Known & Lesser-Known Stages of Covid in Our House: Everyday Magic, Day 1078
We managed to avoid getting Covid for almost three years, to the point that when that screaming hot pink line appeared on the test strip one late night, my first thought was that the test must be flawed. But the body overrules denial in most cases, and the strange but well-documented symptoms began their Dada-esque parade through my waking and greatly-increasing sleeping time with aplomb. Just lucid enough (we hope) to write this today, I wanted to share some of what we experienced in Covid-land with the caveat that we are highly lucky to have not fallen into the abyss of the intense suffering and terror of severe Covid.
Stage 1: Why is it so hot in here?
Stage 2: This is a weird-ass headache, and why it is in clinging to the backs of my eyeballs?
Stage 3: Why is it so cold in here?
Stage 4: Paxlovid negotiations with doctors on phones (mine caught me the prescription in five seconds, Ken’s didn’t).
Stage 5: Many hours of dreaming of new breakfast entries, particularly one involving French toast stuffed with artichokes, then wrapped in fried potatoes and topped with salsa.
Stage 6: Tissue-box emptying marathon aka why is half my face on fire?
Stage 7: Activate re-watching as many Call the Midwife episodes as necessary to forget my life and believe I’m bunking with nuns in east London is 1957. Come for Vanessa Redgrave’s voice-overs. Stay for the crumpets.
Stage 8: No one in the history of humankind could have ever felt this.
Stage 9: This is the essential human condition, surely the essential mammal and reptile condition too.
Stage 10: Fall back asleep and spend hours driving over suspension bridges with my dead father, who is uncharacteristically quiet and bemused.
Stage 11: Toddler tantrum stage or is it the collective unconscious throwing a hissy fit?
Stage 12: Obstacle course of trying to order groceries online when I can’t remember what a banana is.
Stage 13: Chicken soup rounds one, two, and three, descending into just grabbing random ingredients from fridge or pantry and tossing them into the Instapot.
Stage 14: Pissed off at the world and will never feel differently.
Stage 15: Is it still meditation if I’m alternating between a ragefest and sleep?
Stage 16: Snickerdoodles, even if I have to make them myself.
Stage 17: Is this moment truly better and actually pain-free or am I tripping on the combination of Paxlovid, Tylenol, and chicken soup made with god-knows-what?
Stage 18: Thanks to so many (although counting is beyond me) episodes of Call the Midwife, I can now deliver a breech baby. So if you’re in labor and the baby is coming out ass-first, call me. Oh, wait, I can’t leave the house because: Covid.
Stage 19: The state of all living beings, including house plants, especially house plants, is profound sadness with a touch of whimsy.
Stage 20: Why did folksinger Phil Ochs really kill himself in 1976, and why couldn’t I stop him even if I was just 16 at the time?
Stage 21: Is the metallic taste in my mouth from this Paxlovid turning me into a robot? And if so, what if I can’t obey the commands of my master?
Stage 22: Having taken a short break from Call the Midwife to finish Reservation Dogs, I must now lie on the couch and plot out Reservation Dogs‘ next season, which I’m sure involves a stowaway Big Foot who has self-esteem issues, a redwood forest on a hot day, more casual visits from the exasperated dead, and a whole lot of fried catfish in Oklahoma.
Stage 23: Bollywood movies or even small touches in movies (usually involving the wedding scene) may be the ultimate reality.
Stage 24: I can breathe freely again but I just realized we’re living our lives all wrong, and there’s no cure for it.
Stage 25: Ken googling the immanence of God while I’m googling when Ted Lasso’s next season will drop in between calling friends with Covid to ask if they’re also sad, confused, and doubting what life is all around (they are).
Stage 26: Walking to the mailbox (a 2-block walk over the hill) by myself without falling down.
Stage 27: Does crossing over into daylight savings time take away an hour of Covid, extend it later into the day, or neither?
