Holding My Breath

When things get crazy, it’s time to stop. I’ve said it many times before, and I will surely have endless occasions to say it again, but more important is that I do it.

Being immobilized by the lack of internet access for a while is perhaps a good start, but given the current schedule of overlapping work, travel, home relocation tasks, and a fair number of surprise interjections, I know that I will need to take every little momentary jot of rest and refreshment I can get. It’s 10:30 p.m. and I’ve just sat down after the evening’s part of the work that started in earnest about 12 hours ago. I know that there will be longer days ahead, many of them. I know that other people do intensely hard work for much longer days on a regular basis, and for less reward. And I also know my own limits.

My brain is abuzz, my muscles flagging, and most of all, I am reduced to a fuzzy and quite unfocused state that prevents much more productive work before bedtime. Since there’s an appraiser coming to inspect the house at 8 tomorrow morning (and you all know full well that I am among the least morning-friendly of creatures), I know it’s time to accept the state of the house as tidy and dolled up enough for his or her inspection—or else. Can’t make Neuschwanstein out of El Rancho Ordinario, nor should I. False advertising aside, it’s not the right character for a simple and happy family home. (Ask Mad Ludwig’s ghost, if you like.) So I’ll get up in the morning, however reluctantly, and get out of the inspector’s way, believing I’ve done as much as I can and should, and I’ll let the results of the day’s efforts speak for themselves. And then come back and undo all of them for the next inspection, the arrival of the estate sale manager at 10 a.m.

But right now, I am preparing my mind and body for as restful a night as I can conjure, and it begins, yes, ironically enough, it starts with stopping. Letting go of all the undone, poorly done, or yet-to-be-done stuff and silencing my mind. Letting myself drift toward peace and calm as though I’d dived into deep, clear, soothing seas and the water buoys me and shuts out the visual and voluble wildness of the day just past and those yet to come. I’ll sing myself to sleep with a little whale song, perhaps, but mostly, I will gladly let go of the need to rant and pant and wrestle, and I will return to life as refreshed as if I had a good long soar through the depths, if I can manage it, because that will make the next day’s work survivable in so many more ways.Photo: It's Not a Fluke

Speeding Along

Here I am, moving along at speed again. Feels kind of like we’ve all been sucked into the vortex of time and will get spat out who-knows-when and who-knows-where, and in the meantime it’s one heck of a wild ride. But you know, it isn’t boring! I’m just glad I have such good company for the journey among my friends and loved ones. If you do happen to know where I’m headed, please just give me a little nudge in the right direction so my lack of a compass doesn’t get me in too much trouble. Thanks!

Photo: Life Rushes Onward

Life rushes onward. Am I on the bus or in front of it?

Running Circles around Me

How is it that one can never ‘catch up’—with anything in life? In my case, I’ve no doubt the natural probability of my being behind in all things is undoubtedly exacerbated by my laziness, procrastination, stubbornness, ignorance, and near-inability to operate in the spatial world in a typical fashion. Being virtually unable to distinguish left from right, north from south, up from down, or in from out can be highly entertaining, if nothing of particular value rides on the speed of the outcome, whether I’m en route somewhere or attempting to read or measure something, or just buttoning my shirt, but it’s less amusing when I feel perpetually stuck in first gear despite having a deadline or an emergency.Photomontage: Life Runs Circles around Me

In any event, it might explain why I find myself distracted (yes, another of my troublesome never-catch-up causes) by all things orbital, this feeling that life is running circles around me. It may be egotistical, come to think of it, to operate as though I were the center of the universe this way, which in turn (there I go again!) seems a teensy bit ironic for someone who feels unable to operate her own life let alone run the world’s machinery. Ah, well, it doesn’t bear further fuss; I’ll get circles under my eyes if I keep this up too long.Photo: Powerful Circle, or Black Hole?

So Much Good Reading, So Little Time

Photo montage: So Much Reading, So Little TimeOne of the keenest problems in a comfortable life, that. So much great stuff that I would love to read, and such a short life. So many beautiful pages of literary jewels and deliriously fun junk, paper and zine, novel and blog, that I would happily devour, if only there weren’t so much other Stuff to be done in the finite hours of the day.

