Poetry corner

Related to some thoughts I’ve been having – both recently and as part of a longer exploration for a book I’m half heartedly and haphazardly writing – a poem fragment sprang into my brain yesterday.

Here’s what it became after some refinement last night:

Cicadas

Late Summer Sunday stroll amidst cicada song
I’m struck
Maybe these are sirens
That I’ve misheard as wilderness wallpaper
And I wonder
How many other opportunities to be open
To listen
To hear
That what I always thought harmony and melody
Might represent solemnity, sorrow, or strife
And now as I round the corner home
I consider
It may not be just the cicadas I’ve misunderstood
But also my friends, neighbors, and lover too
So I stand in the shimmering street
Sinking into that silent thought
And the daylight drones on

Shoutout to Jason Dominy whose poetry posting on Facebook & Instagram made me consider taking a little wisp of inspiration and running with it.

Thanks, man. I’m hoping this small effort will let me re-focus on a larger work that’s been dormant for a bit longer than I’d like.

Stay well, everybody, and keep looking for the meaning amidst all the meandering.

Weekend Walking

My most recent blog post was about a new routine – at the time – of taking a walk on Sunday afternoons to find some time & space for myself, to listen to an audiobook, podcast, or meditation, and to take some pictures of the natural world.

For pretty much the majority of the Summer I’ve kept the same schedule. This weekend I actually took two walks – both about 5 miles – to soak up the sun and enjoy the waning August heat & humidity (it was in the 70’s yesterday!).

So I’ve got a few pictures to share of these walks which are mostly of lantana bushes and the various butterflies found on them. I’m always astounded when I’m on these walks how close the animals & insects will let you get if you just act naturally.

I’ll also share a brief anecdote about a tiny, suburban cemetery tucked in to a subdivision that is on one of my various routes. It’s not big – maybe 50 graves – but it has two unassuming entrances: one in a cul-de-sac and the other neatly tucked at a steep angle underneath some shady trees.

Yesterday I caught two elderly male companions sharing a granite bench that serves as the headstone for two members of the same family. Both gentleman had their heads bowed and their hands clasped between their knees as if in prayer. I’m not a religious person myself but there’s something sacred and reverent about being in nature and catching a glimpse of human vulnerability. I tipped my baseball cap to them both as I strode around the street hoping my brief acknowledgement didn’t interrupt their visit.

Here are the promised pictures, little fragments of views I got along my path. On their own they’re just metadata to be cataloged by my smartphone and the cloud service storing them but here they’re the story of my journey.

I really treasure my walks. I don’t do them with any intention to go a particular speed or take a specific path or capture a particular picture. I walk to be on a walk and enjoy the feeling of the air and the sun and my own body taking me somewhere.

In a time of quarantine and political uncertainty and virtual schooling stress it’s good to know that escape is right outside my front door.

A Sunday Walk

In times when my mind is weak I’ll do something physical in an attempt to reboot the connection between my mental processes – thoughts & emotions – and my body.

Today I took a 2 hour walk in the afternoon sunshine to feel the light and the shade. To make sense of the turmoil I felt inside and process the discord of the world and try to make it all rhyme somehow.

I successfully finished one book, Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life, and started another, The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World. I also joined a 20-minute guided meditation in between. It was good to feel my body and my breath as I walked. To be connected to myself, and nature, and still someplace else in the reading.

The walk was a contradiction. I contain multitudes.

I also took some pictures. They’re a record of the things that caught my eye, that sparked joy, and that made me stop my momentum for a moment and pause to reflect.

I know we’re all dealing with our own individual stew of personal, professional, and political bullshit, but I hope you’ll take some time soon to go for a walk. It will remind you that sun still shines, the breeze still blows, and that you’ve got the energy to tackle whatever happens next. Your family & friends need you. Listen & heed their call.

I Am Not OK

Maybe this is what bipolar disorder is like. Some days are manic, the others depressive.

The sun was shining yesterday and I took a long bike ride but all I could think about were worries of infection, my eyes peeled while I rode to ensure no one got closer than 10 feet to my imaginary bubble nor I to theirs. I tried to exhaust my body to match my emotional state, beating the anxiety out of myself with physical flagellation.

The rain is steady today, the temperature cool, but I am buoyed by the thought that I am safe at home. I have a second cup of coffee from underneath a warm blanket on my deck and finish a second book alongside the coffee. A cat curls up next to me.

