Hi there! Please check out my Pages, About, Calendar, Books, etc., right up there in the header for more info, and thanks for checking in. Too many other projects bubbling at the moment including at DMQ Review, but I appreciate your interest and support.
And I hope all is well with you and yours.
In the meantime, here’s a poem of mine that is featured in the Syracuse Cultural Worker’s Women Artists 2021 Datebook. Check out their website for more cool products.
Winter Train to Dublin
And sometimes I want to draw the landscape
not write about it, but the train rolls forward
past a field of white geese nestled deep in green,
the sun at quarter sky all day like a cigarette hole
burned in gray flannel. Someone once said
write stories that make a difference. Sheep
graze in a churchyard, then a Union Jack
flying over a roof. What needs saying?
A young man leaves the train. An older man
takes his place. This is the story of living.
Station to station we ride as far as the ticket
takes us. The view changes. So too
our fellow passengers. Some will talk,
others nod into their collars. The older man
unwraps a ham sandwich taken from his pocket,
reads his newspaper, folds up the trash.
We turn inland. A train Belfast bound
cries to the wind. The man gathers himself, stands.
Slips on his coat. Maybe this is the story: we keep
him alive here—his unfinished crossword puzzle,
tan eyeglass case, red rucksack, even the bandaid
wrapped around the tip of one finger—traveling
alone on the first day of a new year, at the door
for his station, wire-rimmed glasses agleam.
It’s not time to loosen up on those distancing restrictions for the foreseeable.
You can do it, now! Now do it right! Watch out baby. Don’t you get toooo tight!
Here’s a much better sound recording, and, well, some different steps. Try both!
Everybody. Tighten up. Stay home. Sock it to ’em.
“I can’t wait for the weekend.”
That’s become the running joke at our house as we pad around in our socks looking for the next thing to do, or the next thing that we feel like doing since there are always tasks waiting around the house and yard or in the inbox. Tasks which once found their way onto schedules as we had time vs becoming the main event.
And now it IS the weekend. Technically, the week ends on Saturday and begins on Sunday on traditional calendars, so the word weekend for both days is clearly a misnomer. I don’t know what else we’d call it, some term that indicates the yin and yang of time, where one thing melts into its opposition in the dark hour of the clock. Arbitrary. A no-time time in a no-place place.
Which reminds me of an article I read recently from Scientific American about the “place” on the “north pole”–more of these no-place places–where the Earth’s time zones converge, as the author notes:
At the North Pole, 24 time zones collide at a single point, rendering them meaningless. It’s simultaneously all of Earth’s time zones and none of them. There are no boundaries of any kind in this abyss, in part because there is no land and no people. The sun rises and sets just once per year, so “time of day” is irrelevant as well. –Katie Weeman
All and none. That’s the sort of suspended place that the weekend has become when huge segments of the population work from home, some keeping business hours, others adapting workload across 24 hours of sweatpants; others out of work with no imposed schedules, no income. Most of us stuck inside the house. The Weekend currently seems like a quaint construct, a memory from times past. Nearly meaningless. I mean, what’s so relaxing about never getting out of your pj’s before noon if you’ve barely removed them for the past 7 days? Irrelevant indeed.
Today I got up, ate breakfast over the carefully handled newspaper (can’t quite give it up!), went upstairs and took my position at my computer where too many articles to read line up above the tool bar, took a break for a What’s App chat with my 3-year old grandson via his patient dad, then returned to email where a group of us celebrated the news of someone’s negative covid 19 test results. Later I did a half hour on my ancient Nordic Trak, ate some leftovers, and finally got into the shower after 1pm. Got dressed–yes, sweats–changed the bed, and here I am at my laptop once more, typing, simultaneously texting with a friend. We’re wondering whether a donut shop would be considered an essential service? I hope so….
That’s the good news: no news. That’s the weekend: no end, just reinventing what needs to be done–what can be done within this house or out in the rain–while this week awaits its mysterious end at midnight tonight, when somehow at that very instant, another week begins again.
When things are looking down, look up.
It’s true. The physical act of moving the gaze upward lifts the spirit. While brain research and psychological studies offer support for this claim, just take a minute to prove or dispel it yourself with some research of your own. Chin up, forehead back, and I’m staring at a blank white ceiling, but I also feel myself take an involuntary deep breath. Something shifts slightly. You too? Just a slight loosening of tension follows.