In my case, of course, there is the additional complication of being an interminably slow reader. I will have to live to be 627 years old, at least, to read all that I’d like to read. Add to that the extra time (about half again as long) to comprehend what I read and I will have outlasted Methuselah and any number of other supernal beings. And the problem remains, on top of this literary one, that I will have a wide assortment of other highly irksome and undignified complications to overcome and survive in order to achieve such an advanced age. So I have to pick and choose what I am willing and able to devote my actual reading time to perusing, and accept my limitations with as good a grace as I can manage.

This summer, though many of you whose blogs I am fond of visiting for both reading and commenting might be surprised to hear it, I have been reducing rather than increasing my holiday reading. Since much of what I do read is online, and on an erratic schedule with less frequent long periods of sit-down-and-read time, let alone with reliable wi-fi access, I must think about what little I can squeeze in between other summer activities and parcel out my energies and devotion accordingly. I assure you that this is in no way a reflection on the quality and desirability of your work and its pull on my imagination, but it’s rather the reverse: that I want to return to it when I can give it more of its due and proper attention and appreciation. I will return to you, rest assured. Meanwhile, I hope you are lying back on a comfortable chaise in the summer shade, sipping a cool drink, and reading whatever stirs your soul while the season lasts.

I Woke Up at Seven Eleven…

Punctuation; spelling, grammar, diacritical marks; so crucial to our ability to interpret the world. Take that post title, for example, and imagine that if instead of 7:11 I were referring to waking up in a 7-Eleven convenience store. Both are possible, in the real world, but one would be pretty far preferable to the other in terms of personal comfort. And if you know me, you know that I mean waking up in the middle of a lousy little quick-stop shop, unless we’re talking opening my eyes at 19.11, or 7:11 post meridiem. Sorry, Mornings, I just can’t seem to learn to love you.Digital illo: Wrong Side of the Bed

The idea of finding myself in the snack food aisle of a convenience store when I opened my sleepy eyes is not, perhaps, ideal either. For any number of reasons, it could prove unsettling, if not dangerous. But I’m still leaning toward it as the better alternative, if I had to choose. Sleep calls to me.

I probably should consider where it means I went to sleep in the first place, if I’m waking up surrounded by small packages of foods with shelf lives longer than the motor oil that’s sold in the next aisle. Was time travel involved? If so, I can only hope that I went backward and thus gained some extra snooze time, or so far into the future that there is already a cure for what I will have contracted by lying on the floor where so many strangers have trod, sneezed, and drooled. But I’m still willing to consider it a worthy risk, because that’s just how important my nap time is to me.

Perhaps it’s better to let go of the whole conundrum and assume that I was merely inspired by a glance at the clock when I woke mid-sleep to think of such things at all. Odd things can happen when anything awakens one in the midst of heavy slumber. I’d work on this puzzle further, honestly…if I weren’t so…sllleeeeeeeepy…

Just a Second

Photo: Newness 1

What do you see? It’s not a trick question, only an invitation to look for the small and temporary delights right at hand. Newness and beauty are present all around us.

For all that we think of lives as finite and fleeting and time, constantly racing by, I don’t think we take it so seriously when we tell someone who’s waiting for us, “just a second.” After all, so much can happen in a second or less, yes, evening in a millisecond, as we can now measure it. Races are won and lost by the tiniest increments of time. On one side of the little mark signifying a clock’s second-long increments is the Now, and before the very thought of it is completed, Now already resides on the other side of the mark.

Photo: Newness 2

Dead stems of the past give birth to lively leaflets for the season to come…

No matter how protracted the process leading up to it, one nanosecond is the last one I will spend alive, and the next one will be the first one in which I’m dead. The thought has no moral value one way or another, and not much emotional value either, since as soon as it is likely to seem fully important to me in the most urgent of terms, it’ll be all done.

The only real value for me, in practical terms, is if I invest enough thought in this very moment of being still alive to commit to being wide awake as well: deeply present, and grateful for all of the good that is in my life at every piece of time I’m granted along the way. Whether it’s thanks to honoring spiritual values in the practice of mindfulness or it’s because I’m keenly aware of those lives that, however brightly they’ve burned, were far too short, it matters little unless I take advantage of the perspective these afford me and live my own life more richly because of it. Regardless of how I choose to spend this magnificent currency of breath and sentience and health and hope, even if it’s on sitting on a park bench and holding hands with my beloved (one of the highest and best things I know how to do, to be sure), making a conscious and committed choice is well worth the effort, and following through, all the better.

