Walking. On the Edge…

+ 6:10 a.m. Saturday. 41°. Calm, light drizzle. Cove Island Park Walk. + The Body is pulled to this part of The Cove, and it softens along the gentle, sloping embankment at the estuary of the Noroton River and the Long Island Sound. There is Something about this spot that’s magic. William Stafford in his book “Even in Quiet Places“, in his poem “Time for Serenity, Anyone?“, describes it: “It stretches out there shivering toward its own creation, and I’m part of it. Even my breathing enters into this elaborate give-and-take.” And there I stand. Soft rain falls on me, the Mind rests, and I breathe it all in.  + Speaking of breathing, COVID cases have surged in Connecticut, up 50%. This in a state where vaccinations and masks are religion. Fodder for the idiots spouting that masks and vaccinations don’t work, ignoring that 75% of hospitalizations are among those not fully vaccinated. NY Times front page story this morning: “Despair Sets In As Cases Bury Hospital Staffs. Medical Workers Feel Crisis Has No End.” Hospital workers back living on the edge… Aerosmith’s Living on the Edge: “There’s something wrong with the world today / I don’t know what it is / Something’s wrong with our eyes / We’re seeing things in a different way / And God knows it ain’t his… / The light bulb’s getting dim.” + I near the end of my walk. Gulls stand in low tide, in ice cold water, preening.  Something about this act of their preening that soothes me. These beautiful creatures, with their little heart beats, and wings that keep them aloft. Yet here we are. Seemingly grounded, as the world burns.  Patricia Highsmith: “Such is the human mind with no hand on the steering wheel.


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:23 a.m. & 7:05 a.m. & Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. 41°. Calm. Light Drizzle.
  • Stafford quote, thank you Whiskey River.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

…We are trying to get off the damn treadmill so that we can remember the purpose and dignity that can come from the whole of our life.

So ask yourself this: Who would you be if work was no longer the axis of your life? How would your relationship with your close friends and family change, and what role would you serve within your community at large? Whom would you support, how would you interact with the world, and what would you fight for?

We are so overextended, so anxious, and so conditioned to approach our life as something to squeeze in around work that just asking these questions can feel indulgent. If you really try to answer them, what you’re left with will likely feel silly or far-fetched: like a Hallmark movie of your life, if you got to cast people to play you and the rest of your family who were well rested, filled with energy and intentionality and follow-through. Your mind will try to tell you it’s a fantasy. But it’s supposed to sound amazing, because you need to want it, really yearn for it, to a degree that will motivate you to shift your life in ways that will make the fantasy a reality.

Think back on a time in your life before you regularly worked for pay. Recall, if you can, an expanse of unscheduled time that was, in whatever manner, yours. What did you actually like to do? Not what your parents said you should do, not what you felt as if you should do to fit in, not what you knew would look good on your application for college or a job.

The answer might be spectacularly simple: You liked riding your bike with no destination in mind, making wild experiments in the kitchen, playing around with eyeshadow, writing fan fiction, playing cards with your grandfather, lying on your bed and listening to music, trying on all your clothes and making ridiculous outfits, thrifting, playing Sims for hours, obsessively sorting baseball cards, playing pickup basketball, taking photos of your feet with black-and-white film, going on long drives, learning to sew, catching bugs, skiing, playing in a band, making forts, harmonizing with other people, putting on mini-plays—whatever it was, you did it because you wanted to. Not because it would look interesting if you posted it on social media, or because it somehow optimized your body, or because it would give you better things to talk about at drinks, but because you took pleasure in it.

Once you figure out what that thing is, see if you can recall its contours. Were you in charge? Were there achievable goals or no goals at all? Did you do it alone or with others? Was it something that really felt as if it was yours, not your siblings’? Did it mean regular time spent with someone you liked? Did it involve organizing, creating, practicing, following patterns, or collaborating? See if you can describe, out loud or in writing, what you did and why you loved it. Now see if there’s anything at all that resembles that experience in your life today…

— Charlie Warzel & Anne Helen Petersen, from “How to Care Less About Work” in The Atlantic (December 5, 2021). This has been excerpted from their forthcoming book, Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home.

And now in age I bud again

The only trouble with being born in 1961 is that in 2021 you will turn 60, something I did last week. It’s very strange to persist in feeling 22, even as every mirror — and every storefront window and polished elevator door — reveals the truth. Sixty is the point at which people must admit they are no longer middle-aged.

Lately it’s been dawning on me that I would not want to have been born even one minute later than 1961, either. Last week I mentioned this new thought to a friend, and her response was immediate, as though she’d already had it herself: “Because we won’t have to live through the cataclysm?”

Exactly.

Well, no, not exactly. On the days when headlines are full, yet again, with firestorms and catastrophic flooding and biodiversity collapse and endless pandemic and a depressingly effective disinformation campaign to deny the climate emergency — on those days, yes. Absolutely yes. On those days I am glad to be 60 because it means I almost certainly won’t live to witness the cataclysm that is coming if humanity cannot change its ways in time.

