Monday Morning Wake-Up Call – “Heaven”, I suggest. “Yup.”

Jeff Bridges at 72 wakes early and lingers a while in bed. Since a battle with lymphatic cancer that began two years ago (“When they found a 9in by 12in mass in my stomach”) and a bad case of Covid he contracted on his local chemo ward (“It made the cancer look like a piece of cake”), rising in the mornings has been a struggle for the veteran Hollywood actor. “I really have to drag myself out of bed,” he says. When Bridges is finally up and about, he stretches, he does a daily breathing exercise so intense it leaves him trembling, he makes coffee, he reads. By the time he’s down in the garage of his Santa Barbara home, maybe noodling about on a musical instrument, or painting, he’ll be feeling and behaving more like the Jeff Bridges that movie-goers have come to know: that beautifully unpolished, scruffy-sweet, growly-squeaky figure, irresistible in deathless works that include The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Big Lebowski and True Grit. […]

Bridges pats his chest, a where-was-I gesture. Oh yeah, positivity. “What I learned from that whole experience in hospital was: life is constantly giving us gifts. They may be gifts that we don’t think we want. Who wants cancer? Who wants fucking Covid, man? Well it turns out, I did. Because dealing with your mortality, it makes things more precious. It’s a gift, man, to realise that I’ve got eyes to look at all this beautiful stuff in the world. I can feel the temperature of the day on my skin. I’ve got a wife who loves me, my kids, too, and I can bathe in that love. It’s all a gift.”

Bridges was born to Lloyd and his wife Dorothy at the end of the 1940s, “right after they’d lost a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” he adds. “Can you imagine? Your one-year-old? But they had me. They got back in the saddle.” He wound up being the middle of three kids, his older brother Beau going on to become a successful film actor, his little sister Cindy an artist. “Our mom loved mothering,” Bridges remembers. “We all got to benefit. She did this thing with her kids called Time. It was an hour every day with each of us, doing whatever we wanted. Pretending to be clowns. Space monsters. You never got the feeling of duty coming from her. She just dug playing.” […]

At one point in our conversation, Bridges tries to recall a younger actor he worked with on the 2013 action- comedy R.I.P.D., only to blank on his name. He snaps his fingers, reaching for it. “I just watched his recent movie, Free Guy.” Ryan Reynolds? I suggest. “Yes!” Bridges exclaims, relieved, troubled as well by the lapse.

“Isn’t that terrible? That’s embarrassing. To forget someone’s name when they’re dear to you It’s awkward. It feels weird to me.” Bridges shakes his head and says: “Memory, man. As I get older I ask my brain for a name, a word, and it says, ‘Are you kidding?’ My brain is flipping me fingers.” I ask about his return to work on his new drama, The Old Man, whether he struggled to remember lines on set. Ian McKellen, a decade older than Bridges, but still in regular work, once told me that actors die twice. The first death comes when they stop being able to memorise their dialogue. “I was pleasantly surprised to find that was not the case on The Old Man,” Bridges says. “Maybe it’s a short-term, long-term memory thing?” […]

Before his mother died, she wrote Bridges a poem in which she described the “honour” of reaching advanced age. I ask him what he thinks she meant by the word. “It’s interesting. New shit comes up constantly as you get older. But it’s not like you’re learning new shit, it’s more like you’re practising how you respond to life. You kind of get to practise what you are.” Bridges continues, “People don’t talk too much about it, but often, in old age? You’ll be going through the things that age offers us – closer proximity to death, a whole different way of dealing with sex, hormonal shifts that make you look at intimacy in a different way – and it almost feels like going through adolescence again. Think of being young. Think of asking a girl out on a first date. Think of how that feels.” Bridges, touching his heart again, issues a high-trembling bleat to express how it feels, as love, terror and hope intermingle. “You have versions of that in old age, too.” […]

At the beginning of our conversation, Bridges talked me through his morning routine, those aching grouchy wake-ups before he stretches and breathes and makes coffee. Now he explains how each day ends for him and Sue. “We sit and we eat dinner in front of the TV. We’re always hooked on some new show or another. Maybe we’re getting tired, maybe I have a wrestle with one of the dogs on the carpet for a bit. I’ll say to Sue, ‘I’m goin’ up.’ And she says to me, ‘OK.’ I get into bed while she does her teeth. She comes in, too. We huddle with our dogs. We go to sleep.”

Heaven, I suggest.

“Yup,” says Bridges, nodding slowly in agreement. “Yup.”

— Tom Lamont, excerpts from “‘Dealing with your mortality, it makes things more precious’: Hollywood legend Jeff Bridges on the gift of life after cancer” (The Guardian, September 18, 2022)

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.