Stage 28: I’m so in love with the world I could turn into downy woodpecker tapping on our deck railing. Does this mean I might test negative soon?
Stage 29: What if cats are actually in charge? Oh, wait, they are.
Bruce Springsteen, Grace, and Mortality in Kansas City: Everyday Magic, Day 1077
A few days ago I went to my seventh and perhaps my last Springsteen concert, which was (as always) a tour de force love child of sacred pilgrimage and family reunion. Just seeing Bruce with all his living (and dead in a video and likely in spirit) band mates for over 50 years, plus the East Street choir (of heavenly proportion), the East Street horn section (of powerful lungs) and other players, is mind-blowing enough, but what stays with me most was his clear-eyed grappling with mortality and generous grace.
The reason I think this could be it is that Bruce is 73, most of his original bandmates are about the same age, they generally come to the likes of Kansas City and surrounds every four or five years, and the energy they expend is downright astronomical. Although the previous three-and-a-half-hour shows are now a mere two-hour-and-fourty-minutes affair, the pace is surely a high aerobic workout for all involved (one song is still ending when we hear the “1, 2, 3, 4….” of him beginning the next song). So I’m cognizant of the gift I received Feb. 18.
Bruce is cognizant too of aging, death, and what it means to be able to give and receive deeply with an arena full of open-hearted, loud-singing, and in many cases, over-the-hill and been-there-from-the-70s fans like me. He said this directly in his music and in a few moments of talking quietly, just him and his guitar on the big screens floating in the darkness, when he introduced the song “Last Man Standing,” a memorial of sorts to times and people long gone. He explained that seeing his dying bandmate George from the Castilles, he realized cozying up to mortality is “…..like you’re standing on the railroad tracks of with the white hot light of an oncoming train bearing down upon me, and it brings me clarity of thought and of purpose that you may not have previously experienced.”
Indeed, so many of the songs the band performed danced with death, flirted with the human condition, and whistled alongside what it means to be alive in the face of our limited (and who can say when or how in most cases) timeline. They burst out of the gate with “No Surrender,” then surged into “Ghost” (with the lyrics “I can feel the blood shiver in my bones/ I’m alive and I’m out here on my own/ I’m alive and I’m comin’ home”). One of the highlights was Springsteen’s and singer Curtis King’s rendition of “Nightshift,” written by the Commodores, soulfully praises Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson and talks to them from the side of the living, asking them where they are in death and saying, “You found another home/ I know you’re not alone/ On the nightshift.”
This grace was amplified in Bruce’s obvious affection for his band (and their affection for each other), constantly aiming attention toward the exemplary musicians belting, strumming, drumming, dancing, and giving their all. From the cheap seats we had behind the stage, we could see Nils leaning into Sookie, Little Stevie hamming it up with Bruce, the singers nodding to each other.
I was especially moved by Bruce’s introduction of Ed Manion, a back-up sax player who’s been with Springsteen for close to 40 years, who stepped up to the front to do one sax solo after another in covering for Jake Clemons (recovering from Covid). Bruce pointed out that finally, after 40 years, Manion was the big man, and after each solo, Bruce hugged or high-fived him, always gesturing to the audience to praise Manion’s chops and sound.
The second encore (after a seven-song encore that powered forth with “Thunder Road,” “Born to Run,” and “Rosalita”) especially moved me. The 17-member band took a final bow and left the stage, but Bruce stayed on, and just with an acoustic guitar, sang “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” He told us what we know from carrying the music and experiences that light up our souls even beyond endings: “Because death is not the end/ I’ll see you in my dreams.”
For decades, I’ve dream of seeing Bruce in my dreams, sometimes running into him at a grocery store or in a parking lot. I’m wildly grateful to have just seen him and the band in person too, and yup, this Jersey girl (even from the same school district as Bruce) will see him and the rest of the band in her dreams.
