Lightly Child, Lightly

And one of the first questions she asked him was – What do you believe?

And Harry hardly had to think about it; he looked straight at her and said,

quite resolutely – I believe in the kindness of strangers.

It had been such a clean answer.
As sharp and true as his own
particular cleverness, and Lia had felt
somewhere deep within her a bud of affection
drinking and breaking.
An exhale of pure oxygen in an otherwise polluted place.

— Maddie Mortimer, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador; March 31, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo: Said Photographer via Pexels
  • Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

“I hope people feel something…”


Thank you Christie

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

It also reminded me of how much I tend to retreat to work when things are uncomfortable.

Why sit with pain when you can keep yourself busy with work?

—  Katie Hawkins-Gaar, from “The Distraction of Work” (My Sweet Dumb Brain, August 23, 2022) (A newsletter about facing life’s ups and downs, all while being kind to yourself. Katie Hawkins-Gaar was 31 when her husband, Jamie, collapsed while running a half-marathon and died in 2017. A year-and-a-half after Jamie’s death, Katie launched her newsletter, My Sweet Dumb Brain, all about the ups and downs of grief.)

 

What’s that, then?

The evangelical in Anne had always recoiled at ‘The Arts’, for they had no obvious place in the useful, pious life. But Lia had something. It was not simply an ability to accurately depict the world, to replicate the exact gradient of a crow’s beak or the detailed creases of a hand, held out. There’s real flair there, one of Lia’s teachers had told her, a year or so ago, when Anne had been parked outside the school…She can capture the very essence of a thing, whilst… imbuing it with a… startling newness.

The teacher was new there. New and young and pretentious, for what nonsense this was, Anne had thought, but smiled as politely as she could nevertheless, and started the car, so as to let the intrusive woman know she had heard quite enough. Lia came out, holding a painting of a single egg in the middle of a large blue bowl. There was no essence; no startling newness. Just an egg in a bowl. And no one, thought Anne, with any sense, kept their eggs in bowls in the first place. Except for the French, perhaps.

See you tomorrow, Amelia. The teacher had smiled and walked away, smart and smug in her shoulder-padded jacket.

What’s that, then? Anne had asked, glancing in the rear mirror as they neared home.

Quiet, Lia had said.

What?

The title. I’ve called it – Quiet.

And Anne had straightened her spine in the driver’s seat, unnerved by the odd little child in the back of the car, pretending that she couldn’t see how the solitary egg in the bowl was, indeed, a very quiet-looking thing after all, as the tyres ground loudly against the gravel of their driveway.

— Maddie Mortimer, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador; March 31, 2022)

Being born is like this…


Being born is like this:
The sunflowers slowly turn their corollas toward the sun.
The wheat is ripe.
The bread is eaten with sweetness.
My impulse connects to that of the roots of the trees.

—  Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly

This day of mine
was lost
like all the other days,
half of it thinking of yesterday,
half of it thinking of tomorrow.

Abbas Kiarostami, A Wolf Lying in Wait: Selected Poems, (tr. by Karim Emami & Michael Beard)


Notes:

  • Portrait of Abbas Kiarostami in Cinematheque
  • Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Walking. With Ennui.

5:25 a.m. Here we go again. 849 consecutive (almost) days on my Daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a row.

I gather my camera gear, sleep walking through the ritual now. Insomnia rages, 6 days running. No, I haven’t taken your suggested witches’ potions — that is, banana before bed, tonic water, melatonin, magnesium, and all that other voodoo shit that I can’t seem to even try. What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same shit over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, here we are. On the 5:30 am Insanity Bus to Cove Island Park.

I get out of the car. I reposition the pack on my back, then the camera, all of it, heavy, unsettled, unsettling.

I walk.

I’m woozy, stewing in a brew of vertigo and fatigue. Brew…Brew…feelings brewing. I’m at the opening of Maddie Mortimer’s Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies: “Feeling brews itself in different locations, depending on the body. A man’s most honest impulses may begin in his hands or his heart, his toes, throat, fingers or thighs. Lia felt most things first in her stomach.” There’s nothing spectacular going on in this body right now. Spent immediately comes to mind. I slow my pace to get a grip.