I know we’re likely still at a beginning, but it feels like being stuck in the middle, hoping for a happy ending. Moment-to-moment is manageable, but I am not OK. None of this is OK, even though yesterday all my friends and neighbors were OK that’s no guarantee that today or tomorrow will be OK.

I Am Not OK.

In some ways, I’m fine with the not-knowing since each day has the freedom to be its own adventure or horror, but then I try to tell the story. The story of the between-days, the story of the span-days, and I lose the plot, find myself staring into a middle distance filtered in Gaussian blur and I wonder what I was even saying.

The coffee is the perfect temperature now. I’ve perfected my craft this past month – the beans, the grind, the water, the steeping, the cup. It’s a little ritual dance that hasn’t lost the luster of shoe-tying or teeth-brushing. I can still see the newness of each coffee molecule and enjoy the sparkle. The result is warming and slightly bitter, reminding me to drink up each day and note the subtle shades of difference that color the world and my experience of it.

I want this all to be over but I also don’t want it to end. When again will I have so much time to simply exist and watch the natural world? When again will I experience this alchemical mix of total stress and complete relief?

I am not ok. The world is not ok. Maybe both me and the world never were before but maybe they can be soon? This is my hope and written prayer.

I have smiled and laughed and fought and cried and shouted and cheered, all in the same hour, in the same day. I have lived, I am trying to live, and I will be alive come Monday.

In my broken beauty – in this “not OK, but fine” between – I am in my own personal bardo. When I re-emerge I will be an anti-butterfly: changed inside but looking just as you remember me.

I am not OK, but I want you to know I’m fine. If you’re not OK, that’s fine too. I see you and nod respectfully from a safe distance. It’s my way of promising a big bear hug later.

Let’s Do Lunch

At the start of 2020 I reached out to a friend and former coworker to ask about getting lunch sometime soon. The idea was borne simply out of a desire to talk to him in person after so much time apart. We’d had an ill-fated Fall where we’d each scheduled and then cancelled on numerous attempts, so a new year provided a perfect re-starting point.

I’m not even close to the first person to use January as a reminder to reach back out to old friends, but this person and this time jumped into my head almost unbidden.

I shouldn’t have been surprised then that the answer came back emphatically and almost instantly: yes, let’s have lunch next week.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise that the instant we actually saw one another at the restaurant (Mexican, naturally, as we could both eat it every day) my friend launched into almost twenty uninterrupted minutes of monologue. He had so much news to impart, so many wild, wonderful adventures and perilous accidents, that I think I ate an entire basket of chips before I even attempted to get a word in edgewise.

Now I should clarify that this is a person I respect immensely both personally and professionally. I follow their social media, I stalk their LinkedIn, I somewhat frequently text them about how things are going. And I knew none of what he shared. Not a single word.

My first contribution to our conversation was to ask more about his family and I learned even more that was unseen in all his blog posts, tweets, texts, and status updates. Here was someone like myself whose 2019 had seen tons of upheaval and change and pain. Someone who was being strong because he had to be strong. There was no other choice. Is there ever?

I gave him some headlines about my folks, my dad, my in-laws, and Owen, most of which I’ve shared here, but some of which I haven’t. I think it was all news to him, but I could see his demeanor change. It wasn’t exactly misery loving company, because I’m far from miserable, but my wounds are still somewhat fresh and healing. Maybe it was warriors telling battle stories and comparing scars. Or maybe I’m being dramatic and it was just two men bonding over lunch about their lives.

Aside from a very eager waitstaff it was the nicest lunch I’ve had in some time. Real conversation with a real person about real life. Nothing staged for a camera or audience; nothing performative for a response. Just the full three dimensions of 2019 reflected in the hopeful haze of 2020.

We talked for more than an hour and ate our burritos. We left with a handshake and a promise for future lunches, but I can’t help feeling like the natural outcome should’ve been a hug. Not that he needed one, but I needed to give one. To tell him everything would be ok, but also to tell myself. To remind myself that here in the real world real connections matter and that I should spend 2020 pulling myself out of my phone and into the real world. To engage fully and directly with my life by living it; by doing.

I hope he reads this notes and knows that I love him as a friend and I’m pulling for him in all facets of his life. And even if he doesn’t read this, I’m glad I wrote it. I’m pulling for me too. I want to be this person who has more lunches and talks more truth.

I want to hug and be hugged. I want 2020 to be a great year.

I’d love to have lunch with you, too. You know where to message me.