Isn’t it Just Like February (redux)

Yo-Yo Ma once famously said that music happens between the notes–one way of explaining what I love about the mysteriousness of edges, cusps, those in-between places that demand our attention.

A skim of ice on a sun-drenched lake.

seasons

The shape of clouds against the sky.

February light

The month of February, when the oh-so-incremental shift from winter-solstice darkness to light suddenly becomes noticeable.

February light

Groundhog aside, all you need is to pay attention to the light to know spring is on its way.

Of all the months in the year, February has me most mystified. How/why did February become the shortest month?  What would it mean to be born on February 29th, a leap year baby? More to the point, learning that, in ancient times, it was the last month of a 355-day year and it gets its name from the god of ritual purification sealed the deal on the title of my novel. What sounds like a simile—Just like February—has all the makings of a metaphor.

“Even in an age of femtoseconds and star clusters 11 billion light-years away, time defies true objective measurement,” writes David Ewing Duncan in Calendar, a book very cleverly subtitled Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year.  “It can seem to go slow and even stall out at certain moments only to brashly and breathlessly rush forward at others.” Albert Einstein taught us everything we need to know about time and its relative aspects, something Alan Lightman captured so poetically and brilliantly in Einstein’s Dreams.

There’s no stopping time but doesn’t the very notion of mindfulness, coupled with meditation, speak to slowing it down in a way that brings on the present-moment sense of timelessness?

Time measurement is as universal as it is personal. We count on our calendar to tell us the day/month/year. But don’t we more often measure the passage of time in terms of rituals and events both personal and part of our collective consciousness? Jewish holidays, based on a lunar calendar, come on different dates each year. Christmas, a day fixed according to the Gregorian calendar that rules are secular year, is always December 25th.

Yes, the expertise of astronomers factored into how the calendar might be synchronized to the seasons and the stars, but politics and religion played their part.  Priests and aristocrats kept the calendar a secret.  A year might be lengthened to keep a favored senator in office, decreased to get a rival out of office sooner. (How frightening a thought is that?)

Until one year, a crafty plebian, Cneius Flavius, pilfered a copy of the codes that determined the calendar and made it public, smack on tablets in the middle of the Roman Forum. (An early descendant of Edward Snowdon?)

Alas, poor Flavius did not entirely win the day: the calendar would become a public document but patricians could still manipulate it for financial and political gain. From here the plot gets thicker with scientific and egotistical calculation: Julius Caesar’s calendar reform, which moved the new year from March to January, in fact brought a pretty accurate calendar to the year 45 B.C. — only to be thrown off by leap years every three years instead of four.

Emperor Augustus took care of that some years later, a reform for which he got the eighth month of the year named after him. Heaven forbid his namesake month should have 30 days when Julius Caesar’s had 31! That was an easy fix–lop a day off February. making it 28 days, with an additional day during Leap Year.

You can’t make this shit up. But you can, as a writer, take great pleasure in the research that answers as many questions as it raises and brings enormous context to a narrative.

February. Lengthening days. A month on the cusp between winter’s darkness and the encroaching light of spring.  

A transitional time that reminds us that no matter how much we count on a certain order to the universe, time and again something is bound to throw us out of whack. Some might see it as a fateful event, a teaching moment.  I see it in the way my father, a gambler, might have seen it: an aspect of chance or randomness, maybe even luck (good or bad), changes everything.

 All of which brings a particularly timely moment for a novel with the mysteries of Leap Year at its heart. If you haven’t yet read it, now could be as good a time as ever. And if you have read it, now could be as good a time as ever to share your thoughts with anyone who asks: what should I read next?

One from the archives

Making a clean sweep of things sometimes gets the best of me.  The other day, I was intent on finally consolidating blog posts from an earlier platform into my WordPress site.  My digital (blogging) imprint began ten years ago with Blogger, and I moved to WordPress two years later.  Before those early posts disappear forever (this is not my ego speaking), I wanted to preserve them. 

