Carrying the chaos of too many words I wonder at how odd it is that can and can, verb and noun, look and sound the same but are never mixed up. One can can another, relieve them of their duties which might cause them to weep and resort to new work only a single letter away, sweep, which is probably not at all very sweet, this new work, possibly in New York, keeping floors swept Remembering that Jesus wept and also slept and was likely quite adept at carving miracles out of stone, not bone; applying healing hands rather than the sands of time. Words that keep beginning and ending, sounding like neighbors but claim no relation, a week might be weak on someone's scale but to ask for a task gives no reason to bask in the knowledge that a rash of cash may appear unbidden, until then the poor wait at the door seated across a floor that expands beyond view. Sense is not common. Words and swords should be friends, they have the same letters plus one. How odd, that yes is so far from no, yet may and be, slung together behave like the perfect duet.
A framework is what it is. A framework in which I can make choices. Three options for breakfast, three for lunch, three for dinner. Three meals, nothing more, nothing less. Low in carbs but not devoid of carbs. Plenty of protein, vegetables and some fruit. An apple every day but never in the evening. Tea at mealtimes or now even between meals. Coffee would be OK, if I drank it. No sweeteners, though. Adieu, sugar, honey, maple syrup, I knew you well. Rye bread, only, but it comes in a couple of forms, so there’s that. The crispy kind goes down well. Water, water, can hardly drink enough. Two liters a day, are you kidding? So many trips to the loo! I’m a teacher, did I tell you?
Anyway it gets easier, you develop habits, you get used to it, it feels almost normal. Five hours between meals, no snacks. At the beginning a haul, but then once you do sit down to finally eat, each meal becomes a veritable feast! I mean, the taste of that lunchtime apple! Or the first two bites of steak that precede the garlic-laced zucchini and pak choi! It’s impossible to miss out on the flavor of long awaited and perhaps hastily prepared food. There’s nothing like eating when you are little more than your appetite and anticipation.
Nutrition plan, not diet, not slimming program. Nutrition plan because it’s about taking in what the body needs and leaving out lots of other things. Yes, I miss snacking. Yes, I miss sweet things and noodles and croissants and an occasional beer. Those will come again. They will. For now, I am moving in a direction that says what I’m doing matters. My nutritionist pointed out that I’m taking time for myself. I’m placing my focus on myself for a bit. Yes, that’s true. I hadn’t seen it that way but that’s what’s happening. Each series of decisions that leads to each meal constitutes a set of parameters within which I agree to live for a while. Next week it will be almost a month. Not even the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. There are rules to follow, choices that are available, decisions to be made. Yes, my pants all fit now. The way I want them to. But in the end, it’s an exercise in control. It’s about having control, experiencing control. A nutrition plan. Yup. And a sense of control. I guess that’s what I was really hungry for.
I’ve been saying some things. Some are true. Some are wishes. Some are exhales. Some are just so damn necessary. I’ve been saying some things that keep me up at night, that make me wonder, fret, and suck my teeth. I’ve been saying some things I’ve been meaning to let out. I’ve been saying the things that might be hard to hear but I say it nicely in my white lady voice and it turns out okay. I’ve been saying some things that will tell you that I’m a little old and kinda tired and brave in a smoldering kind of way. I’ve been saying some things that matter. Not just to me but to other folks too. I’ve been saying some things and I guess I’ll just keep on.
I want candy and companionship, comfort, carbs, and a night blooming cactus. I want consensus and consent, conversational aptitude, collegiality and choice. I'd rather have commitment calling, covering my dirty tracks. I want closure. I wish coral reefs replaced coal; rivers flush with catfish uncaught. I want coastlines that curve continuously. I want cake by the ocean, I mean coke in the kitchen, I mean I want a connection. Who will give me certainty on a platter, Completion on demand, A casting of epic proportions to finally put me in the right film? I need clarity. I crave coziness in chocolate and a Chianti nearby. Bring me the cookout and cookies and cantaloupe cut fresh Let me have a campfire on the cape, combined with calypso beats. Consider how I sway, clasping my coconut cocktail secure in the knowledge I shall not be contained tonight.
The last day of summer vacation is here. Already I see my internal wheels shifting their settings from abundance to scarcity. I am thinking of what I’ll miss, of all that will change. Any advice columnist worth their salt would of course suggest that a reframing is needed. To focus not on the loss but on the gains that lie ahead, the many things to look forward to. Sure, I can do that but I’m more interested in honesty of the moment. Of telling the emotional truth, right now, as it stands. So I’ll say goodbye.
Farewell, sleeping in and brunching late.
So long, staying up til midnight without a care.
Adieu, long morning walks up into the woods followed by a cathartic easy jog back home.
Bye, bye, quiet days full of words to read or write or just breathe.
Catch you later, empty calendar.
Ciao, my do-nothing days.
Au revoir to the pace of one.
Goodbye, summer, it’s been great.
With that out of the way, I can safely turn towards the coming school year with the attention and peace of one who has known and enjoyed a period of genuine rest.
