Walking. With Toko-pa.

283 days. Consecutive. Cove Island Park morning walk.

14° F, feels like 5° F temp. What fresh hell is this? (Dorothy Parker)

I’m near the end of my loop.  Boots swish through the crusty snow. I’m making my way to Cove Island Point.

And there it was.

It pierced through my tuk…

and through the hoodie pulled over my tuk…

and somehow she pierced through the noise cancelling earbuds that were pumping Taylor Swift’s EvermoreAnd I was catching my breath / Barefoot in the wildest winter.

I snap a picture, that one above. And pause to watch.

The rustling of this single, dry leaf, clinging to the branch by its ever-so-thin stem, and shivering. How delicate. How fragile. How barefoot in the wildest winter.

The north wind gusts, she shudders, and I shudder along with her.

Toko-pa Turner: What is wild in us are the ways in which we meet something freshly and not by habit. Wild is to be full-body alive in response to the conversation life is having with us; the caress of the wind which cools your skin after the sun has penetrated it with warmth. The shadow cast by a soaring bird above. The unmediated glance, surprised by beauty.

The unmediated glance surprised by beauty.

And for that moment…full-body alive.


Notes:

Sunday Morning

[…] Perhaps you feel it, too, as this long, hard year draws to a close — a newfound tenderness for even the smallest, most familiar sounds and sights and textures of a day, along with a heightened awareness of just how fragile and precious each moment really is. Whether or not we have lost loved ones, jobs, routines, or even faith, none of us are who we were a year ago. We’ve been remade, invisibly yet irrevocably, both by our collective grief and by our dawning recognition of the truth of who we are – connected, interdependent, vulnerable, mortal. And, just perhaps, if we’re lucky, we’ve also been altered by wonder.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned about myself during these many months of being home and being quiet. And surely the most profound lesson has been that, in spite of everything, there is beauty and meaning to be found in life as it is, right here, right now. It’s become my daily challenge, and my daily choice, to find it. As British botanist Kathleen Basford observed, “It is when we are confronted with poignant reminders of mortality that we become most aware of the strangeness and wonder of our brief life on Earth.”

If this time is our only time, and it is, then surely we do owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to pay attention, to look deeply, to listen closely, and to respond to all of it, somehow, with love and gratitude. […]

In her memoir “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed recalls her beloved mother’s parting advice to her, before her too-early death from cancer. “There is always a sunrise and always a sunset,” she told her daughter. “And it’s up to you to choose to be there for it. Put yourself in the way of beauty.”

“Put yourself in the way of beauty.” It’s such a simple instruction. And yet, what a powerful and useful reminder this is as we cross the threshold into an even more challenging time. A reminder that we do have a choice to make each day, no matter how dark and difficult the path may be. We can choose where we put our attention, what we share, what we bow to, what we love – not in spite of what else is going on around us, but because of it. […]

—  Katrina Kenison, from “choosing beauty” @ katrinakenison.com, December 31, 2020


Notes:

  • Putting myself in the way of beauty again this morning.  DK @ Daybreak. Jan 4, 2021. 6:30 to 7am. 30° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

How much space for remembering is there in a day? How much should there be? I think about this in my poetry. I don’t want to be a nostalgist. Yet I feed on memory, need it to make poems, the art that is made of the stuff I have: my life and the world around me. I am grateful for the tug of the day that gets us out of bed and propels us into our lives and responsibilities; memory can be a weight on that. And yet, in it floods, brought willfully, or brought on by a glimpse, a glance, a scent, a sound.

Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World: A Memoir.

 

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

Remember when you would have been over-the-moon thrilled to have just a fraction of your life as it is now?

Look around you: it is enough.

KEEP MOVING

Maggie Smith, Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change (Atria/One Signal Publishers, October 6, 2020)


Photo: Daybreak. December 15, 2020. 6:39 to 7:09 am. 29° F. Feels like 23° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT

I’m only now starting to fully understand is that this is an inside job. It only works if I believe.

But what I’m only now starting to fully understand is that this is an inside job. It only works if I believe. I’ve always been confident, positive, doggedly determined; but doubt is beginning to mitigate my conviction. Who am I to think I can accomplish this, when so many have struggled with similar setbacks; some with Parkinson’s, some with the aftermath of spinal surgery? I may be the only one who has taken on this particular two-headed beast…

I have to learn to walk again; to reclaim my mobility, remaster my motion. I consider this fundamental to my therapy —  for me, it all starts and ends with walking. And I understand that it’s more complicated than that. So many tiny disciplines have to be observed, and neglected muscles and ligaments need to be restored. I’m exhausted by the effort I’ve already put in at Johns Hopkins, and daunted by how much work I still have to do. It’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.

Back in the days of carefree ambling, I would have considered the topic of walking to be rather pedestrian. Now the acts of stepping, strolling, hiking, and perambulating have become an obsession. I watch Esmé gliding through the kitchen, grabbing an apple while opening the fridge door for a coconut water, closing it with a quick shift of her hip and pirouetting out the swinging door at the other end of the room. Down in the lobby, my neighbor and her daughter are quickstepping to catch a taxi. I spy on a man walking with a slight limp, which he counterbalances with a bag of groceries. I secretly watch the way they all move. Easy, breezy, catlike, or with a limp, every one of them is far better at it than me. It may be that the most difficult, miraculous thing we do, physically, is to walk…

It’s tough. With PD and the aftermath of the surgery, something as simple as remaining upright is often sabotaged by a rogue army of misfiring neurons. I try to stay organized. I have memorized a litany of admonitions, not unlike my golfer’s list of swing thoughts: Keep my head centered over my hips; hips over my knees; no hyperextending; stay in line with my feet; eyes forward; shoulders back; chest out; lead with the pelvis. All of this kinetic vigilance can dissolve in a nanosecond of panic, or come apart with some other distraction. A tiny nervous jolt or spasm, and like a house of cards in a sudden gust of wind, the only messages that make it through the debris are: Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fall

—  Michael J. Fox, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality (Flatiron Books, November 17, 2020)

Sunday Morning

I could not predict the fullness
of the day. How it was enough
to stand alone without help
in the green yard at dawn.