The Power of Music: Everyday Magic, Day 1076
This is the week of the Bruces for me — I saw Bruce Cockburn in concert Thurs. night, and Sat. night, I’m off to see Bruce Springsteen for the umpteenth time. Today as I listened to some of my favorite Cockburn songs (like “Wondering Where the Lions Are”), then bumped into a full Springsteen concert from last week on Sirius Radio (a preview of what I’ll likely hear soon), I considered again how music is engine, caboose, and everything in between to my life….and maybe yours too?
Music — the making of it and listening to it — has lifted me up and brought me back to myself again and again, from my years of hiding a transistor radio under the covers back in Brooklyn so I could listen to Cousin Brucie (another Bruce!) play the hits to teaching myself how to play everything from “Theme from Brian’s Song” to “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” on the piano. I trip into nirvana when Kelley Hunt or Kathryn Lorenzen and I write a new song or sometimes when I bump again into a beloved tune from Mary Chapin Carpenter and other saving graces.
I really love this quote from Matt Haig: “Music doesn’t get in. Music is already in. Music simply uncovers what is there, makes you feel emotions that you didn’t necessarily know you had inside you, and runs around waking them all up. A rebirth of sorts.” How true it is that we’re made of music. After all, as living beings, we’re rhythmic beings, our heart beat tapping out its music, and maybe breath is its own kind of music too.
So consider what the power of music brings you in your days and nights, and how you can draw on that power for the good when you need a little company, insight, soothing, or magic.
This is a cross-post from my Patreon, where you can also see this post plus a writing prompt and links to explore more of the power of music. Click here.
Defining Moments in the Dark: Everyday Magic, Day 1075
I was fifteen years ago and miserable when I first went to a youth group Havdalah service one winter evening. I was living with my very difficult father in a big house, so much bigger now that my mother and siblings had moved out, and I was the loneliest I had or have ever been, having lost most of my extended family and living in the ‘burbs where even the neighbors stopped talking to us.
My deep sadness along with some suicidal thoughts had led my father to bring me to the rabbi of our synagogue, who promptly put me in the temple youth group. Now we were gathered for the short end-of-sabbath service (Sabbath begins at sundown Friday night and ends at sundown Saturday night). This eight minute or so service is all about the senses. Our bunch of awkward teens held each other in a circle and sang, first lighting the braided Havdalah candle, then passing around a spice box filled with clove and cinnamon, then taking sips from a cup of wine. At the end, someone aimed the wild twining flame of the candle into the leftover wine for a satisfying sizzle that signified the start of a new week.
I couldn’t know then it was the start of a new life for me. That youth group and especially Phil, a youth group advisor who took me under his wing, saved my life, giving me a sense of belonging, listening to what was broken in me, and believing in my ability to fix myself in time. After each Havdalah service, we sat in a circle sharing our thoughts on a topic, often writing first on a moment that changed our life, what we value most, or what was hardest for us. We cried, even and especially the guys. We hugged each other. We wrote fast and furiously in our journals. Some nights we have lock-ins, unfurling our sleeping bags on the bema (little stage where services are led from), and talking on and off long into the night. We spoke things aloud we couldn’t tell anyone else. Together, we made a kind of mosaic of all our broken pieces, then had donuts and orange juice for breakfast.
It’s no wonder that a lot of my workshops, sans sleeping together on a carpeted stage, involve the same. We write and read. We speak our truths. We learn to listen to each other, and from that, to ourselves more. We discover what we most have and need to say, and where those words and callings lead us in our work, art, service, and purpose.
How I got from sitting in the dark with my youth group to facilitating workshops, coaching people on writing and right livelihood, and collaborating with wonderful co-teachers on life-giving projects followed a long and meandering river of time, intentions, jobs, gigs, and listening to what signs and wonders pointed the way. I now make a living doing things I couldn’t have imagined as a teenager, from facilitating writing workshops for two dozen people living with serious illness over Zoom to planning an online and Zoom-based intensive class with Kathryn Lorenzen on Your Right Livelihood.
