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

Lightly Child, Lightly

You wander in and out of rain.
The city encloses you. You feel
the darkening of its metals, above ground
and below. Every night
you touch a boundary you don’t understand.
Even asleep you crave sleep,
you hold the moving hours like water.
Rickety dreams, a high feeling of poplars
at the far edge of two fields. Motors
carry you, or your feet pull you forward
in cool dispersals of color.
What happens each day to you
is delicate craft and commerce, each promising
everything, promising
nothing. You are close…

Your weightlessness
is that of summer trees
and seaside towns…

—  Joanna Klink, from “Portrait In Summer” in “The Nightfields

 


Notes:

  • Photo: jasonjko (Honolulu, Hawaii) Quote: adrasteiax
  • 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

Life on Earth is quite a bargain.
Dreams, for one, don’t charge admission.
Illusions are costly only when lost.
The body has its own installment plan.

And as an extra, added feature,
you spin on the planets’ carousel for free,
and with it you hitch a ride on the intergalactic blizzard,
with times so dizzying
that nothing here on Earth can even tremble.

Just take a closer look:
the table stands exactly where it stood,
the piece of paper still lies where it was spread,
through the open window comes a breath of air,
the walls reveal no terrifying cracks
through which nowhere might extinguish you.

— Wisława Szymborska, from “Here”


Notes:

  • Photo: Madame Grunlich. Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • 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.”

 

 

Sunday Morning

My cousin’s last day was spent out on his bike, a seventy-mile ride on a Saturday morning. He did the ride alone, and nobody had any contact with him after that. At some time in the next twenty-four hours he died, and his body was found by the police on Monday morning when his employer called them, worried because he hadn’t turned up for work. He always turned up for work.

I would wish for my last day to involve an act of freedom–a walk by the ocean, a long bike ride, something I love. I hope that the walk and the bike ride were suffused with joy, with pleasure, for my stepdad and my cousin. Neither knew it was their last time to do that thing. If they’d known, would they have enjoyed it more or less? Eventually, everything has to be done for the final time. There must be many things that, without our realising it, already fall into that category for all of us.

Final acts acquire holiness. My stepdad’s walk that day has. When we go to Ireland we almost always take the same route. We look out on the sea because it’s the last sea he saw. We write his name in the sand. We reflect, each of us inwardly, that one day we will never see this place again either. It’s a dull shock.

If finality makes something holy then every moment is holy, because every moment could be the last. That’s a thought we spend too cheaply. Live each day as if it’s your last, we think, and then we don’t. Everything is holy. It’s only when we die that the holiness is called up. But it was always holy, all along.

Samantha Harvey, The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping (Grove Press; May 12, 2020)


Photo: Mine. 5:23 a.m. A Holy Moment, on Sunday, a Holy Day. Cove Island Park Stamford, CT.

Sunday Morning

First blossoms.

Seeing them extends my life seventy-five more years.

~Matsuo Bashō, “haiku 96”, from “Reading Basho with My Ten Year Old” in Paris Review, April 29, 2020


Notes:

  • Photo: DK on Run This morning. 6:11 am.
  • Matsuo Bashō, born 松尾 金作, was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. He is recognized as the greatest master of haiku. He was born in 1644 and died in 1694

Sunday Morning

“Mansfield’s last note, from an unfinished story, ends with an observation that only the dying Mansfield would make: “It was an exquisite day. It was one of those days so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.”

~ Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life


Photo: “Clear Day” by Zoo Human

She always bats 1.000

As Rob Watson, one of my favorite environmental teachers, likes to remind people: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.”

You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot manipulate her. And you certainly cannot tell her, “Mother Nature, stop ruining my beautiful stock market.”

No, no, no. Mother Nature will always and only do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last,” says Watson, “and she always bats 1.000.”

Do not mess with Mother Nature.

