feels sacred, a snapshot of the world before everything in it changed

The mail sat in a pile on the counter by the stove. The National Geographic was rather lackluster that month. Several years ago I found that same issue in a used book store—December 1964—and have it here somewhere between all my books and papers. I doubt a thing like that is valuable fifty years later, but to me that magazine feels sacred, a snapshot of the world before everything in it changed for me. It was nothing special. The cover shows two ugly white birds, doves maybe, sitting on a cast-iron fence. A holy cross looms out of focus above them. The issue includes profiles of Washington, D.C., and some exotic vacation destinations in Mexico and the Middle East. That night, when it was new and still smelled of glue and ink, I opened it briefly to a picture of a palm tree against a pink sunset, then slapped it down on the kitchen table, disappointed. I preferred to read about places like India, Belarus, the slums of Brazil, the starving children in Africa.

~ Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen: A Novel

Saturday Morning

At night, crickets sawed outside the windows of my childhood bedroom, and I read sixteen years of old journals, turning their pages into the early morning hours, as if I did not know what would happen next. There I was, same as ever, a linked paper chain of self-replication, continuously through time, the very same shorthand for a simple, happy life: muffin tins, cross-country skis, a desk by an open window. When had I made everything so complicated?

~ Sarah McColl, “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)


Photo: Dan Smith

It’s been a long day

I remembered the fearless, confident boy I used to be back then…I didn’t miss him. I only, sometimes, missed the high spirits that often used to seize me when I was ten. Would there ever be an event in my life that would catapult me back into that ecstatic, silly lightheartedness, even if only for a moment?

~ Benedict Wells, The End of Loneliness: A Novel (Penguin Books, January 29, 2019)


Notes:

I yearn to go back…I want the days to be mid-summer all year long.


Notes:

  • Inspiration: Brian Kirk – “I want the long hours back but you can’t give me that. Sometimes I yearn to go back even further, to a world defined by family, fields and railway tracks, the sham abandon of the long school holidays. I want the days to be mid-summer all year long, those childhood games that lasted until darkness fell and twilight was a midnight walk back home with a ball at my feet and my head completely empty. Each night I close my eyes and we are young again, before time dragged us down its hungry maw. On waking I can feel I’m falling, but reaching out into the dark I find you, hold on tight.
  • Photo (via newthom)

Running. With Turtlenecks.

Christmas morning. I’m running.

35° F, feels like 26°.  Wind cuts, it’s wet, akin to wind coming off Lake Michigan in Chicago, the Windy City. It penetrates the bones. I shiver.

I pull down the zipper on my jacket, and reach for the zipper on my running shirt.  I zip it all the way up. This blocks the wind but triggers another, deeper, pain point.  The moisture wicking fabric on the running shirt wraps snugly around my Adam’s Apple. Oh, God. No. My hand instinctively claws at the shirt to pull it away, offering temporary relief, but no more. The shirt snaps back around my throat.

I scramble to unzip the jacket, to unzip the shirt, freeing my throat. The cold air swooshes in. But at least it’s free. Can’t have anything touching the Adam’s Apple.  We all have our tics. This one is mine. Raye speaks of a Medium calling for a new Puppy in 2019. I believe her, but don’t believe in Mediums, Tarot Cards or any other woo woo, but I shudder to think what the Medium would say about this Adam’s Apple thing – some horror in a prior life.

In his story titled “Little Birds“, Simon Van Booy describes memories as “Each year…putting a new coat over all the old ones. Sometimes I reach into the pockets of my childhood and pull things out.” So this triggers a pulling out of a thing. My little bird. With its broken little wing. [Read more…]

It has one of everything, so it is in a sense an ark

I felt at home, strangely, because it is a miniature world.… One manor house, one farmhouse. A vineyard, a field of potatoes, a field of wheat, a cherry tree, an orchard. It has one of everything, so it is in a sense an ark. It is like when you draw a place when you are a child. I don’t like large-scale things, not in architecture or evolutionary leaps. I think it’s an aberration. This notion of something that is small and self-contained is for me a moral and aesthetic ideal.

~ W.G. Sebald, A Place in the Country 


Image: Cristiana Coucerio for The New Yorker,

A Division of Labor. A Promise Kept.

Saturday morning. Bird song, many species, ease softly through the window. The body, the bones and the mind at rest. The peace and sanctuary of Saturday morning. Bliss.

Until, it’s not.

For most, the smell of freshly cut grass conjures warm images of youth, of order, of parallel lines, or of a task completed. Or perhaps it’s the smell of rich, black soil, or the solidity of earth under one’s feet. Or perhaps a feeling of rebirth or growth.

For most.

But not for me.

This past, this dipping back into youth, of weekend chores, of hundreds of yards of uncut grass, of an aging push mower, of a hot sun bearing down, of a rush to finish – offers no such relief.

[Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Walking backwards.

7:34 p.m. train. Grand Central station. Last peak hour train home. Standing room only. Heads down, glowing screens, wifi slow, thousands sucking on the same straw. Pages loading slowly, then stopping altogether. One head, after another, mine too, lifting in frustration.  Beach ball spinning, locked up. There’s a message in this. To thousands of us sitting on this train. Whether we are listening, now that is another story.

8:31 p.m. Walk home. Down the platform. Up the stairs. Across the bridge over I-95. Up the hill – and the last 1/4 mile stretch, before losing this tie, this shirt sticking to my back, and these leather shoes strapped around my feet for last 12 hours. Free me, please!

I see them in the distance. Two boys, 7 or 8 years old, kicking a soccer ball on front yard. Mom sitting on the porch reading. When’s the last time I’ve seen this? [Read more…]

Back…back…back.

Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down…
Who was I at age seven?

Sixty-eight years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.

– Jim Harrison, from Seven in the Woods from Dead’s Man Float


Notes:

  • Inspired by – “We go back … and back … and back … through the layers of fear, shame, rage, hurt, and negative incantations until we discover the exuberant, unencumbered, delightful, and lovable child that was, and still is, in us.” By Melody Beattie (via Bright, Shiny Objects)
  • Photo: Ivanovo detstvo (Ivan’s Childhood) • Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky 1962 (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Walking Cross-Town. And Recycling.

My right eye is pulled down and right, to the gutter on 42nd street. A half-eaten sandwich, a bite out of a slice of yellow American cheddar cheese, and its wrapper moist from Italian dressing. A few feet further up, a Bic Pen with its partially chewed blue cap, a cigarette butt and a flyer for Chinese take-out.

This discarded potpourri waits for the next big rain, or the morning sweepers to push it down from one storefront to the next and to the next, when it eventually drops down a street drain, bumping along the dark tunnels, and ending in the Hudson River, where a bottom feeding catfish nibbles on it.

I’m rushing (again) to catch the 6:10 Metro-North home.  I can’t explain it: the mind, my mind, that is.  It’s locked on trash.

Last night, I tossed an empty box of Eggo Frozen Waffles into the trash can in the kitchen. My eyes scan the trash, as my tongue works its way across my lips, lips lightly coated from Log Cabin Maple Syrup.

“Why isn’t this paper in the recycling bin?”

“What paper?”

“All of the paper that should be in the recycling bin.”

“Because it’s soiled.”

Soiled? I dig down. I find unsoiled paper, an empty plastic stick deodorant push-up, zip-lock baggies and empty envelopes.  I toss them into the recycling bin.

I dig down to the bottom for one last pass and my hands land on raw, moist chicken fat. [Read more…]

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