the United States,” smaller than her own hand, “and here,” tracing a journey in a few seconds with the tip of her finger, “here is Lebanon.” She found Germany, and England. Norway. Pivoted her pointer finger from the anchor of her thumb like a compass, connecting the places that had become bound in the chromosomal twining of her DNA – her brown eyes from her mother, her strong jaw and the silky fineness of her hair from her father.

There were no edges – really – though she did not know this when she was young.

When she woke up in the morning, after going to sleep as a strategy to avoid the fact that she did not feel belonging anywhere in her life, with anyone, not for more than a moment, went to sleep to avoid this knowing and dreamt of a huge mountain house left behind and full of lamps, woke up to the same knowing that she felt belonging only with herself and only when alone, she noticed that there were spider webs strung between the power lines, strung with droplets of water and thus visible.

The sun is going down on the day that I found out that my mother has stage 4 ovarian cancer. “I didn’t know that stage 4 just meant that it had spread from the original site. That’s all it means, just that it has spread.”

I was walking down the sidewalk, and the sun was hot. Stage 4 cancer, I thought. She has stage 4 cancer.

She told me that she and my dad had talked about it, the what if’s and the quality of life questions. I told her to get off the phone with me and call the doctor she needed to call about the biopsy appointment that she would have. That came next. The biopsy, and then chemotherapy to “try to shrink it” enough to do surgery.

None of that sounded good to me.

The 5 year survival rate for stage 4 ovarian cancer is 17%, thought outcomes are better for women under age 65. My mom will be 70 this year. 70 is a long life. It is a long, good life. Maybe she’ll survive it all.

I sent her the poem antidote for the fear of death by Elson, in between picking serviceberries and crying hot tears, real tears out in the open by the sidewalk and not caring at all. Not sobbing loud tears, just got tears that slid down my face, thick feeling tears.

She send me a picture of a row between bing red flowers at flying cloud farm where she goes to buy strawberries. “I will try to make informed decisions,” she wrote. I took this to mean that she might choose to forego treatment if that is an option. That she might choose to just let the cancer kill her as slowly or as quickly as it chooses to.

I don’t want my mom to die. This feeling is felt with the same child like intensity that when I was a little kid I did not want my mom to die.

May 29 2:33pm

I guess in the first few days of reckoning with the possibility that someone you love might die, there is a surprising flood of memory and associations – scraps of the substance and details of a person entering into the mind with surprising clarity, distilled.

I had an experience this morning, of realizing that my mom won’t always answer the phone. That a day will come when she doesn’t answer the phone, and I won’t hear her voice anymore. This makes me tremendously sad and I don’t want to be away from my mom at all.

5:20

She is being so cavalier. “Did you know that stage 4 ovarian cancer is one of the things that you can get guaranteed to go into hospice for?” She sounds chipper, like she’s learned a fun new fact about hummingbirds. “Did you know that the smallest mammal is a bat that is the size of a bumblebee?” She finds these facts in the newspaper, because she is still a person who reads the newspaper. She clips articles and puts them on a bulletin board near the laundry room, by the treadmill that nobody uses.

May 30 9:42

I’m sitting at the river park, under a serviceberry tree that I did not know was here. I’d never seen them until this year, and suddenly they are everywhere. I can’t stop finding them. They have become the defining fruit of this late-spring season, the week that I found out that my mother will die. There is a dusky winged woodpecker flying around – three of them actually, two males and one female, the serious business of a competition dance between  the trees.

06/04/2020

I haven’t said anything here about the state-sponsored killing of George Floyd because I realized a while back that even though it feels good (to me) to say how horrified I am at the persistent reality of American white supremacy and everyday racism, getting on FB and saying a bunch of stuff to people who (for the most part) agree with me…well, that really doesn’t do anything other than make me feel like I have proven myself as a conscientious white-identified person…which is gross to me.

While it’s crucially necessary to break the silence about white supremacy and cultures of everyday racism, Faith Rhyne going on and on about how upsetting the reality of American white supremacy is to Faith Rhyne is not actually doing anything other than satisfying my personal ego needs as they relate to my being a person with anti-racist values.

Saying things on FB to people who will mostly agree with me isn’t enough, and I’ve been trying to figure out what is a more substantial way to be an ally.

I write grants for free for POC led organizations to support projects that benefit communities of color and I want to expand that form of allyship.

I have conversations with other white-identified people about race and racism, and I give money to organizations that support liberation of oppressed and marginalized people.

Most recently, I have noticed this big call to action for white people to break the silence about racism and for businesses and organizations to meaningfully address racism.

While it’s great that so many ‘woke’ people and justice organizations are speaking so openly about racism and white responsibility to be in allyship – I’m pretty interested in encouraging ALL people to talk about racism and the ways it shows up in our lives.

June 24

I haven’t written in a while – aside from writing grants for work, and sending emails and putting together presentations. All of my writing energy has gone to those endeavors lately. That is how I get paid to write – haha. Eye roll.

The past several weeks have brought the news of my mother having stage 4 Ovarian cancer that has spread to her colon and liver and possibly other places. At first it was something that she intended to address by “having the bad parts cut out” – that, however, was not an option. Chemotherapy may “slow it down a little.” The doctor has told her that without chemo, she will likely die 3-6 months from now. She is still considering whether she wants to try the chemotherapy – or if she will be simply wasting her last month of feeling relatively well for a few months of brutal sickness before dying anyway. There aren’t a lot of good choices in a situation like this.

Right after I found out, I made a commitment to make notes everyday – but only did that for a couple of days, then stopped – not out of a decision to stop, but because of this strange slipstream of consciousness and activity that has begun to define my experience, where I start out the day and then a million small things happen and I completely forget what I intended to do. The cumulative effect of living this slipstream life for the past six months is that I kinda have lost my footing in who I am. I don’t have much personality to speak of because a lot of the time I am silencing myself to have to show up well, and have been struggling with a lot of unhappiness and frustration, some sullen boredom.

It’s been 90 days since I began working from home and the young people ended their school year. Thank goodness they are not tiny children and I was not trying to keep them entertained and educated while also trying to work from home. It is good that I was able to continue working from home, still earn a wage.

(I feel like I am caught out at sea most of the time, swimming in circles, occasionally being pulled under the waves and fighting my way back to the surface to find the land in sight has disappeared, has moved.)

Lately, I get the distinct impression that I am not needed in the roles I have inhabited and for the work I have been trying to do. Things have not been working out. I’ve been making mistakes, and my schedule is full of misspent energy and wasted time.

In the morning, I wake up and run or walk for a couple of hours, walk more throughout the day…about 10 miles a day.

June 21 – it’s the 2nd day of summer and also Father’s Day. I slept later than usual, and baked the cheese things in the mid-morning – still wearing my pajamas. The cheese things are an adaptation of my great-grandmothers cheese straw recipe, at least that’s how I think of it. In actuality, the cheese things are an adaptation of a New York Times Southern Cheese straw recipe that I found as a clue as to how to possibly make the cheese biscuits that I recall from my childhood – which were an adaptation of southern cheese straws, sliced into thin rounds as an alternative to pressing the thick dough through a cookie press, snaking out the straws. The cheese things are cut thin and flat, formed by chilling a brick of cheese and butter dough until it slices clean edged and holds its shape – a flat water like shape, baked at 375, usually a little burnt at the edges.

June 28

It’s a dingy seeming Sunday evening, Saharan sand muting the air over the mountains and casting a dull glare across the river.

She doesn’t feel like saying anything, doesn’t feel like speaking. She rides silent in the passenger seat, looking at the way they’ve torn up the road for the new greenway, new bike path. Red clay scraped and rutted, waiting for asphalt. In a few months, the job will be finished. Bulldozers moves on, grass seed sprouting, maybe a haze of dust still at the edges of things, a newness in the cuts of the young box elders that crowd in along the place where there wasn’t a road, but now there is.

The sand came all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, a massive storm that gathered itself up in the desert thousands of miles away and carried these particles over the ocean to the mountains here, blunting the view and making the blue of the ridge lines a flat grey.

She doesn’t feel like she wants to say anything or do anything. She doesn’t want to walk the miles today. Doesn’t want to converse.

 Current:

Lately, I have been getting up and running 5-5 miles at the track before my morning walk, so that by 9:45am, I will have 7-8 miles logged. The reason for me doing this is because I have been in the toothy maw of a terrible melancholia for at least the past several months, much much longer. The state crept in over the past few years, difficult days hung on a little longer, intermittent anxieties because blaring and persistent, until over the past few months my experience has come to be dominated by a bitter and sullen dark-minded melancholia. I haven’t laughed much this year. Seriously, maybe 3 or 4 times. I can understand how something might be theoretically humorous – but, I have had no mirth. Yesterday, I lashed out at my best friend – again – and then cried for a lot of the morning, pulling myself together long enough to do a meeting with a community leader in a rural county south of here. I felt completely insane – crumpled up inside and with my eyes still red, and yet talking clearly and articulately about peer support and the potential for a community culture of compassionate support for human struggles. It was a performance, like the majority of my work lately. Showing up and saying the things, feeling wooden inside. Writing the words like a machine. There have been a few projects that I have felt passionate about, times I have been briefly inspired to transform the system. Slow-running around track and working on a Z Smith Reynolds bid in the early morning. 

I have been deeply antagonized by having lost track of what I was planning for my own work – my own writing and art. I painted a picture of a tufted titmouse for my mom, to cheer her up. The little bird looks brave. I started a picture of my oldest child – who will be 18 next month – walking at dusk down a slope at the park, tree silhouettes in dark, without a plan yet for the lightning bugs that may be lit across the fields.

Several times over the years since I have gotten off of psychiatric medication I have considered “getting back on meds.” I usually only think about getting back on meds when I am feeling especially mentally ill – when I can recognize that my thoughts are fucked up and my body feels ill and my nervous system is exploding in tearfulness and fear and rage, then going numb. 

I have no doubt in my mind – even when I recognize that I am not in my right mind – that many of my struggles are rooted in complex trauma interfacing with neurocognitive and emotional processing differences. That is my mental illness. I am a person with measurably significant learning and processing differences that has been through significant injury and loss across multiple life domains. I have disordered sensory integration and am socially atypical in my motivations to be around people and in my low tolerance for social environments. 

I am absolutely able to manage my so-called mental illness if I am able to structure my life to allow me to take care of myself – which means lots of time to decompress after social interactions or time spent in busy, loud places, the freedom to not show up if I need to not show up, and time alone with interaction with other people or sensory stimulation. I need to be outside everyday, and have a hard time tolerating rooms where multiple people are having different conversations because I have auditory processing issues that pull my attention to all the conversations all at once and I can’t understand anything and I quickly become overwhelmed. 

I am absolutely able to manage my so-called mental illness without medication if I am able to take care of myself. 

Here’s the deal: My life is not structured to afford me the time to do what I need to do to not end up frayed and jumping at every sound and numb and angry and crying. That is how I have been for months, most of the time – since last summer at least. 

