Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

So, if you can’t go back, what’s the harm in looking back? Twelve Step programs counsel “Look back, but don’t stare.” Wonder why? Because it’s fcking painful! I’m sitting comfortably at this lovely computer in my homey home office and almost everything coming to mind is about what an asshole I was and am still capable of being. So many stupid mistakes. So much selfishness and ego-driven thoughtlessness to bathe in. Sure, I recall the victories and joys and laughs and lovers, but for reasons beyond me, those happier remembrances are cloudy, dimmed, and distanced. I have to reach for them. Whereas the miseries and hurt, every mistake, misfortune, and betrayal I endured or delivered remains conveniently at my fingertips. The guns are loaded, the knives still cut, and the adage “Time heals everything” makes a lovely lyric but is a fcking lie. Time heals nothing…

In Twelve Step work we look back to identify the bad stuff we are responsible for and, if it’s possible to do so without causing more harm, we make amends for our wrongdoing. I recommend this cleansing exercise of exorcising. Suddenly, glancing over your shoulder is less frightening. There are fewer shadowy figures following you. You are freer to move about unencumbered, knowing that the scary shit of the past has been peaceably entombed. Unfortunately, entombed is not destroyed. It waits quietly in the dark for someone to dig it up again. Bad shit is patient. So, here I am with my work clothes on and my shovel in hand. If you’re willing to listen, I’m willing to dig.

Harvey Fierstein, from his Preface titled “Look Back, But Don’t Stare” in “I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir” (Knopf, March 1, 2022)


NY Times 11 New Books We Recommend This Week (March 10, 2022)

Walking. With Small Details.

Wednesday morning. 5:56 a.m. Temp, mid-70’s. Muggy.

484 consecutive days. Like in a Row. Morning walk at Daybreak @ Cove Island Park.

Now, do you see that ripple in the water, actually a number of ripples, in the bottom quarter of the photo? They’re the equivalent of Rainbow Smelt in Lake Superior. (I think.) 15 years living here, I’ve never noticed these schools of fish. And now, they’re seemingly everywhere. Water rippling, spinning, bubbling. My eyes darting left and right in search of other schools.

I can’t explain it.

They’ve become important.

Anuk Arudpragasam, from A Passage North: “Suddenly the small details that are glossed over in your usual accounting of life took on an almost cosmic significance, as though your fate could be determined by whether or not you remembered to draw water before it became dark, by whether you hurried to catch the bus or decided to take your time, by whether or not you said yes or no to any of the countless trivial decisions that come only in retrospect, once the event has occurred and nothing can be changed, to take on greater significance.”

Thursday Morning.  I’m between calls. Susan shouts out asking for me to come down stairs. Hurry!

I come barreling down the stairs.

(Sciatica and all, this body can still move when it needs to.)

She’s sobbing. Good God. What happened? [Read more…]

Take me way back, take me way back, take me way back

I realized that I have been carrying within me all these years the child I once was, his particular language and details, his impatient and thirsty teeth wanting to dig into the cold flesh of a watermelon, waking up wondering only about one thing: “What is the sea like today? Is it flat as oil or ruffled white with the spit of waves?”

Hisham Matar, The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between


Notes:

  • Photo: DK, 6:43 am, Sept 30, 2020. The Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Post title inspired by Van Morrison’s Hit: Take Me Back

Smell the bliss of summer

Like clean sheets
On a breezy warm day
On a line
And walking through them
To feel the comfort on your skin
And smell the bliss of summer
As a child
Again

— Pascal Raymond Dorland @ paradoxdesign


Notes: Prose via Your Eyes Blaze Out. Photo: learnedtofly

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Remembering that time …

when we had unrealized possibility,

the drifting period of our youth.

Kate Zambreno, Screen Tests: Stories and Other Writing (Harper Perennial, July 23, 2019)

 


Photo: Alain Laboile

Orange

I once watched my father peel an orange
without once removing the knife from the fruit.
He just turned and turned and turned it like a globe
being skinned. The orange peel becoming a curl,
the inside exposed and bleeding. How easily he separated
everything that protected the fruit and then passed the bowl
to my mother, dropping that skin to the floor
while the inside burst between her teeth.

~ Elizabeth Acevedo, “Things You Think While You’re Kneeling on Rice That Have Nothing to Do with Repentance” in The Poet X 


Photo: Orange Peel by Alicia D’Ors

Walking. Old Town Barcelona.