No news is good news – a meditation
Haven't heard from so-and-so in a while. No news is good news! What a surprise to hear your voice! You know what we say: no news is good news! Here are the rules: When you call I'll be glad to hear you. If you don't hear from me, assume I'm alright. If something is really wrong, you'll hear about it. If you need something, speak up. Worry only makes sense when you can do something about it. You don't owe me metered responses over time. I care about you even if I am not in your daily or weekly or even monthly business. What my mother said to me again and again and again became my template for understanding the world. No news is good news when you have little or no recourse to change or challenge events. No news is good news when some things turn out to not be fatal or injurious or the worst possible outcome. No news is good news when all you have left is your faith. In a past shaped by enslavement degradation family separation cruelty with abandon Not knowing might be better than knowing Silence is preferable to screaming No news is not the best news No news is good news if you believe that better and future can for once align and grant a little peace. No news is good news is how you get around expectations and attachment to certain outcomes defined by their very uncertainty. No news is good news is how you keep up without giving up. No news is good news is survival mode. No news is good news is an heirloom no one asked for. No news is good news is what my mother said to keep us safe and loved and connected even as we faded from view traveled eons beyond earshot independent but still hers All no news and still good.
How many lives will we squeeze into 50 years or 100?
Which traces will we leave below ground?
Whose budgeted affections will we overextend to then regret our hasty indulgence?
Which personal histories are you writing today?
Looking back, how long did you keep your eyes closed?
What do you hear when I call your name?
We were younger but not smarter, where was our mistake?
I’m glad for you, really. For the life you’ve made. I keep saying, it makes sense. What am I not saying?
It’s possible to be happy with less. Who else is ready for that lesson?
What we saw in each other, it’s still visible after all, right?
Memories are untrustworthy. Thank you for remembering me.
We’re not done. We’re still growing. How’s that working out for you?
Assumptions run my life. No, they undergird my understanding of life, of what I consider life to be. I think I know what I mean when I call myself and you, too, human. But maybe I don’t really. I’m assuming we see human the same way; embodying a bunch of similar characteristics; distinct from animals, and yet we are a form of animal, are we not? Not plants but living and yearning for sunlight, dependent on water. We grow, we bloom, we multiply, we die. We’re not plants and yet we may wish sometimes we were.
Nature does not require an audience. Humans often do.
My assumptions suggest that humans are separate from nature and that’s the problem. Humans, or what I’m guessing humans to be, are a part of nature yet live like its one true adversary. Makes no sense. Nature, the whole of it, is sense itself, no need to make sense extra.
The skies above me are greying. A storm just behind the neighboring mountains is heading this way. The breeze which feels nice now will give way to a wind which will usher in a rain that will douse the ground, cleanse the atmosphere. That’s the way these things go; until they don’t. Recognizing patterns can only take you so far. Nature relates to defiance in ways we are hard pressed to name.
The storm is not in rush. It’s still not here. Nature does not require an audience. Or a narrator, for that matter.
We think humans are a problem for nature. Mainly we are a menace to ourselves. Nature will do much better without human meddling. Maybe nature is egging us on; to be done with us sooner rather than later. As hell bent on destruction and devastation as humans as a species clearly are, who could blame nature for assisting us in our apparent death wish.
One day I will author a whole book of nonsense. This seems like a worthy start.
I take the final strides of my mid-morning jog across the invisible finish line. I step into the drive next to my apartment building and bend over to catch my breath. I’m a sweaty mess but a slightly proud sweaty mess. An elderly gentleman with glasses approaches, chuckling. He asks a question in German I don’t quite catch. I ask him to repeat it.
“Laufen Sie Marathon?” (Do you run marathons?)
No, I answer. Once upon a time, but not now.
He tells me how he used to exercise – on gymnastic apparatus into his 60s and then regular stretching and running almost every day for years. He’s the secretary of a local gymnastics club.
Do you know how old I am? he asks with a big smile.
I say No as an invitation for him to reveal it to me.
86! he says with verve. Every day I do a little something. That’s the way I keep myself going.
You are an example worth following, I tell him. He seems pleased with this and begins his trek uphill.
I wonder to myself when I’ll reach that age that I’m eager to quiz people about how old I am. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll be in the same or better shape than my neighbor when the time comes.
These final days of school go on like goundhog Fridays, heading into a weekend that’s slow to arrive but then is suddenly permanent. Serial completions and ceremonies, hikes and walks and picnics and games. Finishing up, finishing touches, finishing at last. There’s one more week, then it’s four more days, one more lesson, a last assembly, goodbye. What matters doesn’t matter as much as it did when it was urgent and pressing and due last week. Report cards and comments and reflections – an abundance of words describing what was, who did and didn’t, where we grew and how we learned – creating threads of remnants we won’t remember a year from now.
These final days that run hot and cold; the kids are wild and inwardly so are we. Conversations about summer plans run aground in my mind, I cannot think of the future. ‘This is our last class’ I have heard myself say 6 times or more in the last two days. Our last class but not the last time we’ll see each other. The final days are full of lasts but who can know the difference? We are preparing for release and rupture, too. Our routines and protocols are already for the birds it seems, but in two days’ time we can officially toss them out the window into the fresh hot air of summer. These final days that dog us with all the things we want and don’t want from ourselves, from our kids, from the thing we call a school year. These final days – the infinite tease – they mark us when we think we are marking them.