If I die too soon

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Notes from “From the Heart” a collection from Women of Letters

26 April 2016
4:19PM
Sydney

T. —

I’m being productive. Things are getting done. I’m currently going through all of my photos and rooting out the ones I need, the duplicates I can delete, the notes I can jot down, the photos that are unnecessary. I’ve taken a lot of photos of books. Covers of books: to read, to read, to remember to read. Pages of books: this poem. This quote. This photograph. This godly image.

So, today I’ve been a scribe. It’s one of my favourite jobs. Self-appointed, of course. Usually I take a book with post-it flags, flay it open with my bamboo book holder, and discern its inner-most parts. But sometimes I don’t have the luxury of time on my side. Some books need to go back to the library too soon. Some books are actually gifts — like this one. This was a Christmas gift for my aunt in California, and I read it on the plane out to visit her. I didn’t have time to notate the things I wanted to keep. So, snap- snap – click of the shutter, and these quotes end in a stockroom of an iPhoto folder until I remember to transcribe them.

Today, I thought, for the very first time: what am I doing this for? I enjoy keeping the parts of books that made me laugh, that made me think, or made me question. But I don’t often refer back to them. Only if someone I know is reading a book I’ve read, something I have notes on. And today, I thought: if I died, would any of this matter?

I don’t often think about death. That’s a lie I just told you to make you feel better. I think about it frequently, the way a philosopher turns a familiar problem around and around to look at it from new angles. My friend B is moving to Melbourne; he has a prospective new roommate who throws “Death Dinner Parties.” She invites all of her friends around to talk about Death.

I kind of love that. I want to go to one.

*

I’ve been stockpiling Brain Picking book recommendations to read. In light of what we’re talking about today, I really want to read this one:

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Cry, Heart, But Never Break. Maria Popova describes it thus:

Now comes a fine addition to the most intelligent and imaginative children’s books about making sense of death — the crowning jewel of them all, even, and not only because it bears what might be the most beautiful children’s book title ever conceived: Cry, Heart, But Never Break (public library) by beloved Danish children’s book author Glenn Ringtved and illustrator Charlotte Pardi, translated into English by Robert Moulthrop.

Although Ringtved is celebrated for his humorous and mischievous stories, this contemplative tale sprang from the depths of his own experience — when his mother was dying and he struggled to explain what was happening to his young children, she offered some words of comfort: “Cry, Heart, but never break.” It was the grandmother’s way of assuring the children that the profound sadness of loss is to be allowed rather than resisted, then folded into the wholeness of life, which continues to unfold. — Brain Pickings.

*

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog series to document my attempt to read the whole way through my 1000+ to-read bookshelf on Goodreads. Some questions I have for myself: am I being fair to the books I live with, the ones sitting on my shelves that are asking for attention? Why do I only have two eyes and one brain? Why can’t I have four eyes and as many brains? If I die too soon, will this have been a life well-read? If I take notes and no one ever reads them, are they still a worthy cause?

The answer is: yes, yes, always yes.

Today I wrote postcards instead of buying new books. I mean, I bought new books, too. But they were for writing workshops. So, employment. I didn’t buy new books for myself today. I wrote instead. Just to clarify.

M

Always, this wanting

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April 2016. Sydney Harbour: Rose Bay –> Circular Quay

22 April 2016
12:14 PM
Sydney, Australia

T.–

I have so much I want to say. Too much. I’ve been trying to write to you for ages. Email drafts. Bits of letters everywhere. I’m sorry I missed your birthday. I saw it coming, I kept writing. It passed. I tore up letters, misplaced others. The email drafts grow longer and longer. I watch time passing. It passes.

But you’re here. You found me again, and you have stories to share. And so do I, I suppose. Except the only way I can start to unpack those stories right now are holding them up against your words. Can I borrow some of yours for a while? To jumpstart my own?

*

What are your anchors now, I wonder. Has living in another country finally become another piece of your life falling into place, or is it still something you’re trying to figure out?