But I still write in my journal, sometimes sharing what comes with others, sometimes even crying at the release of what needs to be said and what difference saying it makes. I still love and treasure what can happen when humans put down, to paraphrase Toni Morrison in her novel Beloved, their sword and shield, and come into the courageous, vulnerable wisdom we make space for together.
These defining moments are sprinkled throughout our lives, sometimes in unlikely places or at surprisingly young or old ages. We turn a corner, see something out of the corner of our eye, wake up in the middle of a January night with a start, meet the eyes of a stranger in the produce aisle, and something clicks into place. We might not know where that something is leading us, but we know we need to follow. As W.S. Merwin writes in his poem, “The Gift”: “I must be led by what was given to me/ as streams are led by it/ and braiding flights of birds.”
This braided candle of community, creativity, and meaning was given to me when I was fifteen and its light still shines and leads me on.
Juxtapositions Make Life Interesting: Everyday Magic, Day 1074
Juxtapositions — putting like with non-like — add zip, surprise, sometimes anxiety, and often uncertainty to our lives. They’re also at the heart of what makes poetry poetry: images and language you don’t expect together that pop open new ways to see the world. So let’s just say it’s more a more-than-poetic weekend (or life).
Friday our small but loving Jewish community gathered in the cold wind to bury our beloved friend, Shirley. Although the temperatures were in the high 40s, we talked afterwards, at her home over dolmas and brownies, about how much colder it felt, but part of that was surely because Shirley’s bright, glittery, funny, and loving life was gone. It seemed wrong for us to be so alive in her home, looking at her photos and eating cookies without her.
Saturday, Ken and I drove south to the small town of Garnett, Kansas, where I did my first presentation for the DAR (yes, that DAR). In a beautiful library, in a room next to the astonishing Walker collection (an original John Steuart Curry! A Édouard Manet! — so much more in this town of just over 3,000 people), In doing a Humanities Kansas program on the Holocaust, especially focusing on the lives of Lou Frydman and Jarek Piekalkiewicz, I discovered that the DAR chapter was deeply attuned to history and its lessons, and also to the weight of anti-Semitism and other ways humans diminish each other.
From there, there was apple pie in a German Baptist Brethren restaurant, a late-night film with Ken about art, Norway, and some lost New Yorkers finding their way, and typing this now with blue and fuschia-stained fingers because I’m in the middle of parfait-dyeing a load of socks and shirts for my kids.
I realize, in this juxtaposition of weather (dark, cold, sharp rain yesterday, and big, bright road-trip weather today) and time, that most moments of our lives are juxtapositions. We expect one thing, do one task, read about another thing, look at the window, and the kaleidoscope of like and not-like, the expected and so much of the unexpected keeps turning its wheel through our minutes and weeks.
Trying to fall asleep late last night, I felt the weight of that wheel, especially with several people I love dying in the last month juxtaposed with the twinkle-lights of the holidays everywhere, and now here we are stepping, sleeping, and waking into another time. May we continue to find meaning in what shows up, making a new pattern out of what’s already here.
The Dark of the Dark, the Cold of the Cold: Everyday Magic, Day 1073
In the middle of the longest night of the year, my anxiety search dogs kept jarring me awake, running amok while looking for something to chew on. Tiny and medium-sized annoyances, worries, and sadnesses gripped me at 1:05 a.m., 3:33 a.m., and at a higher speed between 4:15-5:15 a.m. for some reason. “Chill out,” I told them. “You’re just agitated because it’s so dark and so cold.” Then I would check my phone to map for myself that the temperature indeed has lost its grip on sanity, plunging from 32 degrees at 11 p.m. to in the minuses by early morning.
I think of the solstice as a time of wonder, magic, and intention when we can see what we can’t normally glimpse in the dark of the dark, which can be beautiful in its own way. Yet the reality is that most solstice passages include me rapidly forgetting all my therapeutic tools and years of experience in walking my anxiety on a leash and getting the #$%@# back to sleep.