It all seemed to go so smoothly, the export and import. So seamlessly that, apparently, at least some followers received twenty-two email notifications of new blog posts. If you were one of them, I apologize for cluttering your inbox.  But rest assured I haven’t been hacked. In fact, if you click on any of the links you’ll find yourself in a trip down Memory Lane to my early online incarnation.

Apologies aside, maybe there’s a message here, every mishap being a potential learning moment–a reminder that so much of what we think is within our control is really an illusion.

Maybe somewhere in that body of blog posts there’s at least one calling out to be repurposed. Maybe, too, there’s some reassurance in the constancy amidst all that’s changed in the six years since I posted this one.

New Year’s Day

Pajamas. A cup of coffee. A book. Sunlight filtering in through the window.  Really no different from any other morning, except maybe the lingering a little longer in pajamas.

Yesterday a late afternoon movie, Philomena. Dinner with friends, Mexican, after which we go back to their house, some champagne and caviar.  Really no different from any night out with friends, except maybe the champagne and caviar.  And echoes of Dick Clark, his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, this year’s host Ryan Seacrest. A trip down Music Memory Lane, a clip of Tina Turner (“Proud Mary”), one of the 30 Greatest Women in Music being celebrated. It’s that time of year—magazines online and in print giving us their idea of the greatest; we get to see if they match up with our own.

My husband jokes about my wanting to celebrate on December 30th, get it over with a day early. I’m just not feeling it this year—the hoopla, the swell of celebration, the need to mark the oh-so-significant cusp, one year giving way to another.  Take stock of what’s passed, look ahead to what we hope is in the stars.  More often than not, I’m supercharged at the notion of a fresh start. This year not so much.

Every day is different, every year is different. And every moment contains bits of past/present/future. The past lives in our bones, any trigger can set off the reminder of a joy long gone or tie us up in a knot of sorrow. The present—that place I would reside 24/7 if I could—lives with, and within, each breath, the cup it sees never half-full or half-empty, always a little of both.  The future lives outside of us, forever uncertain. To be comfortable with uncertainty is to recognize how little is in our control. Nothing like the last week of the year to encompass it all—the longing for what no longer is, the wish to be at ease with what is, anxieties that go hand in hand with what may (or may not) be coming.

We leave to go home before midnight, cozy up in bed.  “Gotta watch the ball drop,” says my husband, switching from station to station, snippets of movies, until the last minutes of 2013, a million people in Times Square on the screen, some in New York just for this reason, to be in the thick of it all when a glittering ball drops. I marvel at the spectacle of it. I kiss my husband.

One New Year’s Eve, when I was young and single and lived in the city, I decided I wanted to be riding the subway at the stroke of midnight.  I wanted to be with people not making a celebration of it all, just doing whatever it is that they might be doing any midnight of the week. Just for a change of pace.

Change of pace is good.  This year I got to spend my birthday in sunny California. There was something novel about getting on a plane when I was sixty-three and landing just after midnight, when I turned sixty-four.  My daughter did not have to wait to give me my presents, a Great Gatsby clutch and a CD.  A token gift, from a recent visit to Napa with her boyfriend would come a few days later: a purse ‘hook’ reminiscent of the one Barbra Streisand uses in The Guilt Trip. Something every woman needs.

On Christmas Day she sends me a video, evidence of the last bit of holiday shopping. Who wouldn’t be amused at watching two small dogs, a pug puppy and a mixed breed, wagging their tails with joy over new toys?  Turns out we’re both dog-sitting this week—she for her boyfriend’s dogs, me for my brother’s family dog.  Ginger is a sweet dog and does her best to adjust, even if she’s old and missing her fam. She knows me well, and, I like to think, knows I’m doing my best, too. You learn a lot watching an elderly dog try to find her comfort zones.

Time to get out of the P.J.’s, go take a walk.  The air is crisp, no wind, no bite, temperature in the low thirties. I stop at the lake, not yet frozen over.  The longer I fixate on the mottled surface ice, the more it appears to be moving.