Thomas L. FriedmanWith the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature  (NY Times, March 31, 2020)


Photo: Economic Times

Beth Takes The Proust Questionnaire

  1. What is your current state of mind?  I am calm, peaceful, happy, looking forward to the new year and new adventures.
  2. What is your favorite journey?  A long walk through the woods.
  3. What is your idea of perfect happiness?  My family and friends happy and healthy, me in love, a book, a hot cup of coffee, a good film, a blanket.
  4. What is your greatest fear?  That I would outlive one of my children
  5. What is your most marked characteristic? My ability to always see the positive side of things
  6. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  My lack of control over my blurting or interrupting (just because I’m excited or have a story or idea)
  7. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Cruelty.
  8. What is your greatest extravagance? Very soft things- clothes, scarves, fabric, blankets, bed – worth every penny
  9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Having to be the best 
  10. On what occasion do you lie? To save someone’s heart
  11. Dislike most about your appearance? My height is 5′ 3″ – it would be fun to be tall sometimes, but I’m okay with it overall
  12. Which living person do you most despise?  Our current president – so much cruelty flows from him
  13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  ‘done’
  14. What is your greatest regret? that I wasn’t able to have more time with my daughters when they were young and I was busy trying to make life better for all of us
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?  my family
  16. When and where were you happiest?   when all of my family is together
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?   to be a singer with a beautiful voice and a dancer with grace
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?   to spend more time helping those less fortunate in life
  19. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?   that they would never have to suffer
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement?  my children
  21. What is your most treasured possession? my 7 dollar wooden kitchen table made from one plank of wood (found at the Salvation Army and a gift from my children)
  22. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?   losing a love
  23. Where would you like to live?   in a quiet small home near the water and woods
  24. What is your favorite occupation?  writing
  25. What is the quality you most like in a man?  kindness, compassion, humor, honesty  
  26. What is the quality you most like in a woman?  same as #25
  27. What do you most value in your friends?  loyalty
  28. Who are your favorite writers?  pat conroy, roald dahl, ann patchett, fredrick backman, david sedaris, bill bryson, erma bombeck, rod serling
  29. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? King Arthur
  30. What is it that you most dislike?  clowns/dentists
  31. Who are your heroes in real life?  children
  32. How would you like to die?   asleep in my soft bed, dreaming
  33. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?  a pygmy goat living on a lavender farm
  34. What is your motto? “this is the best day ever.”
  35. Bonus Question: How did you find my blog? I have no memory of my stumbling upon you, just that is was a pleasant experience from the get-go
  36. Bonus Question: Why do you keep coming back to this Blog?  because it is beautiful, heartfelt, thoughtful, kind, and intelligent. it offers me food for thought and a wonderful aesthetic experience, plus I love to give my feedback/opinion. 

Notes:

  • Beth is a virtual friend and faithful follower (and me of her blog) and she kindly agreed to share her responses to the Proust Questionnaire. When I think of Beth, I think of her in response #5. She is exceptional. You can find her website and bio here: I didn’t have my glasses on.
  • See prior Proust Questionnaires.
  • The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.  (Source: Vanity Fair)