I don’t have a mental health practitioner because I don’t trust the mental health system and certainly don’t need uninformed and misinformed strangers analyzing and diagnosing me – that’s not safe or remotely helpful for me. 

I have an IQ of 151 and am probably on the autism spectrum in some way or another that was never identified because of the era in which I was born. I have had many deeply meaningful atypical life experiences – like growing up 2 miles back in the woods with a person who was born in another century at the edge of a town that was colonized by the US Navy for the purposes of establishing a submarine base which would become the location of the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in North America. 

I am not going to have a 26 year old who just got out of social worker school tell me that I have bipolar disorder or generalized anxiety. 

I myself, however, know that I have been suffering with states that undermine everything good in my life and that – frankly – are a struggle to live with. My employer provides a ‘health membership’ to a small integrative health practice that is designed to be a resource for uninsured or underinsured people. It is the best medical care I have received in years and years. I actually trust the doctor I see there, and so I talked with her about going back on an antidepressant that I found helpful years ago. She let me make the decision, and didn’t push me at all. Even though I was sobbing and a wreck in her office, practically begging for help. 

She started me at the lowest dose and I took one pill last night. 

This morning I woke up and felt better than I have felt in a long time. 

Many factors contribute to how well a person feels. I ate a healthy dinner last night. My hormones have shifted from the premenstrual dysphoria profile. I have run every day this week. 

I took medication. 

This morning, I noticed something conspicuously different in the way I felt and my perception, the quality of my experience.

It’s entirely possible that what I was feeling was the placebo effect. However, I am not entirely unconvinced that what I was noticing was the presence of serotonin and norepinephrine on their respective receptors. 

There was an absence of anxiety. A feeling of quiet optimism and even gratitude for the morning. I wasn’t jubilant or ecstatic or in an elevated state. I just didn’t feel horrible. 

Recognizing that I didn’t feel horrible was an amazing relief because most mornings this year and a lot of mornings in the latter half of last year I did feel horrible – edgy and uncertain, clang-y and bitter, sullen and a little numb. Angry some days. More sad on others. 

They say that cortisol levels rise in the morning as our bodies prepare to wake. 

It’s Saturday morning now and I am at the track. My vision seems more precise today, like I can really notice the depth and shadows in the full-summer leaves, really are the branches distinct. I have run around the track about ten times and haven’t really thought of much. Just felt my breathing and my muscles, the sweat gathering on my face. It’s humid today, and I like it – the thick silkiness of the air. My body feels good. I am physically healthy. At the doctor the other day, my resting heart rate was 55. I have a blood pressure of 110/70. This is probably because of all the walking and running, the active lifestyle. 

I am so lucky that I don’t have a chronic health condition that impacts the functioning of my heart and muscles. 

Depression makes me sick and miserable – but, I can still make myself run, and that probably helps the depression immensely. Who knows? As bad as it is with me staying active and me using skills and me paying attention to triggers and trying hard to take care of myself – and yet still the depression was tremendously bad, extremely painful and erasing of who I am – well, if I had been using all of those tools and trying so hard to keep it at bay, it may well have killed me, because it seemed to be trying to kill me. 

Anyway, it’s interesting to think about the dogma against medication in the mental health recovery movement and how I myself had inhabited periods of time when I believed that really there is no such thing as a mental illness and the psychiatric industrial complex was just pathologizing normal human distress to create a controlled and profitable populace of miserable people. 

It’s true that the roots of Western psychiatry and conceptions of mental illness reach back to asylums that served the purpose of holding anyone who created any problems within the developing civilizations of Europe.

The next day:

Last night I was walking home from downtown, where I had headed after opting to walk alone, and to miss the river at sundown, to move instead toward the sound and grime of the city’s small center. The sidewalks were torn up and orange plastic fencing cordoned the jack-hammered rubble. Ever since the pandemic started, the city has been tearing up roads and sidewalks, laying down new bricks in a parquet pattern. Perfect angles and spacing, the labor of Mexican men. 

The previously disbanded drum corp from the housing project by the interstate had reformed, and a cluster of aging men stood in a circle in the park notorious for being a place of congregation for those who had no place to go and were intoxicated, needed to lay down or find a little something to help them get through the day. Some parks feel the same no matter what city you’re in and for a moment the place could have been in Portland, could have been in New York. San Francisco. There was a rush and chaos at the edges of the park, people entering and exiting, cars driving by, pedestrian tourists hurrying past, skirting the street because the sidewalk was torn up. The empty containers of charity to-go lunches were scattered along the brick fence of the park. Pigeons were blithe, happy as they always are. 

I had moved on down the street and gone up another, stopped in an import store run by a young lady who liked the big black tattoos on my back, visible because I was wearing an old tank mouse-colored tanktop, bright pink linen shorts, my ruined trail running shoes that I haven’t yet been able to replace, hair in a long braid and pale skin showing in lines on my shoulders where the sun hadn’t hit. I was looking for a ring, two rings actually. Silver bands. Plain to wear on my middle fingers, the ones with the hearts tattooed on them. They only had rings with stones, and rings shaped like cobras to coil around the finger. I considered the cobra and then left the store, walked toward the library up at the north end of the street, my face half covered by a grey buff pulled up over my nose and mouth. I stopped and looked into the Woolworth’s, where my daughter has a job interview on Monday for a soda jerk position. Somehow, my fifteen year old daughter got called for almost every job she applied for. I took a picture of the darkened space, the counter and the red vinyl chairs, the walls of art that had taken the place of drugstore goods years ago. The store I was going to look for rings in was closed, out of business, and so I turned to go down Wall Street to head home. The sidewalks were full of tables spaced apart, people having dinner, hostesses and servers wearing masks. I moved quick and was not a tourist. Was a local woman walking alone, wearing the same outfit I had worn all day – to vacuum the house and to go to the store. To drive out to Fairview where my mother was sick from chemotherapy. To take the dog out in the yard and try to throw the ball for home even though he only wanted to go back inside. To pull the corn snake out of its cage and set it onto the hay-covered ground of the dog yard, watch as it the snake raised its russet head and smelled under rocks with its flickering tongue as thunder came and rain I could not feel sitting under the branched canopy of trees began to fall in the heavy drops of the edge of a storm. 

Inside, the storm moved the branches like waves of water, tossing them in heavy gusts, making them seem to roll. A green ocean. 

I wore the same pink linen shorts and mouse-colored tanktop, but had on my sweater that is the color of goldenrod or saffron to lay down beside my mother and to put my arm around her middle, her belly large and distended from cancer, the bones of her ribs easy to feel when I rubbed her back. Shoulders sharp and knobby like cypress. I laid with my mom for a while, spooned her while she was still and resting, almost fell asleep but could not quite. Tried to be present, but was distracted by the feeling that I would need to leave soon to go back to town, to see my daughter, have some sort of dinner. 

I was only half thinking about that as I walked downtown, about my mother being sick and dying just on down the road and how I should be there as much I can to offer comfort. I wasn’t thinking too hard about that, but had noticed a dull sad feeling on the way back to town earlier, like something way down in me was mourning and I could only hear the crying faintly. 

On Wall Street, I heard the crack and roll of drums and I ran down the street to try to find the stairs back down to College St, but they’d been gated and so I ran back up around the corner to get to the park where the men with drums were assembling in a spaces out circle, and playing a few staccato measures to warm up. My body moves so easily to drum line music, knees and shoulders finding the segments of rhythm, anticipating and following, like the drums are playing me. I stood with my feet planted and moved in what to passerby might seem like strange small twitching movements, but to me were an echo back of the sounds that filled the small amphitheater of the park. 

I walked home alone and the sky was filled with pink clouds and drifts of gold. The tall  grass I’m the field alongside the road at McDowell was coming alive with fireflies and I felt happy. 

It’s a foggy morning, and cool. I think about yesterday and the way the sun broke over the mountains in a wave of warming gold light that hit my face so bright that I closed my eyes as I moved round the northwest turn of the track. The few clouds of the morning were curved and thin, strung like fish swimming against the blue sky. 

This morning, there is a thick grey that hangs over everything and the air is cool and damp. Wind stirs the trees alongside the school property in small bursts, less like a wind and more like some great unseen thing may be moving in the branches. 

I haven’t thought about much this morning as I move around in the looping ovals that add up to miles, breathing deep and steady through my nose, sending the oxygen to my heart, to my lungs, to all my soft and vital parts. 

I am trying to distance myself from mournful thoughts of my mother’s sickness and picture, instead, a miracle – a mass cell death, a sudden halt to proliferation. I open and close my fist fast as I run, a movement like flinging something out of my hand, and I picture light slamming into the thickest and most sick center of my mother’s illness.

The dog has had strange mats in his golden fur, mats that have gathered out of nowhere, and he worries them like they are burrs, but there is no burr, just his own heavy hair knitted into hard felt. My father and I cut them out carefully, but he won’t let me bury them. “Throw them in the garbage,” he says, pointing to the open mouth of the can beside the microwave. I don’t argue, figuring the excised mats will end up buried eventually, at the landfill as soon as next week, and perhaps that will do, despite the lack of solemn ceremony, the returning them to the earth. 

The reason I have the idea that the mats should be buried is because my elder friend got a strange look on her face and said that spirit told her to tell me that when I am cutting out the mats, I am also curing up my mother, working on her tumors, and that I should take the mats and bury them or burn them. 

I didn’t even try to suggest to my father that the mats should be burnt, as I knew that he’d have no part of that. 

Why is it so hard for white baby boomers to believe in unseen workings, to believe in the powers of spirits and ancestors, the earth itself? 

It’s the end of the day walking by the Greenway on the street named for an indigenous people’s nation where there is a broad field and a drainage stream down in the trees. 

I feel calm and present. The easy answer would be that, after 10 years, I got back on an anti-depressant and I actually have norepinephrine in my neurochemical landscape again. 

It’s really stunning actually to reflect on the months of severe depression, profound melancholy… Sullen bitter angry numb and yet walking through my days and trying my hardest to feel better. 

I feel better.

Such is Life.

The content below has accumulated over the past month or so, and – as I sometimes do – I am dumping it here. This post opens with free writing around the idea of making a zine about personal autoethnographic practice as a narrative recovery tool, or something like that. Then a poem-like thing I started writing on Christmas, when I realized that I had far too much that I had not noted and wondered if writing a poem might be a possible way to summarize a year of experience. I didn’t end up writing that poem, but another poem-like thing emerged. It’s not very good, but it felt good to write – at least parts of it did. Some parts plod along. Such is life.

Then there is a poorly articulated effort to be like, “Hey, all these people buying stuff, myself included, are as responsible for the climate emergency as Big Oil and Big Agra.” Big Oil and Big Agra and the massive consumer goods market place would not exist if we did not participate in continuing to support their businesses with our lifestyles and purchasing power. Of course, we are locked in a system of dependence as part of this neo-colonialist economy and people are blithely deluded in their realities and addicted in their motivations, so it’s not that simple.

Then there are various notes I’ve taken on my ongoing process of trying to figure out how to do my life differently.