I walk.

Mortimer goes on to use the word “ennui“, a Lori-word. I had to look it up…a feeling of utter weariness and discontent…world-weary sensation…soul-destroying fiend.”

I walk.

Adding to the ennui is an “off day” for photo taking. We’ve got the 3 impeding elements: (1) No cloud cover of any type. (2) High tide and (3) Humans. With sun rising later, the tourists are out. In force.

I walk.

I turn off the shoreline, finding nothing enlightening, and move to the walk path.

Man, tourist, adult, not a regular at Cheers here on the Daybreak walks, approaches. He’s shouting into the speaker of his smartphone. He’s FaceTiming. The participant on the other side of the call shouts back. And the back and forth continues, shattering the silence of daybreak.

I move left on the path directly in his lane, thinking this may jog him in lifting the receiver to his ear, or better yet, ending the call. No such thing happens. He shifts to the other side of the path to avoid me. I glare at him, he smiles back and continues his conversation. Idiot, oblivious to the world around him.

My irritation bleeds off, and I walk.

[Read more…]

What real people look like

I’ve been a massage therapist for many years, now. I know what people look like. People have been undressing for me for a long time. I know what you look like: a glance at you, and I can picture pretty well what you’d look like on my table.

Let’s start here with what nobody looks like: nobody looks like the people in magazines or movies. Not even models. Nobody. Lean people have a kind of rawboned, unfinished look about them that is very appealing. But they don’t have plump round breasts and plump round asses. You have plump round breasts and a plump round ass, you have a plump round belly and plump round thighs as well. That’s how it works. And that’s very appealing too.

Woman have cellulite. All of them. It’s dimply and cute. It’s not a defect. It’s not a health problem. It’s the natural consequence of not consisting of photoshopped pixels, and not having emerged from an airbrush.

Men have silly buttocks. Well, if most of your clients are women, anyway. You come to male buttocks and you say – what, this is it? They’re kind of scrawny and the tissue is jumpy because it’s unpadded; you have to dial back the pressure, or they’ll yelp.

Adults sag. It doesn’t matter how fit they are. Every decade, an adult sags a little more. All of the tissue hangs a little looser. They wrinkle, too. I don’t know who put about the rumor that just old people wrinkle. You start wrinkling when you start sagging, as soon as you’re all grown up, and the process goes its merry way as long as you live. Which is hopefully a long, long time, right?

Everybody on a massage table is beautiful. There are really no exceptions to this rule. At that first long sigh, at that first thought that “I can stop hanging on now, I’m safe” – a luminosity, a glow, begins. Within a few minutes the whole body is radiant with it. It suffuses the room: it suffuses the massage therapist too. People talk about massage therapists being caretakers, and I suppose we are: we like to look after people, and we’re easily moved to tenderness. But to let you in on a secret: I’m in it for the glow.

I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness.”

Dale Favier, What People Really Look Like (Portland Home Massage, September 2, 2013)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I ask him what this extraordinarily beautiful and harsh landscape reveals about his political character. “Well, I’m not a man of means,” he said. “We pay for things as we go. We are compelled to work, to do things with our hands. That gives you a different appreciation of life. Things have a bigger meaning.” Bowers said that his core values were instilled in him as a child growing up within a conservative Republican tradition. He is the father of seven children, one of whom, Kacey, died last year. “Family, faith, community – these are values at a very core level. You don’t survive out here, on land like this, alone.”

— Ed Pilkington, from “Rusty Bowers, Ousted Republican reflects on Trump, democracy and America: ‘The place has lost its mind’ (The Guardian, August 21, 2022)


Portrait: Yahoo News of Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers is sworn in during the fourth hearing by the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol on June 21, 2022.

TGIF: the herons…; and the world I’ve known; all fading past me into peace.