On the other hand, it’s easy to see how the increasing habit of looking down into the attention-demanding phone screen might serve to just as easily compound physical stress and a lower mood through a constricted focus, especially on news that grows more and more disturbing with each click. Break the spell. Get even a minute of relief. Look up!
Now try something else. Look up, head as far back as is comfortable, and grin idiotically at the same time. Chances are you might chuckle at this manic move. The benefits of even a forced smile are even more well-documented and just as easily proven with your own quick grin. Google “psychological benefits of smiling” to find a plethora of articles to verify, but studies indicate that the smile lifts moods, reduces stress, boosts the immune system, increases lifespan, lowers the blood pressure, and remarkably releases more endorphins than eating several bars of chocolate! So, by some stretch of this logic, you might also find yourself reaching less-often for those extra calories. Smile! No one’s around to see you grinning like a fool, and if they are, smiles and their benefits are also contagious. Be generous.
The restorative effect of looking at nature, a no-brainer for most of us, has also been studied and recognized as a way to stimulate a more-productive workforce, even while remaining inside, ironically. But that’s not bad news for anyone who has little nature to view from window or porch. Apparently looking at photos of nature produces similar relief, and magnificent examples are under your fingertips, not only on instagram, but in online “image” searches. However, we all own the sky, whether looking out a window or standing under it out on the sidewalk. And to see it you have to . . . Look up! If you live where the night is full of stars . . . oh, lucky you!
Like listening, which is the active and selective form of hearing, looking is also a choice. Where will we pay that attention, and what are we getting for our “money?” Is it worth it? Healthy eyes will see. What their gaze attends to is up to us. I offer cheap diversions, simple, even silly suggestions. But maybe they’ll work for you, too.
We need all the tools we can find to endure the challenges of our time, whatever the depth of our experience. Looking and listening are assets; they can’t be hoarded. They can be performed inside or outdoors, sitting or moving, any time of the day or night, in public or private. And they are acts that take very little time in light of the benefit you might experience. I hope you do.
What are you listening to?
I’m not talking about what you can hear at the moment, though if I pause the light tapping of my fingers on the keyboard for a moment, I can hear a number of things: a far-off mower, Frank opening the back door, a plane’s distant rumble, the furnace–which was not running all this frigid morning, but hoorah for “essential services!” is now fixed–kicks on. I’ll be hearing the warm air blowing through the vents soon. Yup. There’s more to hear in any moment than we can pay attention to at once, our brain effectively shutting out what it deems non-essential in any given situation.
What I am talking about is not just the act of listening, of intentionally paying attention to the ambient sounds that surround us, but instead the choice to listen to a specific source of sound. Like Elton John, above. He’s clearly chosen to listen to something in those headphones, and that’s all he appears to be doing. He’s not also reading a book. He’s not looking at his phone that hasn’t been invented yet. He’s not knitting. Not clipping his nails, eating lunch, or any of the other things we typically do while wearing earbuds. He’s tuning in.
What are you tuning in to? Too much news? Your favorite outlet running nonstop in the background forming a sort of soundtrack for the day? Continue reading
Cooped up. But here’s what I’m getting ready to read next. I’ve read The Hobbit before, and read it aloud to my children before, but it’s been quite some time. I’ve just finished reading a memoir, will finish up friend and DMQ Reviews’ editor Annie Kim’s remarkable new book of poetry, Eros Unbroken, and then, to the Hobbit hole, and there and back again. I’m ready to lose myself in this familiar tale, a hero’s journey, with all the page-turning adventures that lie along the way. You’ve never read it? Aw, come on!
Reading is one way to find some wings during this time of isolation and confinement. To be carried away on the wings of words, taken by the imagination, to lose myself in a narrative outside my own inner monologue offers a great escape, and somehow a way “there” into the unknown, and a way back, distracted if not renewed. But I hope renewed. What are you reading?