It’s the last day of the year, and the last day of the decade. Although I don’t post often here, this record goes back over 10 years now. That’s cr-zy.

Brief Ideas About Autoethnography

In a world that most people can agree is often confusing, chaotic, and troubling, we exist within as individuals and community members through our conceptions and experiences of who we are – our ideas about identity and purpose, our motivations and relationships. 

Our experiences are shaped by relationships between economy, race, gender, social norms, cultural values, and broad ideas informed by religion, philosophy and law about what it means to be human in our modern worlds. 

We live in many different worlds. 

Millions of people struggle to make sense of their lives and worry about the state of the world as we know it. 

Autoethnography introduces a practice that supports the human process of wondering about our lives and gives us a framework for analyzing our personal understanding of how the world works. 

By offering a framework of inquiry and reflection that allows for constructive critical analysis of factors which impact and inform personal experience and circumstance, while inviting curiosity about the ways that we experience our unique humanity in relation to the larger worlds of our families, communities, and countries, autoethnography can be a powerful tool in practices of personal and political questioning. 

Reality Orientation

The process and practice of sussing out what is real and learning more about what we believe is real through observation of experience, objective assessment of events and the factors that drive them, and adjusting for assumptions and errors in meaning-making in our effort to understand what is happening in our worlds so that we don’t get spun out and distorted in our thinking and feeling about the situation, so that we can see things clearly and understand what we do and do not have immediately control over, and what we might need to do to create change in the situation, so that we can be strategic in our thinking and not undone by the enormity of some life challenges. 

Autoethnography can be used to consider any experience, joyful or horrible or mundane. The basic elements of doing autoethnography are questioning, observation, reflection, and holding in awareness social and psychological factors that influence perception of experience. 

All research starts with curiosity.

Some curiosity spins forth from a perceived problem, a need to know more about wha by t is causing the perceived problem. 

Curiosity blooms, also, from desire and delight – wanting to see more, wanting to have experiences that we think will be interesting, pleasurable, or beneficial. 

For some people, curiosity exists as a generalized state of wanting to learn, wanting to see what might happen, wanting to reconcile unknowns, wondering about how things work and always asking “Why?” 

This rough guide to doing autoethnography is for people who think about their lives, or who want to think more about their lives, who want to solve the problems they see in their lives, and to have good experiences of clarity in self and purpose, who want to understand how their lives and the world works so that they can create change. 

Some people lose their minds because they are thinking about their lives. At the very least, thinking about one’s life is usually a component of losing your mind – in that most crises are compounded by the meaning of the crisis as it exists in relation to one’s ideals and sense of identity. If a person is chronically depressed because of illness and deprivation caused by poverty and yet they hold the belief that they should be able to get up and go to work, and they have very few friends, because they are unhappy and unsatisfied in their life and are not motivated to do anything because there is so much to do and it’s hard to even get out of bed, the amount of misery caused by wishing that they could get out of the situation they are in, and out of the situation that is in them…well, it’s enough to make a person want to die, the seeming impossibility of finding a way out. 

It’s hard to think about your life when you’re crippled by fear and misery. 

As I write this, I am aware of a powerful voice inside of me saying, “What? What are you talking about? What are you trying to say?”

Somewhere behind that voice is this: “Tell them that it makes total sense that they are miserable and want to die. Tell them that it’s not their fault and there is nothing wrong with them. Tell them that the systems of economy created this world, and that there are ways out of misery, that they don’t have to be miserable, that inside of them is a gift that has never been lost, some thing they love to do, really love to do, not a habit or a preoccupation, a distraction or addiction, some thing that they can do that doesn’t have anything to do with what people want of them or what people expect of them, that they have dreams and desires that feel out of reach and impossible in the darkened rooms of their life, in the glare and tedium, the brutality of their work, the work they cannot do, the scarcity of it all, tell them they don’t have to be who they are, that they are more than their names and their faces and their histories, that what they have learned can be unlearned, that they don’t have to be miserable, they don’t have to be hateful, they don’t have to hate themselves and their lives. They can make changes. They can change what it all means to them, the impact that it has. They can get out of bad situations, but only if they survive. Tell them that. They can understand and change their lives, but only if they survive. They can be happy, even if it’s just in small moments in the midst of knowing that the world is dying and yet we try to live and to do what we can to live well as an act of justice and to address the things that have caused us harm, have hurt our families, have denied us basic human rights and dignities, have made us sick and sad, have harmed the lands we love, have lied to us and said it was our fault, charged us with crimes of survival, said our misery was ours, our bloodline, our brains, our disorders, when – really – the disorder is in our economies and in our modern brutalities, which stem from our historic brutalities. A lot of people who think about their lives want to change the world. I have met so many people who are anxious and depressed and heart-wrecked over the state of the world, people who come alive when they talk about what they see needs to be happening, what they need and what they would change, and yet the huge mess of their lives pulls them back under the overwhelm, and they retreat back into their desperation, their poverty and trauma and addiction. 

What if more people could begin to understand how ideas about value and worth are rooted in capitalist ethos of work and sacrifice, and that these ideas do little to benefit the individual in the modern economies, but that the systems of economy rely upon in order to keep people participating in the toil of trying to make a living, and if people could begin to consider the toll that racism takes on their humanity, the huge construction that makes the hate that keeps them up at night, the fear and threat of being ‘other,’ of being brown, of being white, of all that the color of skin has meant to us in our shared histories? What if people could begin to unlearn the things they believe?”

“This always happens in how I think. I start off in one place, a simple line of thought, and then I go all over, asking huge questions, making big statements.” 

Participant Observation

In social science methodology, the practice of being a participant observer involves the researcher becoming an active member of a group that they seek to study. 

You can learn more about participant observation in social science research by doing a quick Google search. There is a lot of information out there. 

If you are already a member of the culture or group you are researching, you intentionally begin thinking about the group as a social scientist, noticing how psychological, social and cultural factors influence group identity, norms, customs, and behavior. You consider your own identity and ego in the process of considering the group, and try to account for one’s own subjectivity in perception, how one’s view of things might be biased or distorted by our personal values and motivations, learned fears and preferences. 

In doing autoethnography, we are being participant observers in our everyday lives, and are actively asking: “Who am I in this? What informs my experience? How does this experience connect to bigger themes in my life and to the larger world I am a part of?” 

It might be because I am a little bit twice exceptional in that I have unique strengths and definite challenges in processing and learning, but my sense is that maybe this thing that I think is so fascinating – autoethnography! 🤩 – is not something other people would be into, or care about. 

As I work on this, I am aware of an internal voice that says, “C’mon, people aren’t going to do this being a social scientist in their own lives thing, this participant observation thing. Why should you write a rough guide for doing something that people don’t care about doing?” 

A counter voice tells me that while it is true that I might be geeked out about autoethnography because I am a nonneurotypical weirdo and a person who is inclined to try to figure things out, and am probably a little mind-blind to the experiences of others, like waaaaaaaaay out of the loop around what people are like in their lives and what’s important to them, and that maybe being an everyday social scientist isn’t most people’s jam, that even if this is a totally useless effort, this sharing of a practice that helped me to understand why I was losing my mind trying to figure out what the hell was going on with my life and with the world, even if I am just writing for me, this is still worth trying to do, this rough guide to doing autoethnography as a tool in reflection and consideration of one’s life and the world we live in. 

Even though I am twice exceptional, a lot of other people are, too. Some people may be cognitively inclined to figure things out and to question their lives and experiences and to try to make connections between what they see in their lives and what they see in the bigger world. There are lots of different processing and meaning-making styles out there, and I have talked with a lot of people struggling with serious anxiety, depression, and paranoia who spent a lot of time trying to analyze the problems in their lives and in the world, but had no idea how to think about their lives without getting freaked out and caught up in fear. 

There are distinct neurological processes involved in a tendency to problem-solve, and some people are wired to take things apart and put them back together again, to analyze and ask questions. 

A lot of people are problem solvers and question askers by nature, but might not have access to experiences that support them in learning how to think about solving problems without getting stressed out and overwhelmed and unable to stop thinking about the problems. 

When we understand how something works, we can exert influence over it and develop a strategy to change the factors that impact our lives and how those factors function (an example of this would be racial equity work and justice system reform efforts led by people with lived experience who have sought to learn about how systems of oppression work and are now seeking to change how those systems operate in order to reduce harm to the community), or by changing the power that those factors have to undermine wellbeing or to reinforce and contribute to additional harm so that we might be able to not be destroyed and can stay strong to make changes in our lives and to change the systems that affect our realities in real and brutal, indignified ways. 

(An example would be a person learning to respond to experiences that were previously harmful* in ways that reduced the effect of harm.)  

*harmful in that they created fear and emotional distress in such a way that a person’s wellbeing and ability to do what is important for them to do by their own self-determined designation of importance based on necessity and contribution to health, harmful in that they created suffering or inflicted wounds. 

It is the shadow side of the analyst to want to understand for the sake of being able to control? 

We want to exert control over things that we desire or fear, because we believe these things are crucial to our survival, our happiness, our comfort, our health and the health of our families. 

If we have a human tendency to try to understand, and a human drive to try to control the things that are happening in our lives, and want to understand how our lives work so that we can make our lives work and have lives that we are able to live within, then it is important to have tools that help us to think about all of this. 

People think about their lives, and sometimes lose their minds trying to figure out how to solve the worlds problems. A lot of terrible ideas have come about from people trying to figure things out and solve problems. How many people who’ve committed mass shootings were trying to figure things out and solve the problems of their life as they knew it at first, and then became overwhelmed and seized by a terrible and misinformed totally freaked out idea about what the problems is and how to solve it? 

If people are going to think about their lives, they need to do that with some skill, and some groundedness, and some actual information about what is going on with how they think and how they feel and why they believe what they believe. A lot of people are going around thinking about their lives in ways that are totally non-productive or that created harm-producing conclusions. People lose their minds thinking about their lives. 

Objective assessment 

We can think about and assess our lives and selves and situations subjectively or objectively. The subjective is based on how we feel and what we think is going on, what we understand to be happening based on our perspectives. Objective reality is trickier to pin down, because in anything that has to do with other humans, subjectivity is at play as a driver in our experience. 

In order to solve a problem, one must first try understand what the problem is. 

You are sick of your life and you want to die? Why? Because your family is a mess and you can’t earn enough to live on? Why? 

The world is insane? Why is the world insane. 

Autoethnography provides tools that teach people how to think about their lives and how to understand the ways that how we think about and understand our lives shapes how we see and experience the world. 

It can be extremely confusing and difficult to be a human being. We have complex operating systems. Most people have not been supported in having opportunities to meaningfully learn how to think about their lives and solve problems in their lives in effective and non-harmful ways. We do not, by and large, even know how our brains work, or even think about the fact that we have brains, and that within our brains complex mechanisms of thought and reaction and memory and learning are operating all the time, at speeds that we can barely comprehend, generating our experiences and what we know as reality. 

Our realities are informed by how we understand and define phenomena within our world, how we see events and people and the environment, the value we place on one thing over another, what we believe to be true about the world. 

