Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Sometimes I don’t know how any of us go on. Sometimes I fear there’s no way our species will survive our own self-destructive choices. Sometimes I feel so I gut punched by the backward deal of the universe — that if you’re really lucky, you get people in your life to love, and then, over time, they will all either leave you or die — that I am angry at life. Actually, not sometimes. Always. I always feel that way. I don’t always actively think about it, but it’s in there.

At the same time, I am always looking for some gratitude, warmth, or hope. I often have to really search for it, but when I see something that makes me feel joy — even just a tiny odd hardly anything — you’re damn right I applaud it. Way to go, adorable cat on a leash! Thank you, server who brought my hot pizza! Kudos, writers of a TV show that made me laugh! Hallelujah, sunshine after a week of storms! Yay for good hair day, yippee for hot coffee, huzzah for an outfit that puts bounce in my step.

If I can scrape up some evidence of a thing made beautifully or a gesture made kindly, then can believe, for a few seconds, that this world is careful and kind. And if I can believe that, I can believe it is safe to let the people I love walk around out there. It’s my own attempt at foresparkling, seeking out hints of good, even planting them myself, so I can believe there’s more good to come. It might all be superstition, just mental magic, but why not try?

So I say yes for things that offer some pleasure. Yes for people who choose to be friendly. Yes for any glimmer of light through all the darkness. I mean that yes. I need it. Seriously.

Mary Laura Philpott, Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (Atria Books, April 12, 2022)


Notes: Book Review NY Times: Is it Possible to Body-Block Our Loved Ones from Pain? Alas, No.  The Washington Post: Worry much? You’ll relate to Mary Laura Philpott’s book.

T.G.I.F.: You inhale the soft cool night

7/15/44 [New York.] You have to enjoy the weather always. Walking home from Sixty-First Street on Second Avenue, eleven beautiful black blocks. (The moon is not, the lights are, you are, your feet with the spring in them, this is youth, now!) You inhale the soft cool night, you gaze on the lighted bar doorways fondly. Your shoes, for once, are comfortable. Your head is filled with a number of things… with the youth’s grudging appreciation of the splendid night, and with the consciousness of health, future, potency. Breathe deep! Your lungs are still functioning perfectly, your thighs do not shake too much, your calves are resilient, your toes eager. Every muscle is obedient (taut for an instant, then couchantly relaxed), every dream will come true.

 Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)— Patricia Highsmith, Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995


Photo: Mike Kononov via unsplash

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I always peek into baby buggies when I walk home, because I love to look at the little children who are lying asleep with upstretched hands on a ruffled pillowcase. I also like to look at people who in one way or another give expression to their feelings. I like to look at mothers caressing their children, and I willingly go a little out of my way in order to follow a young couple who are walking hand in hand and are openly in love. It gives me a wistful feeling of happiness and an indefinable hope for the future.

—  Tove Ditlevsen, Youth: The Copenhagen Trilogy (FSG Originals, January 26, 2021)


Highly Recommended. And the trilogy has been recommended as a Best Book of the Year in 2021.

a promise of everything the day ahead might hold

Becky that morning had awakened before dawn… She lay in the dark and listened to the tick and wheeze of the radiator, the struggling clank of pipes below. As if for the first time, she appreciated the goodness of being snug in a house on a cold morning. Also, no less, the goodness of the cold, which made the snugness possible; the two things fit together like a pair of mouths…

When the alarm clock went off in her parents’ bedroom, one door over from hers, it wasn’t the usual cruel morning sound but a promise of everything the day ahead might hold. When she heard the faint buzz of her father’s shaver and the footsteps of her mother in the hallway, she was amazed she’d never noticed, until today, how precious ordinary life was and how lucky she was to be a part of it. So much goodness. Other people were good. She herself was good. She felt goodwill to all mankind.

Jonathan Franzen, Crossroads: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 5, 2021)

…his long neck folded

All winter
the blue heron
slept among the horses.
I do not know
the custom of herons,
do not know
if the solitary habit
is their way,
or if he listened for
some missing one—
not knowing even
that was what he did—
in the blowing
sounds in the dark,
I know that
hope is the hardest
love we carry.
He slept
with his long neck
folded, like a letter
put away.

— Jane Hirshfield, “Hope and Love” from “The Lives of the Heart: Poems


Photo: DK @ Daybreak. Heron. 6:03 am, August 22, 2021. 75° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. 