August, 2006.

Barcelona.

Family vacation, using accumulated points for airfare and hotel.

Complimentary breakfasts included chocolate croissants. Buttery flakes melting on tongue, chased by the Sweet, ever-so-smooth, French chocolate.

Our late morning destination was Old Town Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter.

Large blocks of cobblestone line the narrow passages, buildings overhead offering shade, a cool respite from the summer heat bearing down at mid-day.

Cobblers. Cheese shops. A bookstore with Bibles in the window. Small cafes. Shops selling beads, necklaces and over-priced souvenirs, Tourists lingering.

Our pace, My pace, was quick. Rush, to see, to get to, to do. Next. Next. Next.

19 years later, I’m flipping through images on the internet, trying to retrace those steps and replay that one hour of Life in Old Town. I’m frustrated, not finding the right images. Memories fray on the edges and now at the center, old photographs left out in the mid-day sun.

And regrets, always hauling the weight of Regrets, why I had not savored those steps (and let my Family do so), rather than greedily gulping them to get to the Next.

It was yet another Meg Rosoff awakening: “I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel. The most intense moments will seem to have occurred only yesterday and nothing will have erased the pain and pleasure, the impossible intensity of love and its dog-leaping happiness…”

I often awaken to this same moment in Barcelona, on quiet Sunday mornings like this one.  I’m walking Old Town. Slowly. I can hear my footsteps. Hear my breath.  Feel the slight autumn breeze on my forearms.  And I’m swamped with a yearning to replay the moment, and regain that intensity of that feeling.

I need to go back.

And do it right this time.


Photo: epepa.eu

Yep. This Tune.

Someone once told me the reason songs get stuck in our head is because the mind wants to hear them to completion. Remembering only a refrain it’ll repeat.

The best way, then, to get a song out of your head is to listen to the whole thing.

~ Fiona Alison Duncan, Exquisite Mariposa: A Novel (Soft Skull Press, Oct 1, 2019)


Quote Source: Thanks Beth @ Alive on All Channels

Plook

By 4:30 the following morning, when I got up…a massive zit—or “plook” as they are known in the common parlance of my people—was threatening beneath the skin on the tip of my nose. It was not yet visible to anyone else…

“Yuv goat a plook,” he told me, helpfully, in his urbane Falkirk accent. The mere fact that he had spoken at all was an indication of the magnitude of the problem. Bob was not given to personal remarks.

Ignoring the bustle of the kitchen where my brother and sisters were having breakfast, I headed to the bathroom to see what I was dealing with. I have never encountered anything like it to this day. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop or Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic would be hard pressed to re-create this pus-filled behemoth. Technically it was one plook, but it had three heads. Three creamy peaks that looked as though they could erupt at any moment. The slopes of this organic mountain were greasy and bloodred. It seemed to pulse or throb. It was as if it had a life force all its own. It was a sentient being. A demon plook visiting this realm to consume and destroy. The Cthulhu Spot. Voodoo Acne. Black magic was upon me.

I knew I must not touch the beast, but I couldn’t help myself. My index fingers approached it in the familiar pincer movement and almost before I made contact it burst into a cascade of foul custard, splattering the mirror with its first ejaculation, then oozing like a river of smooth vomit from the end of my nose. Now I was committed; the dam had been broken and I had to see this thing through to the grisly, bitter end. My fingers squeezed tighter and the pressure produced more of the foul lava, mixed now with fresh red blood—runny sunny-side-up egg yolk and ketchup. The pain was excruciating, but I didn’t care. It was that fucker or me. My eyes ran with tears as I milked and squeezed and pressured and wrestled until all its revolting innards lay across the bathroom sink, an abstract postcard of hell.

I felt the momentary satisfaction of besting a formidable and hated enemy, but very quickly the remorse set in. I squeezed the giant red stump on the end of my nose to see if somehow that would remove it, but I was just pouring gasoline on the fire. All that I was doing was creating more swelling. I looked in the mirror at the damage and knew that I could not possibly be seen in public like this. I could not go to school. I would become an outcast, ridiculed, rejected, and despised. There was no way Dawn Harrison could see me in this state. It was too early in our relationship. We hadn’t even started a relationship. Had we been married fifteen years it would have been too early in our relationship. I could not even be seen by my siblings or my parents. My nose, or what was left of it after the Battle of Poisoned Boil, was three times its normal size and the bright vermilion red otherwise seen only on a baboon’s anus. It was an extreme emergency, so I had to do what all resourceful schoolkids do in such situations. Feign diarrhea.