I’ve been asking myself the exact same thing. I went to go see Brooklyn with my friend G., and sat scribbling in my book the whole time. I’m not Irish. I haven’t moved to Brooklyn. I don’t have the same struggles as an immigrant unused to certain cultures, or being someone unable to go home again. I’m too able to go home again. And yet, I’ve been thinking: doesn’t the idea of being an ex-pat, an immigrant, require you to have a home you’ve departed from? I think I have many homes, and none, simultaneously. And I’m always leaving them.

We walked down the street last week and I said to A: “We fucking live here. Sometimes I forget to be amazed that we live at the bottom of the world, half a globe away from anything we’ve known.” Sometimes it gets too normal. I tell people we haven’t lived here long, but last night someone asked me when we arrived. “A year ago,” I said. He said, “Ah, so it’s not an entirely recent move then.”

I wanted to say: It is. It’s so recent. I don’t know anything about how to live here. There are seeds of familiarity and normality and everydayness, but they crop up where I don’t want them to be. And they don’t take root where I need them. And a year is never long enough to get over missing what we left. I wasn’t here for that entire year. Not really here. Sometimes I still don’t think I am.

I just nodded, “Yes, I guess you’re right.”

I don’t know whether anything is really falling into place right now. And at the same time, a lot of things are coming together. It’s like finding the right puzzle pieces, but not going so far as to connect them to each other.

*

We’ve been mostly quiet, too, and I am hoping, with all my heart, that your silence means you are having the time of your life, that you are outside and meeting the world.

Most of the time, my silence is a failure of finding the right words to say. I know this should make me more empathetic towards the other people in my life who are showing up like this, in silence. It’s not. Sometimes I think it’s making me less patient. If I’m struggling with this, I damn well want to see other people struggling with it too.

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April 10th, a year ago. Still the same silence. Is it enough?

*

I have no idea how you do this—constantly pack your bags and decide what to take with you and what to leave behind.

How do I do this? Terribly. So ineffectively. We moved 25 boxes to Australia. Half of that stuff, we shouldn’t have paid to bring with us. It would have been cheaper to throw it out of the window, not pay to ship it, and just buy new things down under.

I asked A. what percentage of my books he thinks I’ve read. He answered with a question: “20%?” The truth is: I don’t know, but I want to count them. I want to make graphs with statistics, and I want to hold myself accountable. I want to use the things I have and give away the things I don’t use.

Always, this wanting. Looking around at the things surrounding me, and the wanting to purge. To let it all go. And then I start to sort, I start to hold these things in my hands again, and I’m reminded: I love them.

If I love them, why am I ignoring them? This question poses itself a lot these days. And not just in reference to me.

*

Off to another adventure it seems. Here’s to our attempts at making our world bigger.

I went back to Scotland in January because my grandfather died. The funeral was down south, in a village church outside of Bath in the town where he lived. But I wanted to get back to Scotland on that trip, and I had to make it by January 5th, which would have been his birthday. He hadn’t been back to Scotland in years, and I know it broke his heart. He talked about it a lot when we spoke on the phone in the last few months. He wrote about it after the Scottish referendum (in which I voted Yes, for him, and for myself):

“What I fear now is that, unless my health improves, I won’t see  and feel Scotland again. That thought makes me quite sad.

I just wanted to share that with you.”

I have a lot of emails from him in my inbox. I’ve wanted to read through them since he died. I haven’t been able to. It’s a place I’m having a hard time meeting myself.

When I went back to Scotland, I met up with a lot of friends. I obviously hadn’t seen any of them since we moved to Sydney. It was a complex week: to come to back in the middle of a Scottish winter. To allow the rain and desolate scenery to be a backdrop for my grief. To know my grief was not just for Granddad, but for all the people I’ve spent the better part of a year missing. To come back to all of them, and in my grief, to not be able to hold all of the feelings properly. To withdraw. To try to recenter. To try to make sense of what the fuck is holding my life together, when everything feels like it’s spinning apart.