It didn’t help that some ice-driven polar bomb was rolling across the land at high speed although I generally find the sound of the howling wind comforting, even last night. The waves of wind came roaring in their old familiar song, reminding me of being a child in winter on a cold night, listening when I should have been sleeping (some of us were gifted for our age when it came to insomnia).
Mostly, I felt dread about what was coming and all in my life I have little to no control over, including my adult kids, work, health, organizational passions, and meandering yearnings. I know that in daylight, everything seems totally okay, and it likely is, but especially when the cold of the cold comes to roost, there’s something primal about feeling a little or a lot scared, out of control, and weary.
Then it’s daylight, and although the temperature dropped to -5 during the unfolding afternoon, I was and am so grateful to have this warm house, these layers of fleece and cotton, these people and animals living here even if they’re mostly lying around watching TV (my visiting kids) or the birds (Miyako the cat) or me (Moxie the dog). I don’t take all the gifts of this life, especially on dark and cold stretches, for granted. How fortunate I am to enjoy a bundled-up night and day well-fed and comfortable, even if a little too awake when I meant to sleep.
Big weather events and solstices, like so much of what seemingly big forces of danger we’re told to prepare for, are also so different than I imagine ahead of time. Yes, it was and is crazy-cold, but lo and behold, the sun! The actual sun after days of working remotely under cloud cover burned it way through the haze to show its face.
Now, as this next night gathers its wits around it, it gathers a minute or so less as the light returns, inch and breath by inch and breath. I am so happy to be alive now and always.
For the Love of Aunt Jill: Everyday Magic, Day 1072
“I’m not going to leave a message,” my sister Lauren said when she left a message Friday. I was standing in the corner of an ebullient restaurant where Ken and I were having dinner with friends. I had slipped away from the table when I saw texts from two of my three siblings to call them immediately. Ringing up my brother, I got the news: Aunt Jill, who I just spoke with the night before, had been found dead in her home.
Sometimes life levels us with such surprise it’s hard to catch our breath. Thursday night, Aunt Jill texted me that she could use some of my energy, an unusual request from her. I called on my drive home from giving a Holocaust presentation. We had a tender conversation about the cancer surgery she had only had a month earlier and how common it was to fall in a pit of depression when we’re on the other side of such rites of survival. We chatted about how the dark and cold of winter didn’t help, why dogs were the love of her life, how sad it was that her last dog had to be put down a few days earlier, and what it would take to get a new dog.
Her voice was warm, and she brightened up when we chatted about her getting canine companionship again. By the time we finished, I was in my living room, having put the call on speaker phone for Ken to hear. I promised to call her soon. “We love you so much,” I said at the end. “I love you so much too,” she answered. I hung up and immediately told myself I needed to stay in better touch with her, call every week or so although until recently we had gone months without talking.
But we had known each other for years, my whole life obviously, and at the start of that life, my parents and I even lived with her, just twelve at the time, and her parents/ my grandparents. My father’s little sister, she was always around in my growing-up years, further down the road to some semblance of adulthood. By the time I was a kindergartener, I thought she was the coolest of the cool — an elegant teenager with teased hair, smoothed down to a perfect 1965 flip. I watched her apply mascara and pink lipstick, wear increasingly shorter skirts as the 60s marched on, and rush out the door in white go go boots boots. But sometimes she and her friends took me with them to the diner to have chocolate malts, and I was thrilled from my toes to my ice-cream-head-freeze from sipping the malt too fast.
My aunt Jill had a hard and lonely life in many ways. Growing up in a family where dysfunction was an extreme sport, and growing up as the youngest and as a girl often ignored, she ended up following one of the few paths seemingly open to her and became a second-grade teacher. I don’t remember her ever saying there was anything about it she enjoyed, especially since she taught in a school in one of Brooklyn’s most despairing and dangerous neighborhoods. “How many of your students graduated from high school and went on to good lives?” Ken once asked her when we hung out in her apartment on Ave. X. She shook her head and answered, “None.” I wonder about her answer and whether she was too burnt out to do more than get through the day.