Normally my mother would not have bought such an obvious con to stay off school, but the desperation in my voice sold the swindle, or at least convinced her that I wasn’t just faking. She handed me a glass of water through the door, which I opened sufficiently to let her see my face. “What happened?” she whispered, looking at my nose in awe.

“I squeezed a plook and it kind of went bad.”

~ Craig Ferguson, Riding the Elephant: A Memoir of Altercations, Humiliations, Hallucinations, and Observations (Blue Rider Press; May 7, 2019)

Saturday Morning

At night, crickets sawed outside the windows of my childhood bedroom, and I read sixteen years of old journals, turning their pages into the early morning hours, as if I did not know what would happen next. There I was, same as ever, a linked paper chain of self-replication, continuously through time, the very same shorthand for a simple, happy life: muffin tins, cross-country skis, a desk by an open window. When had I made everything so complicated?

~ Sarah McColl, “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)


Photo: Dan Smith

It’s been a long day

I remembered the fearless, confident boy I used to be back then…I didn’t miss him. I only, sometimes, missed the high spirits that often used to seize me when I was ten. Would there ever be an event in my life that would catapult me back into that ecstatic, silly lightheartedness, even if only for a moment?

~ Benedict Wells, The End of Loneliness: A Novel (Penguin Books, January 29, 2019)


Notes:

Truth. Taste it. No, savor it.

You cannot be grateful without possessing a past. That is why children are incapable of gratitude and why night prayers and dinner graces are lost on them. “Gobbles Mommy, Gobbles Grandpa …” George races through it. She has no reference points. As I get older the past widens and accumulates, all sloppy landlessness like a river, and as a result I have more clearly demarcated areas of gratitude. Things like ice cream or scenery or one good kiss become objects of a huge soulful thanks. Nothing is gobbled. This is a sign of getting old.

~ Lorrie Moore, from “Anagrams


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Korean froyo. by Jennifer Nguyen

Lightly Child, Lightly


Notes:

  • Photo: “The return of cold temperatures helps to create ideal outdoor skating conditions in Freeport, Maine.” (Robert F. Bukaty, AP, wsj.com December 26, 2018)
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • 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.”

Running. With Potpourri.

I’m off. Running. 6:05 am and it’s 76° F, already. Humidity is thick, legs are heavy, body is huge, mind is resisting, all of it groaning under the pressure of NO.

Scenes of the last 3 days flicker by.

pot·pour·ri (n) a mixture of things

In a small patch of grass, with Holly Pond on its right, a guard rail on the left, and Post Road to the North, is a flock. Not of a like-kind. But 2 adult geese, 3 toddlers, a mallard and a sparrow. All quietly feeding as I approach. Mother Goose, protecting her young-uns, approaches, neck fully extended…tall and fierce with her wings spread wide…hissing. This luncheon is human-free, and I was not welcome. All these creatures, peacefully feeding, and yet we, a higher level of intelligence can’t seem to sit in a room and have a civil conversation.

I’m in the dentist chair. Not flat, but with feet higher than head. Hygienist is wearing a face mask and magnified eye goggles. Poking, scraping, suction, flossing. I’m lolling in and out of nausea and claustrophobia. Overhead lamp beams down. I’m Dustin Hoffman in the scene from Marathon Man. Blood rushes to my head. I swallow, shift my legs and grip the arms of the chair. Hygienist notices the discomfort and withdraws. Breathe DK, breathe. I regain my composure.

Feet and legs have been hurting after my runs. Time for new shoes. I’m third in line, waiting to check out at Dick’s Sporting Goods. It’s late afternoon on July 4th. I’m watching one of three check out clerks. She’s large boned, broad shouldered, and tired. I walk up and hand her the shoes – with an intense desire to see what shoes she is wearing. She’s been standing since 10 am on a statutory holiday. She places the shoe box into a plastic bag, drops in the receipt and offers an obligatory “Thank you.” I’m walking out the door. Should have tipped her. Should have. Should have. Should have. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Walking backwards.

7:34 p.m. train. Grand Central station. Last peak hour train home. Standing room only. Heads down, glowing screens, wifi slow, thousands sucking on the same straw. Pages loading slowly, then stopping altogether. One head, after another, mine too, lifting in frustration.  Beach ball spinning, locked up. There’s a message in this. To thousands of us sitting on this train. Whether we are listening, now that is another story.