Lightly Child, Lightly (Take 2)

Thomas A. Edison was born in 1847, and on October 21, 1879, he invented the incandescent light bulb. I was born on October 21, 1947, one hundred years after Edison’s birth and on the sixty-eighth anniversary of his famous invention. By the time I discovered these facts, I was in my forties, but I had already developed a lifelong fascination with light.

Indeed, my first memory is of light dancing in the leaves of a tall tree in my grandmother’s front yard in Sparta, Missouri. Aunt Grace had placed me on my back on a blanket under this tree. I remember the sunlight sparkling through the changing colors of the fluttering leaves and the occasional patch of cloud shadow that affected everything. I didn’t have language, but I knew what I was watching was beautiful.

I remember nothing else about the first two years of my life, but I recall this as clearly as if it happened this morning. Light sticks in my memory that way. And ever since that seminal moment, dappled light has held the power to induce wonder in me.

I take note of shadows and sunspots and if a cloud crosses the sun. I stop to admire the sparkling dew on grass and flowers, the rainbows in lawn sprinklers, and the way certain kinds of light shine on birds’ wings or breasts. I notice my cat glistening in the sunbeams and the way light sparkles on nearby Holmes Lake. These minute alterations in light affect me emotionally and even spiritually.

When I swim, the parabolas of light dancing on the bottom of the pool make me happy. So does the way sunlight splashing through rain can paint my porch with light. When I see shafts of sunlight breaking through storm clouds, I pay attention. When we travel, it is light that most astonishes me. Light in the Sandhills of Nebraska, in Alaska, in San Francisco, and in all the mountain towns along the front range of the Rockies…

I am solar-powered. As a child, I spent every waking moment outdoors in the summer. I spent my mornings mixing mud pies, cookies, and cakes on wooden slabs under an elm tree. And I spent long afternoons and evenings in our municipal pool. That’s when I began reminding the other children to look at how sunlight twinkled on water. [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly

In the morning, I sit with a cup of coffee and organize myself for the day. I watch the sunrise over the lake by my home, and I listen to the sounds of the sparrows and wrens. Orioles come and go from our grape jelly feeder, and each one makes me smile. I breathe deeply for 10 breaths to ground myself in my body. I remind myself of my many blessings and set my attitude to positive. My old calico, Glessie, sits by my side. Even though I am ragged with grief at the news of the world, I am ready to face whatever happens next.

Over the decades, I’ve acquired skills for building a good day. Especially in the summer, when I can swim, work in my garden, attend outdoor concerts and read in my hammock, life is fun. I have work I enjoy — sponsoring an Afghan family, participating in an environmental group and writing.

Of course, I am leading a double life. Underneath my ordinary good life, I am in despair for the world. Some days, the news is such that I need all my inner strength to avoid exhaustion, anxiety and depression. I rarely discuss this despair. My friends don’t, either. We all feel the same. We don’t know what to say that is positive. So we keep our conversations to our gardens, our families, books and movies and our work on local projects. We don’t want to make one another feel hopeless and helpless.

Many of us feel we are walking through sludge. This strange inertia comes from the continuing pandemic, a world at war and the mass shootings of shoppers, worshipers and schoolchildren. In addition, our country and our planet are rapidly changing in ways that are profoundly disturbing. We live in a time of groundlessness when we can reasonably predict no further than dinnertime. The pandemic was a crash course in that lesson.

As we are pummeled with daily traumatic information, more and more of us shut down emotionally. I can hear the flatness in the newscasters’ voices, see the stress in my friends’ faces and sense it in the tension of the workers at my sister’s nursing home. We are not apathetic; we are overwhelmed. Our symptoms resemble those of combat fatigue.

The most informed and compassionate among us are the most vulnerable to despair. We understand the brokenness and the sorrow in our own and faraway communities. We are also fully aware of all the things we cannot change. Staying focused on the light in the world is hard work.

Of course, America isn’t eastern Ukraine, Afghanistan or Yemen, but nonetheless, we are a lonely, frightened people who have lost hope in the future. Any psychologist knows that is a dangerous place to be. We risk losing our ability to think clearly or experience life completely. We lose our vitality and sense of direction. We cannot help others. We cannot fix anything. [Read more…]

Walking. With My Oystercatcher.

She was alone. Some form of birdsong, but at a high (very) pitch.  It’s the long beak that caught my attention. What is it? No clue.

It’s tough to get close in the mucky, low tide. Tough to focus in pre-twilight. I take the half-a**ed shot from way back, wary that if I get another 5 yards closer, she’s gone.

I approach.