But that’s not the way I think on most days. On most days I am simply grateful for the 60 years I’ve had…

I have lived long enough to have learned, too, that what is beautiful and joyful is almost always fleeting and must never be squandered. That rejection rarely bears any relationship to worth. That whatever else might separate us, sharing a love for “Ted Lasso” is enough common ground to start the harder conversations. That life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes…

A lifelong friend, one who will also turn 60 this year, sent me an email on my birthday. Her message contained a passage from “The Flower,” a poem by George Herbert: “Grief melts away / Like snow in May, / As if there were no such cold thing. / Who would have thought my shriveled heart / Could have recovered greenness?”

Who would have thought, indeed? But given enough time, we do go on, somehow. Like the stems and branches of springtime, our shriveled hearts can recover greenness, too. “And now in age I bud again,” Herbert wrote, and so it is with us.

— Margaret Renkl, from “I Just Turned 60, but I Still Feel 22″ in The New York Times (November 1, 2021)


Portraits: First: Margaret Renkl at Auburn University in 1983.  Credit…Billy Renkl. Second: WUTC on September 15, 2021 at 4:37 PM EDT

Sunday Morning

My father had died in a single-vehicle accident in California, far from those who knew and loved him. As I grieved, my father’s death brought a certain clarity about my calling as a husband and parent. If my relationship with my dad had been marked by brokenness, I wanted my relationship with my wife and children to be marked by healing. It also forced me to re-evaluate my career. Impressing other writers and academics ceased to be my goal. Instead, I would focus on using my words to find beauty and hope. I couldn’t write a different ending for my father’s story, but I could show that a different ending was possible for others.

Over the past year and a half, many people have experienced something similar to what I did when my father died. I am not the only one who has received a terrifying call that wakes us from our slumber and changes us forever. It may have been a notification about a loved one going on a ventilator rather than dying in a car crash, but the trauma is the same. This pandemic has left conversations and lives cut short…

All these changes that people are embarking on during the pandemic make me think that we weren’t that happy before the pandemic. What about our lives prevented us from seeing things that are so clear to us now? When I talked to friends and neighbors about this, two themes emerged. The pandemic has disabused us of the illusion of time as a limitless resource and of the false promise that the sacrifices we make for our careers are always worth it.

Before the pandemic, we knew we were going to die, but we did not believe it. Maybe we believed it, but considered it a problem to be dealt with later. In the meantime, exercise and a reasonable diet was the tithe we paid to our fears. We believed we had time…

We have had to consider our collective mortality. And we are now faced with the question of meaning. Like the biblical psalmist says, “We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” (Psalm 124:7). Covid-19 threatened to capture us in its snare, but thus far we have eluded it.

What shall we do with this opportunity?

Dr. Esau McCaulley, from “We Weren’t Happy Before the Pandemic,Either.” Dr. McCaulley is a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois., (NY Times, August 21, 2021)

I want to believe.

I think in all likelihood this report will come and go, and with it the mainstream chatter around U.F.O.s, until definitive proof is exposed. A planet that can’t come together on climate change or a global pandemic might not pay much attention even if wreckage or an alien corpse is discovered. The culture wars alone might eclipse it, so rabidly are we in their grips.

But what if we had direct contact? With actual alien beings from an exoplanet who’ve traveled light years to seek us out? Who have answers to every question we’ve ever asked?

The result would unquestionably change the course of mankind. But would it change us?

I want to believe.

— Chris Carter, from “I Created ‘The X-Files.’ Here’s Why I’m Skeptical of the New U.F.O. Report.” (NY Times, June 25, 2021)


Image: IMDb

World Re-opening…


Art by Gürbüz Doğan Ekşioğl, (from Istanbul, Turkey). Françoise Mouly: “When coronavirus quarantines were announced, more than a year ago, artists began sending in sketches about our new, locked-in reality. One of those sketches, from Gürbüz Doğan Ekşioğlu, who is based in Istanbul, looked far ahead, imagining the thrill and poignancy of a world reopening. Today, the pandemic is far from over, but many countries are finally exhaling, and it seemed apt to publish Ekşioğlu’s image.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (& I-95 S)


(Snoopy going to work by Banksy) via Wait – What?)

 

T.G.I.F. Nope. Mr. Bingo.

Nope, Mr Bingo (via thisisn’thappiness)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call


I am falling back in love with myself, taking extra time each day to care for my African violets and orchids. How I plan to live my life moving forward: no more doing for others what I do not want to do. I am centering my attention on the things that give me peace.

—  Jeffreen Hayes, Chicago, from “Emerging From the Coronavirus” in The New York Times, April 5, 2021


Photo: Galaxed

What Your Mask Says About You (or how to judge a face by its cover)


See more @ The New Yorker (April 12, 2021): “What Your Mask Says About You (How to judge a face by its cover. Barry Blitt, a cartoonist and an illustrator, has contributed to The New Yorker since 1992. In 2020, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.April 12, 2021

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