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.

Walking. With the Silent Generation.

I counted him out yesterday morning. There was light drizzle from 5:00 am to 6:20 am, and it continued for my entire 5 mile loop around Cove Island Park. But he didn’t disappoint. There he was.

We intersect most mornings.

Never met him. Don’t know him. Never spoken a word to him.

But I imagine his life.

He’s a member of the Silent Generation, following his Parents, who were members of the Greatest Generation who survived the Great Depression. Waste not. Want not. Sacrifice. Freedom. God. Country. (I’m consciously leaving out ‘Guns’.)

He didn’t come from the Privileged. He was drafted, he didn’t seek medical deferment, he fought in the Vietnam War. Memories haunt, Demons always in pursuit. Jennifer Pastiloff’s: “Get out of your head. It’s a bad neighborhood.”  So he walks.

There’s no Apple Watch tracking his steps. No iPhone pumping in music or books on tape.  Nothing to shake that gnawing, that scraping…

There are two flags that hang on his house; they are worn, the whites have long lost their sheen.  They don’t just make their appearance on July 4th, they hang 365 days a year.

The homes around him, one by one, are torn down, rebuilt, taller, larger, and fill with young families fleeing Manhattan. Property values have soared, his taxes have followed upward, and now pinch. He could flee to Florida, land of no State income tax, but that has never crossed his mind. He was born here, and will die here, his home town.  He completes his own tax returns, reports his modest pensioner’s income and pays all of his taxes, because that is what has to be done.

The curtains are always drawn. He’s a Widower, married for 40 years, and then lost Her to Cancer.  No one to open the drapes.  No dog to keep him company. No cat to nestle next to his feet, purring, as he watches The Evening News. Income is tight, he can’t afford the expense. He misses his Wife.

The lawn is cut, never shaggy. A fence, freshly painted brown, provides token separation from the neighbors, with toys strewn all over their front yard.

His Story may be entirely different. But it’s what I see. What I need to see.

Yet, what doesn’t require imagining, is this.

I’ve come to look for him each morning. I round the turn to walk up Anthony Lane and there he is.

No matter how far up the street I am, he looks for me, and always throws up his hand to wave Hello.

Because that’s what he was taught.  And that’s what he Believes. Character. Honesty. Decency. Be a good neighbor.

Some day, I’ll either tire of this same morning walk, or he won’t be there. One, or the other.

And, I’ll miss him.


Notes:

  • Photo: DK, Saturday, Aug 30, 2020
  • Inspired by: “If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it.” — David Foster Wallace, from “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace” by David Lipsky (Broadway, April 13, 2010)
  • Inspired by: “We may be in the middle of a story we don’t know how will end, or even whether it will end, but we are not helpless characters created and directed by an unseen novelist. We have the power, even in this Age of Anxiety, to enfold ourselves in small comforts, in the joy of tiny pleasures. We can walk out into the dark and look up at the sky. We can remind ourselves that the universe is so much bigger than this fretful, feverish world, and it is still expanding. And still filled with stars. —  Margaret Renkl, “A Reminder to Enfold Yourself in Small Comforts” (NY Times, August 24, 2020)

Sunday Morning

I asked him what he thought it meant for our lives, for how we spend them, for what they mean. He said our lives mean nothing except as a cycle of regeneration, that we are incomprehensibly brief sparks, just as the animals are, that we are no more important than they are, no more worthy of life than any living creature. That in our self-importance, in our search for meaning, we have forgotten how to share the planet that gave us life. Tonight I write him a letter telling him I think he was right. But that also I think there is meaning, and it lives in nurturing, in making life sweeter for ourselves, and for those around us.

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


Photo: Sparks by Christine Lynch

Walking. In White.

3:35 a.m. Restless. Lousy night’s sleep. (Again.) Co-pilot is fast asleep next to me. She dreams of bunny rabbits and puppies. I’m being chased by failure and mortality. Any wonder why you don’t sleep?