Jill didn’t marry although she suffered through some awful-for-her relationships, but she found many furry soulmates in dogs over the years. She had a gift for giving good lives to older, traumatized and hurting dogs that no one else wanted, even if they destroyed her furniture, peed on her rugs, and woke her up all night with their whines. She also adored travel and went on trips and cruises whenever she could with friends or travel groups.
Yet many conversations with her over the years didn’t convey what she really cared about or liked to do. I remember one Thanksgiving sitting with her and my late uncle Jerry (from my mother’s side of the family), and having this exchange:
“What are you doing lately?”
“Nothing,” she answered, then high-fived Jerry.
“Where have you gone?”
“Nowhere,” she answered, high-fiving Jerry again.
“Well then who have you been hanging out with me?”
“No one,” she said, high-giving Jerry and laughing with him.
Part of why she didn’t have much to say is because she often didn’t have much time to talk in between going outside for cigarettes, then e-cigarettes, then back to cigarettes. I used to occasionally lecture her about giving up smoking, not understanding that if she could have, she would have. But she was always up for companion complaining. Like her mother before her, she was also a champion kvetcher, and pity any of us who went out to restaurants with them and watch the parade of returned food offered, especially before she mellowed out.
Yet when she did sit a spell with me, what she mostly wanted to hear was how I was, how my work was, how the kids were, how Ken was. She was a very good aunt to my sibs and me, listening and sending cards and gifts, showing up at wedding and celebrations, reaching out on Facebook or email just to see how we were. My daughter Natalie said she was one of the people who often wrote encouraging comments on social media when Natalie was struggling.
Jill was supposed to join our extended family for a wedding party in Orlando, a year after we all convened there for my mother’s birthday, but cancer surgery kept her home. Yet in the past months, I ended up talking to her on the phone more, sometimes while pacing our house past our entryway where we keep some of the art she made in the last few years, then went to the trouble to frame and mail to us. In some ways, I was just starting to really get to know more of her, which is why I was so moved when she reached out Thursday night.
Now it’s seems I’m the last person she talked to, and of course, I had no idea it was the last time I would talk with her. It hurts that she’s gone, and beyond that, I can only hope that she’s found some kind of peace and sense of belonging in a place filled with dogs.
27 Things I’m Grateful For: Everyday Magic, Day 1071
It’s almost twilight, Moxie dog is sleeping in the corner, my ears are buzzing with low-hum tinnitus, and I’m about to make dinner. Looking into my house and glancing out the windows to see our warm lights reflected over the darkening sky, I realiz the best thing to write about are some of the things I’m grateful for, and just for the heck of it (and because my mom’s birthday is on Nov. 27), I’m going with the number 27. Here goes:
- Abundant fresh air to breathe right now in the living room, and when I step outside, abundantly so, plus it’s about to rain, so that’s marvelous scent.
- A refrigerator full of leftovers and magic ingredients for many a good meal.
- Good health that allows me to live pain-free and illness-free most of the time, and today propelled me on a good walk along the levee with my friend Judy.
- Astonishing friends and family, and to have gotten to the point in our lives where we end most calls or visits with, “I love you” or “I love you so much.”
- The stunning photos of my late dear friend Jerry — a moon seemingly rolling down a mountain, a luminous spiderweb on a foggy morning, the clouds almost circling up — on the opposite wall talking to me as I write.
- Writing in all its splendor and ordinariness, and thank god I found and was found by writing, and we continue this dance together.
- The ability to sing with great joy if not great talent or range.
- Books everywhere and in every room, including lately, the poetry of Sidney Wade, Diane Seuss, and Traci Brimhall, and the novels of Louise Erdrich (I’m currently re-reading all).
- A particularly comfortable bed with worn-to-perfection flannel sheets and quilts I was about to make and afford to make (lots of time and $).