It’s a complicated mess. 

Autoethnography supports the development of critical and reflective thinking, which in an increasingly complex world full of difficult decisions and complicated situations, are important and potentially life saving skills to have. 

First and foremost, I am an autoethnographer not because I went to school and got a degree in autoethnography or received certification in autoethnographic practice, or because I took a class about autoethnography. I am an autoehtnographer because I do autoethnography. 

Professionally, I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist in a southern American state. To be a Peer Support Specialist is to be a person with lived experience of mental health struggles, substance use issues, and/or justice involvement and homelessness that has committed their life to using their lived experience to empower others in recovery through mutual support, connection to and navigation of resources, recovery planning, and advocacy. Anybody can practice Peer Support and humans have been engaging in mutual aid since the beginning of time. However, to be a Certified Peer Support Specialist, an individual receives training and certification by a state’s licensing agency and contractors, which are often connected to the Department of Health and Human Services. Certified Peer Support Specialists are able to work in formal systems of care which offer Medicaid reimbursable behavioral health services as defined by state service definitions, which – in the United States – are informed the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

I have worked as a Certified Peer Support Specialist since 2011, and my primary areas of lived experience of struggle and recovery are rooted in having a history of severe, persistent challenges in living and in coping with my experiences, which were rooted in personal history, trauma, and neurodiversity factors. I have worked in both state-funded and grant funded services, primarily as a recovery educator and providing ‘direct support’ to individuals who are struggling within their lives. 

As a recovery educator, I have spent literally thousands of hours in dialogue with people about how they experience their lives and ways they make sense of their struggles and what I absolutely know to be true is that most people deeply love their lives, even if they hate their lives, and people desperately want to understand and to resolve the forces that act upon their lives in ways that cause harm. 

Prior to working as a Peer Support Specialist, I worked for 20 years in programs that served people struggling with mental health, substance use, chronic health conditions and complex trauma. As a person who is inclined to try to solve problems, I have had to learn about and consider why some people struggle so much within their lives. The obvious factors are poverty and trauma, which are connected to race and gender, and which all tie into the cultural and economic realities that shape who we are and what our life experiences are more or less likely to involve. 

I am a person who has seriously lost her mind on a few occasions because I couldn’t make sense of the world or figure out why I felt so upset and scared all the time, why I couldn’t deal with school, why people do the things they do, why bad things happen, why there wasn’t anything I could do to stop them. 

For some people, it is important to understand how things work, and why one thing leads to another. I am one of those people. 

Some people are hyperanalytical. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just how some brains work. 

Some people are problem solvers with a deep distaste for easy answers. 

The tendency to be analytical without tools to support analysis can lead to bias and error in analysis, or breakdown in the analytical process in the form of perseveration, thinking in circles, and becoming generally unable to think productively about problems because it is so stressful to have the urge to figure out a solution to a problem and to not even know what the problem really is, or how to get around the barriers in really solving it. 

Thinking about one’s life can be stressful and overwhelming, but a lot of people do it anyway. 

There is a multibillion dollar therapy and self-help industry because people are thinking about their lives. 

Autoethnography presents a set of practices, questions, and highly adaptable exercises to invite curiosity about what constitutes our human experience, and opens the possibility that we can begin to see ourselves and our participation in the world differently through grounded compassionate perspective taking, revising of narratives that create dissonance, and unlearning the lessons of culture and economy in developing our personal understanding of who we really are as highly diverse ever-evolving individuals and communities. 

What is doing autoethnography? 

Whether we are aware of it or not, many people make an effort to understand their lives and why they are the way they are – why we feel miserable and anxious and scared, why there is a sense of unease, something not right, an emptiness or dissonance, vague worry or abject, unspeakable outrage that emerges in the form of depression and crying in parking lots or punching walls for lack of knowing what to do, the mind a tangle of frustrations and conflicting messages and impossible situations, the body flooded with signals to fight, to run away, to hide and disappear while we smile and nod and sit politely at the table, in the office, in the courtroom. 

It’s enough to make a person lose their mind. 

The instinct to understand our lives and what is happening within them runs deep in humans, is likely woven into the synapses of survival. 

When there is a problem, we want to solve it. When we sense a problem, we want to figure out what it is. When we detect fear and unease in our lives, we are naturally inclined to address that and to pay attention to that. 

We can be scared without understanding why we are scared. We can live in fear and know exactly why we’re scared, and know that there is nothing we can do to remove the threat or escape the threat. 

Millions of people around the world are living in fear, whether they realize that or not. 

Fear has many names: 

Depression

Anxiety

Grief 

Anger

Paranoia

Autoethnography is about learning to look at one’s life and experience taking into account social and economic and cultural factors. 

Our lives and experiences are governed by innate human processes of meaning making, desire, and fear. 

In order to do autoethnography, a person has to shift into their observational self, the mode of viewing one’s life as a participant observer, noticing what you think and what you feel, being curious about experience, and taking in information about what seems to be happening and why. 

Maybe people don’t walk around observing their lives, and noticing their thoughts and sensations, but everybody is participating in their life, and their participation in being who they are and doing what they do is informed by our social and economic realities, the values we hold, and the things we believe to be true.

In order to inhabit the observational self, a person has to be able to differentiate their thoughts from the slur of conscious existence where we are moving through interactions with the world and saying things and doing things and it’s all just regular life and we are thinking, having ideas and making assumptions, explaining things to ourselves the best we can, but a lot of the time, we’re not really paying attention to thinking as being this stream of chatter and directive from our subconscious and 1/2conscious minds telling us what is going on based on what we’ve learned and what information we have available. We’re just thinking and feeling and saying things and doing things. 

What we think is often what we assume to be real, and how we feel about what we think reinforces our perceptions. 

When I was 13 years old, I looked in the mirror in the bathroom across the hall from my room, and it struck me all the sudden that I had a name and I had a face, and people saw my face and knew my name, but that they could not see my internal world, and that who I might be to strangers was not who I was to family, and that who I was to family was not who I was to myself. I just stood there and looked at my self, my features and how little they told, how my face looked blank, and it seemed very strange to me to be a person, and to think about my life, my hometown, the house I grew up in, the way I styled my hair in the late 1980s, to wonder how people saw me and who they might think I was, what they might assume about me based on what they could see. 

It’s easy to watch your thoughts. When you find yourself thinking, notice what you’re thinking. Don’t assume that what you think is real or accurate. Notice the sensations of feeling that come up around certain thoughts, whispers about what we love and what we fear, what we hope for and feel nervous about, what makes us happy and what makes us angry. 

The human experience is an ongoing construction of thoughts and feelings, sensations and beliefs and perceptions. Two people can witness the same phenomenon and see it in entirely different ways based on who they are and how they’ve learned to see things. 

Autoethnography asks the individual to see themselves as existing within and as a result of a complex intermingling and evolution of factors and experiences, to consider ourselves in context with the larger world. 

Factors such as race, social economic class, gender, and country of origin inform our identities and become the basis for how we see ourselves and our place in the world. 

Autoethnographic Questioning 

Macro Questions

How do race, class, and gender affect my life and experience? 

Do these factors influence how other people see me and what they expect from me? 

Keep in mind that what comes up for a person in considering these questions is basically a summary of their initial, surface-level perceptions of the impact of cultural factors on their sense of identity and personhood. 

Initial thoughts and feelings are never the whole story. What we think in the forefront of our minds and what we may feel in association with those thoughts often overlay complex layers of learning and belief and contradicting information. 

These are big questions. 

However, no matter who you are or what you are experiencing in your life, these factors inform what happens to you, how you are seen and treated, and what is expected of you in different social settings. 

Notice the feelings that come up for you as you think about these things. 

Feelings, or emotions, are created by stress reactions – distress/fear or eustress/desire – coupled with the psychological meaning we make of the situations we find ourselves in and what we don’t want or do want to be happening. 

The stories we tell ourselves about what is going on in our lives create our reality, and our stories are not told only by us. Before we are even born, the lives of our families and ancestors begin our stories. As our mothers wait for us to be born, the experiences they have shape our anticipation of the world, and the arms that welcome us and cradle us or roughly pass us along mold our earliest knowings of who we are and whether we matter and why we matter and what about us is important. 

If a little girl is praised for being pretty, that becomes what matters.

If a child who is seen as a boy goes to school wearing clothing that is seen as a girl’s clothing, they may be socially or formally punished. 

If a young person of color is standing on the corner and a person locks their car door at the stop sign, what messages are sent in that fleeting interaction? 

We learn what is safe and normal and what is frightening. 

We develop both conscious and subconscious survival and success strategies based on the worlds we live in, and who we are and what we do often is more a matter of what’s happened to us and what the world makes of us than it is a matter of who we really are – what our strengths and gifts may be, what we dream of or dread.

With practice, we are able to engage our capacity to be reflective and analytical in our experience. 

******

It’s Christmas Day, and warm for here in the mountains. Mid sixties, no snow at all so far this year, save for a weak flurry seen in a streetlight at night that may have been more freezing rain than snow. I didn’t go outside to find out. 

I’ve gone to my family’s house, out at the edge of the county, backed up to a stretch of protected land that is pocked by gated communities tucked into the gaps and valleys, perched at the top of the ridges themselves, accessible only to those who care to drive for a bit, whose lives are convenient enough to make them desire a little inconvenience, a little effort to get to the house. 

When designed inconvenience indicates privilege? 

It’s been a while since I’ve been in writing or poetic practice. My energies have been elsewhere, diverted to work and relationship and the ongoing task of improving the feel and functionality of the house. It’s amazing how much I get the sense of having missed something, having missed telling about something, when so much time goes by without taking note.

******

Beginning with a western wind,

rising tide, blood in the water at dawn,

after yesterday’s waves,

tense sweetness of night,

the glow by the fire we lit

to keep the bugs away. 

You counted out our strokes 

like a military man on day one…

but, that was okay. 

 

Your voice

-two three four-

got us across the bay. 

 

*********

Coulda been anyone, from anywhere.

 

With my hat on, I could have been a man.

 

I think I said I was scared, 

moving into the mountains at night.

 

This disappointed you, because I was not supposed to be scared? 

 

I was supposed to be happy?

 

There is no reason not to be happy. 

 

We almost got through the day 

without a fight. 

 

Almost. 

 

It doesn’t matter any, that fight we had. 

Not now.

It doesn’t matter. 

 

I don’t even remember what it was about, that fight. 

 

*********

In town, we lit more fires.

 

I went back to work the week it got cold. 

 

Walk to the church 

just a mile or so, cut through the park, 

across the street,

raise my hand

to the people smoking by their bedrolls, waiting for the doors to open.

 

Fumble with keys,

unlock the door,

wonder who I am to them –

me with my keys, me with my purse,

me with a home that I walked from.

 

A ride was arranged for the afternoon,

a person who loves me

to pick me up from work. 

 

I was a person with a job

and shoes that fit. 

 

There is no reason not to be happy. 

