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

What ‘moved’ you today?

Short story.

How did we get here with this random, mid-day post.

Ray, a fellow wordpress blogger, who must be beyond fatigued with my photo hobby posts across social media and my incessant sharing of book passages and quotes, said “ENOUGH already” and asked for a story.  And when Ray demands, I move.

So, I’m giving him one.  And it aligns with the spirt of this blog — if it moves me, it goes up.

My youngest Brother recently passed away.  I am the Personal Representative of his Estate. It has been a journey in this COVID-19 environment to settle his affairs, and we’re far from done. Let’s leave this at that.

I’m sitting in a bank branch this morning waiting to get help. I’m holding my smartphone in my hand, and a file folder with my Brother’s paperwork on my lap.

And I’m waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.

My Gear is on. (Face mask fully covering nose and mouth.)

I’m looking down and paging through screen after screen after screen after screen on my smartphone.

Twitter, Tumblr, work emails, FB, WP, LinkedIn.

And I get vertigo. Eye strain. Mask inhibiting breathing. Feeling woozy. 

Normal functioning Humans make adjustments.

I keep flipping through web pages. And flipping, and flipping.

Wooziness doesn’t let up.

I come to a post on LinkedIn. And stop.

I read the post again.

And as Sawsan would say. “No, I’m not crying.” Not here. Not now.

Air under the mask is getting thin.

Eyes well up.

My glasses fog up, the face mask pushing air straight up.

And just at that moment: “Sir, I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I’m ready for you now.”

I can’t lift my head.

Glasses are fogged up. Floor is spinning.

She sees I’m struggling.

Sir, let me give you a moment: “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

I thank her, and take a moment to gain my composure, and then walk into her office.

Here was the LinkedIn story.

[Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly

I worked at a falcon-breeding center. In one room were banks of expensive incubators containing falcon eggs. Through the glass, their shells were the mottled browns of walnut, of tea-stains, of onion skins…These were forced-air incubators with eggs on wire racks. We weighed them each day, and as the embryo moved towards hatching, we’d candle them: place them on a light and scribe the outline of the shadow against the bright air-cell with a soft graphite pencil, so that as the days passed the eggshell was ringed with repeated lines that resembled tides or wide-grained wood. But I always left the incubation room feeling unaccountably upset, with a vague disquieting sense of vertigo. It was a familiar emotion I couldn’t quite name. I finally worked out what it was on rainy Sunday afternoon. Leafing through my parents’ albums I found a photograph of me a few days after my birth, a frail and skinny thing, one arm rings with a medical bracelet and bathed in stark electric light. I was in an incubator, for I was exceedingly premature. My twin brother did not survive his birth. And that early loss, followed by weeks of white light lying alone on a blanket in a Perspex box, had done something to me that echoed with a room full of eggs in forced-air boxes, held in moist air and moved by wire. Now I could put a name to the upset I felt. It was loneliness.

That was when I recognised the particular power of eggs to raise questions of human hurt and harm. That was why, I realised, the nests in my childhood collection made me uncomfortable; they reached back to a time in my life when the world was nothing but surviving isolation. And then. And then there was a day. One day when, quite by surprise, I discovered that if I held a falcon egg close to my mouth and made soft clucking noises, a chick that was ready to hatch would call back. And there I stood, in the temperature-controlled room. I spoke through the shell to something that had not yet known light or air, but would soon take in the revealed coil and furl of a west-coast breeze and cloud of a hillside in one easy glide at sixty miles an hour, and spire up on sharp wings to soar high enough to see the distant, glittering Atlantic. I spoke through an egg and wept.

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


Notes:

  • Photo: Incubator
  • 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.”

Walking. One Short. From Wing to Wing.

He has to be in his late 70’s, maybe early 80’s, but he’s out each morning walking, in twilight. There’s a handful of us obsessives out at this hour, including me, that strange guy, always in black head to toe, The Camera Guy (as Jim calls me, grateful he’s left ‘Creepy’ out of the prefix).

He has a severe limp when he walks, his right side slumps with each step. Retired Vet, would be my bet. Large, hulking man, must have been fierce in his day. (vs. me still pretending to be fierce, a younger old dog with false teeth, literally and figuratively. At least they don’t clack, yet. Something to look forward to).