I’ve had a certain journey with R. since I left. It’s been difficult for both of us, I think, for many distinct reasons. I don’t know why I thought coming back would make it better, but I was disappointed when it seemed to make it worse.

The day before I left Edinburgh, I went back to sing at St. Giles. R. asked me whether it was strange to be back in Scotland. I thought about saying, “No, I’ve missed it so much, it feels like coming back and regrowing my whole skeleton.” Which would have been true. But there are other things that are equally true, so I said: “Yes. It feels strange.”

He said, “I feel like your world is smaller than mine.” At face value, I almost took it like an insult, and I think he knew that. He added, “What I mean is: you know people all over the world, and you are used to travel, and you live in different places, and all of those connections shrink your world so that it’s easier to cross it. To bridge the distance. My world feels so vast. And really far away.”

I have been feeling so many things about this small and vast world. Like a microscope oscillating in and out of focus.

But I really understood what he meant. I think you’re making your world smaller. In a very good way. Strengthening the muscle tissue that bridges the distance.

*

More soon.

M.

To Be Of Use

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30 October 2014
21:05
Edinburgh

My dear T.–

A few months ago, you asked me: “How do you go about your writing, or your PhD? I sometimes imagine you standing in front of a labyrinthian master plan, your very own Ariadne.”

God. That question was so intimidating. How do I go about my writing? These days, I don’t so much go about writing. At least not as much as I go around it. Or as much as I go on ignoring it. How do I go about my writing? I have no idea. I don’t: is the short answer. If there is a labyrinth involved, it is not my master plan. If anyone’s a labyrinth, I’m standing lost within one.

I didn’t ever want to get to this place: this place where I rarely write. Years ago, I would have been appalled at the idea that days could pass — weeks, months — without writing. Not writing to you, not writing here, not writing poems, not writing research. Not journalling. Not taking personal notes. Not carrying around notebooks. Not waking up in the middle of the night to write things down.

I have been notating some of my dreams. I was writing bits and pieces in the morning, first thoughts upon waking. But I couldn’t really stretch them out. I couldn’t encourage them to carry themselves over into making sentences, into building paragraphs, pages. They were just disjointed ideas with no limbs. I have notes on my phone of dreams on dreams, but I can’t even bring myself to copy them into my notebook.

I asked Andrew about my notebooks today. The question didn’t start off with notebooks. It started off with a problem (which is Andrew’s favorite part of problem-solving. Let’s look at the problem from all angles. If you can’t find a solution, you haven’t properly defined the problem). I said, “I’ve been going through all my things before we move.”

“I know,” he said, “You’ve done a great job.”

“I’m not finished,” I said.

“I know, but you’ve done well so far.”

“No,” I said, “I mean: I’m not finished. But I’ve stopped. I’ve come to an impasse.”

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I want to have half of what is left now.” I said. “I only want to have half of these things. But I’ve already done the culling, and now I can’t find the means to keep getting rid of things.”

I told him the story of the school photographer who would help you narrow down the eight shots to the final photograph. He would hold up two photos: 1 and 2. Choose one, he would say. Which is your favorite? Your favorite would become number 1, and the reject would be replaced by another number 2. The process would go on. A 50-50 narrowing of options.

But I could never choose that way. I said to Andrew, I can’t just hold two books side by side and make myself choose one. It’s not even the books that are the problem area. Where I get really stuck is in the drawers: my notebooks, my papers, my stationary.

He said, “Working at Paperchase is the best thing for you. It’s a great exercise about restraint, and patience.”

It’s true. My 50% staff discount doesn’t kick in until after Christmas. And so, buoyed with the knowledge that I can have all of these papers and notebooks and pens for 50% less if I wait, I am happy to wait. I get to know all of the products on a daily basis. I help other people find what they are looking for. I help other people choose between papers, between folders and scrapbooks and wrapping paper and tissue. Decorations. Gifts. Cards. And in the meantime, I keep my eye on a few things that I like.