Truth…

Somewhere each day we have to fall in love with someone, something, some moment. Somehow each day we must allow the softening of the heart . Otherwise our hearts will move inevitably toward hardness. We will move toward cynicism, bitterness, fear and despair. That’s where most of the world is trapped and doesn’t even know it.

~ Richard RohrRadical Grace: Daily Meditations


Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels)

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.

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)

Hmmmmm….

Neither season after season of extreme weather events nor the risk of extinction for a million animal species around the world could push environmental destruction to the top of our country’s list of concerns. And how sad, he said, to see so many among the most creative and best-educated classes, those from whom we might have hoped for inventive solutions, instead embracing personal therapies and pseudo-religious practices that promoted detachment, a focus on the moment, acceptance of one’s surroundings as they were, equanimity in the face of worldly cares. (This world is but a shadow, it is a carcass, it is nothing, this world is not real, do not mistake this hallucination for the real world.) Self-care, relieving one’s own everyday anxieties, avoiding stress: these had become some of our society’s highest goals, he said—higher, apparently, than the salvation of society itself. The mindfulness rage was just another distraction, he said. Of course we should be stressed, he said. We should be utterly consumed with dread. Mindful meditation might help a person face drowning with equanimity, but it would do absolutely nothing to right the Titanic, he said. It wasn’t individual efforts to achieve inner peace, it wasn’t a compassionate attitude toward others that might have led to timely preventative action, but rather a collective, fanatical, over-the-top obsession with impending doom.

Sigrid Nunez, What Are You Going Through: A Novel (Riverhead Books, September 8, 2020)


Photo: Patty Maher, Light & Dark

Sunday Morning

No weather so perfectly conjures a sense of foreboding, of anticipation and waiting, as the eerie stillness that often occurs before the first fat drops of rain, when storm light makes luminous all roofs and fields and strands black silhouettes of trees on the horizon. This is the storm as expectation. As solution about to be offered. Or all hell about to break loose. And as the weeks of this summer draw on, I can’t help but think that this is the weather we are all now made of. All of us waiting. Waiting for news. Waiting for Brexit to hit us. Waiting for the next revelation about the Trump administration. Waiting for hope, stranded in that strange light that stills our hearts before the storm of history.

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


Photo: DK, 6:15 am, September 27, 2020. The Cove. Stamford, CT

Sunday Morning

I don’t believe in religion, but the aesthetics of Catholicism have stuck with me. I love the way church incense coats my hair and skin. It is a safe smell, like a blanket… I envy the faithful. There are shrines dotted around the hillsides here in Ireland, places where saints have supposedly appeared and healed the sick. There are wells of holy water and statues in the rocks, huts filled with prayer cards and gardens filled with painted stones in memory of loved ones who have passed away. I like to visit them occasionally. I sit in the stillness and observe people crying and praying and I close my eyes and try to let some of their hope get carried on the air and through my pores. I would like to believe that everything is accounted for, that there is life after this one, and that all of our decisions hold some kind of significance or moral worth. There is weight in religion. It is an anchor of sorts.

~ Jessica Andrews, Saltwater: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 14, 2020)


Notes: Photo: Patryk Sadowski with Church of Ireland

Lightly Child, Lightly. (Part I)

Three Advil every three hours wasn’t taking the edge off.  The pain was ripping thru my left shoulder and rolling down my arm.  And during sporadic moments, there was relief.  And, I would breathe. But the storm returned.

Resistance to professional evaluation had run its course. It was time.

A five minute wait in the waiting room.

X-Rays of shoulder prior to examination.

“Shirt off please.”

Doctor steps in.  “Resist here.”  “Push back there.”  “Is it tender here?” “Or here?”

“Sports injury?” As he looks at the bone protruding on the left shoulder.

He continues.

“I’d like to get x-rays of your neck. Your shoulder pain, it’s a red herring.” [Read more…]

What’s it like to be a human the bird asked

What’s it like to be a human
the bird asked

I myself don’t know
it’s being held prisoner by your skin
while reaching infinity
being a captive of your scrap of time
while touching eternity
being hopelessly uncertain
and helplessly hopeful
being a needle of frost
and a handful of heat
breathing in the air
and choking wordlessly
it’s being on fire
with a nest made of ashes
eating bread
while filling up on hunger
it’s dying without love
it’s loving through death

That’s funny said the bird
and flew effortlessly up into the air

~ Anna Kamienska, from “Funny


Notes: Poem via Alive on All Channels. (Thanks Beth). Art by Klára Piknerová (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

It’s been a long week


Three-month-old Klavan Munyisa lays in a hospital bed after surviving a bus crash in Rusape, Zimbabwe, near where a head-on collision between two buses killed 47 people. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP, wsj.com November 8, 2018)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

And we want to live right where black oaks lived,
Once very quietly and still…
Because we are imperfect and love so
Deeply we will never have enough days,
We need the gift of starting over, beginning
Again: just this constant good, this
Saving hope.

