A rupture in our constructed realities

I know this pandemic is a big deal. But it is really only now sinking in how much of a bigger deal this will be for our social consciousness than 9/11. Maybe even more significant than WW2, since it is effecting everyone. Every society on earth is having to adjust and respond. And, more than any other event in my lifetime or my father’s lifetime, it is exposing the problems of our society and, perhaps, creating space in our collective capacity to imagine a better world…This pandemic is a sharper reminder of human fragility, the utter incapacity for us to solve these natural crises within our capitalist framework…But this is a rupture. A rupture in our constructed realities, exposing what lies underneath. May we discern, together, the movement of the Spirit of Life so that we might create a new, more compassionate world, with one another.“

— Mark Van Steenwyk


Notes:

  • Quote via Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: David Ramos in NY Times
  • Inspired by a passage Keith shared with me: “There are certain things that happen to you as a human being that you cannot control or command, that will come to you at really inconvenient times and where you have to bow in the human humility to the fact that there’s something running through you that’s bigger than you …” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert (The TED Interview podcast, October 19, 2018)

Riding Metro North. Searching, for Important.

Jenny Offill : “To live in a city is to be forever flinching.”

Tuesday morning.

A brisk walk to train station.  32 F feels like 26 F.  No snow, no slush, no sleet.  Dry.  January.  I’ll take this all day, all winter long.

5:48 am train to Grand Central.

Plenty of empty seats.

I slide by her into a seat next to the window.

She offers me a smile, and tucks her legs in to let me pass.

I nod, offering my thanks.

She’s reading a soft cover book, verses of some sort. I can’t make it out. 98% of the rest of us are heads down into our gadgets.

She’s wearing a long (long), black puffer coat, that drapes down to the top of her black boots. A black knit cap. A knitted scarf wrapped around her neck.  She’s in her late 60’s to mid 70’s would be my guess. She turns the page. Why am I so distracted by her? Her elbows and knees are tucked in, and she’s sitting comfortably in her lane. Lady @ Peace comes to mind.

But for the industrial heaters blowing warm air through the ceiling vents, the train car is silent.

She gets up in anticipation of her stop.

The vestibule is crowded with passengers waiting to get off.

She waits quietly at the back of the line. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It all matters. That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing.

What is most beautiful is least acknowledged.

What is worth dying for is barely noticed.

Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise: A Novel


Photo: Patty Maher, with The Red String. “Based on the Japanese legend that a red string ties us to all those with whom we will make history and all those whom we will help in one way or another.”  Laura McBride quote from A Sea of Quotes.

Go ahead — you first

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes…
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

Danusha Laméris, from “Small Kindnesses” (NY Times Magazine, September 19, 2019)


Photo: agent j loves nyc with Crowded Car

Sunday Morning

In the margin of my Bible, the heading of Ecclesiastes, I’ve added,

‘Reflections of an old man chasing after ‘good things.’

~ Lisa Anne Tindal, “Vanity and Strife” (Sept 27, 2019)


Notes:

About right.

Is this verbal violence, then, simply incompetence? Is it the verbal equivalent of someone who has not learned the piano sitting down and trying to play Rachmaninov’s Third? The rudeness of these public figures gives pleasure and relief, it is clear, to their audiences. Perhaps what they experience is not the possibility of actual violence but a sort of intellectual unbuttoning, a freedom from the constraint of language. Perhaps they have lived lives in which they have been continually outplayed in the field of articulation, but of this new skill – rudeness – they find that they are the masters.

~ Rachel Cusk, from “On Rudeness” in Coventry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. September 16, 2019)


Notes:

We love birds!

Rita McMahon found a pigeon with a broken leg on her deck in New York City’s upper west side. The pigeon was otherwise quite fortunate. McMahon would go on to cofound the Wild Bird Fund, which cares for some 3,500 sick and injured birds every year. A veterinarian amputated the pigeon’s leg; while it recovered, it would rest on a cushion in McMahon’s apartment window. On the other side stood her mate, day after day, keeping her company until she was released and the couple rejoined.