Today, 757 consecutive (almost) days on my morning walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a row. And I’m clopping in angle deep mud, hoping that I don’t sink to my knees. Don’t you dare bolt on me.

S: “So when did you become a Birder?” That was Wednesday, several days ago —  and it’s like cupping your hands to your mouth and yelling: So when did you become a Birder?…Birder…Birder…Birder….Birder…on repeat, the echoing Upstairs.

What she didn’t say, but it was back there: “So how long is this NEW obsession going to last.”  After 38 odd years, you sort of have each other figured out. 10 years ago, I would counterpunched: “Be nice if you found any sort of obsession to lock onto.” Instead, I smile, all grown up now. It’s really a strange feeling, this controlling yourself thing.  Destabilizing, really, this letting things go. Come on. Not really letting go. Just setting it in short term parking, and waiting, when the pressure is unbearable, and then release. And carnage. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

All of us are a little untethered right now, which means a lot of projecting our own fears and anxieties onto other people. Sometimes, if we get really quiet—quiet enough to hear ourselves—we realize we know.

Emmanuel AchoIllogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits (Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book, March 22, 2022)


Photo credit: Alessandro Gentile

T.G.I.F.: Perhaps this is the time to take an extra slow sip from a piping mug of coffee

From where I write, the world is a storm of scars and grief, and somehow, of unexpected delight. This mélange isn’t logical. It’s a mystery. But perhaps now is the perfect time for such a thing.

Perhaps this is the time to take an extra slow sip from a piping mug of coffee, to let the steam melt into the waiting face and to savor the way that dark substance can invigorate the body. Perhaps this is the time to gaze at squirrels in the yard, those lucky rodents who don’t seem to realize—or care—that we’ve changed, those chipper squirrels whose routines continue with full gusto despite everything else. Perhaps this is the time to sit with someone you’ve grown accustomed to seeing each day, to stare at their familiar face under familiar light and look for the unfamiliar things that made you love them in the first place.

This is a time when one of the few things we’re certain about is how little certainty there is. We can scramble to find answers and do what we can to act in the midst of these swirling questions and trials, but this can also be a time to pause. Somehow, in the middle of all these current messes, there are still pleasant—even delightful—mysteries to be found. There are friends to check in on (from a distance), there’s astonishment to be shared. There are poems to be read. There is hope to be found, embraced, passed along.

The heavy blanket of fog in the yard has lightened so that it’s no more than a sheet. The baby maple, still alone, stretches up from its cast. Next year, it may be crowned with leaves, and someday, it will give us shade, like the ones who came before it. Somehow, in the midst of everything, it grows stronger each day.

—  Angela Hugunin, from “The Comfort Of A Poem: Reflections on Mary Oliver’s “Mysteries, Yes. ” (cvwritersguild.org, April 7, 2020)


Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Walking. On the Edge…

+ 6:10 a.m. Saturday. 41°. Calm, light drizzle. Cove Island Park Walk. + The Body is pulled to this part of The Cove, and it softens along the gentle, sloping embankment at the estuary of the Noroton River and the Long Island Sound. There is Something about this spot that’s magic. William Stafford in his book “Even in Quiet Places“, in his poem “Time for Serenity, Anyone?“, describes it: “It stretches out there shivering toward its own creation, and I’m part of it. Even my breathing enters into this elaborate give-and-take.” And there I stand. Soft rain falls on me, the Mind rests, and I breathe it all in.  + Speaking of breathing, COVID cases have surged in Connecticut, up 50%. This in a state where vaccinations and masks are religion. Fodder for the idiots spouting that masks and vaccinations don’t work, ignoring that 75% of hospitalizations are among those not fully vaccinated. NY Times front page story this morning: “Despair Sets In As Cases Bury Hospital Staffs. Medical Workers Feel Crisis Has No End.” Hospital workers back living on the edge… Aerosmith’s Living on the Edge: “There’s something wrong with the world today / I don’t know what it is / Something’s wrong with our eyes / We’re seeing things in a different way / And God knows it ain’t his… / The light bulb’s getting dim.” + I near the end of my walk. Gulls stand in low tide, in ice cold water, preening.  Something about this act of their preening that soothes me. These beautiful creatures, with their little heart beats, and wings that keep them aloft. Yet here we are. Seemingly grounded, as the world burns.  Patricia Highsmith: “Such is the human mind with no hand on the steering wheel.


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:23 a.m. & 7:05 a.m. & Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. 41°. Calm. Light Drizzle.
  • Stafford quote, thank you Whiskey River.