With three months on my hands, I have so much time to consult with these items before I buy them. I have time to know them on a deeper level. It’s not just about instinct or impulse anymore. I’m not going to run off and buy them off the shelf. I am not this store’s perfect clientele. I am a considered, considering, reflective buyer. And the longer I sit and hold these things in my awareness, the more I can tell that they are just things. A notebook I thought would make me so happy doesn’t hold the same resonance the next time I come in to work.

A few things do keep me. Obviously. There is a line of £3 notebooks that I do love. I can tell, because I have been courting them with a slow, respectful, quiet attention, and that attention has been sustained for weeks. I love them. I do. And all of the notebooks in my house have been brought here because of that reason. At some point, I fell for them. I knew when I picked them up that they might be something magical. I was captivated by the potential in their blank pages.

I even told Andrew: “T. and I talk about this all the time. We’re writers. We keep notebooks for all sorts of reasons. List notebooks, idea notebooks, draft notebooks, journals, letter books, endless categories.”

He said, “Are you using all of them?”

The answer is: no. I have a backlog of notebooks. I don’t know what they are yet, or why I wanted them, or what drew me to them in the first place. I don’t know why I need them. I don’t know why they’re still here. But I’m not ready to let them go yet. The same is true of old papers, of essays, letters, stationary, notecards, flyers. But paper weighs heavy. And it’s weighing heavy on me as a writer to be swimming in a sea of all of these pages. They don’t feel inspiring anymore. They feel overwhelming.

Andrew said, “And seeing them there, on a shelf, empty, sitting, waiting… does that ever hurt you to know they’re not being used as they should be used? To know that their utility is at a standstill?”

It does hurt.

It does hurt because I know that I’m not even using the tools I am using. There are notebooks I am writing in. Sometimes. But I’m not writing in them right now.

There is a whole backlog of letters here that we have written to each other. But I haven’t even been writing the letters I’m writing. My hands have been writing them. But my heart hasn’t. My computer uploads this text, but my voice hasn’t been in it.

I don’t know what’s different. Maybe the willingness to look at it now, to see this deflection and watch the urge to turn away. Maybe I know I don’t want to be left with handfuls of empty letters, shelves of empty notebooks and stacks and stacks of useless paper. Maybe I know I want to be of more use to my life.

More soon.

Goodnight,
M.

Place and Belonging

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8 September 2014
6:12 pm
Edinburgh

T. —

Three things:

  1. I’ve learned that Bloom is exceptional at owning her place. She claimed the bed this morning because it was prime “pigeon-watching” real estate. She sits politely, pretends to be afraid, while we blow up the air mattress for guests. And as soon as we make it up with sheets, blankets, pillows, all the accoutrements of comfort — she claims that too. She was unafraid all along. I wish I could be so in my own space as she is.
  2. I’ve learned that every errand is a journey. I’ve learned how little I know of the outskirts of my city. How little I know of the character and the backstory of the places I’ve lived. How I’ve gotten by on a currency of “present time” rather than history or context. 
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  3. I’ve learned that all rules are made to be bent. I asked Andrew: How much could I budget to buy books this weekend in Amsterdam? You know, at the book market? There is one book market I’m thinking of in particular. It’s in a tunnel. Or underneath a bridge. Over by the university. It’s where Andrew found me a beautiful old copy of Peter Pan, and a book of Dutch children’s stories, translated into English. It’s where I found my big beautiful paperback of John Steinbeck’s letters. He said, I think the key word is: budget. If you make a budget before we leave, you can buy books. I will be honest with my budget. I don’t want to break my rule completely, because my rule was made to protect these neglected books in my home, to help me clear out my space, to give me a reading project to focus on. I want to be honest with myself: I am only bending rules because this is Amsterdam we’re talking about. Amsterdam is the exception.

We’re going to Amsterdam this weekend, in case I forgot to tell you. I’m insanely ready to be there, and a little hesitant to be back. It makes me think of what John Steinbeck writes about Paris:

Before very long I must go away, first to Italy and to Greece and then to New York. But I strongly suspect that the elastic string of Paris is tied to me and that for all my life I will not visit Paris. It is other places I will be visiting, while Paris will be a very special home to me.