- So many favorite things: erasable gel pens, peonies, hot French bread with Irish butter, pashima scarves when it’s just a nip cold, and laughing until we cry with loved ones.
- All those friggin’ streaming services that make it possible to enjoy a comedy set in Ireland one night, episodes of Call the Midwife another, and Cameron Crowe movies.
- Speaking of which, Cameron Crowe movies — Almost Famous, Elizabethtown — and also other favorite movies, especially Wings of Desire written and directed by Wim Wenders.
- The cat who claims me and purrs on my chest at 2 a.m. for hours (luckily, she’s only 4.5 pounds).
- This comfortable chair (straight-backed and cushioned in a satisfying floral print) I found at a consignment store in North Lawrence.
- Socks. I really like socks.
- The three humans I grew inside me who are now doing most interesting and sometimes surprising things in their lives, like walk 12 miles daily listening to podcasts or record layers of singing to make new music or restore neighborhood yards into mini prairies. Speaking of generations, also my mom, living her best life — Mahjong, Trivia Night and all — in Florida.
- Lamps and ceiling lights emanating out that pale orange-almost-pink-white glow at different heights.
- The beautiful wild in just about all forms, including all the hibernating ornate painted turtles and the just-returning winter flocks at the bird feeder and beyond, speaking of which….
- Murmurations of starlings because: magic.
- My iphone because it brings me voice to voice with so many people I love and does so many other tricks (weather reports! music I can listen to at the dentist! Youtubes of border collies butting a blue balloon with their heads!).
- Utilities of all kinds that keep us warm, lit, and safe.
- Hot oatmeal and Yorkshire Gold tea most mornings.
- Sunshine streaming through the windows and pouring all over me outside many days.
- The gift of interesting dreams, particularly ones in which I discover secret rooms in the house.
- My husband and how much we laugh together at the kinds of things that wouldn’t necessarily make sense to others, and how often we curse together and laugh more.
- Sturdy if not always clean floors to pad across in winter or summer.
- This laptop that allows me to peer into its magic mirror and connect with you.
I could go on all day, and you probably could too. Please share some of you’re grateful for in the comments below.
Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?: Everyday Magic, Day 1070
Time continually befuddles me, so much so that my last book of poetry was called How Time Moves, and I’m still deep in the muck of figuring out what time is and how it keeps slipping through my fingers and surging backwards under my moving feet.
Being a little number-dyslexic, I also stumble mightily when it comes to scheduling things in other time zones. Since I have coaching clients in all four U.S. times as well as one in Ireland (we meet in my morning and her evening), I’m often adding and subtracting wrong directions. This last week, I met with the wonderful board members of the Transformative Language Arts Network, one of whom was in Dubai, ten hours ahead of this cushy chair where I type in Kansas, and occasionally I’m in touch with a dear friend in Macau, a full 14 hours ahead of me, and a friend in Japan, 15 hours over the cusp of the next day. It’s an amazement to Zoom and Facebook-message with people in future time or ones just waking when I’m way past a lot of strong morning tea.
But then there’s whatever we call time here (or wherever I am) and now (also relative). With the vanishing of daylight saving time last weekend, and with travels to Orlando, a time zone ahead, I was thoroughly confused when we landed back in Kansas City to drive home, arriving at 1:45 a.m., which was 2:45 a.m. ET, and 24 hours earlier, would have been 3:45 a.m. ET. Sometimes the arbitrary tricks of naming time spin my head; whenever we do a time change, I find myself thinking, “now a week ago, it was ___ time now.” None of it makes sense to my body which gets so wedded to that week-ago time that it takes a big stretch to transfer my allegiance to the so-called real time, which will be pulled out from under us come March 12.
Even as a teen, I had trouble with this, and once got into trouble with my dad because I arrived home on a time-change night (out of daylight savings time) for my 1 a.m. curfew either five minutes early, which made me 55 minutes late. He grounded me less than he had planned because he couldn’t stop laughing at how I screwed up by being a few minutes early, which made me late.