~ Nancy Shaffer, from Because We Spill Not Only Milk from Instructions in Joy 


Notes – Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Franz Wallner with Black Oak

Walking Cross-Town. With an unsorted heap.

Hampl is not far from this mind. Hampl was there on my train ride to the city on Thursday and there with me as I walked across Manhattan to the office. And Hampl’s here with me today, early Saturday morning, as I sit in darkness, in silence, but for the tapping of keys, with birdsong easing through the open window bringing in the dawn.

Life is not a story, a settled version. It’s an unsorted heap of images we keep going through, the familiar snaps taken up and regarded, then tossed back until, unbidden, they rise again, images that float to the surface of the mind, rise, fall, drift—and return only to drift away again in shadow. Call them vignettes, these things we finger and drop again into their shoebox.

He shifted his legs as I took the empty seat across from him. Early 30’s. Two to three day beard. He smiled offering me “Good morning.” I’m settling in. How startling it is to be greeted with a ‘good morning’, a smile, a greeting on a morning commute. 

She was on the right side of 50. Anxious. She had to go. I mean really Go. She paced in front of the toilet. It was occupied. She knocked on the door. She knocked again. She stepped back and stood in the vestibule, waiting. She lifted her right foot, and then her left, and quickly repeated the sequence. She then grabbed her mid section and grimaced. She walked back to the toilet and knocked on the door again. [Read more…]

Monday Morning

Keith-carter-nevermore-1948

Another yawned,

another gazed at the window:

…The blaze of promise everywhere.

~ Mark Strand, from “Always; For Charles Simic” in Collected Poems

 


Photo: Nevermore – by Keith Carter (1948), USA – Source: keithcarterphotographs.com (via Your Eyes Blaze Out). Poem: via 3quarksdaily

Sunday Morning

Lord, make a factory of peace,
Make more hope,
Hate, the least.
Make war as small as a speck of sand
And terrorism a wick on a candle that burns to ashes.
And make love and peace as big as a skyscraper.
And hope like a mountain that’s 1,000 feet tall.
And make the volume of friendship be so loud
It shakes the ground.

~ Alex House, “The Volume of Friendship.”  Alex House lives in Upton, Massachusetts. He wrote this poem in Sunday school on Feb. 16, 2003, when he was 8 years old


Notes:

  • Inspired by: Tim Kreider – “Go Ahead, Millenials, Destroy us” – “As with all historic tipping points, it seems inevitable in retrospect: Of course it was the young people, the actual victims of the slaughter, who have finally begun to turn the tide against guns in this country. Kids don’t have money and can’t vote, and until now burying a few dozen a year has apparently been a price that lots of Americans were willing to pay to hold onto the props of their pathetic role-playing fantasies. But they forgot what adults always forget: that our children grow up, and remember everything, and forgive nothing. […]  My message, as an aging Gen X-er to millennials and those coming after them, is: Go get us. Take us down…Rid the world of all our outmoded opinions, vestigial prejudices and rotten institutions…the moribund and vampiric two-party system, the savage theology of capitalism — rip it all to the ground. I for one can’t wait till we’re gone. I just wish I could live to see the world without us.
  • Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels
  • Photo:  Chris A with The.Magician (via see more)

Walking Cross-Town. With little ones.


3:30 a.m. yesterday. Saw this photo and froze.

This THIS is the world our children live in today.

Look at her. Those eyes. Those little shoes.

Precious is tucked in close to Dad who is buying tickets for the show.

And then the scene darkens, a conjoining of rivers with Catherine Abbey Hodges’ closing lines in “How to Begin“: “You’re a strand of dark thread sticking a word to a river. Then another.

Manchester. 22 dead. Women, children, soft targets. UK terror threat raised to Critical. 1000 troops deployed.

Dear Ms. Hodges, is the question How to Begin?

Or is it, How does it end? [Read more…]

It’s been a long day

Endurance comes only from enduring.
With a flick of the wrist I fashioned an invisible rope,
And climbed it and it held me.

Czeslaw Milosz, from a “A Magic Mountain” in New and Collected Poems (1931-2001)


Notes:

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