P.S. The whimsical ‘2020’ at the top of the page is the handiwork of the talented Elizabeth Cassidy. ‘Whimsy’ may well be the operative word in terms of the way we became friends via a website we both happened to write for. In that true artist’s shapeshifting mode, she went on to finding expression in visual art. A. visit to her website is well worth your time for the insights into her creative trajectory, her passion, her wit.

Just keep swimming . . . and blogging?

Labor Day has come and gone, and with it the season most riddled with paradox.  If those long light-filled days of summer are so lazy hazy, why do they seem to slip away in a flash?  Plausible theories may explain why time seems to speed up as we age. But even as a child, the freedom from routine that summer offered always seemed to end too soon. 

My last post began the summer that I would give myself a hiatus from all things writing-related. No blog posts. No revisiting drafts of stories or starting new ones. A break that surprised me with an unfamiliar liberation. I meditated more, hoping that concentrated practice would let that monkey mind know it’s okay—actually it’s good—to let go of thoughts, leave the brain to make space for something far more settling than words.  

The pull of social media somehow diminished.  Was this a sign? I wondered. Some indication that, even in a time when the need for connection and community seems more urgent than ever, a little retreat goes a long way toward restoring a sense of balance, not to mention priorities?

Toni Morrison died this summer, which had me hankering to revisit her first novel, The Bluest Eye. I would have been 20-something when I read it. I still have the original paperback copy. Its impact on me was profound. 

Decades later, a full-fledged fan and a writer myself, I see it in a much more informed light. I relish the hindsight glimpse into the archetypes and themes that would get richer and more mythologically complex as her body of work grew.  

Decades later, months from turning 70, a more conscious vulnerability has me in its grip. The qualifier matters. Feeling vulnerable is not a new sensation but something about the time of life and the times in which we live make it all the more visceral. The world into which I brought my daughter (1986) was hardly the best of times but you can’t be a weed-smoking child of the ‘60s without believing in your power to change the world for the better.  The dark cloud hovering over what feels like the worst of times gives me pause, at least long enough to remember that everything changes. Doesn’t it?

***

Open-ended days are prime for reflection, not to mention restlessness. Years of feeling so driven do not give way easily to a less urgent rhythm.  I would use that energy to do a clean sweep of folders sitting in file cabinets. Even knowing that clearing space would open me to what might come next, I worried about the effect of seeing all the efforts and projects behind me, hearing voices from the past in a dull ‘this-is-your-life’ chant.

Reminders of disappointment surfaced, along with an affirmation of deep-rooted tenacity. I smiled when I came across this gem –

Chubby black dog
Barking up the wrong tree
Now there’s big trouble

Many of the school-based workshops I conducted were a collaboration with visual artists. This project was a mix of learning the art of hand-made paper, writing poems, and putting it all together. 

Then I saw these words on a prep sheet I used for another writing workshop.

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.  –Lin Yutang 

***

I look out at an autumn landscape, leaves fading, even beginning to turn. There’s a metaphor here. 

It’s been said that a writer’s work isn’t finished until it’s read. Even if you write in a journal religiously, there’s an assumption that you’ll go back, take a peek at your thoughts/observations/feelings in a given time and place.  

Some say it takes courage to write.  For me, writing is an assumption. I love the puzzle of it—images and thoughts into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs that, when I’m most in the flow of it, become stories and essays that hopefully resonate.

More than one person has said it took courage for me to learn to swim at 66. For me it was more a question of finally doing something I’d been wanting to do for some time. Courage? Maybe. Or better yet, learning what buoyancy truly encompasses. 

Just keep swimming, the delightful Dory from Finding Nemo, tells me again and again. 

And I turn that metaphor on its head.

Just keep swimming . . . 

. . . and blogging?

I may not like the clunkiness of the word.  But I’m still at it, going on ten years since my first post, inspired by other writer/friends who had joined the web(log) bandwagon. Many have quit the habit, new writers find their way. But there are very few to beat C. M. Mayo, an inspiring and gifted writer indeed, for continual reinvention, and with it, the reminder that a blog is what you make of it.  I’ve come to think of mine as a notebook of sorts, public in the dialogue it makes possible between a writer and her readers. 

