Lightly Child, Lightly.

The answers were nearly always – light.

Light.

There.

The quick glow of a fierce sensation.

— Maddie Mortimer, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador; March 31, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo by DK @ Daybreak. 5:45 a.m. 60° F. September 17, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.  See more photos from that morning here.
  • 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.”

Why it was that the morning quietened so curiously this way?


Notes:

  • Post title by: Maddie Mortimer, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador; March 31, 2022)
  • Photo by DK @ Daybreak. 6:45 a.m. 70° F. September 13, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.  See more photos from this morning here.

Lightly Child, Lightly

And one of the first questions she asked him was – What do you believe?

And Harry hardly had to think about it; he looked straight at her and said,

quite resolutely – I believe in the kindness of strangers.

It had been such a clean answer.
As sharp and true as his own
particular cleverness, and Lia had felt
somewhere deep within her a bud of affection
drinking and breaking.
An exhale of pure oxygen in an otherwise polluted place.

— Maddie Mortimer, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador; March 31, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo: Said Photographer via Pexels
  • 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.”

And then, there’s the Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

We compartmentalized the stress and ongoing trauma, flattening it into something survivable, but we nonetheless ate it for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. We swam in that stress. We slept in it. We swallowed it in gulps. We lived through it, and we told ourselves stories of resilience, because what other choice did we have.

But the body is bad at pretending. It keeps the damn score.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

A whole personal growth industry is predicated on getting us to compare ourselves unfavourably with others, because feeding those insecurities sells “reach your potential” webinars. But even knowing that, it’s hard not to let it get under your skin. Reading what I “should” have achieved gives me the same twitchy, defensive feeling I get from those “30 people under 30 to watch” lists, resentfully scanning pictures of fresh-faced overachievers. The sense you aren’t where you should be, and that others are, is a surefire thief of joy, and we shouldn’t let blokes who overuse fire emojis steal our joy.

If I had a platinum-tier subscriber level newsletter to sell you, this is what I would argue you should have achieved by my age (47):

  • A burning fury about some trivial aspect of your neighbourhood (lighting, bollards, men who trim between the paving stones with scissors).
  • Three to five relationships – romantic or platonic – that you feel lasting guilt about.
  • A part of your face or body that you don’t recognise any more. Whose chin is that? What’s that lump on my eyelid? When did my heels take on the texture of barnacles?
  • A miasma of pension dread.
  • An anecdote you cannot stop telling even though you know your interlocutor has heard it before. (Me: this was my grandfather’s knife. My husband: I know, you tell me every time you touch it.)
  • An alternative career you truly believe you would have been happier in.

But at 47, I have also found a way to deal with that self-flagellatory itch, so here it is, for your vision boards. Read the Guardian’s New Start After 60 or the New York Times’ It’s Never Too Late series, exploring later life changes. People, you discover, do awe-inspiring things at every age: there’s an 86-year-old water polo player in this week’s New York Times. But more importantly, they do the things they, not anyone else, wants: what fulfils them and what they enjoy. If you’re selling a seminar on how to achieve that, take my money.

—  Emma Beddington, from “Ignore those lists of goals to hit by age 30 – here’s what you should have done by 47” (The Guardian, August 10, 2022)

Sunday Morning

and I shall have some peace there,

for peace comes dropping slow

— Naomi Shihab Nye, from “The Words Under the Words,” Words Under the Words: Selected Poems.


Notes:

  • Photos: Daybreak. 5:11 to 6:00 pm, August 7, 2022. 80° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More photos from this morning here (landscape) and here (birds).
  • Poem via The Vale of Soul-Making

Lightly Child, Lightly (Take 2)

Thomas A. Edison was born in 1847, and on October 21, 1879, he invented the incandescent light bulb. I was born on October 21, 1947, one hundred years after Edison’s birth and on the sixty-eighth anniversary of his famous invention. By the time I discovered these facts, I was in my forties, but I had already developed a lifelong fascination with light.