Notes:

  • Photo: DK with Great Blue Heron @ Daybreak. 5:55 a.m. 70° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. Other photos from this morning’s walk here.
  • Post Title from Siegfried Sassoon’s poem titled: Falling Asleep

Lightly Child, Lightly

You will recall the young age, when you realized that you wanted to act or write or paint or dance. You’re very young, and everything is a dream waiting to be fulfilled, and everyone who has created something that moved or amused or changed you is a hero, an idol, someone to emulate. Some people never get past this phase, and they will never believe that anyone–no matter how great–is ever as talented or worthy as those childhood idols.

This is one form of artistic suicide, and I see it often. You cannot allow your standards to calcify at that tender and impressionable age, set by what you loved in your bedroom when you knew nothing and furiously felt everything. Those loves and influences will be your foundation, the scaffolding upon which you add everything else, but it cannot be the end of your development.

There is then the realization, through the duck press that is the professional theatre, when you realize how much you do not know and how many things you cannot do or do well.
You have two choices: You can deny the reality of your situation and look upon those who try to shape you or educate you as imbeciles or enemies, or you can look at yourself brutally and honestly and try to become the best artist you can be
. An awful lot of people, the majority, sadly,-choose the former route, and they rail against the theatre or film or dance, and they maintain that they are so special that they cannot be understood by those who are sell-outs or favored or compromised.

—  Elia Kazan, from “Elia Kazan: Artistic Suicide” in Follies of God by James Grissom


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Wait-What? Via Follies of God. Eliza Kazan portrait via Frank Beacham’s Journal.
  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:51 a.m. May 8, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Kazan writes: “I don’t move unless I have some empathy with the basic theme.”
  • Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Truth.


Photo: Michael Odelberth (via Unsplash)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I like to know how my story is going to end. And when I don’t know there is a kind of blind panic, which unsettles, unnerves, terrifies me. Like a wet finger run around the rim of the glass. I have to wait until the sound of this reverberating hum dissolves. Settles into silence again. And only then can I begin to breathe…

My days are spent constructing story, manipulating truths, assimilating life into fiction. To be performed, acted in, filmed, shot. I watch movies and comedies with the precise and earnest eye of a surgeon. Not because I believe I am anything special. I am a writer. Although that would denote a certain level of expertise. But in truth I feel a fraud. Uneducated. Unbrilliant. At times, frankly, illiterate. I lie about the books I’ve read. I am always trying not to be found out. If I am going to see a film, I prefer to have read all the reviews and to know the plot, beforehand. The joy I get is in piecing together the narrative. I like being one step ahead of the audience, with my insider knowledge, like some secondhand moonlighting cop, sifting over the pieces, working out how it is done. How it is being crafted.

—  Abi Morgan, excerpts from “This is Not a Pity Memoir” (Harper, June 7, 2022)

Watch it.

How the world turns. All the things, wonderful and ordinary, that we take for granted

Lots of journalists have Salman Rushdie stories. He likes to talk and he is generous with his time. When I interviewed him a few years ago, we had lunch together… What I remember most, though, isn’t what happened there, but the fact that when we were finished, Rushdie insisted he would rather walk with me to Pimlico underground than pile into a taxi.

I think I was surprised. One of my very first jobs as a young journalist involved attending an event where Rushdie, then still in hiding, was rumoured to be going to appear (memory tells me that he did, emerging from behind a curtain like a stage magician). But I was also amused. He didn’t – it was obvious – quite know the best way to the station and in his outsize puffer jacket he rather meekly followed me, looking about happily as he strolled. I’ve thought of those few stuccoed streets, and of him padding along them in the sunshine, seemingly without a care, every day since he was attacked. How the world turns. All the things, wonderful and ordinary, that we take for granted…

Reading is my oldest habit, which is just as well given that I’m one of the judges of this year’s Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction. If ingesting so many books so quickly is exhilarating, it’s also, at moments, arduous; hopefully, my years of training are about to pay off.

I read as I water the garden and wait for the kettle to boil. I read on the bus and the tube and at every pedestrian crossing.

