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

Today’s Forecast: Rain

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightening before it says
its names—and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles—you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head—
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

~ William Stafford, “Assurance” in The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you The Hammock Papers
  • Photo: DK. Daybreak / Rain. September 10, 2020. 6:00 am. 68° F. At Cove Island, Stamford, CT

Miracle. All of It.

My eyes graze his binoculars and without a word he passes them over. And like that the birds are no longer smudges, but elegantly detailed and purposeful and real. They steal my breath as they always do, these creatures who think nothing of having wings.

Charlotte McConaghyMigrations: A Novel (Flatiron Books, August 4, 2020)


Notes:

  • Photo: Cormorant. Spirit Bird. Sept 7, 2020. 6:48 am. The Cove. Stamford, FT
  • Back Story: Walking. In Search of my Spirit Bird.
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there.

Meanwhile, on afternoons and on Sundays, Surrey lay open to me. County Down in the holidays and Surrey in the term — it was an excellent contrast. Perhaps, since their beauties were such that even a fool could not force them into competition, this cured me once and for all of the pernicious tendency to compare and to prefer —  an operation that does little good even when we are dealing with works of art and endless harm when we are dealing with nature. Total surrender is the first step toward the fruition of either.  Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been there or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all.

— C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (Published in 1955. Describes his life from early childhood in the late 1800s to 1931.)


Daybreak. September 6, 2020. 6:02 am. 63° F. Humidity: 84%. Wind: 4 mph. Gusts: 8 mph. Cloud Cover: 5%. The Cove, Stamford, CT

Lightly Child, Lightly

“I unlatched the shutters. The light was as intense as a love affair. I was blinded, delighted, not just because it was warm and wonderful, but because nature measures nothing. Nobody needs this much sunlight. Nobody needs droughts, volcanoes, monsoons, tornadoes either, but we get them, because our world is as extravagant as a world can be. We are the ones obsessed by measurement. The world just pours it out.”

— Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping (Harvest Books; April 3, 2006)


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels
  • Photo: Here comes the sun by hpskurdal
  • 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.”
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