– from One American in Paris (Thirteenth Article) by John Steinbeck

One question I still have: where is to be my next home? What type of person will I become within its walls?

Goodnight,
M

3 Things and a Question

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6 September 2014
1:44 pm 
Edinburgh

T.– 

My grandfather died in 2011, while I was living in Amsterdam with Andrew. Andrew never got to meet him in person, but they did share a conversation over Skype before Gran died. It was the last time I saw him smile. I had never spoken to him on the computer before.

When I was in middle school (probably about 11 or 12 years old), my grandparents came to visit us in New Jersey. We were in the car on the way home from school. Gran turned around from the front passenger seat and said, “I want to know three things you learned today, and a question you still have.”

*

Over the years, I’ve kept that as a writing device. In college, I finished three notebooks full of those types of daily reflections. I think, for the next while, I’d like to use it here. Three things I’ve learned, and one question I still have. 

  1. I’ve learned that I have hundreds of books in this house. 285 books, exactly. I never meant to collect books here. I still have hundreds of books at my mother’s house, and I’ve always assumed that was the bulk of them. But, as we’re getting ready to move flats in the next six months, I look around and realize how many books I actually have. 
  2. I’ve learned that I haven’t read any of these books, proportionately. I keep buying new books. I keep taking books out from the library. But these books remain unread, and sitting here, and I feel I have neglected them. I don’t even know where all of them came from, or why I’m keeping them.
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  3. I’ve learned that I like to have space around me. I love books. I really love books. But years and years ago I promised myself that the only books on my shelves would be the ones I was currently reading, and the ones I adored and had to keep. I’ve already attempted to stop collecting books for the sake of having pages all around me. Now, I want to have space. I want to share these books with other people. But in the meantime, I want to read them all.

So this is my mission: I’m not buying one more book at least through the end of the year. I’ve set myself a goal of reading 50 books for 2014 on Goodreads, to push myself forward into reading through these shelves. I have this fear that we’re going to move, and these books will still be in boxes because we won’t have the shelf space for them. That’s something I have never wanted.

The question I’m left with: when will I start to retain the lessons I learn, instead of having to relearn them all over again

I’m off for a cup of tea and a book.

Good afternoon,
M

Bio-rhythms

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1 July 2014
9:35 pm
Edinburgh

T. —

This was our room in one of the many places we stayed during our US trip. It’s one of the two places — AirBnB apartments in Massachusetts — where I really felt like home and wanted to stay. Something about the light, and the trees, and the air, and the space. It felt like a poetic life.

*

I think the best compliment I’ve ever received came from my PhD supervisor. He’s not always one for flat-out compliments, so I’m surprising myself by even saying this. The only reason I remember it is because I notate our meetings sometimes, and I found this while I was doing revision yesterday on some old poems.

It’s about the poem I wrote called “Release,” which I basically took word for word from my post here, in our blog.

He said,

It’s good, and so is release. The poems are very tidy, and you air towards too many adjectives and abstractions. But these last two just let it rip, let the rhythm go.

Can you write all your shit out first and then climb up the mountain?

[Natural rhythm and sounds]. You have that. I would call it bio-rhythms. That’s 70% of poetry, just getting it down.

There’s a rage there for release and freedom. Don’t spell things about about freedom and limitations.

*

It’s the reference to bio-rhythms that gets me. I’m sitting here trying to remember why I always come back to writing, why I care so much about having something to say, why I judge myself for not getting to the point and saying it, why I read to lose myself in what other people have to say, and what they say so elegantly. But ‘bio-rhythms’ makes it seem like there is no logic to any of it: it’s just in my blood. I feel happier with that explanation, with that meaning running through me.

Goodnight,
M

Transit

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24 May 2014
7:30 pm
London

T. —

I’m really sorry to hear about your sister. Is everything going to be okay?