Isn’t it just like February?

It hits me every year, just as January rolls into February: the shift in daylight, so incremental until it’s suddenly noticeable, particularly around sunset.

Groundhog aside, all you need is to pay attention to the light to know spring is on its way.

Of all the months in the year, February has me most mystified. How/why did February become the shortest month?  What would it mean to be born on February 29th, a leap year baby? More to the point, learning that, in ancient times, it was the last month of a 355-day year and it gets its name from the god of ritual purification sealed the deal on the title of my novel. What sounds like a simile—Just like February—has all the makings of a metaphor.

“Even in an age of femtoseconds and star clusters 11 billion light-years away, time defies true objective measurement,” writes David Ewing Duncan in Calendar, a book very cleverly subtitled Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year.  “It can seem to go slow and even stall out at certain moments only to brashly and breathlessly rush forward at others.” Albert Einstein taught us everything we need to know about time and its relative aspects, something Alan Lightman captured so poetically and brilliantly in Einstein’s Dreams.

There’s no stopping time but doesn’t the very notion of mindfulness, coupled with meditation, speak to slowing it down in a way that brings on the present-moment sense of timelessness?

Time measurement is as universal as it is personal. We count on our calendar to tell us the day/month/year. But don’t we more often measure the passage of time in terms of rituals and events both personal and part of our collective consciousness? Jewish holidays, based on a lunar calendar, come on different dates each year. Christmas, a day fixed according to the Gregorian calendar that rules are secular year, is always December 25th.

Yes, the expertise of astronomers factored into how the calendar might be synchronized to the seasons and the stars, but politics and religion played their part.  Priests and aristocrats kept the calendar a secret.  A year might be lengthened to keep a favored senator in office, decreased to get a rival out of office sooner. (How frightening a thought is that?)

Until one year, a crafty plebian, Cneius Flavius, pilfered a copy of the codes that determined the calendar and made it public, smack on tablets in the middle of the Roman Forum. (An early descendant of Edward Snowdon?)

Alas, poor Flavius did not entirely win the day: the calendar would become a public document but patricians could still manipulate it for financial and political gain.You can’t make this shit up. But you can, as a writer, take great pleasure in the research that answers as many questions as it raises and brings enormous context to a narrative. As if to give timely grist to my February musings, along comes What Lunar New Year Reveals about the World’s Calendars via the New York Times.

February. Lengthening days. A month on the cusp between winter’s darkness and the encroaching light of spring.  

A transitional time that reminds us that no matter how much we count on a certain order to the universe, time and again something is bound to throw us out of whack. Some might see it as a fateful event, a teaching moment.  I see it in the way my father, a gambler, might have seen it: an aspect of chance or randomness, maybe even luck (good or bad), changes everything.

A writer can’t always be sure that the story she intended to tell is in fact the one she told. With novels especially, the time lag between inception to draft after draft to publication puts us on shaky ground. Readers have different ways of receiving/perceiving what we wrote.  I hold suspect any writer who says she doesn’t read reviews. I admire any writer who says she doesn’t take them to heart. I learn as much from criticism as from praise.

 All of which brings an extra measure of gratification when readers see the subtext of a novel for what it is. Here’s what one reviewer had to say about mine:

“What is February? A wonderful metaphor for the unpredictable, of opposites, a reminder to live without expectation while also appreciating ritual and traditional when it is gifted.”

And here’s the most charming of gifts from a fan.

Today’s walk around the lake had the look and feel of what I can only call winter/spring. Barely 30 degrees, leftover snow with a sheen of ice or slushy in the way that calls to mind a frozen Margarita. And these perfect-as-it-gets  images of a season in transition.

Rain rain go away . . .

This morning had me scrambling outside for a walk during a brief break from the rain we seem to be getting a lot of lately.  Scattered thunderstorms are a summertime staple, the operative word being ‘scattered.’ Rolling thunder. Lightning bolts cracking through the sky, as mystifying and beautiful as they are frightening. Pounding rain that comes and goes, too many days of which can dampen a person’s spirit.

