Truth

Have you ever held a three year old by the hand on the way home from preschool?…

You’re never more important than you are then.

— Fredrik Backman, “Anxious People: A Novel” (Atria Books, September 8, 2020)


Eric Kanigan @ 4 years old. He used to clutch on to his Momma’s hand, tears welling up, before he released her on his way into pre-school. 26 years old now. Still clutching on to his Momma. 🙂

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I was like an unfocused college student. I would read and watch all sorts of things, as long as they had already received high acclaim. I was studying great people and great works, but I wasn’t really making my own choices; I was just consuming information haphazardly. All that, I think, has started to change. Having minimized my material possessions, I’ve also started to minimize the information I take in. I no longer follow useless news, gossip, or random stand-up comedy. I don’t try to fill my conversations with things that other people have made or done. Instead of focusing on the voices of others, I focus on and believe in the voice that’s coming from me. What I often feel now is that I’m “returning” to myself. I used to feel that so many great things had already been produced in the world that there was nothing I could add. I was so worried about what other people would think that I developed an oversized fear of making mistakes. If I came up with a great idea, I’d reject it because it came from me. This is what I imagine. There used to be another “me” who lived inside me. He had the same size, shape, and form as my usual “self.” But the more concerned I became about the outside world, the smaller the inside me got. He was so battered that he could barely get back on his feet. But I now feel as though that little old me has finally gotten up. Minimalism has given me the focus to revive my inner me.

Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism


Portrait of Fumio Sasaki by Irwin Wong for The Sunday Times. “If you like it, chuck it: secrets of Japan’s most radical minimalist.”

If I have me, what else do I need?

One thing people would be surprised to know about you?

That often times I just sit in silence. Sometimes I don’t like to talk. Sometimes I have nothing to say.

What’s the one thing you hope to see change in the world?

For people to stop seeing society as a zero-sum game. We’ve convinced ourselves that in order for one person to win, another has to lose.

What’s the one thing you would grab from your house (after family members and pets) if it caught fire?

I don’t have children. So it would be weird for me to be grabbing children in a fire. Where did they come from? My photos are in the cloud. I wonder if I’d grab anything. To be honest, I don’t think I would. I mean, if I have me, what else do I need?

—  Trevor Noah, from The One Joke That Always Works, According to Trevor Noah (WSJ Magazine, September, 19, 2020.

Walking. With the World all right again…

It’s been a month.  I first wrote about them in a post here: Walking. One Short. From Wing to Wing.

Each morning I look for them, and I just see her.  And the heart sinks a wee bit… Was he hurt? Predators? I shudder to think…

See her above. That’s yesterday morning. Alone. Head down. (And her Head is blurry. That’s not her tears. That’s the idiot photographer who still can’t get it right, but it’s the best shot of her that he had.)

For most of the last 30 days, she’s off on her own on the edges of The Cove, mostly sleeping. Grieving, I’m sure.

So, this morning, I’m off on my walk, expecting a replay.

I’m halfway on my 5-mile loop, and my eyes scan the water for the snow white coat.  [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly


Notes:

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)

none of us can bear too much reality

Thinking about swifts has made me think more carefully about the ways in which I’ve dealt with difficulty. When I was small I comforted myself with thoughts of layers of rising air; later I hid myself among the whispers of recorded works of fiction. We all have our defences. Some of them are self-defeating, but others are occasions for joy: the absorption of a hobby, the writing of a poem, speeding on a Harley, the slow assembly of a collection of records or seaside shells. ‘The best thing for being sad,’ said T. H. White’s Merlin, ‘is to learn something.’ All of us have to live our lives most of the time inside the protective structures that we have built; none of us can bear too much reality. We need our books, our craft projects, our dogs and knitting, our movies, gardens and gigs. It’s who we are. We’re held together by our lives, our interests, and all our chosen comforts. But we can’t have only those things, because then we can’t work out where we should be headed.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)


Photo Salvi Danes, (Barcelona) (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Lightly Child, Lightly

I worked at a falcon-breeding center. In one room were banks of expensive incubators containing falcon eggs. Through the glass, their shells were the mottled browns of walnut, of tea-stains, of onion skins…These were forced-air incubators with eggs on wire racks. We weighed them each day, and as the embryo moved towards hatching, we’d candle them: place them on a light and scribe the outline of the shadow against the bright air-cell with a soft graphite pencil, so that as the days passed the eggshell was ringed with repeated lines that resembled tides or wide-grained wood. But I always left the incubation room feeling unaccountably upset, with a vague disquieting sense of vertigo. It was a familiar emotion I couldn’t quite name. I finally worked out what it was on rainy Sunday afternoon. Leafing through my parents’ albums I found a photograph of me a few days after my birth, a frail and skinny thing, one arm rings with a medical bracelet and bathed in stark electric light. I was in an incubator, for I was exceedingly premature. My twin brother did not survive his birth. And that early loss, followed by weeks of white light lying alone on a blanket in a Perspex box, had done something to me that echoed with a room full of eggs in forced-air boxes, held in moist air and moved by wire. Now I could put a name to the upset I felt. It was loneliness.

That was when I recognised the particular power of eggs to raise questions of human hurt and harm. That was why, I realised, the nests in my childhood collection made me uncomfortable; they reached back to a time in my life when the world was nothing but surviving isolation. And then. And then there was a day. One day when, quite by surprise, I discovered that if I held a falcon egg close to my mouth and made soft clucking noises, a chick that was ready to hatch would call back. And there I stood, in the temperature-controlled room. I spoke through the shell to something that had not yet known light or air, but would soon take in the revealed coil and furl of a west-coast breeze and cloud of a hillside in one easy glide at sixty miles an hour, and spire up on sharp wings to soar high enough to see the distant, glittering Atlantic. I spoke through an egg and wept.

— Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020) 


Notes:

  • Photo: Incubator
  • 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.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Take a moment to think about the context in which your next decision will occur: You did not pick your parents or the time and place of your birth. You didn’t choose your gender or most of your life experiences. You had no control whatsoever over your genome or the development of your brain. And now your brain is making choices on the basis of preferences and beliefs that have been hammered into it over a lifetime – by your genes, your physical development since the moment you were conceived, and the interactions you have had with other people, events, and ideas. Where is the freedom in this? Yes, you are free to do what you want even now. But where did your desires come from?

— Sam Harris, Free Will


Notes: Quote via themindmovement. Photo: Crystal Green

Walking. My July 4th.

Twilight. August 7, 2020. 5:32 am. 67° F. Cloud Cover: 86%. The Cove, Stamford, CT.

90+ min walk. 100+ photos.

It was Amateur Hour (or hour and a half).

Hand shake. Blurry shots. Crooked shots. Underexposed shots. Overexposed shots. Dark light. Bad light.

Rain drops on lens. No pink or orange hues lighting up the cove. Dense cloud cover.

Hide tide. Birds in hiding.

But…

as I rounded the corner at Cove Island Park, there it was. The American Flag. Softly flapping in the breeze.  I pause to watch… listening to its rustling, as it folded and unfolded. No press briefings. No shameless politicians.

Just the American flag, the silence of the daybreak and me.  And an intense and overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this Country and it’s great people…and what you all have given my family and me.

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