 

*********

There was a brief spring,

a month of green before you left,

creeping up the sides of mountains. 

 

We drove the same road we’d driven

a hundred times,

going south and then north again,

out to the mountain and then back,

to walk to the place 

where we’d held hands in the dark

back when we were just friends.

 

Two ravens flew overhead like a miracle. 

 

They were a miracle because they flew, and a miracle because we saw them. 

 

*********

 

I had no idea then 

that we might find ourselves in a boat,

lost in the marsh 

near the place I called home, 

before I knew that I wouldn’t know 

what to say, 

when you got the message

and it started to rain. 

 

The boat was beached

and you spoke to your sister, 

signals bounding 

with the news of bodies breaking down.

 

…and all I could do was watch the way 

your feet sunk into the mud, 

and consider the possibility 

that nobody had ever stood 

where you were standing,

saying, “My father is dying.” 

 

*********

 

That was all a long time ago. 

 

Ancient history, almost. 

 

Those time are still with us. 

 

It’s funny how, to tell 

about now, 

I have to tell about then, 

about how 

I didn’t know what would happen. 

 

I had no idea. 

 

*********

 

We found the orgy at sundown,

followed their voices

to the water in the road, the bodies writhing and clustered,

all moving and bursting through

the surface with the sound

that was at least a hundred voices

crying out for life, life, life

in the still-cold days

of the very early season. 

 

We took it to be a good sign, 

all those creatures out in the forest. 

 

We held hands and agreed upon the feeling of Eisenhans at dusk. 

 

“Everything will be okay.”

 

This is what we said, on another walk, wondering about what it might be like

if you were to die in the cold, 

wondering what it might be like 

to be alone again. 

 

I made a solemn vow.

 

This is what I do before you leave.

 

I make vows. 

 

(We’ve been married at least a dozen times.)

 

Vows 

 

One: 

I will not be jealous 

of the places you get to go. 

 

Two: 

I will keep loving you. 

 

Three: 

I will be here 

when you get back. 

 

Four: 

I will be grateful for every moment

I spend with you, 

because one day 

you might not come back. 

 

Five: 

I will keep trying

 to uphold these vows.

 

*********

We saw an owl that night we said 

everything

will

be

okay.  

 

Flew right across our path,

low and then up into the trees,

to watch us stop

to peer into the branches. 

 

The owl sat where we could not see it,

but it could see us. 

 

*********

In the days before you left,

I said I was not sad. 

 

(Most of the time, I was telling the truth.)

 

I did not want to be sad.

 

I made a list in my head, 

of all the reasons to be happy instead. 

 

  1. You are my best friend. 
  2. I want you to see beautiful places 

and to have experiences 

that mean something to you.

  1. I am not afraid to be alone. 

 

I think I was lying, 

on some of those days 

when I said that I was happy. 

 

*********

On the day you left, 

you stepped in dog shit 

by the neighbors yard, 

and almost missed your flight to Vegas. 

 

When I saw that you could laugh, 

I understood a little more

that there is no reason not to be happy. 

 

*********

I waited for your messages,

sent a hundred hearts. 

 

*********

You woke up in the desert

and I walked to work, cut through the park, avoided everybody,

sat in the sun by the garden, 

facing the direction

you might be in. 

 

There was that one time, 

smoking before a meeting

while the day moved toward sundown,

that I met a man named Christian, 

with track marks and a tattooed lady

a face almost like yours,

Perfect American Jesus. 

 

When he hugged me, 

and told me he loved me,

I would have sworn that it was you, 

that you’d found your way to me. 

 

I didn’t want to tell you, but I did. 

 

*********

I ran alone in the woods by the river, 

walked the railroad tracks

to where we’d sat 

across from the old prison,

the broken walls, the flimsy fence,

empty-headed for a moment

during that brief spring.

 

I ate wine berries, 

thought about bears, 

about how I used to want to be a bear. 

 

I am not a bear. 

 

*********

We’re silly creatures,

take ourselves so seriously. 

 

We are hungry and tired, foolishly driven.

 

Driving to work.

 

Driving to the grocery store. 

 

Do you remember how

we couldn’t even think straight,

wandering up and down the aisles,

blitzed by the bright light

the pop songs, the gleam of meat and plastic? 

 

*********

I don’t remember what I was doing

when you woke up in the desert,

all those mornings in the desert,

before I knew for sure that I would come, that I would be there,

that I would see that place

where you woke up. 

 

I did not take a picture, 

and I got lost in the dark, 

walking alone near that place 

where you woke up. 

 

*********

Sometime in the summer,

I started going to the jail,

leave the phone in the car,

walk past the cypress by the courthouse, enter my name, pass through the doors.

 

I never could quite tell you

about what that was like,

or the way that I understand freedom differently now.

 

I told you that I still wanted to be free. 

 

I want everybody to be free. 

 

Only then I will be free? 

 

This is what I think sometimes, 

but I know it isn’t true. 

 

We are all already free. 

 

This is what I think sometimes, 

but I know it isn’t true. 

 

*********

I drove two thousand miles 

to find you in a parking lot,

to walk over slickrock with you,

to eat eggs

in the places where people used to live,

but don’t live now, 

those canyons filled with ghosts. 

 

I didn’t know 

that I was supposed to meet another man

in another parking lot

while you fumbled for directions

with weak data. 

 

Maybe I was?

 

Maybe I wasn’t. 

 

In any event, 

there were 9 ravens in the sky, 

and a white bird like a hawk,

maybe a golden eagle, 

like we saw a couple of days later, 

in that Cortez parking lot,

drinking melted ice cream,

that warm day when the dog died,

back home, 

right before my father’s birthday. 

 

I held the drunk old man’s hand

listened to him talk about:

how long her hair was, how he wakes in the night and cries, his daughter that is off to war in Afghanistan, how he used to jump out of planes in the dark, was just a body falling, before he came home to be a Navajo again, before he ever knew that he would wake up at night thinking about the war, would drink himself to sleep for years…

I think we said a prayer together?

I gave him my phone number, 

and he gave me a rock. 

 

He never called. 

 

At least I don’t think he did? 

 

I don’t know. 

 

I hardly answer the phone anymore. 

 

I still have that rock. 

It’s in the box

in the back of the car 

with my cobra pin, 

the one I carry for good luck 

and for protection. 

 

There was that other man, in Cortez,

begging money for a friend, 

also with a face 

that spoke of ancestry and alcoholism, 

saying, “It’s cold out here tonight, 

he’ll freeze to death.” 

 

You were in the store buying ice cream. 

 

I gave him three dollars. 

 

I should have given him my blanket. 

 

It’s two days past when I started this,  on the day you came back from _________and I painted the walls white before packing fruitcake and frying bacon, making plans to sit by the river at sundown like we used to, on the way home from work, when we had the conversation when I said that it was dumb for humans to go where humans can’t survive with just our bodies and simple tools, that maybe the earth doesn’t want us there, in those places where we never belonged and would die quick of thirst or cold or wet or the simple gravity that defies our soft hands and long shaped bodies. 

It’s a couple hours later, and I am thinking about how I started this as an effort to write down everything I hoped to remember from the year, all the things I may have failed to note, and about how it became about much more than those moments sitting in meetings under fluorescent lights. 

(None of that matters now, writing this.)

It became about the way of words to tell a story that only you will know, that you can never know the way I know it, but how I try to try to tell it anyway.

This turned into a poem about all the poems I’ve written to you during this friendship, about the ways that this love is about the world and our relationship to it, about the people we came from and the people we meet, the things we do and do not do, the quiet times we are in communion 

with the trees and with the water, together and apart. 

It’s not a very good poem, but has some solid lines, a few strong statements. 

It’s about history. 

We have history, you and me. 

End: Today I laid the golden cloths, color of egg yolk, over the white-gone-dirty, and I wondered if that were some small triumph, a renegotiation of what surrender means. 

I wrote that End two days ago, the day you came home and I painted the walls white, when I understood without knowing that I would finish this project, which I conceived of not through thought or plan or effort, but in the doing of the thing, the sitting down to write without knowing what I would say. 

I’ve written this over the days of Yule, and all the days that came before, this whole past decade, all the years that I remember in the person that I am as I sit here writing without knowing what to say. 

******

https://www.madinamerica.com/2019/10/environmental-crisis-collective-action-mental-health-interview-jennifer-freeman/

Climate Change, Mental Health and Collective Action: An Interview with Jennifer Freeman, By Akansha Vaswani – October 4, 2019

This interview with narrative therapist Jennifer Freeman is so hopeful and compassionate, and yet I wonder how the vast many people who are contributing to the continued degradation of the earth, including workers and those who profit from the industries that drive the economy, might be brought into awareness of the reality of climate emergency and our human responsibility to change our lives and ways so that the earth and its inhabitants might better be able to live? 

This research indicates a denial of the social and economic structures in psychologically based explanations for climate inaction, and suggests that it’s not enough to say – basically – that “people can’t think about it, they don’t know what to do.” To rely on psychologically based explanations of climate inaction is to ignore the role of larger systems (many of which we are invested in and dependent on) in perpetuating climate inaction. 

The article indicates that the wealthy and the fossil fuel industry have a stake in suppressing climate action and that it is imperative to acknowledge the role of powerful economic drivers in shaping our relationship to, understanding of, and response to the ongoing climate emergency. 

It may be important to extend the scope of responsibility and accounting of invested stakeholders to include the millions and millions of people who are not wealthy, who are not fossil fuel executives or big Agra leadership, the millions and millions of people who might identify as middle class, or even working class. 

Psychologically based explanations are impossible to separate out from ecosystemic and economic forces in our understanding of a situation. We know we can’t think about climate emergency. We have to go to work, and go to the store, get the kids to school, pay the mortgage. Our lives, in our minds, depend on these things. We cannot walk out of our jobs in a climate strike. We can’t tell the boss, “Hey, man, this work we are doing? This is murder. I don’t want to kill these cows or work in this disgusting factory anymore. I don’t want to cut down that forest. I don’t want to stand in this one small space for hours on end under fluorescent lights selling people things that they don’t even want or need and having miserable little small talk about the weather outside that I cannot see or feel because I am stuck in this building until long after sundown.” 

In order to address the climate emergency, people will have to change their lives. 

Change their commute, buy less, dis-invest from industries that profit from our participation and consumption. 

Although the struggling middle class and masses of oppressed labor don’t exactly benefit from the economy – and most people know that they are unhappy and unsatisfied in their lives and even hate their jobs or can’t even get a job, but have to try to work anyway in order to have a roof over their head and food for their kids – we all keep these systems and industries going in our participation, in our consumption and lifestyle choices. 

The psychologically based explanations for climate inaction tend to hover around dissonance, anxiety, and avoidance, a pressured apathy. Perhaps the unacknowledged roles of economy and systems of power in creating our psychological responses to climate reality is that most people are literally dependent on the commerce economy, which was built on the larger industries of fossil fuels and agriculture, economic systems in which one sells their labor doing work which does not benefit them or interest them, sells their labor to create profit for an entity external in exchange for wages that are designed to impair the accrual of wealth, that are barely just enough to get by on, that aren’t even enough. 