Yesterday morning: “Are you getting tired of the same walk?” Translated, she’s getting tired of flipping through the same shots, the same landscapes, morning after morning. “No,” was my monosyllabic response, short, curt, clipped, after 3x years of marriage (I didn’t want to do the math), there was no need for more words.

4:28 a.m. Gear check. Backpack. Camera. Battery. Memory Card. iPhone. Earbuds. Audible Book re: Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking.  I adhere the strap to my right wrist, synch it up, and clip it to camera, listening for the satisfying snap. Secure.

4:33 a.m. I’m out the door.

Day 5x something, just shy of two months. Not a single day missed.  Same route. Near the same time. A five mile walk.  Walmsley to Linden to Hollow Tree Ridge Road to Hillside to Anthony to Brookside to Post to Weed Avenue to Cove Island Park. And back again.

Scene 1.  I’m 1/4 mile out on Hollow Tree Ridge Road and a patrol car stops one street up. Rare to see any traffic this time of the morning. He pauses under the street lamp, looking in my direction. He sees: Man, 6′ 1″, black long sleeved shirt. Black pants. Carrying something black in his right hand. Backpack on his back. Walking briskly. [Read more…]

Moved (By the Greatest Show on Earth)

NEW YORK — Ovations are on pause in the theaters and concert halls and stadiums of this city. But they haven’t ceased. They’ve just moved into the streets. Like clockwork, they happen, every evening at 7.  Up and down Manhattan — and probably the Bronx and Staten Island, too — cheers ring out from apartment towers and brownstones, along with the sounds of rhythmic chants, applause and whistles. The denizens of this city of ordinarily high-decibel levels kick them up an ample notch at this hour for the doctors and nurses and technicians and administrators and custodians of the beleaguered ICUs and ERs. The new urban ritual, which is catching on in other cities, coincides with the shift break of hospital staffs, when medical workers emerge from the covid-19 war zone into the open air, to go home for a spell or smoke or eat or otherwise decompress…The tumultuous reception accorded the hospital workers, though, is no cry of despair. It is an impromptu curtain call, of multitudinous thank-yous, from a vast audience rooting for everyday heroes. It’s New Yorkers joining in a chorus, singing out in solidarity: “We are here.”

~ Peter Marks, from “The nightly ovation for hospital workers may be New York’s greatest performance” (Washington Post, April 6, 2020)

it’s hard to bow to the vastness of the sea when being pulled under

I was walking our dog during the pandemic, the neighborhood empty, the clouds heavy, and, through my headphones, the music of a man now gone, the love from his soul helping me keep my head above water. And though it’s hard to bow to the vastness of the sea when being pulled under, hard to believe in the merit of light when lost in the dark, hard to wait on love when painfully lonely—these larger truths never stop being true. Even as I voice this, someone is dying in the hall of an overcrowded hospital, while another is lifted from their own hell by the grace of a kindness no one saw coming. As if the spirit of the one dying arrives like pollen in the heart of the one stuck in hell, giving them just enough to begin again. If we could only give the extra warmth we receive to someone who is shivering. If we could shed the masks that keep us from ourselves, there would be enough to save the world.

~ Mark Nepo, “Sheltered-in-Place” (FB, April 5, 2020)


Notes: Photo – Axios. Quote: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Inspired by Ray’s post: It’s all about Perspective

Sunday Morning

The day after the waxwings appeared at my birdbath, I found one of them, its flock long gone, panting on the driveway below a corner of the house where two windows meet and form a mirage of trees and distances. When I stooped to look at the bird, it lay there quietly. Though I could see no sign of injury, I knew it must be grievously hurt to sit so still as I gently cupped my hands around it to move it to a safer place in the yard. It made a listless effort to peck at my thumb, but it didn’t struggle at all when my fingers closed around its wings, and I didn’t know what to do. So much beauty is not meant to be held in human hands.

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


Photo: Livescience.com

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)

“It was just a good day.”


Notes:

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…]

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