I believe in real time mapped out and punch-holed into existence all the time by the natural world. The birds start singing in the spring just past daybreak, the barred owl calls after midnight, and the noon sun is often just about overhead. There’s also the seasonal tilts. Right now, our usual happy bird feeder is lonesome, but soon enough, the winter flocks will surge and roost there. The temperature has dropped to what feels like ghastly lows for people living in too-warm days and, like my family, having traveled recently to tropical swamplands, but eventually I’ll step outside when it’s 31 degrees and think, “oh, it’s not so bad today.” The cedars tell their own time as well as the turtles, hibernating underground, who know when to emerge.
We live in time and time lives in us, but not the kind of time we can clock. Time is more an ocean, moving inland, then back out with its big waves and dangerous undertow. The only way to know what time it really is to step outside and watch, listen, smell the changes in the air from snow about to come to the garden thawing out. Still, because we work and meet and pal around in time, there’s time enough and not enough time to track while the real time tracks us.
Tuning In To Realer News: Everyday Magic, Day 1069
I’ve stopped tuning into most of what we call news until after the midterms. It isn’t because I don’t care, quite the contrary, but because I keep learning that the realer news is right out the front or back door, which is also a great remedy for tangling myself in the land of what-ifs.
Unlike previous pre-election frenzies when I wrapped myself in polls and pundits, I realize that diving into all things midterm, which dominate headlines and soundbites, too often lands me on the seafloor of speculation, littered with barbs of anxiety and anguish. Besides, I have my deeply-seeded hopes that I will hold to unless/until I’m proven wrong, and no matter what happens, there is still the living earth, spinning off snippets of news you can use every moment.
Part of what turned me away from the usual way I roll is rooted in the Kansas August 2 election when voters, despite polls and signs all over yards throughout the state saying the opposite, came out in droves for a landslide vote against extreme measures to eliminate abortion rights. But I also realize we’re in a time off the old maps when our ultra-polarized dueling news narratives puts us as a nation at a very unpredictable precipice.
At the same time, it’s important to witness what is happening right now in real time, so I read about Ukrainian families suffering and the coming cold, affirmative action, global warming realities and mitigation, and the Brazilian election. I also donate to causes I believe in, and come the day after the midterms, I will continue to care and do the little bit I can, but no matter what happens, I will also step outside of myself and a whirl of future projectors to connect with the realer news.
So often we see the news as a mirror of reality, yet we can engage reality directly, off the page and airwaves, in much more immediate and, even in a severe drought in Kansas in a time of climate disruption, satisfying ways by connecting with the air, the light, the shadows and leaf fall, the shift of wind and rush of rabbit.
Which leads me back outside for this news report: It’s 59 degrees, the psychedelic tablecloth is plummeting down from high flying on the clothesline, and Moxie the dog is sniffing falling cottonwood leaves. The sky is pale-to-mid blue, depending on where you look, with some almost-transparent stretched out clouds. Strangely, there is no bird song for a moment, but a blue jay just landed on the feeder, picked up lunch, and moved on. Underground, there are turtles in hibernation already.
More news to the south: An old 1950’s tractor, not working for about eight years, rests in the field next to what’s left of a burning bush, just a few strands, from a more robust plant years ago. Three geese honk their way overhead. My fingers are cold. A bird I cannot see is barking urgently from an Osage orange tree still in the process of leaf-dropping. The old swing set, sans its swings, continues to rust happily next to three volunteer peach trees.
From our northern gate reporter: Last evening, a friend and his daughter buried a dead python in the brome field. The unfettered wind is making a lot of noise through the dried grasses. The brilliant maple to the west is outlandish gold on the edge of dropping everything for winter to come. Two fawns just vanished into the seam of the cedars.
That’s the news at this moment. Stay tuned for updates in a second, then another second, then another….
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