We’re on Month 4 here with the morning walks, and despite the crossing of our paths each morning, he would not lift his head to acknowledge me. Perhaps stuck in his head. Perhaps wanting to leave me stuck in mine, which was exactly where I prefer to be. We all send off our own scent don’t we, mine a ‘Black Prickly de Chanel.’

Last week, he broke the silence.

“Do you know if the other Swan is still around? My wife and I were worried.”

I paused for a minute, and not sure exactly why I lied, but I did. I did notice her partner had been absent for a week or so, but I just didn’t have it in me to tell him. Or, perhaps I didn’t want to believe he was gone. Like Gone, Gone.

“Yes, he’s down by the bridge at the end of The Cove.” [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

Yesterday, my late Brother’s Memorial in Canada with family and friends, which followed his Phoenix “Celebration of Life” in January.

I couldn’t go.

I couldn’t get myself to watch the service on Zoom.

I couldn’t pull myself together to read the few words I had written about my younger brother, sending an email to a Cousin, letting her carry the weight.

Memorials rip open still raw grief. Suffering is best done in silence, alone. For Some.

As I was preparing my thoughts on my Brother, I found him fading.

I can’t make out his face, but can see the dark, sunken hollows of his eyes.

I can’t recall his last words, but can recall his raspy voice, his vocal cords damaged from tubes winding down his throat.

I can’t make out his body, a silhouette now, fading, withered from being bedridden for months – but can feel his hands, soft, his grip, firm, from that last handshake.

I rub my index finger and thumb together, and I’m drawn back…

He steps up to the tee box. He’s standing calmly over the ball. Click. He re-grips the club once, and then again, softly. Click. His body now still, his hands quiet.  Click. He takes the club back, in a slow, smooth arc. Click. He pauses at the top.  Click. He pivots his legs and then his hips in a full, graceful follow through. Click. The ball explodes off the tee.  Click. The Titleist, a white speck, streaks the ever so blue, sky.  Click. The ball lands softly in the center of the fairway 275 yards from the T-box. Click. Art, Bro. Fine Art.

But all of this is fading, I’m losing him, as Wallace Stevens loses those that he has loved:

The figures of the past go cloaked.
They walk in mist and rain and snow
And go, go slowly, but they go.

 


Prior background posts on Lorne. Photo: Mist by Risto Ranta

Saturday Morning: We “Were” Running

WE WERE RUNNING

in memory of Annie Zeke*

We were running up the slope of a hill,
that dog and I, an early winter rain
beginning to fall, wind-driven and sharp,
the clouds so black the edges of the hills
were etched and incandescent. That dog
and I were running, the two of us
apart and yet together, and even now,
in the solitude of a quiet hour—the days
and that dog long gone—I can follow
those far-blown traces of unexpected joy
and find my way back again: heart wild,
lungs filling with the breath of winter,
and that dog beside me running headlong
into the world without end.

~ Peter Everwine, “We Were Running” in A Small Clearing (Aureole Press, 2016)


Notes:

  • Photo: Susan’s Photo of our Zeke* (RIP) taken at Baker Park.
  • Poem: Thank you The Hammock Papers

Walking Downtown. With Air to be reckoned with.

Jenny Offill describes her mood…”she’s tired all the time now…she can feel how slow she is walking, as if the air itself is something to be reckoned with.” I read the passage a week ago. And Mind keeps flipping it back.

Sleep app congratulates me this morning on seven consecutive days of hitting sleep targets. Grooving a routine. And it’s working. I’m sleeping.

But, tired all the time.

Lower Manhattan this morning.

40+ F, but don’t get caught out without a coat.  Frigid winds blow through the tunnels between the hulking skyscrapers.

Colleagues take the subway to a client meeting: It’s only two stops!

I let them go. I need to walk. Shoulder stiff. Neck aches. Need to be alone.

A lifetime, swift walker. But not lately. Like a glider banking energy, I’m waiting for a tail wind, or even a gust.