People are locked into their lifestyles. 

******

It’s early morning and I have driven to Greenville to take a friend to a train. I have wonderings about the sort of friendship that privileges one to my time and resources in such a way. I can’t think about that now. I am going to stay awake, and try to get some work done for the day, and then go to the homeless memorial service, where they honor all the people that have died living without shelter in this town. 

It’s crazy to think about the brutal disparity that exists here, everywhere. 

Right now, my friend is texting me about population growth and food scarcity, how many people will likely starve, are starving now, while in the US we throw away tons – literal tons – of food. 

I have a lot on my mind, a lot to do. I don’t like the feeling of it – all the things to do. 

I can feel that it causes stress. My stress tolerance is probably lower today than it might usually be, because I am tired. 

There is a grant that is due. This will require me to turn on my computer. I cannot think about it, because I can feel a bloom of cortisol when I do. I will need to do some strength training before I can look at the computer, and before I can go to the homeless memorial. 

Today is the solstice. I’ve been through some hard times recently, stress issues, cognitive blitzing from too many meetings, intrusive thoughts about grants and deadlines cropping up no matter where I am and making me forget where I am, and making me nervous and distracted. 

I have got to find a better way to work. This cannot go on. 

Hahahahaha – how long have I been saying that…? 

 

******

The look of the room 

was full of New South 

Palmettos in pines, sweet blessed shade

beyond the plastic lines of blinds 

and brutal swathe of buffalo lawn 

stucco on the outside 

carpet and rush of cold,

compressed air 

on the inside 

all pale blue and grey 

pastel accents 

under khaki, sitting prim 

and civilized, fur sprayed and face made 

to be modern, educated, 

informed behind the convex spectacles

that hide the earnest child

the one who wants to help, 

the one who thinks they know the answers.

 

The answers were all wrong, 

but she gave them anyway

because she thought they were right,

the answers. 

 

A common mistake,

very human thing to do. To have the wrong answers, and to think they are the right answers.

 

“Your daughter,” she said,

“has a condition.” 

 

(Everyplace had a name, 

East Marsh, the Cut, Catfish Hole.)

 

Way back when, people didn’t talk ‘bout such things. The nervous condition. Spells.

Maybe they spoke a little, in the hush of family. Whispers and simple explanations of a person’s absence, their disappearance. Where they went and why. Gone away for a bit. Had a spell. 

It’s first thing in the morning and I slept poorly for the 2nd night in a row. I did not go to the Y this morning, but will go walk later this afternoon, after the jail and the computer and the talking with people. After it stops raining. I can feel that I am jangly, and a little heavy. Cortisol in the early morning. It’s okay though. I will get through it. 

I am going to the jail to do a listening session with some of the people who are housed there. I am facilitating. My co-facilitator used to be in jail, used to be in prison.

 

******

This morning I had the experience of being afraid that there would be a school shooting as I got ready to take my daughter to school.

She was going to stay home today, because it’s finals week and she doesn’t have a test today and so would “just have to sit there,“ and has been feeling a little sick the past couple of days. 

When she found out that it was cool w me and her dad if she stayed home, she decided she wanted to go after all, and so I was getting ready to take her, brushing my hair and letting her dad know about the change of plans and got to vaguely thinking about how everyday outside of and inside of our homes is basically a crapshoot as far as what might go down and how our lives might change based on simple seeming decisions – to go to school, to leave early, to get out of the house a few minutes late because you were scrolling through Facebook, got to work late after sitting in traffic waiting for crews to clear the accident you might have been in had you left on time. 

I try not to think about that too much, about how anything can happen, but the reality of it creeps in, and this morning I had the random fear that there would be a school shooting. 

Back in September, I was out in Big Ivy doing a listening session with the Safety and Justice Challenge grant community engagement folks, taking detailed notes until I saw the message on my silenced phone that my kids’ school was on lockdown and shots had been fired and my entire world dropped into my belly and I disappeared from the room at the community center and the people who were there and I still heard them talking, but my body was flooded with fear, and I just tried to keep typing what people were saying. 

That was scary. A false alarm, as it turned out. 

This morning, I felt real and deep fear, a horror, at the thought of something happening to my kids because of our fucked up society, and felt a huge sadness even 1/2 thinking about it, because I couldn’t let myself think about it too much, something bad happening, what that scene might be like, the sheer grief of losing your kid to a random act of preventable violence, and my heart kind of tore open quietly, sitting in the car line, for all the people who’ve lost their kids to violence.

Passing by the Edington Center, I saw a young black man wearing red hoodie, hood up, and I looked to see if I recognized him, because he looked familiar to me, and I didn’t, but I smiled anyway as I drove by, and he smiled back. 

Growing up in S. Georgia, I mighta locked the car door or stared straight ahead, even though I “wasn’t racist” (🤦🏻‍♀️) and I thought about all the hundreds of thousands  – millions of mothers and fathers – who have to be scared *every single day* that their kid is going to harmed, shot and killed because of everyday racism, and what that must be like to have live with that ever present threat, to have to send your son or daughter out the door into god only knows what kind of violence. 

It’s really enough to make a person lose their mind, thinking about how fucked up it is that we live in such a scary and chaotic world, where young people full of potential die because of this mess created by capitalism, where people are stressed and confused and have fucked up ideas about what the problem is and how to solve it. 

I took my daughter to school, told her I’d see her in the afternoon, then I had to come home and do some resilience practices, drinking cold water, noticing the fear in the body and the power that it has to shift my thoughts, breathing through the experience, and writing this down, because it feels like I am reaching out to not be alone in feeling scared of school shootings and being overwhelmed by how messed up our society is, and sad because so many young people die for stupid and brutal reasons. 

Reaching out is a way people respond to fear. 

I am trying to focus my energy toward protection and benevolence and healing, and picturing everything being okay.

It’s tough, because I know that even if everything is okay in my small life, if my children are safe and healthy and there is no harm, that other people are not okay, that really close to here, on this same street, and all over everywhere, other people are not okay. Their kids are being harmed, and they are being harmed. 

It’s all really big in my head and my heart sometimes. 

I guess I just have to pray in the way that I pray…and also to keep trying to do my small actionable parts in trying to help the situation, which means I can’t be too scared and I can’t be too overwhelmed, and I have to keep feeling and thinking about these things, even though it’s hard to. 

Thanks for ‘listening’ or reading. 

******

I will begin taking notes on this process, because taking notes on process helps me to remember that I am in a process, and gives me a way to stay accountable. 

As anyone who has read any of this – which may only be a few blogbots from Russia and China and a handful of Europeans and Canadians searching phrases for poetry or tags related to mental health – may have been able to glean, I have been trying to a) makes sense of my life and b) change my life for a very long time. It’s sufferable, really, this persistent going on about how difficult it has proved to become a writer and also to maintain employment in the healing justice nonprofit hustle and tend to an aging house that is more than I can tend to and be a conscientious and engaged steward to two young Americans, and to be – also – a person who is twice exceptional in some ways that present personal variability in stress tolerance and social capacities…well, it really is a quandary sometimes, this question of how to become a writer and to find better ways to do my work. 

It’s a complex situation, this question of life and life ways. I understand that I don’t have to write anything, or be productive in some way, in order to have a worthwhile life, and that millions of people have figured out how to forego their dreams and deepest callings in order to be happy with a life in which they work their jobs and tend to their homes and raise their families and that’s enough…they don’t have to make art or express ideas…they are fine with not doing that…

I also get that many, many people have lives that are brutal in comparison to mine and that I ought to be gloriously happy with every challenge I have, because they are cake walk compared to what some people go through. 

Nevertheless, I really do believe that it is important for me to try to be a writer, or at least to continue to write. I might do my best work as a writer. I might be happiest and most well as a writer. I might be able to help the most people as a writer. 

So, i am going to put together a chapbook submission for a contest, as a practice in trying differently than I have tried in the past, and as an exercise in completing a project that I know I can finish. 

I have a lot going on, as usual – work stuff and house projects, being outside. 

On Friday, I got paid and my paycheck was this almost laughable thing – less than 700.00 for two weeks of schedule addling and mind-consuming intensive community engagement and organizational development work. I’m seriously writing grants for 19.00/hr and I primarily get paid for the hours I spend working on the actual document – not for the hours spent thinking about the document, the proposal, the strategy for completion of the application, the things to follow up on. It’s not like my brain works in such a way that someone hands me a challenge like a grant application and I can just sit down and work on it and then get up and not think about it. Because of the way my brain works and because of the nature of grant writing, there is a lot of time spent thinking about the proposals…I can feel myself thinking about them right now, a bloom into my headspace, with a little flurry of cortisol and adrenaline at all I need to put together by the end of the week. 

I got my paycheck, and it was almost laughable – how utterly crappy I’d felt after entire days spent in intense meetings under fluorescent lights, looking at computer screens and not getting enough sleep…exhausted and depressed and overwhelmed after having to try to be present in friendship and community and family and with myself when I had no capacity to be a part of anything other than just being a somewhat stunned and inert animal recuperating quietly – and how I am supposedly this smart, good person and there has absolutely got to be a better way and – of course – there is, there are multiple better ways, and I have outlined many of them here ad nauseam. 

Instead of going into woe about the paycheck and the things to do and all that, I had a different experience. I was like, “No, actually I am going to do it and I am going to make changes and I am going to get this stuff done.” 

…and I wasn’t overwhelmed and I wasn’t scared. It was all very matter of fact. 

This time really might be different. It’s been 10 years since I started this. The last full moon of the decade just began its wane toward a new year.

Note: No chapbook submission has been produced. 

******

I’m slow sometimes, to get around to what I’m trying to say. Mess of branches and eddies, eyes cut in spaces between the trees and thought lost in the scrape along the side while the whole scope of road and pines in shadow pushes in with the roar of military plane flying over the swamp and surely making the leaves shudder a little at the crown. 

I like this space, this writing space, because here I can take my time. I don’t have to make a point, or try to communicate clearly to anyone other than myself. I can sit with all that is and let it move as it does, be present with what I see, what I feel, the curious thoughts that come unbidden, saying here, here is what you really wanted to say, all those times you have quieted down, drifted, faltered in your telling.

Talking to other people, the sharing of experience becomes this stripped down and truncated thing, unless you can communicate really well, unless you can drop your intonation and choose the words just right to maybe whisper at the edge of what it was to be there, to be a person in a room, looking at the faces that still look like their mamas, considering the world, and watching how I always think about the river I grew up on, how the sheer distance between that place and this place leaps at me in the sudden remembering of who I am, this person now sitting in a room talking and listening to people talking and listening under fluorescent lights. 

There is always too much to do. No person knows the landscape of lists and measures and messages and images and paper and post and things to follow up on that exists in my head and in my body, the tremors of sheer overwhelm that come up when I remember who I am and what I am supposed to be doing in the midst of everything I want to be doing and many things I need to be doing but am not doing because of the other things that need doing. 