In a week from today, Hillary will be my sister-in-law. But she’s already felt like that for years. It’s her birthday today. I’m excited to get to Massachusetts tomorrow and see them both again. To hang out. To cook together and spend time catching up. It’s hard when your family isn’t well, or is far away, or is just more distant and unable to share in the excitement and joys and hinderings of life. I hope your sister is better so soon.

The etymology of transit: act or fact of passing across or through. A going over, passing over, passage.

We are en route. I feel like I’m always en route. Between here and there. Between myself and others. Between who I was and who I am becoming. It’s always in transit.

So far, I’ve slept, survived a terrible headache, forgotten what it feels like to start from somewhere other than Scotland, read 2/3rds of ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’, watched episode 3 of Game of Thrones (we’re behind on the new season), and have just enjoyed the process.

More soon.
M

A Marker for Change

Lighthouse, between Craignure and Oban May 2014

Lighthouse, between Craignure and Oban May 2014

22 May 2014
10:20 pm
Edinburgh

T. —

A quick note today. It’s 20 minutes past time for bed.

This lighthouse — I don’t know the name of it. All I know is that this is one of the last pictures I took on my Iona adventure, on the ferry from Craignure (Isle of Mull) back to Oban (back to mainland Scotland). It has become this icon to me: this representation of moving between states of things. A marker for change, for transition.

*

My list of books from Iona:

  • Orkney by Amy Sayerville
  • Otherwise: Poems by Jane Kenyon
  • Ordinary Magic: Everyday Life as Spiritual Path by John Welwood
  • A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
  • Earth Elegy: Poems by Margaret Gibson
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  • Something Understood poems compiled by Beverly McAinsh
  • Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O’Donohue
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • All the Little Live Things by Wallace Stegner
  • S by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst (not finished. I’m taking it to America with me)
  • Eternal Echoes by John O’Donohue
  • Selected Poems by David Scott
  • Horizontal Gatherings 9 by Jan Sutch Pickard
  • Collected Poems by Kathleen Raine
  • The Patient’s Eyes by David Pirie
  • The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Collected Poems by Norman McCaig
  • The Bone-Collector’s Daughter by Amy Tan
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

*

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

– from When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

*

I’m packing for the US and trying to get ready for bed, and dealing with to-do lists, and I’m thinking: what happened to the minimalist life?

More soon,
M

Between Comings and Goings

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21 May 2014
10:48 pm
Edinburgh

T. —

It has been a day to consider excess and the quantity of things. I’m trying to finish reading some books (I owe you my Iona book list by the way… I’ll add it in my letter tomorrow), as well as sort through papers, letters, write letters, print pictures, pack for our US trip. All these things.

At the same time, it has been a day to consider lack: I’m starting a new fitness ritual with a jogging club, and I’m trying to be very mindful of moving into it slowly, as well as keeping it up while I’m away.

It’s funny to be in the middle of things like this, between comings and goings, but I think I’m used to it. I’ve been thinking about all of my moves today, all the places I have come to and gone from. And also thinking that this is where all the things have come from, the safe comforts to hold onto, the books and blankets and clothes that fit me when nothing else in the world will. I’m also wondering if this is where the lack came from: the losing a sense of my own body, my physical existence, when I moved so fluidly through the world. Anchorless.

I feel much more present in recent years than I ever remember being. Not just physically, not just mentally, but in the alchemy of where all those aspects collide. I keep coming back to this, even when the transitions still feel strange and haunting. And even when I see where the holes still exist. I wrote a letter today that ended: it requires courage to take things apart thread by thread. To learn to say no. To know that I am more than the sum of my past habits.

I really missed you.

Goodnight,
M

P.S. We’ll be in the US until the 21st of June (leaving on Saturday). But let’s be honest — it’s not anything to be considered remote. I’ll definitely still be here. I’m back now, back to our letters. Thanks for waiting for me.