Indeed, my first memory is of light dancing in the leaves of a tall tree in my grandmother’s front yard in Sparta, Missouri. Aunt Grace had placed me on my back on a blanket under this tree. I remember the sunlight sparkling through the changing colors of the fluttering leaves and the occasional patch of cloud shadow that affected everything. I didn’t have language, but I knew what I was watching was beautiful.

I remember nothing else about the first two years of my life, but I recall this as clearly as if it happened this morning. Light sticks in my memory that way. And ever since that seminal moment, dappled light has held the power to induce wonder in me.

I take note of shadows and sunspots and if a cloud crosses the sun. I stop to admire the sparkling dew on grass and flowers, the rainbows in lawn sprinklers, and the way certain kinds of light shine on birds’ wings or breasts. I notice my cat glistening in the sunbeams and the way light sparkles on nearby Holmes Lake. These minute alterations in light affect me emotionally and even spiritually.

When I swim, the parabolas of light dancing on the bottom of the pool make me happy. So does the way sunlight splashing through rain can paint my porch with light. When I see shafts of sunlight breaking through storm clouds, I pay attention. When we travel, it is light that most astonishes me. Light in the Sandhills of Nebraska, in Alaska, in San Francisco, and in all the mountain towns along the front range of the Rockies…

I am solar-powered. As a child, I spent every waking moment outdoors in the summer. I spent my mornings mixing mud pies, cookies, and cakes on wooden slabs under an elm tree. And I spent long afternoons and evenings in our municipal pool. That’s when I began reminding the other children to look at how sunlight twinkled on water. [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly

In the morning, I sit with a cup of coffee and organize myself for the day. I watch the sunrise over the lake by my home, and I listen to the sounds of the sparrows and wrens. Orioles come and go from our grape jelly feeder, and each one makes me smile. I breathe deeply for 10 breaths to ground myself in my body. I remind myself of my many blessings and set my attitude to positive. My old calico, Glessie, sits by my side. Even though I am ragged with grief at the news of the world, I am ready to face whatever happens next.

Over the decades, I’ve acquired skills for building a good day. Especially in the summer, when I can swim, work in my garden, attend outdoor concerts and read in my hammock, life is fun. I have work I enjoy — sponsoring an Afghan family, participating in an environmental group and writing.

Of course, I am leading a double life. Underneath my ordinary good life, I am in despair for the world. Some days, the news is such that I need all my inner strength to avoid exhaustion, anxiety and depression. I rarely discuss this despair. My friends don’t, either. We all feel the same. We don’t know what to say that is positive. So we keep our conversations to our gardens, our families, books and movies and our work on local projects. We don’t want to make one another feel hopeless and helpless.

Many of us feel we are walking through sludge. This strange inertia comes from the continuing pandemic, a world at war and the mass shootings of shoppers, worshipers and schoolchildren. In addition, our country and our planet are rapidly changing in ways that are profoundly disturbing. We live in a time of groundlessness when we can reasonably predict no further than dinnertime. The pandemic was a crash course in that lesson.

As we are pummeled with daily traumatic information, more and more of us shut down emotionally. I can hear the flatness in the newscasters’ voices, see the stress in my friends’ faces and sense it in the tension of the workers at my sister’s nursing home. We are not apathetic; we are overwhelmed. Our symptoms resemble those of combat fatigue.

The most informed and compassionate among us are the most vulnerable to despair. We understand the brokenness and the sorrow in our own and faraway communities. We are also fully aware of all the things we cannot change. Staying focused on the light in the world is hard work.

Of course, America isn’t eastern Ukraine, Afghanistan or Yemen, but nonetheless, we are a lonely, frightened people who have lost hope in the future. Any psychologist knows that is a dangerous place to be. We risk losing our ability to think clearly or experience life completely. We lose our vitality and sense of direction. We cannot help others. We cannot fix anything. [Read more…]

Saturday Morning

Thank you Rob @ The Hammock Papers (via Treadwells Bookshop)

 

Sunday Morning

And the boy went into the elves’ church. He had never seen such people before, so noble and happy. Such is life when it is lived in peace and in song. When the hymn was over, the priest mounted the pulpit and preached a sermon. Never had the boy heard a sermon so beautiful or so touching. And never afterwards did he hear a sermon like it. All his life through he remembered it, meditating upon it in secret and trying always to live up to it; but the theme of the sermon he told to no one. Some people think that it must have been about how in the end good will be triumphant in the life of man. Then the priest went to the altar and intoned in a warm, gentle voice; quite differently from our priests here on earth. It was as if a good hand was laid over his heart Then when the last hymn had been sung, all the people stood up and went out… He kept the memory of this Sunday ever afterwards in his mind and it consoled him when he had to do without the happiness that others enjoy in life; and he grew up into a man pleased with what he had and contented with his lot.