And now in age I bud again

The only trouble with being born in 1961 is that in 2021 you will turn 60, something I did last week. It’s very strange to persist in feeling 22, even as every mirror — and every storefront window and polished elevator door — reveals the truth. Sixty is the point at which people must admit they are no longer middle-aged.

Lately it’s been dawning on me that I would not want to have been born even one minute later than 1961, either. Last week I mentioned this new thought to a friend, and her response was immediate, as though she’d already had it herself: “Because we won’t have to live through the cataclysm?”

Exactly.

Well, no, not exactly. On the days when headlines are full, yet again, with firestorms and catastrophic flooding and biodiversity collapse and endless pandemic and a depressingly effective disinformation campaign to deny the climate emergency — on those days, yes. Absolutely yes. On those days I am glad to be 60 because it means I almost certainly won’t live to witness the cataclysm that is coming if humanity cannot change its ways in time.

But that’s not the way I think on most days. On most days I am simply grateful for the 60 years I’ve had…

I have lived long enough to have learned, too, that what is beautiful and joyful is almost always fleeting and must never be squandered. That rejection rarely bears any relationship to worth. That whatever else might separate us, sharing a love for “Ted Lasso” is enough common ground to start the harder conversations. That life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes…

A lifelong friend, one who will also turn 60 this year, sent me an email on my birthday. Her message contained a passage from “The Flower,” a poem by George Herbert: “Grief melts away / Like snow in May, / As if there were no such cold thing. / Who would have thought my shriveled heart / Could have recovered greenness?”

Who would have thought, indeed? But given enough time, we do go on, somehow. Like the stems and branches of springtime, our shriveled hearts can recover greenness, too. “And now in age I bud again,” Herbert wrote, and so it is with us.

— Margaret Renkl, from “I Just Turned 60, but I Still Feel 22″ in The New York Times (November 1, 2021)


Portraits: First: Margaret Renkl at Auburn University in 1983.  Credit…Billy Renkl. Second: WUTC on September 15, 2021 at 4:37 PM EDT

Sunday Morning

My father had died in a single-vehicle accident in California, far from those who knew and loved him. As I grieved, my father’s death brought a certain clarity about my calling as a husband and parent. If my relationship with my dad had been marked by brokenness, I wanted my relationship with my wife and children to be marked by healing. It also forced me to re-evaluate my career. Impressing other writers and academics ceased to be my goal. Instead, I would focus on using my words to find beauty and hope. I couldn’t write a different ending for my father’s story, but I could show that a different ending was possible for others.

Over the past year and a half, many people have experienced something similar to what I did when my father died. I am not the only one who has received a terrifying call that wakes us from our slumber and changes us forever. It may have been a notification about a loved one going on a ventilator rather than dying in a car crash, but the trauma is the same. This pandemic has left conversations and lives cut short…

All these changes that people are embarking on during the pandemic make me think that we weren’t that happy before the pandemic. What about our lives prevented us from seeing things that are so clear to us now? When I talked to friends and neighbors about this, two themes emerged. The pandemic has disabused us of the illusion of time as a limitless resource and of the false promise that the sacrifices we make for our careers are always worth it.

Before the pandemic, we knew we were going to die, but we did not believe it. Maybe we believed it, but considered it a problem to be dealt with later. In the meantime, exercise and a reasonable diet was the tithe we paid to our fears. We believed we had time…

We have had to consider our collective mortality. And we are now faced with the question of meaning. Like the biblical psalmist says, “We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” (Psalm 124:7). Covid-19 threatened to capture us in its snare, but thus far we have eluded it.

What shall we do with this opportunity?

Dr. Esau McCaulley, from “We Weren’t Happy Before the Pandemic,Either.” Dr. McCaulley is a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois., (NY Times, August 21, 2021)

World Re-opening…


Art by Gürbüz Doğan Ekşioğl, (from Istanbul, Turkey). Françoise Mouly: “When coronavirus quarantines were announced, more than a year ago, artists began sending in sketches about our new, locked-in reality. One of those sketches, from Gürbüz Doğan Ekşioğlu, who is based in Istanbul, looked far ahead, imagining the thrill and poignancy of a world reopening. Today, the pandemic is far from over, but many countries are finally exhaling, and it seemed apt to publish Ekşioğlu’s image.”

T.G.I.F. Nope. Mr. Bingo.

Nope, Mr Bingo (via thisisn’thappiness)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call


I am falling back in love with myself, taking extra time each day to care for my African violets and orchids. How I plan to live my life moving forward: no more doing for others what I do not want to do. I am centering my attention on the things that give me peace.