I found another type of wings: my bike! Do you have one? It was so invigorating to stream through the spring air, pedaling, pedaling, feeling wind on my face. Feeling distance pass beneath the tires, remembering how the body remembers, through movement. It’s so different from riding in/on a vehicle. To propel myself through space, foot to pedal, pedal to chain, chain to wheel, pushing, turning, spinning. Well clearly some imagination was at work as well, but even now I can re-imagine that short ride. I can breathe the memory in. There will be more.
We are cooped up, but we do have wings. Here’s another I’ve recently discovered. I’ve had a couple of distance visits using Zoom, a free online program, and while I can’t reach out and touch someone through the computer screen, it’s so great to see the faces of friends gathered in one “place.” I’ve got a virtual happy hour scheduled tomorrow. Such amazing new ways to connect, to spring out of the cages of our rooms and gloomy thoughts. What are your wings?
There and back again, that’s my goal this season. As with any hero’s journey, I don’t know where the way leads or how I’ll make it. Part of the journey involves self-care, another extending care to others, or as Amy Klobuchar said, to “be generous in spirit.” The two are linked, right? A broken spirit needs care in order to be generous, and quite often being generous buoys the spirit, another type of wings.
In case you missed this amazing interview with former Presidential candidate, Amy Klobuchar, she’s speaking with Rachel Maddow about her husband John who was hospitalized yesterday, Monday, with the virus after testing positive that morning. He had a fever for 10 days, and the test results took 5 more! What in the world. That’s no way to stop a pandemic. One thing we can do is call the White House to urge P.T. to activate the National Defense Production Act to rescue our health care infrastructure, 202-456-1111, full instructions at whitehouse.gov
I’m including this clip even though it cuts off right before the most moving part, so moving in light of the grim details that come before it that I jotted her words down. Her segment begins right around 3:20. First, take a close look at Senator Klobuchar whom we have grown used to watching in formal press conferences and debates, camera-ready. She’s exhausted. Yes, she’s standing in the Capitol after a full day of Senate negotiations over the covid virus aid bill and she will return to them after talking with Maddow. Her husband at that moment is on oxygen, states away in a Minnesota hospital after his self-quarantine during which time she didn’t see him. Even now she’s unable to be at his side; visitors, even high-profile visitors, are not allowed. Continue reading
It really is that kind of day. Again. Already. The trick will be how to keep each day from feeling like this, like Groundhog Day, another replay of the same routine. Wake up. Eat. Email. Projects. Exercise. Eat. Plan dinner. So we can later eat. Take a walk. Read. Call someone on the phone. Watch the Newshour at 3. Now it’s 4. Chores/projects. Dinner. Chores. “Better Call Saul” x 2 (we’re on Season 2 already, reruns). Read. Sleep. Repeat.
In some ways, that’s not so different from my regular routine unhindered by ShIP, I hate to admit. I usually work from home. It’s that I MUST stay home that makes it so awfully tiresome. Or worse. And that I can’t spend time with my family, friends, or even the community at large. Naomi Shihab-Nye’s reading that was cancelled this week. Judy Collin’s cancelled May concert.
Well, it just damn-well is the way it is.
I do realize that the flip side of this repetitive, “boring” rerun indicates how much is going well. Wonderfully, please-may-it-continue-to-be, well. The stability of health, #1, of Continue reading
Well, maybe not this particular model.
I’ve been wanting to post something on this topic since my last shopping trip and have been gathering some reputable resources to share. This is pretty much an information dump, and hopefully for any of the handful of people who might read it, old news? If not, I’ll try to keep it simple.
Of course you should wear a mask when going out to any of our “essential service” purveyors, specifically the jam-packed grocery stores, and from now on if possible, I’m not going to go into a store with un-masked workers. Anyone who thinks about the urgings for us to cough into our elbows or a tissue knows that the healthcare community is hoping by doing so you’ll stop some of your droplets instead of spraying them freely into breathable space.
This article does a thoughtful examination of how we came to think that wearing masks would be of no avail. In a nutshell, to forestall panic-buying of an inadequate supply of an essential product, we were told that masks aren’t effective and should be saved for medical staff, the latter being absolutely true in our situation. Also, that we didn’t know how to use them properly. The unfortunate result is that many people continue to believe that other than N95, masks are useless.
Of course, because of this shortage you likely don’t have a mask at home. I’m fortunate Continue reading