Halldór Laxness, “Independent People


Photo: Photo by Tabitha Mort, Portland, Oregon

Lightly Child, Lightly

I dream through a wordless, familiar place.
The small boat of the day sails into morning,
past the postman with his modest haul, the full trees
which sound like the sea, leaving my hands free
to remember. Moments of grace. Like this.

Carol Ann Duffy, from Moments of Grace in “Mean Time” (Pan Macmillan; January 1, 2018)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak.  Cove Island Park. June, 4, 2022. 5:34 a.m.
  • Poem: 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.”

And if the wind is right…

Well, it’s not far down to paradise
At least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away
And find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles
Just you wait and see, believe me…

Well, it’s not far back to sanity
At least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away
And find serenity
Oh, the canvas can do miracles
Just you wait and see, really, believe me

Sailing
Takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

— Christopher Cross, from “Sailing” (1980)


Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 4:52 am, June 5, 2022. 53° F. Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk, CT. More photos from this morning here @ Calf Pasture Beach and here @ Cove Island Park

Lightly Child, Lightly


Notes:

  • Video: DK, Cove Island Park, May 25, 2022 @ Twilight. 5:03 am.  More photos from yesterday morning 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.”

Tuesday Morning Meditation


My first attempt @ video. Far from awesome, but that won’t distract from the beauty of these Atlantic Brants. I’m smitten.  Cove Island Park @ Daybreak on Sunday.

Walking. With a Trifecta.

718 days. Almost consecutive. Like in a row.  Morning walk @ Cove Island Park @ Daybreak.

Ritual is all we have. It’s what keeps us from the abyss.”  It’s Jillian Horton’s thought from “We Are All Perfectly Fine,” and there’s zero doubt that she wrote it thinking of me.

Perfectly Fine? Definitely not.

I round the turn into the parking lot. It’s empty. I mean Empty. Not a single parked car. Not a single soul lurking around.

My park. My time. Mine.

I walk.

45° F with 10 mph winds blowing from the NW, keeping this Spring’s Here thing real.

Inhale.

Blossoms.

“…as if a rose were flung into the room, all hue and scent” (Szymborska).

And then, came the Trifecta.

(The first being here, alive, standing in this spot, at this moment.)

The second, Luna peaks out from behind the clouds.  And drops her beam down on Long Island Sound.

And the third, at this exact moment, turning up randomly on my iTunes playlist of 3000+ odd tunes —  My Anthem. Van Morrison, So Quiet in Here.

Where we can be what we want to be
Oh this must be what paradise is like
This must be what paradise is like
Baby it’s so quiet in here, so peaceful in here
So quiet in here, so peaceful in here
So quiet in here, so peaceful in here
So quiet in here, you can hear, it’s so quiet

I raise my camera, focus on the train of her gown, and take the shot.

I’m going to remember this.


Notes:

  • DK Photo. Moonlight @ Daybreak. 5:15 am, April 23, 2022. 45° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.  More photos from this morning here.

Sea of Tranquility: A beat. A sip of water. Pacing is everything.

While (he) slips immediately into the same stasis that overcame him… It isn’t quite listlessness. He makes a careful inventory of his thoughts and decides that he isn’t unhappy. He just desires no further movement, for the time being. If there’s pleasure in action, there’s peace in stillness.