I remember reading long ago about a tribe that runs into the rain instead of running for cover the way I do. This was pre-Google and I can’t track down the essay but I do trust the impression it left in my memory. Then there was MoMA’s enchanting Rain Room exhibition a few years back that had visitors walking through rain without getting wet.

In my day-to-day walks, I can handle light rain, almost welcome it on a hot, summer day.  I can even laugh, when I’m caught in a downpour, at my reliance on the hour-by-hour know-before-you-go weather report I check too regularly. Tell the truth—how many times have you heard or said these words: It’s not supposed to rain?

Rain rain go away
Come again another day. . .

We can’t help ourselves, can we?  We know there’s really nothing personal about weather.  We need rain as much as we need sun.  We can’t will away the less-than-welcoming forecast during a vacation on Ibiza. We can only hope for the one constant: everything, including weather, changes.

Children are on my mind a lot these days.  Truth be known, they’re always in my mind if not at the top of consciousness. But today, caught in a brief shower (despite the ‘beat the rain’ game I’m playing), I’m picturing immigrant children separated from their parents doing their best to come out and play, rain or no rain. I’m feeling what any decent person with a heart feels re: the heartlessness of an administration that has inflicted this confusion and pain on children.

I’m hearing a toddler crying in a courtroom and a judge embarrassed to ask if he understands the proceedings.

I’m seeing the helplessness on the face of a woman, one of more than 450 sent back to their countries without their children.

 

Despair is not an option.  If nothing else, wishing away the stream of lies (with or with the sex and videotapes) about everything, hoping to wake up one day and breathe a sigh of relief at seeing an end to the collective nightmare acknowledges the reality of how suddenly things can change.

Ten minutes ago it was pouring. Now the sun is out.  Change of the political and cultural kind tends to me more gradual, so much going on in the shadows, as the brilliant Rebecca Solnit reminds us in her reissued book of essays, Hope in the Dark. She tells story after story of an “inspired” activism, one that finds common ground between parties normally on different sides of the ‘us and them’ fence.  In lieu of the fall from grace paradigm that sets paradise as the bar for an ideal world, she posits the Coyote/trickster motif, in which there never was a fall or a state of grace but creation is ongoing in a world originally brought into being by “flawed, human creators who never finished the job.”

I may not feel much like singing in the rain these days but my spirit gets a little boost when I read about a caravan of grandmothers making a six-day trek to the Mexican border in support of migrant families being held there. Rallies are planned in strategic cities along the way.

Not for nothing, a new body of evidence suggests the crucial role of grandmothers in our evolution. In this emerging view, papa out hunting animals with his bow and arrow gets no more (possibly less) credit for our survival as a species than mama and grandma digging for those heard-to-unearth tubers.  Better yet, grandma, with her big eyes and wise heart, may hold the key to the communal spirit, not to mention nurturing, that allowed us to evolve as humans.

 

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April crow in the snow

April 2, 2018: it’s snowing outside, at least four inches’ accumulation by 9 a.m., no April Fool’s trick here. Yesterday a woodpecker caught me by surprise, a beautiful bird despite the damage it can do. Winter storms had blown away the strips of foil pinned to the column of wood that rat-tat-tatting bird has a taste for and which actually deter it, so I went looking for them in the yard—only to discover more miner bees than last year making nests in the soil. Otherwise known as ground nesting bees, you see them hovering near the little mounds of dirt that mark the entrances to their underground nests (no hives) and several females may nest in the same vicinity. They’re docile and they do lots of good pollinating and they don’t stay around for too long. But I can be forgiven for fearing an imaginary sting.

Today it’s the solitary crow in the snow demanding my attention.

A Yahrtzeit candle burns on my window sill. Lit at sundown last night, it’s a memorial candle marking my mother’s death according to the Jewish calendar, 17 Nissan, the second day of Passover.  A gorgeous full moon, a blue one this year, lit up the sky during Saturday night’s seder.