8:31 p.m. Walk home. Down the platform. Up the stairs. Across the bridge over I-95. Up the hill – and the last 1/4 mile stretch, before losing this tie, this shirt sticking to my back, and these leather shoes strapped around my feet for last 12 hours. Free me, please!

I see them in the distance. Two boys, 7 or 8 years old, kicking a soccer ball on front yard. Mom sitting on the porch reading. When’s the last time I’ve seen this? [Read more…]

Back…back…back.

Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down…
Who was I at age seven?

Sixty-eight years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.

– Jim Harrison, from Seven in the Woods from Dead’s Man Float


Notes:

  • Inspired by – “We go back … and back … and back … through the layers of fear, shame, rage, hurt, and negative incantations until we discover the exuberant, unencumbered, delightful, and lovable child that was, and still is, in us.” By Melody Beattie (via Bright, Shiny Objects)
  • Photo: Ivanovo detstvo (Ivan’s Childhood) • Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky 1962 (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Saturday Morning

Do your work, I tell myself. And after? Find a patch of lawn and sit down and hug your knees to your chest and let everything you’ve ever been told and everything you’ve ever seen mingle together in a show just for you, your own eye-popping pageant of existence, your own twelve-thousand-line epic poem. The tickle of the grass on your thighs, the sky moving over you, sunless or blue, echoes from a homily or a wedding toast or a letter your grandmother sent. Remember something good, a sunburn you liked the feeling of, a plate of homemade pasta. Do your work, Kelly. Then lean back. Rest from the striving to reduce.

~ Kelly Corrigan, Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say (January 9, 2018)


Photo: poppins-me

Lightly Child, Lightly.

You wake up on a winter morning and pull up the shade, and what lay there the evening before is no longer there – the sodden gray yard, the dog droppings, the tire tracks in the frozen mud, the broken lawn chair you forgot to take in last fall. All this has disappeared overnight, and what you look out on is not the snow of Narnia but the snow of home, which is no less shimmering and white as it falls. The earth is covered with it, and it is falling still in silence so deep that you can hear its silence. It is snow to be shoveled, to make driving even worse than usual, snow to be joked about and cursed at, but unless the child in you is entirely dead, it is snow, too, that can make the heart beat faster when it catches you by surprise that way, before your defenses are up. It is snow that can awaken memories of things more wonderful than anything you ever knew or dreamed.

Frederick BuechnerTelling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Whiskey River. Photo by werner neururer (Austria) with Walk in the woods
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • 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.”

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Photo: Getty Images

One autumn afternoon…

One autumn afternoon I take the clean crockery out of the dishwasher while I am frying sausages and cooking macaroni, and when the dishwasher is empty, I load it with breakfast plates…It’s drizzling, the sky is grey and the air perfectly still. Somewhere above me there is a honk, then another, and I look up. Maybe ten geese are flying by in V-formation. I can hear their wingbeats as they lie on the air with their outstretched necks and undulating movements….

Within me the migrating birds are living a life of their own. I’m not thinking of them, but they are there, in the stream of sensations and feelings which at times freeze into images. Not clear and distinct images, as with photographs, for that isn’t how the external gets depicted within us, but as if in rifts: a few black triangles, a sky, and then that sound, of several pairs of wings beating up in the air. That sound awakens feelings. What kind of feelings? I ask myself now, as I write this. I know them so well, but only as feelings, not as thoughts or concepts. The sound of birds’ wings beating maybe fifteen metres up in the air, heard twice or thrice every autumn for forty years.

Once, in childhood, the world was boundless. Africa, Australia, Asia, America, these were places beyond the horizon, far away from everything, with inexhaustible reservoirs of animals and landscapes. That one could actually travel there was as unthinkable as that one might journey into one of the many books I read at that time. But slowly – for it didn’t come to me as a sudden insight – I began to understand what the migration of birds signified. That they flew all that way under their own power, and that the world wasn’t boundless but limited, and that neither the place they left nor the place they arrived at were abstract but concrete and local.

Yes, that is what I sensed as I wedged the spatula under the slices of sausage and placed them on the green serving dish, then poured the macaroni into a glass bowl. The world is material. We are always in a certain place. Now I am here.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, from “The Migration of Birds” in “Autumn


Notes:

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