What thoughts occur as I pick up, and put down, each title? All I can tell you is that the difference between a good book and a great one is both inexplicably small and ineffably vast – and that a cartoon I saw the other day in which a man headed to his book group in full armour and carrying a sword made me shudder more than it made me smile.

Rachel Cooke, from “Walking with Salman Rushdie to a tube station now seems like a distant age” (The Guardian, August 20, 2022)


Notes:

  • Inspired by Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh: “A sigh isn’t just a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning. While we can. While we can.”
  • Portrait: Salman Rushdie, Murdo MacLeod, The Guardian

Walking. With Buechner.

5:10 a.m. No. I didn’t sleep in. And No, I didn’t take magnesium before bed. Or drink a cup of Tonic Water. Or eat a banana. Or take melatonin. Why? Who the Hell knows? Maybe it gives me something to bitch about.

I walk.

It been 837 consecutive (almost) days on this daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. That’s 2 years, 3 months, 15 days, like in a row.

There’s a thin sheen of cloud cover over the moon. Even God found at Ōita couldn’t get a clear shot at this. Elsewhere overhead, the cloud cover is heavy and near complete. It’s dark.

It feels like a “down” day. Too much cloud. Too many people. Too much high tide. Sigh. 837 days, and you’re going to have an off day. The odds are such.

I approach the location in the photograph up top. A scene that I, and you, have seen many times.

I can make out the fisherman’s silhouette, but nothing else. Something pulls me to lift the camera up and look through the viewfinder…WTH is that? I stare through the viewfinder, a Kaleidoscope.

I take the camera away and look out again. It’s dark. I see nothing of what I see in the viewfinder. I lift the camera, and do over. God, no. It can’t be my eyes deteriorating further.

I lift the camera again, and sure as sh*t, it’s there. God found at Ōita has returned. The pink hue watercolors are airbrushed on the water, the sky, the low hanging clouds and the horizon.

It’s dark, and yet it’s not. What I see. What I want to see. What I can see. What I don’t see. What I feel.

This string of babble pulls me back to my early morning papers.

Frederick Buechner died this week. David Brooks, in his must-read essay titled “The Man Who Found His Inner Depths” described Buechner’s faith as “personal, unpretentious and accessible. ‘Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward.’ It is sensing a presence, not buying an argument.”

I look over the Cove, it’s lighter out now, twilight is lifting. Now that I see, I believe.

But damn it if I’m not sensing Something out there.

Something ethereal, Lori’s magic word def. adj. //əˈTHirēəl/ extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world.

No, this brick-head isn’t buying ‘jack’ yet, but he’s out Shopping, and Something is there.

He can feel it.


DK Photo @ 5:30 a.m. August 20, 2022. 8-° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More photos from this morning here.

God Found in Ōita!

2:30 a.m. Here we go again.

I’m up. Three days, back to back to back, at this God-awful hour. Three days, standing in bare feet on cool grass, with my camera pointed up, trying to still my hands, trying to still my arms, just trying Still everything damn it, from the shakes — and then, if that’s not enough — my eyes are tracking the moon, aka a bright, yellow blob that is spastically jumping up and down in my viewfinder. So, now I have the shakes and vertigo.  Has to be the lack of sleep. Has to be.

Rattled, I walk to the driveway, slowly, feeling my way through the dark, with jagged stones piercing the souls of my feet. Need to resurface this damn driveway. 

I lay my arms on the roof of the car, and point upward. Why 2:30 a.m., and not 1:30, or 3:30, or even 5 am, like at least 10% of Humans? God, again, only knows, if there is a God. And I’m thinking maybe there is a God, because Someone wants me up to see Something at this hour.

I look back into the viewfinder. Sh*t. This isn’t working.

I place the camera down on the roof of the car, and let my arms rest.  Sky is clear. No risk of missing the shot with cloud cover. Take a minute, re-group and go at it again.