How two geese would spin out
of the ochre sun opening my spine,
curling my head up to the sky
in an arc I took for granted.

And the lilac bush by the red
brick wall flooding the air
with its purple weight of beauty?
How it made my body swoon,

brought my arms to reach for it
without even thinking.

*

In class today a Dutch woman split
in two by a stroke—one branch
of her body a petrified silence—
walked leaning on her husband

to the treatment table while we
the unimpaired looked on with envy.
How he dignified her wobble,
beheld her deformation, untied her

shoe, removed the brace that stakes
her weaknesses. How he cradled
her down in his arms to the table
smoothing her hair as if they were

alone in their bed. I tell you—
his smile would have made you weep.

*

At twilight I visit my garden
where the peonies are about to burst.

Some days there will be more
flowers than the vase can hold.

—  Susan F. Glassmeyer, “I Tell You” from Body Matters. (Pudding House Publications, 2009)


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • Photo: DK. Daybreak. October 4, 2020. 6:30 am, Cove Island Park, Stamford CT.

Monday Morning Wake Up Call

Ordinary isn’t the enemy but instead something nourishing and unavoidable, the bedrock upon which the rest of experience ebbs and flows. Embrace this — the warm water, the pruned hands, the prismatic gleam of the bubbles and the steady passage from dish to dish to dish — and feel, however briefly, the breath of actual time, a reality that lies dormant and plausible under all the clutter we pile on top of it. A bird makes its indecipherable call to another bird, a song from a passing car warps in the Doppler effect and I’m reminded, if only for a moment, that I need a lot less than I think I do and that I don’t have to leave my kitchen to get it.

– Mike Powell, An Ode to Washing the Dishes (NY Times Magazine, June 4, 2019)


Notes: Quote Source: Extraordinary Routines. Photo: Medium

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Later I went inside, out of the nostalgic sad autumnal smell of leaf smoke, and talked a few minutes to the girl propped in bed with her hair in pigtails. Despite the nausea, her eyes were extraordinarily bright. I thought she looked at me with the soft intensity, the tenderness, that I had seen in the eyes of too many people dying of cancer-the look that says how lovely are the shapes and colors of life and how dear the faces of friends, how desirable it all is, how soon to be lost.

― Wallace Stegner, All the Little Live Things (Penguin Books, December 1, 1991, first published 1967)


Notes:

  • Post 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.”
  • Photo: Anne Jones with burning leaves

All I need is…?

Yesterday, WordPress sent a congratulations email to celebrate another year blogging on WordPress. I deleted it without reading the details. Another year. Ho Hum.

4 days ago, Mimi drops me an email inquiring about post absences. “Out of character. What’s Up? You ok?” Uninspired, was the response.

This morning Sawsan sends a text: “3 Consecutive Days of late posts, did you move to a new time zone?” Nope. Like Roberto Duran, No Mas.

So, I walk. Cove Island Loop. Outside never fails to inspire.

I get home to jot down my notes.

I search my email trash bin to find the WordPress anniversary message.

My first post was in October 2011. 9 years ago. 9 years of Life.

I turn my attention back to this post.

And I’m blank…

Blank but for passages in Hisham Matar’s Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, The Return, and two related thoughts.

  1. …like the fan shape the fisherman’s net leaves when it touches the surface of the water, was only momentarily perceptible…” I hope that in some small way this blog has brought some enjoyment to your day.
  2. No amount of gratitude would be sufficient.”

Thank you all.

 


Image: Edited from bloggingmode.com

Sunday Morning

I never cared much for swans until the day a swan told me I was wrong. It was a cloudy winter morning and I was suffering from a recently broken heart. I sat myself down on a concrete step by Jesus Lock and was staring at the river, feeling the world was just as cold and grey, when a female mute swan hoist herself out from the water and stumped towards me on leathery, in-turned webbed feet and sturdy black legs. I assumed she wanted food. Swans can break an arm with one blow of their wing, I remembered, one of those warnings from childhood that get annealed into adult fight-or-flight responses. Part of me wanted to get up and move further away, but most of me was just too tired. I watched her, her snaky neck, black eye, her blank hauteur. I expected her to stop, but she did not. She walked right up to where I sat on the step, her head towering over mine. Then she turned around to face the river, shifted left, and plonked herself down, her body parallel with my own, so close her wing-feathers were pressed against my thighs. Let no one ever speak of swans as being airy, insubstantial things. I was sitting with something the size of a large dog. And now I was too astonished to be nervous. I didn’t know what to do: I grasped, bewildered, for the correct interspecies social etiquette. She looked at me incuriously, then tucked her head sideways and backwards into her raised coverts, neck curved, and fell fast asleep. We sat there together for ten minutes, until a family came past and a toddler made a beeline for her. She slipped back into the water and ploughed upstream. As I watched her leave something shifted inside me and I began to weep with an emotion I recognised as gratitude. That day was when swans turned into real creatures for me, and it has spurred me since to seek out others.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)


Photo: DK’s Swan. Sept 11, 2020. 6:15 am. The Cove, Stamford, CT

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