Not my photo above, I couldn’t muster up my own shot.  I pause to watch the tourists take their shots with the Bull.  In all the years, this is the first time you’ve stopped (paused) to admire him. You are a beaut Mr. Bull.

Bullfighter or the Bull?  Red cape, the muleta. God Save the Bull.

Three minutes to destination.

I take a take breath and step into the building.

Game time.

 


Photo: Alexander Nilssen, Bull of Wall Street

Lightly Child, Lightly. (Part II)

5:05 am. Tuesday morning.

Mid-January, 40° F.  40° F, and Australia is burning.

Cabin is quiet, but for the heater humming, knocking down the chill.

Headlights illuminate I-95, dry road. 74 mph. Speed lane.  I pass Truckers on my right, a convoy racing to beat rush hour into Manhattan.  Google Maps updates arrival time in Midtown: 55 minutes.

I re-grip the steering wheel, shift in my seat, adjust the seat belt, uncomfortably snug across my lower belly.

Two nights before. At kitchen table. Fingers untie the bow, then move to the white wrapping paper covering the gift from the Chocolate Chalet.  Hand made chocolates, hand selected by a friend, a colleague, and her children. Milk Chocolate. Raspberry jelly. Cherry. Vanilla Creme. Dark Chocolate. Nut clusters.  I cordon off a Do Not Cross area around the table signalling My Box, My Chocolates, My Zone.

One night before. Monday Night. At kitchen table. With half of the chocolates remaining. I re-established my position, the cordoned off area, and went at it again.

And, there it goes. An entire box of chocolates in a span of a few minutes during back to back evenings, when the world stopped. No, Shoulder PainNo, Work. No, Brother Gone.

I step out of the car, hand the keys to the parking attendant, and walk.  Not to the office, it was early yet. But I walk down Broadway, with the lights beaming down from the buildings in Times Square.  A few morning walkers, and me.  And snippets of Renkl’s essay “After the Fall” drift in and out.

There’s no making peace with it.

There’s no closure.

You wear it under your clothes like a film.

Time claims you: your belly softens, your hair grays, the skin of your grief will loosen, soften, drape your hard bones.

The flowers turn their faces to your face.

Walk out into the springtime, and look: the birds welcome you with a chorus.


Notes:

  • Photo: Mine. Looking down Broadway in Times Square. Tuesday morning, January 14, 2019.
  • Post Inspiration: “This talk of making peace with it. Of feeling it and then finding a way through. Of closure. It’s all nonsense. Here is what no one told me about grief: you inhabit it like a skin. Everywhere you go, you wear grief under your clothes. Everything you see, you see through it, like a film. It is not a hidden hair shirt of suffering. It is only you, the thing you are, the cells that cling to each other in your shape, the muscles that are doing your work in the world. And like your other skin, your other eyes, your other muscles, it too will change in time. It will change so slowly you won’t even see it happening. No matter how you scrutinize it, no matter how you poke at it with a worried finger, you will not see it changing. Time claims you: your belly softens, your hair grays, the skin on the top of your hand goes loose as a grandmother’s, and the skin of your grief, too, will loosen, soften, forgive your sharp edges, drape your hard bones. You are waking into a new shape. You are waking into an old self. What I mean is, time offers your old self a new shape. What I mean is, you are the old, ungrieving you, and you are also the new, ruined you. You are both, and you will always be both. There is nothing to fear. There is nothing at all to fear. Walk out into the springtime, and look: the birds welcome you with a chorus. The flowers turn their faces to your face. The last of last year’s leaves, still damp in the shadows, smell ripe and faintly of fall.” ~ Margaret Renkl, from “After the Fall” in Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss (Milkweed Editions (July 9, 2019)
  • 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.”

Lightly child, lightly

Human beings are creatures made for joy. Against all evidence, we tell ourselves that grief and loneliness and despair are tragedies, unwelcome variations from the pleasure and calm and safety that in the right way of the world would form the firm ground of our being. In the fairy tale we tell ourselves, darkness holds nothing resembling a gift. What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place.

~ Margaret Renkl, “Be A Weed” in Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss 


Notes:

  • Photo: via Mennyfox55.
  • 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.”

Bro, if you’re reading this post from above, hit “Like” please.

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