“They were devoted to each other,” says McMahon, who also recalled how one of her volunteers once found a broken-winged robin in a depression in a snow bank, his mate nearby. The volunteer picked up the injured bird and put him in a bag for transport to the hospital. With little fuss she then gathered the mate—which was quite unusual, as healthy wild birds are uniformly skittish. “I understand being able to pick up a broken-winged robin easily, but not one who’s intact,” MacMahon says. At the hospital, they learned that the break wasn’t fresh. The robin was in surprisingly good health. His mate, believes MacMahon, had been taking food to him on the snowbank, “and decided to stay with her man.” …

Apparent grieving exists in the avian world, most notably among greylag geese, in whom individuals who’ve lost a partner display the classical symptoms of human depression: listlessness, a loss of appetite, lethargy lasting for weeks or even months. The same applies to pigeons. On Pigeon Talk, a website of pigeon-breeding hobbyists, anecdotes abound of birds sinking into a funk after losing their mates, and sometimes refusing to take another mate for up to a year afterward—no small time for a species that typically lives for less than a decade.

One of the most moving stories involves mourning doves. After a dove was eaten by a hawk in the backyard of a forum member called TheSnipes, the mate stood beside the body for weeks. “I finally couldn’t stand to watch it any more and picked up every feather and trace of remains that was left there and got rid of it,” wrote TheSnipes. “The mate continued to keep a vigil at that spot though, for many months, all through the spring and summer.” …

Their example stayed with me, though, and now colors the way I think of my winged neighbors. Ubiquitous and unappreciated, typically ignored or regarded as dirty, annoying pests, pigeons mean something else to me now. Perched on building ledges, chasing scraps of food, taking to the skies at sunset: Each one is a reminder that love is all around us.

~ Brandon Keim, from “What Pigeons Teach Us About Love”


Thank you Susan.

Mostly, on point…

Here is how I spend my days now.

I live in a beautiful place.

I sleep in a beautiful bed.

I eat beautiful food.

I go for walks through beautiful places.

I care for people deeply…

I cry easily, from pain and pleasure, and I don’t apologize for that.

In the mornings I step outside and I’m thankful for another day.

It took me many years to arrive at such a life.

~ Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen: A Novel


Notes:

Sunday Morning

I, said a prayer for the deer, as we always do when dispensing with wildlife, like the pileated woodpecker that flew straight into one of the windows on the side of the house and then collapsed dead on the windshield of our car. My God, was that upsetting…

Laurel, for all of her sometimes hard-boiled feelings about the foibles of human beings, had boundless feelings of responsibility for animals, the more innocent, the more boundless the feeling. She regularly escorted bugs out of the house, even the ladybugs that had a tendency to blight the place in fall and spring. She resisted even my vacuuming and releasing when there were dozens of them. Spiders were escorted out. And she had a very practical method for removing bees and wasps that involved an overturned glass and an index card.

Rick MoodyThe Long Accomplishment: A Memoir of Hope and Struggle in Matrimony (August 6, 2019)


Photo of the artist Laurel Nakadate by Sabine Mirlesse via artspace.com

Waiting. At The Star Market. Trying to Bend the Image.

7:05 am. Stamford station.

I’m waiting for the 2151 Acela to Baltimore. Overhead board flashes On Time, Track 2.

There are two empty seats adjacent to a scruffy, long bearded old man. He’s wearing a heavy jacket, way too heavy for August. A rollerboard stands to his right. His head bowed, sleeping. You’re asking for trouble. Find another seat. I look around, and can’t find another seat. I catch others watching me, judging, ‘The Suit won’t come near That.’

And Mind, ever so efficient, calls up a Marie Howe poem, The Star Market:

“The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday. An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps. Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them: shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay..Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself…stumbling among the people who would have been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands and knees begging for mercy. If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?”

He lifts his head, turns towards me and stares.  I freeze.  The Others are now watching. I pause, and make my move.

I take the seat next to Him.

Others watch for a moment, eyebrows raised, and then go back to their smartphones. Did you do it because you wanted a seat? Or because others would think less of You, or that you didn’t want this Suit to meet their expectations? Or because you didn’t want Him to think you thought any less of Him?

There’s one empty seat between us. But there’s tension in the gap. He turns to look at me, I can feel his eyes on me. Here it comes, Can you help me out with a few bucks, Sir?”  

He sits silently. [Read more…]

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