I look up and down the street.  No one else is out in their Jockey sleep shorts, their short-sleeved, white V-Neck, lurking around in bare feet waiting for their hands to stop trembling like a frightened kitten.

I lift my palms and look. Everything appears to be normal, on the surface.

I take a moment to re-check camera settings. Then I move to the lens settings. And here I find that I somehow turned off the automatic image stabilizer. Ha! It’s not me. I just knew it couldn’t have been me.

I snug up tight to the car, the smooth steel, cool against my chest. With the ship now anchored, I lift the camera and point.  And, there, there She is, in all of her Glory.

So there is a God.

Just has to be.

Sitting @ Canon in Ōita, Japan.


Photo – Waning Gibbous Moon (57%). 2:38 a.m. August 19, 2022. 63° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More photos from this morning here.

T.G.I.F. I want our summers…

…So be it. Maybe all this baking will quiet
the angry voices next door, if only

for a brief whiff. I want our summers

to always be like this—a kitchen wrecked with love,
a table overflowing with baked goods
warming the already warm air. After all the pots

are stacked, the goodies cooled, and all the counters
wiped clean—let us never be rescued from this mess.


Photo: Louis Hansel (via Unsplash)

this is a moment to remember

The older we get, the more rapidly time seems to move. This phenomenon has been well documented by psychologists and average humans alike, but it was only a couple of years ago that we had a physical explanation for our changing perception of time. In 2019, mechanical engineering professor Adrian Bejan presented a peer-reviewed argument based on the physics of neural signal processing. Bejan hypothesized that, over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, which makes time seem to speed up as we age.

This tracks. Time feels especially slippery for me lately. Days with a toddler are simultaneously long and short. And the weeks, months, and years of pandemic life have been increasingly hard to wrap my head around. As writer Christine Speer Lejune described it, “Some memories from these pandemic years are sharply vivid; others feel as hazy as an old film reel, more like impressions of having done things than memories of actually doing them. Almost all of them are untethered from anything like chronology, just bobbing around together in a two-year-old pandemic stew.”

Time passes. Things happen. Days drag on and weeks zoom past. Before I know it, six weeks have gone by, and I’m left wondering what I did with all that time.

Thankfully, I have photos to rely on. Even if no one else sees them but me, my family, and a few random friends. My phone is full of big and small moments, captured so I don’t forget them.

The vast majority of the photos I take these days are of my daughter. I document her dutifully for a multitude of reasons: because she’s cute, because she grows so quickly, and because I know she’ll have few, if any, memories from this time.

I also take photos of her because she loves seeing them. “Pick-urs?” she asks, pointing to my phone. “Yes, we can look at pictures,” I reply.

She snuggles up in the crook of my arm as we scroll through the same old set of images. “Paint!” she shouts, seeing herself trying out watercolors for the first time. “Mama!” she says, pointing to a photo of me posing for the camera. “Beep beep!” she cheers, pushing her hand against an imaginary wheel, as she spots an image of herself in the grocery cart that’s shaped like a car.

She’s seen these photos a hundred times, and still, they bring joy.

These photos bring me joy, too. As counterintuitive as it may seem, taking photos helps me to stay in the present—signaling that this is a moment to remember. (Turns out, science backs this up.) Afterwards, looking through those photographs reminds me how beautiful everyday life can be…

Katie Hawkins-Gaar, from “I Want to Remember” (My Sweet Dumb Brain, August 16, 2022.) A newsletter about facing life’s ups and downs, all while being kind to yourself. Katie Hawkins-Gaar was 31 when her husband, Jamie, collapsed while running a half-marathon and died in 2017. A year-and-a-half after Jamie’s death, Katie launched her newsletter, My Sweet Dumb Brain, all about the ups and downs of grief.)

And then, there’s the Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

We compartmentalized the stress and ongoing trauma, flattening it into something survivable, but we nonetheless ate it for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. We swam in that stress. We slept in it. We swallowed it in gulps. We lived through it, and we told ourselves stories of resilience, because what other choice did we have.

But the body is bad at pretending. It keeps the damn score.

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