Well maybe not a full-scale seder since I opted to make it simpler this year.  I try, really I do, to keep the spirit of the Jewish holidays, not to mention my mother, alive, and I’m grateful for the friends and family who gather around the table each year.

 Even without a traditional seder, I need to mark what brings us together by reading from some Haggadah recalling the wonderful story of freedom from slavery in all its Cecil B. DeMille splendor.  This year’s choice was the New American Haggadah, translated by Nathan Englander and edited by Jonathan Safran Foer. It was a gift from friends who come every year. They know I’m a sucker for a beautiful book with a literary duo at the helm.  Here are some random passages that we read:

We live in a broken world . . . Exile—another name for brokenness—is not just the current condition of the Jewish people, according to the Kabbalah, it is the fundamental condition of the universe and of God.

Kafka once wrote in his journal: “You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world. That is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature. But perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.”

Passover is a journey, and like most journeys, it is taking much longer than it ought to take, no matter how many times we stop and ask for directions.

By no small coincidence, the fiction I’m caught up in right now is Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. The novel casts a spell mostly in its reimagining of the heroes at the heart of the Trojan War.   There are slaves here, too, women taken in raids by the Greeks as a prelude to the war and it’s hard not to be taken with the humanity of Achilles and Patroclus in doing what they can for the few in their charge. Then there’s the war itself, as epic and classic as it gets, with its reminder that there’s no escaping the appetites of men for glory and greed, not to mention revenge. We get our archetypes from myths. We get some understanding of human foibles and the way gods have played with them. There may never again be a war of a thousand ships waged in the name of a beautiful woman. But there will, alas, always be wars, more often than not in the name of nameless things.

 

 

Groundhog Day

I love Groundhog Day.  It’s a silly tradition but it manages to work its charm. I always wake up on February 2nd filled with anticipation about all the implications of a shadow. (Did that funny-looking creature with an equally odd name see his shadow? Did he not see it?) The shift to more daylight, so incremental since the winter solstice, suddenly feels dramatic. Winter is on its way out; spring is on its way in.

I know Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t always get it right, and I don’t care. I may be less forgiving with my local know-before-you-go meteorologist whose forecast promised clear skies and left me running for cover in a downpour—just the thing that got Bill Murray’s character in trouble in a cult classic movie that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. What better way to mark the story of a weatherman caught in a comedic time warp with existential implications than for Starz Encore Classic to have round-the-clock showings today?

Putting aside the clever spin ‘Groundhog Day’ (the movie) brought to this very day, for me it’s more about continuity, and the whys and wherefores of legends.

One legend links Groundhog Day to Candelmas, an ancient Christian tradition marking the midpoint between winter and spring during which candles were blessed by clergy and handed out. A sunny, clear day signaled (superstitiously speaking) a long, rough winter; a cloudy sky meant warm weather was on its way.  The legend of Punxsutawney Phil as we know him, seems to derive more directly from German lore in which a hedgehog seeing his shadow on a sunny February 2nd was a sign of a six more weeks of winter.  Early German settlers in Pennsylvania made the groundhog a stand-in for the hedgehog.

This February brings more than a spring alert. As many of you may already know, that novel you got a glimpse of when I asked for your support in a Kindle Scout campaign (which did rev me up even if it felt a little like ‘American Idol’ for book lovers), is coming, April 10th to be exact.  Publishing is a quirky business that demands a great deal of tenacity and faith from a writer.  We write, we revise, we chuck what we think doesn’t quite cut it or we tuck it into a folder if it has some vestige of possibility.  We crave validation, we cry at disappointments that make us question why we do the very thing we could not live without doing.

At the heart of my novel is a young girl’s special relationship with a doting gay uncle and her coming of age during the ‘80s, which were nothing if not a threshold decade. Think about it—AIDS. Ronald Reagan. Glamour and greed.  My fictional mind took me to an era marked by innocence lost. And my metaphoric soul took me to a month on the cusp of spring, the shortest month of the year.