—  Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility: A Novel (Knopf, April 5, 2022)


Notes:

  • Highly recommended.  Let’s just describe this as a Wow. (And if you can listen to book on Audible, a real plus. Excellent narration.)
  • NY Times Book Review: A Dazzling New Foray into Speculative Fiction From Emily St. John Mandel – “In Sea of Tranquility,” Mandel takes up existential questions of time and being…In “Sea of Tranquility,” Mandel offers one of her finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet, but it is her ability to convincingly inhabit the ordinary, and her ability to project a sustaining acknowledgment of beauty, that sets the novel apart. As in Ishiguro, this is not born of some cheap, made-for-television, faux-emotional gimmick or mechanism, but of empathy and hard-won understanding, beautifully built into language, for all of us who inhabit this “green-and-blue world” and who one day might live well beyond.
  • Image via CBC

Lightly Child, Lightly

I notice something, a feeling in my chest. Lightness. Joy. Or something that tastes like it. That flicker you get, of a déjà vu. A place you were once, even though you can’t say where or when. I used to feel like this.

Jillian HortonWe Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing (HarperCollins Publishers, February 23, 2021)


Notes:

  • Portrait of and story on Jillian Horton via edialogue: “Reclaiming Herself”
  • 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.”

You ask me am I crazy for playing the cello in a war zone

One night, I dreamed that I was meeting my friend, a poet named Mariana, in Sarajevo, the city of love. I woke up confused. Sarajevo, a symbol of love? Wasn’t Sarajevo the site of one of the bloodiest civil wars of the late twentieth century? Then I remembered. Vedran Smailović. The cellist of Sarajevo…

You ask me am I crazy for playing the cello in a war zone, he says. Why don’t you ask THEM if they’re crazy for shelling Sarajevo?

His gesture reverberates throughout the city, over the airwaves. Soon, it’ll find expression in a novel, a film. But before that, during the darkest days of the siege, Smailović will inspire other musicians to take to the streets with their own instruments. They don’t play martial music, to rouse the troops against the snipers, or pop tunes, to lift the people’s spirits. They play the Albinoni. The destroyers attack with guns and bombs, and the musicians respond with the most bittersweet music they know.

We’re not combatants, call the violinists; we’re not victims, either, add the violas. We’re just humans, sing the cellos, just humans: flawed and beautiful and aching for love.

Susan Cain, “Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole” (Crown, April 5, 2022)


Image: Manny Becerra via Unsplash

Lightly Child, Lightly

Drifting, what am I like?

A gull between earth and sky.

—  Du Fu, (712- 770). “Thoughts While Traveling At Night”, trans. by Vikram Seth, in Three Chinese Poets: Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu


Notes:

  • Photo – DK @ Cove Island Park on March 21, 2022. Quote via antigonick
  • 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.”

T.G.I.F.: Perhaps this is the time to take an extra slow sip from a piping mug of coffee

From where I write, the world is a storm of scars and grief, and somehow, of unexpected delight. This mélange isn’t logical. It’s a mystery. But perhaps now is the perfect time for such a thing.

Perhaps this is the time to take an extra slow sip from a piping mug of coffee, to let the steam melt into the waiting face and to savor the way that dark substance can invigorate the body. Perhaps this is the time to gaze at squirrels in the yard, those lucky rodents who don’t seem to realize—or care—that we’ve changed, those chipper squirrels whose routines continue with full gusto despite everything else. Perhaps this is the time to sit with someone you’ve grown accustomed to seeing each day, to stare at their familiar face under familiar light and look for the unfamiliar things that made you love them in the first place.

This is a time when one of the few things we’re certain about is how little certainty there is. We can scramble to find answers and do what we can to act in the midst of these swirling questions and trials, but this can also be a time to pause. Somehow, in the middle of all these current messes, there are still pleasant—even delightful—mysteries to be found. There are friends to check in on (from a distance), there’s astonishment to be shared. There are poems to be read. There is hope to be found, embraced, passed along.

The heavy blanket of fog in the yard has lightened so that it’s no more than a sheet. The baby maple, still alone, stretches up from its cast. Next year, it may be crowned with leaves, and someday, it will give us shade, like the ones who came before it. Somehow, in the midst of everything, it grows stronger each day.

—  Angela Hugunin, from “The Comfort Of A Poem: Reflections on Mary Oliver’s “Mysteries, Yes. ” (cvwritersguild.org, April 7, 2020)


Photo by Nathan Dumlao

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