Certainly Elsewhere, Ambiguous

20 May 2014
6:08 pm
Edinburgh

T. —

I’ve been elsewhere, but I’m back. I’m here now.

*

The final statistics from my time on Iona:

I wrote 115 letters, sent 35 postcards, and read 19 books. I received 73 letters/cards/postcards. 

I’m really happy with those numbers.

*

I had turned it into a ritual: letter-writing. I had wanted to write you letters of all the various reasons why I went to Iona, because there are so many, and because some of them are contradictory but no less true. I know I only wrote you two. I’m sorry it fell through. I’m sorry this fell through.

But I did turn letters into a daily ritual. I wrote at least a letter a day. And that was something I came to rely on: a marker for how my time passed there. I kept a small notebook and turned it into a letter ledger in between the daily notes, so that I knew who I wrote to, and at least a brief idea of what it was about. Postcard to MacKenzie: The sunset I don’t expect to see. Some of the phrases are stories in themselves.

*

I’m thinking a lot about stories, and how we tell them, and who we tell them to, and why we share them. I’m missing writing my letter every day, and so I’d like to come back to our letters here, and I’d like to carve out time to write letters on paper.

I’m feeling contemplative, but I’m rusty at figuring out what to say or how to voice it.

*

I’m sorry you’ve been going through a lot, and I haven’t directly been here. Some things I’ve wanted to echo back to you:

You no longer have to feel this way. You’re right.

You will be okay. You are okay.

Life is all about the difficulties we have processing things. There’s nothing new or unusual about that. The point is to keep working through it.

*

Yesterday, I went out to coffee with a new-old friend, and he said Do you always speak this way? I tried to get him to clarify, but all I could answer was Yes. Since yesterday, I’ve been turning it over in my head, trying to figure out what speaking this way means. At first I thought it was about delivery, about the way I move my hands to dance the words alive on the table, the way I literally lay things out in front of me. A miming, a gesture of meaning and narrative. But today I think it was more a comment on the questions I ask, the way I look at things. Later in the conversation we were talking about children, and he said I know you won’t coddle your children when you have them. I just get this sense of how you are, and that isn’t going to change. You just continue to be how you are. I do try my best at continuity. I try to be assured, and when certainty isn’t possible, I am assuredly amenable to living with some doubt.

*

About stories that continue to open up
You would expect my story to end sooner than it does, and I would have expected this as well. But I was wrong, as it turned out, about the doorway being closed after the incident with Mordechai Akiva. It was still wide open and only seemed to be getting wider. If at some point in your life you should experience such a confluence of events as I experienced in the time of which I speak, it may seem as though you are a tuning fork or magnet, as if you’ve found your way into a lucid place where many things appear at once and you can see how close you are and have always been to all these things and then you’ll wonder why it is that they have suddenly been revealed. Some of what you see in such a time will change your life and some of it will be forgotten. It is not my intention to speak in riddles, but I will suggest that it is very natural to see all of these things as a big puzzle you must assemble. I will suggest, as well, that certain pieces will not fit, not now or ever, and that you must learn to live with these ambiguities. You must also learn to trust these ambiguities. This is perhaps the most important thing I know.’ (313)

– ‘Day For Night’ by Frederick Reiken

*

I need to give you a list of the books I read.

*

This Morning I Could Do/A Thousand Things
Robert Hedin

I could fix the leaky pipe
Under the sink, or wander over
And bother Jerry who’s lost
In the bog of his crankcase.
I could drive the half-mile down
To the local mall and browse
Through the bright stables
Of mowers, or maybe catch
The power-walkers puffing away
On their last laps. I could clean
The garage, weed the garden,
Or get out the shears and
Prune the rose bushes back.
Yes, a thousand things
This beautiful April morning.
But I’ve decided to just lie
Here in this old hammock,
Rocking like a lazy metronome,
And wait for the day lilies
To open. The sun is barely
Over the trees, and already
The sprinklers are out,
Raining their immaculate
Bands of light over the lawns.
*
Keep moving.
*
More soon,
M