—  Jeffreen Hayes, Chicago, from “Emerging From the Coronavirus” in The New York Times, April 5, 2021


Photo: Galaxed

What Your Mask Says About You (or how to judge a face by its cover)


See more @ The New Yorker (April 12, 2021): “What Your Mask Says About You (How to judge a face by its cover. Barry Blitt, a cartoonist and an illustrator, has contributed to The New Yorker since 1992. In 2020, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.April 12, 2021

Survivor

I know I am becoming someone different. I just don’t know what that difference will be yet.

— Joelle Wright-Terry, 47, a hospice chaplain from Clinton Township, Mich., is a Covid survivor. She lost her husband to the virus last April. From “Emerging From the Coronavirus” in The New York Times, April 5, 2021


Notes:

What is that weird, tingling feeling? Could it possibly be … hope?

But then the sun came out where I live this week, and I was alive again. Dunno if you’ve noticed this, but it’s been the longest year since records began, and the timing of lockdown restrictions easing this week coinciding with warm weather in parts of England – which the press was more than happy to call a “heatwave” – has me feeling quite hopeful. I can hear a bird tweeting as I type this sentence! The sun is in the sky! Life begins anew! …

There is a tingling, bright feeling in the air that feels alien to a lot of us – anticipation, maybe, the idea that lido visits will soon lead to pub visits that will one day lead to music festivals and cheap summer holidays. I have a haircut booked in for 12 April and, after a full year without anything to anticipate, it might be the most excited about anything I’ve ever been in my life. Spring is a season of green shoots. Being able to go to someone’s garden and interact with five other people who have spent a year forgetting how to make small talk finally feels like one of them.

— Joel Golby, from “What is that weird, tingling feeling? Could it possibly be … hope?” in “The Guardian” March 30, 2021


Photo: DK @ Daybreak, March 30, 2021, Norwalk, CT. 6:38 am.

Walking. In Sacred Time.

5:15 a.m. Woozy from sleep meds.

Trudge to bathroom. Empty tank. Strip down for morning weigh-in.  Pause. Step over to toilet. Spit. I silently thank Anneli (again) for her tip, every ounce counts. Weigh-in outcome? Flat to yesterday. Could be worse.

Forecast, 19° F. But hold on. With wind chill: 4° F, wind gusts up to 39 mph. Oooooooh.

Body yearns for the warmth of the comforter and the bed. Sean Patrick Mulroy: “Here is what I love about the brain: How it remembers. How it sews what soft it can into a blanket for the nights when I am cold...”

301 consecutive days. Like in a row. Cove Island Park morning walk @ daybreak. Gotta keep the streak alive.

I suit up.  In this order. Underwear. White cotton t-shirt. Wool socks. Another pair of wool socks over top. Gym shorts over underwear. Fleece lined sweatpants over gym shorts. Fleece lined snow pants over the fleece lined sweatpants. Turtleneck over t-shirt. Sweatshirt with hoodie over Turtleneck.  Goose down jacket.  Another goose down jacket over top of the first. Tuk pulled tight over the ears. (Pronounced Tuuuuuuuk.) Hoodie overtop of the tuk.  Hiking boots. Thinsulate gloves (to work the camera dials).  Done! Ready!  I pause to catch my breath, I’m overheating. Wow. I’m coming unglued here. This is Darien, CT for God sakes. Not the Vostok Research Station in Antarctica.

I step out the door. Come on. Hit me. Give me your best shot. [Read more…]

Truth…

 


Source: N1ghtwander (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Walking. With M-G.

Head Cold. Nasal drip. Nagging cough. Light nausea. Friday the 13th. Feels about right.

6:10 am. Cove Island Park. 192 days. Consecutive, and getting long in the tooth.

45° F. Wind gusts up to 25 mph. Drizzle. Wet. Cold.

Cloud cover: 100%. Like a million %.

M-G: You’re dragging.

DK: It’s that obvious?

M-G: Snarky too.

M-G: COVID?

DK: Can’t be.

M-G: How’s that?

DK: Hood Brand Ice Cream Sandwiches.

M-G: Ice Cream Sandwiches? [Read more…]

Evolution


Cover of The New Yorker Sept 21, 2020 issue by Artist Chris Ware: “I live in the quiet, relatively diverse, and leafy “village” of Oak Park, literally across the street from Chicago, and all summer long I’ve seen neighborhood almost-but-not-quite get-togethers, not unlike what I drew here…I think vastly more people still try to get along in America than not. Our cities aren’t exclusively anarchic blast zones, and the suburbs aren’t all xenophobic cloisters. Yet, now, the weather is cooling, and we’re all heading back inside to await the results of what will surely be the most contested election of our lifetimes. The real fear is what may result: not a democracy or a republic but something that somehow stifles both.”

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