It’s crazy to think that I am a person who needs to spend time alone in order to write out her thoughts about her day and have the freedom to rant away or ramble off if she chooses to, that I am a person who forgets who I am and what it feels like to really be me, to be at ease and whole in myself when I spend too much time in a half-frozen and performative state that moving about in the world of work and spaces full of cars and tasks that my body doesn’t want to be doing. 

So much of modern living requires the overcoming of one’s instincts and bodily needs, the needs truest to the uncivilized self. 

Which means to exist in non-offensive ways in relation to other people and their concerns.

As I write this, I am aware of a sense of deeply feeling the irony of ‘civilization’ being wrought in most impolite and incourteous genocidal and culturicidal ways upon masses of people in colonized lands and in colonized economies and societies, societies in which the economic system is based upon dependence and compulsory participation in the commerce and industries which benefit the colonizing body (corporations and governmental powers) to the detriment of the exploited and colonized population, and the enormity of the possibility that we who are living in the United States are living in a colonized society, a society in which the practices and purposes that built it cannot be separated out from the operations that we consider to normal and acceptable as ways of living, despite the similarities between conscripted undesirable labor as a requirement of having access to resources which meet the most basic needs of living for individuals and their families – such as housing and food and medical care – and economic arrangements like sharecropping, “here, you pay us to work this little piece of land, you give us a portion of what you earn, and we will let you stay on the land, work the land. It’s not your land.” There’s a leap there, because – really – the economic arrangements of wage earning in whatever job you can find and maybe if you’re lucky or privileged you can do work that suits you, work that you enjoy and that is meaningful, and that maybe you earn enough to live on and can have a life that suits your needs and preferences, but you still have to work, you still have to earn wages to buy all of the things that you have learned mean having a good life in America, despite the fact that people are depressed as fuck and the world is going insane, or maybe you work some shit job that is disgusting and offensive to ones dignity or conflicting with ones values or requiring of one to simply shut down who they are, their instincts and boundaries and personal will, how they feel and how they think about the reality of what they have to do just to try to earn never-enough money to keep a leaking mold infested roof over the heads of their children, their children who they never see and can’t connect with because they are always trying to work and are so tired from work that they are not able to inhabit their humanity or to feel their heart because if they did, they might completely break down or explode…I mean, that’s really nothing like sharecropping, in terms of the details of the arrangement, but something of the same cruel requirement to participate in something far less than ideal, something that makes no space for your need to rest and to connect with who you love and what is most important to you in living, that pays a meager wage in exchange for ones freedom to even inhabit their own deep humanity and to explore their unique human potential, an arrangement that makes machines out of men, instruments to perform a task that the instrument has no interest in performing and which may, over time, be damaging to the instrument. 

I guess I better get ready to go to work. 

******

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written.

That’s not true – I write pages and pages everyday. Grant proposals, project narratives, emails about memorandums of agreement and grant consultation. I’ve made flyers and phone calls and launched campaigns. I have written out lists of pros and cons in helping other people make decisions. 

On the day before thanksgiving, I drove down to the Congaree with my friend, having made plans to have a meal with family on Sunday. Some of the biggest trees on the east coast live in that park, which exists because of human advocacy to protect the forests and waters there from human industry. 

That night, on Wednesday, we slept without a tarp at a campsite near the park entrance. The early night of late November makes it difficult to get on the water after a day of driving. The fire was slow to stay lit, and my friend made walking sounds over in the dark pine and brush near the campsite, looking for wood. I breathed like a bellow and watched the air from my lungs turn to flame in the week embers. There was little wood to be found, my friend reported, breaking sticks to tuck into the nest of charred branch and red glow. I wanted to walk into the pines at night, to see the flash of spiders’ eyes underneath the leaves, to move around in the woods, to look for fire fuel in the night.

I didn’t expect to find much, because my friend is good at finding wood, but there were branches dead, down, and dry – or at least dry enough – tucked all through the woods, and I felt lucky to see them, to be able to bring them back to our fire. To emerge from the woods with a hefty armful of pine and brittle oak was a good feeling. 

Later, I went back into the woods for more branches, tired and growing ambivalent about staying up to have slow conversation in the fire that we had patiently tended and fed until the bed was hot and the fire more steady. My headlamp casts only a weak glow, like an old, dim flashlight, a pale circle of light right at my feet, making the dark even thicker around me. I might have been leery of spiders at some point in my life, but I loved to see their tiny bright eyes reflecting back at me from the ground, and felt happy to think of their lives on the ground, in the trees. 

There wasn’t much wood on the ground where I walked, bending to pull at soft still-rain-damp limbs that had fallen much too long ago to burn, wood that would never be entirely dry again, that crumbled and split under the light pressure of my fingers, that held to the ground when I pulled a little, already becoming part of the forest ground at the base of the tree they fell from. 

I wanted to find wood, and moved further from the campsite, toward the break in the trees at the edge of a marsh I couldn’t see, stepping high over the smilax and tangled of low brush, trying not to make too much of a racket with my movements.

It was almost like a voice in me, the idea that I should walk off to my right, turn and cut back semi-clockwise. “Go over there,” the idea said to me, in a way that didn’t quite feel like thinking, and I moved in that direction with a curiosity, stooping smoothly to pick up the branches and limbs that I began to find as I moved into a place where a great wind must have blown, where the branches from the pines were all over the ground, with a fine limb of some hardwood laying at the edge. It felt like a present, to find all that wood. Like the forest had said, “Here, I’ll show you. Go over there.” While I broke the hardwood into sections small enough to carry, I felt thankful, and said in my head – in a way that didn’t quite feel like thinking – thank you. 

It seemed like the right way to go, to go right instead of left when the creek split like a tuning fork. The path of the blue line on the map tended south/southeast, and I knew there were marshes and a lake and a smaller blue to the north, could see the map in my mind, in simple park service graphics and satellite image. “We should go this way,” gesturing with my paddle and a nod. ”Eh, I think we should go this way,” my friend checked the map on his phone, and I liked when he said, “No, you’re right, we should go this way,” beginning to turn the canoe. 

The creek narrowed and trees lay across the water. Cypress knees poked up through the black water like stubborn spectators as we angled the boat and pushed off of banks, pulled ourselves under the trees when there was clearance, hauling the gear and dragging the canoe through the woods when there was not. I found a turkey feather on our 5th portage, and we stood very near some exceptionally large trees, trees that have been standing in their place in the swamp since the days of the Congaree and the days of the runaway slaves, perhaps feeling the trembling of the forests falling near it during the clear cuts, sensing the fire across the creek in the heat upon leaves, the currents of heat in the air. 

I bet a forest on fire makes a tremendous and terrifying roar. So many crackings and howlings, great stirrings of the burning ground as trees fall. 

We did 7 portages within a mile on that section of creek where we took a wrong turn. The longest was 3/4 of a mile when we realized that we had not, in fact, gone the right way, and were no longer on the paddle trail. “The river may have changed shape,” my friend said. “The GPS track might be wrong.” We walked to where there was a lake on the map, and found a broad spot on a creek, a flock of grackles flapping and cawing in the trees across the water, their wings making a great whoosh when they moved en masse from tree to tree. 

The sound of grackles lifting by the hundreds is almost the sound of a fire taking air. 

There is no fire allowed in the backcountry, for good reason. “Should we make a fire?” We both asked like we knew we wanted to, the cold light from headlamps seeming a little flat, a little grim as we set up camp. It was early still, and yet dark. We would make dinner in the dark. We would sit in the dark. The air was cool, but not cold. My feet were soaking wet, from walking through a creek to the south of the lake because there was no other way to cross it. 

“What is the moon doing?” I felt briefly hopeful for a full moon, and wondered why I had no idea what phase the moon was in. It seems like something I should know. Like I should know whether the moon is full or waning. 

”It is almost new, a tiny crescent.”

“Hmmm…” We both looked around at all the branches laying over the hog-softened ground, and shined our lights up into the trees to see whether branches were low or lofted. There is a lot of open space in some places in the swamp, places between big trees, where the air is open all the way up to the sky. 

She can’t expect people to understand, her boss, her co-workers. “See, I am going through a thing, a thing where the cars and the buildings, and the lights and the screens…it all seems strange to me, not like real life, and yet I know it’s real, that this is the day and this exists, this building exists, this meeting exists, this meeting in which I am trying to explain to you why I am requesting another week off, just a few weeks since I got back from being off for three weeks, why I feel like I need to do that.” 

“I can’t expect you to understand why I want to go be outside, why I want to stay home, why I want to not have to work for a few days, again, to not have to be in town.”

Since she has gotten back to town, the haiku in her has slowly dried, withered, become fragmented. There is haiku everywhere, surely. The cold of the rail, the close of the door, the glare of the lights. It’s easy to make five syllables with one syllable words. Simple.

Her mind has felt tired. Glutted up with simple communications, jangled with the noises of town. 

She can’t expect people to understand these things. 

She knows that showing up is an act of solidarity. 

Is it the fact of almost-winter, the cold bite of outside and the early dark days, that have stunned her thinking, made her feel so weary lately. Yesterday, climbing to nowhere at the YWCA at 6:05am, she watched a lecture by a professor on the topic of depression. 

‘Am I depressed?’ 

‘Have I been depressed so long that I have gotten used to it, that the feeling of not really wanting to do what I am supposed to want to do, of not really feeling excited about what the day offers, numb and a little flat at the edges, moving but not in flow, a reluctant energy, a lack of delight, has that become normal for me?’ 

She knows that she would likely meet clinical criteria for depression. This makes sense to her. She does not think it is a goal of hers to feel well within a life that doesn’t suit her, and yet she has to wonder if she were less situated at the depression/hypoarousal point on the continuum of experience she might be able actually get her life moving more solidly in the direction of transition. 

It is possible that she is having a really hard time, and does not even know where to begin in getting right. 

The other day, she talked with her friend on the phone about a dream he’d had of a cabin with a name of no-quit, and about writing and the prospect of being able to go somewhere only to write and to live in the daily necessities of living – food and warmth and movement and rest – outside of the spaces of towns and people, traffic and buildings, away from the anthropocentric world. As they talked, she felt a big quivering inside of her chest and in her belly. She wanted that, a place far from town with nothing to do but write and live. Something in her lurched sobbing toward that, but she didn’t cry. She noticed that she wanted to cry, but she did not cry. 

She wanted that so bad. Standing in the bathroom, after spitting out her toothpaste getting ready to go to work, talking with her friend, the house chilly except for in front of the stove, the red glow of fire, she realized that the idea of that – to go and just write – would not be such a bizarre thing for her to do, given the person she is. 

Yet, she understands that in her life, the idea of her transitioning out of her life as a wage earner in service and being in service by writing and by allowing what is in her to say to work itself out and find its voice, to confront itself and tell itself…it seems far fetched. 