Now it’s here, the novel and the month for which Just Like February gets its name. Leap Year plays its part in reminding us there’s something more at play in how we measure our days. And, yes, the groundhog makes a brief appearance.

 

 

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

An autumn morning, window open to the cool air. I settle myself on a gray cushion that puts me in the mindset of meditation, choose my music. No sooner do I close my eyes than I hear a thud (or two or three) that sounds alarming. How can I possibly stay put with Henny-Penny running through my brain? I get up, look out the window open to the deck below. Turns out what I’m hearing is the sound of one (or two or many) hickory nuts falling. Branches are dropping, too. I look up at the tree. A squirrel is flying from branch to branch. Another squirrel has landed on the deck railing. Autumn is their rush hour.

A few days of that thump-thump and it feels like old hat. I can do what meditation appears intended to help me do. Acknowledge the sounds, take in the thought, get back to the breathing, the moment.

So often so much easier said than done. I reassure my chattering brain with a story that speaks to my dilemma.

A student tells her master about her morning’s meditation experience. “My mind was clear,” she says. “Thoughts did not get in that way.” Her master’s response: “That is good.” The next day she has a different experience. “My mind would not quiet down,” she says. “I couldn’t stop thinking.” Her master’s response: “That is good.”

There’s a part of me (the expansive one, I call her) who trusts the wisdom here. Sit long enough to let the chattering brain slow down and you know it’s only good. No need to be hard on myself if one day’s attempt at meditation doesn’t quite bring serenity. It’s not about goals. It’s not about judgment. It’s about simply being in the moment to the best of my ability. Every day is different. Change is the only constant.

There’s another part of me (the contracted one, I call her) ruled by a mind afraid to lose even one thought.

Some days, the face of that horrible man with orange hair slips out of my consciousness almost as easily as he seems to have invaded it. Some days, the anxieties surrounding the future of our world, the anger and tears fueled by calculated acts of mass murder dissipate. This is not about denial. This is not about feeling helpless, a word I’m hearing too much lately. This (I think) is about giving in to a larger reality that knows everything changes. Day by day. Month my month. Year by year.

On any given day, when I’m out for a walk, there’s a certain tree on the road whose large leaves I marvel at, especially the way they appear to be shooting off branches from the lower end of the trunk. I think it’s a linden. Only when I finally decide to stop for a closer look do I see that this is a tree of two trunks, one truncated and giving rise to its own network of branches. Appearances can be deceiving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even with unnatural fluctuations in seasonal temperatures, leaves are turning. Soon enough autumn’s peak moment will come and go.  Trees will become a lacework of bare branches, though this winter will bring to my home panorama spruce and boxwood touches of green.

Then there’s the lawn itself, a long time coming. I marvel at how quickly seeds become grass.

 I look forward to a yard without mud puddles from melting snow. This has not been a situation of neglect. It’s more a question of living with a man for whom interior and exterior design are all of a piece. If you’re going to finally get around to the lawn, you do it with a vision. You do it with a sense of landscape as an extension of what you see through the windows and glass doors. My house has always been a work in progress, major renovation when we first moved in (1995), followed over the years by an addition (2008), more interior/exterior repairs and updates, a new kitchen just this past summer, and last but hardly least, landscaping.

Everything in its time.

Everything takes time—unloading the dishwasher, reading emails, checking in on Facebook and Twitter. Sorting real news from fake news. Doing laundry. Reading. Doing yoga. Going out for a walk. Sitting down to write. Some things feel as if they take too much of our time. Some things feel as if they’re never done. And how is it that those moments and events we look forward to months ahead of time—a concert, a visit from an out-of-town friend, a wedding, publication of book—seem to have arrived in a flash?

Everything changes.

Right now it’s raining. The wind is blowing. And those hickory nuts are falling fast and furiously. I’m tempted to take a break from writing, snap a few more photos. It’s what these times have programmed into us: capture the moment, iPhone at the ready, with or without ourselves in the picture. Because we can. If we wait too long the moment will pass, something will change. And in the instant it takes to snap a photo, how often do we stop to think about what we might be missing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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