Mimi Takes The Proust Questionnaire

  1. What is your current state of mind?  A pint of grateful with a chaser of anxiety.
  2. What is your favorite journey? Any road that leads to my kids.  And I love Paris…and the beach…and the mountains.  I fear I’m going to struggle with this questionnaire, but I figure Proust would too.
  3. What is your idea of perfect happiness? My family together, happy, healthy and belly laughing.
  4. What is your greatest fear? Anything happening to anyone I love
  5. What is your most marked characteristic? I have no clue, so I cheated.  Upon asking a few people who know me well..a friend said ‘kind’’; Andy said ‘you’re short’; my kids said ‘perceptive, empathic, entertaining, sincere and relatable’.  I love my kids.
  6. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I apologize for everything – even the poop that’s not mine.  A former boss who later became a friend once told me that he had never met anyone who could advocate for others with the tenacity and passion that I did and he had never met anyone who was so awful at speaking up for themselves.  C’est moi.
  7. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Refusal to own what’s theirs (or in the vernacular people who don’t ‘own their shit’.)  In the immortal words of Eric Clapton, ‘before you accuse me, take a look at yourself’.  Please understand this as a general statement, there is absolutely no one to whom I’m directing this statement.  
  8. What is your greatest extravagance?  Being able to even consider one’s greatest extravagance is an extravagance few people really get to consider. I am humbled by how spoiled I am
  9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Any virtue in excess is overrated and tiresome
  10. On what occasion do you lie? if I think my words would hurt someone deeply.  I will try to tell the truth, but I may wait until I’ve formulated the message and/or the person is better prepared to hear.
  11. Dislike most about your appearance? Seriously?  Most days the list is too long to write here.  Some days though I realize that I’m being superficial and stupid and embrace what is.
  12. Which living person do you most despise? I’ve got some pretty strong feelings about our current commander in chief, but the verb is too strong.  I despise some of the decisions he has made, some of the beliefs he touts and I may not look at an orange in the same way again, but I hesitate to say that i despise anyone.
  13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Again, I deferred to those who speak with me the most…Andy offered up “I love you” a lot; Donna thinks I say ‘seriously?’; my kids think my most overused expressions are ‘will this matter to you in five years’, ‘who are you doing this for’, ‘everyone has to own their shit’ (see question 6)
  14. What is your greatest regret? Not getting my PhD or continuing with singing.
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?  Andy, my kids and my grandkids
  16. When and where were you happiest?  Snuggling with my granddaughters and listening to whatever they have to say
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? I wish I could draw.  My sister is uber-talented and has the kind of artistic talent that my mom also had.  Me?  I can draw a mean stick figure…
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  I’d be physically healthier.
  19. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?  I’d see them more (and I see them a lot).  My sister would live in closer proximity (like upstairs).
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Hands down growing up with my kids.  I realize that every parent says this and every parent means it.  But, is there anything one can achieve that parallels the enormity and magnificence of playing a part in someone else’s development as a human being?  And no joke, these men of mine are fabulous people. 
  21. What is your most treasured possession?  My wedding ring and my books
  22. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  Just thinking about anything unfortunate happening to those I love propels me to a place that is so dark and foreboding I have to quickly move away from this question.  I was truly miserable when I was sick, but I didn’t know how sick I was, so I don’t think it counts.
  23. Where would you like to live?  Wherever my family is of course…I’ve had the good fortune to travel to a slew of countries and have lived in many cities.  As trite as it sounds, wherever my heart is is where I want to live.
  24. What is your favorite occupation?  I know ‘mom’ isn’t an occupation, but it is the role I always wanted and exceeded my expectations when I became one.  I loved my career, even though it involved some plot twists I didn’t anticipate.  It might have been awesome to be on Broadway, but I didn’t have the ego (or the talent) for it.
  25. What is the quality you most like in a man? Humor, sensitivity, the ability to be present.
  26. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Humor, sensitivity, the ability to be present.
  27. What do you most value in your friends? Their ability to love me despite my flaws. My friends are trustworthy, smart, emotionally generous…and they like me.
  28. Who are your favorite writers? Seriously?  From which century?  Fiction or non-fiction?  Essayist or poet?  
  29. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Again, there are too many coming to mind – Scout (To Kill A Mockingbird), Jo (Little Women), Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web), Max (Where The Wild Things Are), Ari (Exodus), any main character of Toni Morrison…I could go on…Holden Caulfield…
  30. What is it that you most dislike? Self-absorption
  31. Who are your heroes in real life? Greta Thornburg, Lizzo, John Lewis, Barack and Michelle Obama.  This is a pretty fluid list, and it changes with the day – right now the firefighters in Australia are coming to mind.
  32. How would you like to die? Very old, very healthy and happy while dreaming a delicious dream.
  33. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? If I were to come back – wait a minute, I’m not going anywhere.
  34. What is your motto? “Say yes – save your no’s for when you really need them”
  35. Bonus Question: How did you find my blog? Kismet, pal, kismet.  Years ago when I first signed up for WordPress, I found you the first day and I’ve been at your mercy ever since.
  36. Bonus Question: Why do you keep coming back to this Blog?I agree with everyone who has already responded to this – your posts incite and excite, they are intriguing and thoughtful and at core, you write damn well.  For me though the reason is really more personal and you’ll think I’m crazy.  I immediately felt that I knew you, your work life, your family.  Not in a creepy way – we both worked in professional services, my parents lived nearby,  I grew up on the trains you take everyday.  And you pushed me to say something.  In your insistence and encouragement, I found some words to string together albeit lamely.  I come back each day because your blog is diverse and amazing – and because it’s yours.  

 


Notes:

  • Mimi is a virtual friend and faithful follower and kindly agreed to share her responses to the Proust Questionnaire. She has been with me from the beginning and I consider her a critical inspiration in this blogging effort.  And as you can see from her responses, she is something Special.  You can find her website and bio here: Waiting for the Karma Truck.
  • See prior Proust Questionnaires.
  • The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.  (Source: Vanity Fair)

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