She spent time last night working on project descriptions for her project overview website. The idea is to have her work portfolio’ed as broad project areas, with ways she is in service outlined and offered. The projects are learning projects and projects in development, and so the portfolio spaces will be evolving. Thus far, the projects are Community Recovery Inquiry, Crisis and Recovery Consultation, Creative Development and Resource Strategies, Autoethnography and Poetry 

These Project Areas should adequately frame the different ways I work and the work I am interested in doing. I may get some training and add transcription services to the mix, with live transcription and Participatory Documentation services available. It is exciting to me to think about how to describe this service. 

As a trained listener and individual with the ability to type quickly and to recall what was just said in near verbatim text, while noting also the process of dialogue, Faith Rhyne is able to capture meetings, focus groups, and other events of interaction as they unfold and can create a strongly representative reflection of what was said by whom. While it is difficult to record spirited dialogue and expression verbatim, Faith makes an effort to especially note people’s personal stories as they are told. 

Traditional transcription of audio or visual recording is also available. 

Participatory Documentation is the facilitated process of participants reviewing Live Transcription documents and offering reflections on what was captured, as well as offering feedback on the experience of participating in the event that was documented and on the experience of reviewing documentation, if they so choose. 

Note: Nothing further done

******

Hahaha ^ yes, the comforts and desires are relative. 

😌 I really am a sucker for beauty. Like, to be able to see the ice on the frozen canes and grasses, last summer’s blackberries and phlox, to hear quiet except for the sounds the living things make, scrape of branch, my own breath…such a tremendous beauty…like, I just can’t get *that* in town…I can get it in moments, lulls in the traffic noises, a few steps away from the conversation, near the thin patches of small wild that are tucked between streets, at the edge of town…

The other day, on tunnel road, I had the understanding that I really just don’t want to be around any of this, and I asked out loud “what if I get to a point where I just can’t deal with the traffic and don’t want to go around all these shops?” And——, who I transporting to the mall, said, “well, it would make sense. You grew up in the woods.” 

And maybe the part of me that is so resistant, that is so reluctant to go and do what she ‘has to do’ just doesn’t want to be around all the cars and buildings, doesn’t want to be in those environments?

There is always a voice in me that says “tough shit. People have to live how they have to live, have to live where they have to live. Your life is golden, stop complaining.” 

…and then the part of me that wants to be outside and hates cars and fluorescent lights, the part of me that *will never adapt*…it sulks because it cannot pitch a fit, sulks because i have to go work. 

I understand that…by barring I meant taking into account and holding-for-possibility of…and that the coyote/forces may not want me to have that sort of life and may create other paths…so, barring the action of the coyote, maybe things will work out as I want them to…and by appeasing, I meant respecting and not provoking by hubris and assumption of my power or wisdom. 

So, as this relates to divine vocation – I have had so many thoughts about discerning the ego-interpretation of vocation, or what we think we ought to be doing based on what we believe we want to be doing…and how slick our thinking can be, to the extent of being willful to the point of delusion…when circumstances and leanings are clearly setting a person up for a different path…And the ways that we are such complex creatures and have so many competing or conflicting inclinations, w many illusions. 

Well, I have a lot of them. It’s not like drive-thru drop everything thoughts on demands here. 

…but, I was thinking this morning about how there is this pretty consistent theme re: ‘working for justice’ that has been present in my life and consciousness for a long time in different ways…and I think about how I *want* to be ‘away from the mess of society and I want to be outside and pursuing my own peacefulness’, haha, 🙄etc….and yet have this gnawing *knowing* that there is something very *right* about me doing transformative justice type work, or speaking about/writing about human and environmental justice issues…and I feel that rightness and congruence when I am doing work toward things like contributing to the ways jails are thought of and used or talking about healing justice and economic justice…like it makes something in me comes alive…and I wonder if maybe there are forces in the world that want me to be doing justice work in some way, and if me wanting to be able to ‘walk away from it all’ and just write poetry or something is me being willful and unreceptive to what the world is asking of me by putting me in the positions that circumstance and serendipity have landed me in…there are lots of different ways to ‘work for justice’ though and maybe my way involves poetry and contemplation, participating in processes of transformation, and then stepping away from that world entirely…haha, who knows? 

It’s hard to discern what the world wants of you, and it’s questionable as to whether the world wants anything of us. 

If it does want anything of us, it probably has something to do with what creates that feeling of congruence and purpose and rightness..

But trying to figure out what is generated by my own idealistic narratives about what I believe i want and/or deserve and being humble in acknowledging the value and potential purpose of where circumstances land me…it’s a process…

******

What she meant, when she wrote that there is solidarity in staying alive no matter how difficult and painful and thoroughly less than ideal your circumstances may be, even if they are gruesome, and you want to die every day, is that in staying alive we honor the people whose lives might be far worse off than ours, who might be living through something similarly terrible or even worse than we can imagine, and that by staying alive, we might be able to find a way to help the situations that create suffering, or to at least be beside people in the struggle.

The ones who decide to stay alive, even when they want to die, assume a personality  responsibility to try to Live and to find things worth living for, and a larger responsibility to find the things worth fighting for. 

There is no shortage of things worth fighting for. 

It’s like our individuals lives are so bound up with the world we live in. If one person stays alive and finds the things that bring them light and strength and learns about the things that cause harm, that alone could save more lives than we will ever know, reduce more suffering, just by showing up and being in the life that one has made after they decided that they no longer wanted to live a life that made them want to die, just by showing up and being a person who is in their light or in their strength or even in their struggle still, but trying…and with a little light. 

When people decide to live because one day their being alive might really fucking matter to someone, they are in solidarity with all of the people who struggle to live and with all of the people whose lives are far more brutal.

That is what she meant, when she said that living is an act of solidarity. 

She woke up early, as usual, though not so early as most days. Her body felt like a tired, heavy thing, with no movement in it, no vigor, no desire to be in action. Her mind was the same, sluggish and without pull, no traction in her thoughts, a dull and thwarted resonance in any idea that she tried to muster energy around, trying out the possibilities of the day, going through the list of things she ‘needed to get done,’ to see if she felt like doing any of them, if any of the things on the list of things to get done felt like the right thing to do. 

They didn’t. She had no energy for any of it, didn’t want to do a thing on her list of things to do. 

There was a slight tremoring of interest around painting a sky on the ceiling of the room upstairs, but it was not deep, this tremoring. It did not come from her gut, but from her head in the thought that maybe if she tried to make something beautiful, she would find herself in that small state of Grace, the seamless drawing of steady hand to surface. Sometimes, when she makes art, she has the sense that the spirits of the world are pleased with her pleasure, that her own spirit is bright and clear, happy as a child at home drawing horses at the kitchen table. 

She thinks that whatever she might do that creates beauty in the world is tied, somehow, to this sense. It frightens her to consider the possibility that she – like some artists do – might lose her ability to inhabit that sense, that she will atrophy, forget – eventually – that she was an artist, forget – even – the sense. 

Waking up, she had none of this sense in her, was only a weighty configuration of sinew and bone, dull pulses, a tired animal that wanted none of the animal wants, wanted only – it seemed – to lay, to rest, to sleep. It did not want to run, or to eat, or to mate, or to be around any other animals at all. It just wanted to rest, alone, and not be asked to do anything, or to have to do anything. 

Surely, if the animal were hungry, it would get up. Surely, if the animal had to move, it would move. 

(I did not feel tired like I felt tired day before yesterday, and yesterday, when I was in the desert, not often, because I knew I had to move, to walk, because I was hungry. Food is amazing when a person walks all day. Here, the food is right in the kitchen, less than fifty steps away. There is no real hunger. I am fed, and tired.) 

She is tired from work, she recognizes, sitting in the old chair that was red and then green and is now blue, that once belonged to her great-grandmother, because she is from a family that holds onto to things like chairs, from a family that has things to hold onto, and places to hold them. Sitting in the chair, in front of a fire made by the combustion of pelletized pine, she considers all the things she is ‘supposed’ to do to keep her loose-held wage-earning position with the nonprofit. She is tired from the week, from the meetings, from having to force her mind to work when she said work, when she had work to do, emails to write, grants to finish, meetings to attend. Listening and considering things she does not see as deeply and immediately requiring of her participation or need-for-knowledge, communicating carefully her perspective, the perspectives of others. 

The house was empty when she woke up tired and there was nothing immediately demanding anything from her, save the old orange cat that eats and quiets, meows in the well-practiced way that he had taught her to respond to, the way that gets him fed.

The place is quiet except for fire noises, the whoosh of hot air. She doesn’t have to do anything, and feels a little sheepish about that, about her sulking, her tiredness. She knows that people all over the world are tired. They wake up tired and they go to work. She does that most days. 

At least she doesn’t have to work in a meat processing facility, or the Department of Motor Vehicles office, or one of the giant box stores at the edge of town, some squalid greasy kitchen where the voices are always barking orders while pop music plays in the lobby, or some job where she has to put together endless, pointless parts for products she neither uses, nor cares about, or even believes in. She couldn’t do it. She knows she wouldn’t be able to. Despite all her tricks and all her efforts, all the ways she tries so hard to find beauty and meaning and peacefulness in simply being, she could not do it. Maybe she’d get used to the loudness, the brightness, the tedium, the smell, the feel of the body sitting or standing all day, the scent of the uniform, the fluorescent lights. Surely, she’d get used to it – adapt, become accustomed to what the day asked her to experience and to cope with, have to cope less and less, become numb to it as a way of surviving. She would adapt. She knows she would adapt, by some process or another, and she knows – also – that peacefulness and lightness of human spirit can be found in many terrible situations that go on and on in their harms and stressors, that stressors can be mitigated, can become non-stressors, can become opportunities for perspectives of peace and equanimity, appeals to the self that cannot be harmed by any everyday brutality. 

She knows that people all over the world have a strength of spirit that allows them to cope with what they have to do in order to survive within their societies, and that people have such grace as to be deeply grateful for a simple job, the most meager of paychecks, the most gruesome of ways to have to earn a living, that people make sacrifices, grace sacrifices, life/death sacrifices, just to try to earn their way, to get a little food for their family. 

She thinks, though, that she couldn’t do it. That she would rather die than live in brutality. 

She knows that isn’t true, that in living there is some solidarity, and in trying to live and to not forget all the other people who are living there is some allyship. 

She thinks, she knows. It goes on and on. 

It is two days past the morning when she woke up tired, two full days of not getting much done, and contemplating the feeling and reality of that, with an edge of overwhelm and urge to retreat, pressing dull tiredness in every move. She ran 7 miles the morning she woke up tired, hoping that it would wake her up, and it did for a little while, and then she became tired again, very tired. 

She went to bed at 6:30 last night, not even caring to talk with her friend in the mountains via text, only wanting to lay in the dark and be quiet. 

She has got to take better care of herself. It’s two days past the tired morning and the day after she went to sleep so early. She still doesn’t feel quite correct. Something is amiss. She is writing because she is trying to find it, sat down to recount the days, figure out where she is with it all, what she needs to do, where her energy is. She doesn’t need to write – she needs to move. 

She doesn’t know what direction to go in. Start anywhere, she tells herself. Go paint the fucking ceiling, if nothing else. 

Just move.