Just now, the value of mindful living in the present is particularly lovely because we are on the cusp of spring here in north Texas. And if you’ve read even a few of my locale-related posts, you can appreciate just how fleeting and tenuous is the very idea of springtime and how ephemeral its joys. I would be a fool to be so encumbered by longing for things past or worrying about things yet to come that I don’t pause, however briefly, to savor the wonder of what these treasured nano-joys can bring to my existence.

Photo: Newness 3

Out of death, life. The cheery pumpkins and gourds brightening the fading allure of the autumn garden have in turn rotted, dried, and decayed—but from their secretive hearts, the burst of seed and greenery returns to begin it all again…

FutuRetro

One of the things I so love about travel and touring is getting a much more powerful sense of history; standing in and on the places where events and lives long past have happened, whether grand or insignificant, utterly changes my understanding of those people and occurrences. My first trip overseas, that Grand Tour I was so privileged to take in college with my older sister, was an awakening I never expected. I hoped the trip would be a cure for my sophomore blues, and indeed it was, beyond anything I could have planned or dreamt before, but more than that I was startled by how connected I felt to history.

The drizzly and cold autumn day when we visited Canterbury Cathedral was atmospheric enough in its way, but I remember standing on stone steps worn into a soft bowl by the thousands of footsteps that had passed over them in the centuries of its existence, looking up into a palely gold ray from a lamp, seeing the motes of dust whirling in it, and feeling that time itself was floating down around me in delicate pieces, that the spirit of every person who had ever set foot on that same smooth hollow in the stone was present there with me in that very moment. It was almost as though I could hear their voices and see the scenes of the past play out in the faint gloom around me, all overlapping and yet perfectly present. I felt my own place in the whole of the human timeline in an entirely different way than I ever expected, tinier than ever, yet surprisingly more concrete and tangible.

This was reinforced later in the same journey many times, as we passed through or visited (not necessarily in this order) England, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland and stood in the very footprints of many a person, going down the winding passages and cobbled side-streets that had seen multitudes of significant moments long since fled. As this was the first time I visited Norway, the rooting ground of my ancestors from every branch of my family tree, it is no surprise in retrospect that many of those potent realizations came to me in that place—but as usual, hindsight is ever so much clearer than was my youthful wisdom in those days. It was moving, more meaningful than I can express, to get to know the relatives in Norway with whom my family had maintained contact: my maternal grandfather’s sisters and brother-in-law, nieces and nephew. These were days before cheap telephonic long distance, let alone email and internet communiqués, so we had only briefly even met most of these people when they visited America once in my younger years, yet they not only took us in as visitors, Tante Anna and Onkel Alf kept my sister and me with them for a full month and took us to see the family’s two longtime farms, the graves where many of our ancestors were sleeping underfoot. This was incredibly touching, a genealogical history lesson, but the more so because it was taught by the eldest of our remaining family there.

What moved me the most, in fact, was when on arriving in Oslo at our mother’s cousin’s home before we even came down south to be with his parents, we explored the great city a little on our own during the days, while he was at work and his wife and children off having their own day of adventures. It was all so humbling and so magical to feel for the first time that I understood a tiny bit more of my own family lineage and how our people fit into the larger world. We did visit many of the obligatory and famous tourist sites, knowing that there was no direct link to our ancestors, only cultural ones. So I was quite stunned when we visited the Viking Ship Museum and, standing before these ancient vessels, I was absolutely electrified with a sense of shared history coursing through my veins. My forebears were undoubtedly humble subsistence farmers, not the bold and violent and adventurous Viking strain we know through film and television, never mind through the great Sagas—but I felt for the first time something connecting me to those long-gone people all the same.
Photo: Enter the Time Machine

By now I have traveled a fair amount more. I have been on this planet more than twice as long, and I think I might even be a little bit wiser through my experiences in that life than I was back then. But I approach every narrow stone passageway, every weathered door, every window with its rippling antique panes presenting everything that’s beyond them like a warped post-impressionist fiction of itself, I expect to learn something not only about what is there in front of me and around me, but what is inside me. And I know that I will learn something, too, about how I fit into that larger, and ever so mysterious, world if I am wise and patient and alert enough to notice it. So much has gone by. So much remains ahead, yet unknown.