I have two paper bags and a USPS bin of mail sitting untouched in the spare room. Seven empty bags of yerba maté scattered across the big wooden table in my room. Eight long lists of things I need to do littering the floor, herb books, my scribbled up calendar folded open to April. But when I have a free hour I do not clean my room or sort my months-old mail. I do not spend hours on the phone lining up appointments or checking tasks off my lists. Instead when it’s quiet I read in the afternoon. In the morning I sit in the sun with a cup of hot yerba maté and let my mind drift. When I make effort beyond the basics or the unexpected, they are small moments, small things, planting cat grass seeds in the patch of dirt where the cherry tree used to be, watering the pots of succulents beside the pool. Three days ago, I cut a window in the big ball of ficus tree and hung the bird feeder in the hole. You can see the trunk, the branches, the feeder like a little house in a cavern of leaves. It feels like a real tree now, and birds are coming. House finch, white crowned sparrows, towhees. When I watch them I think the veil between me and the world might be thinning. Nothing is easy in me, but I think it might be easing.
Two turkey vultures soar above the back yard
silent and slow, unhurried
The near full moon rises in the early dusk
as we walk, arms linked
Hot yerba maté, as if it is life I swallow
in big noisy gulps
Great horned owls call from the big pines
at my old elementary school
Even though I think I don’t deserve the gift
Yet they keep calling, again and again and again
For longer than I have ever heard an owl call
And I wonder if they are responding to my love
or if there is a secret message
in their muted voices
as late dusk turns to near dark.
I’ve cancelled my writing groups for the month of April. People are wishing me well, supporting me in this choice to take care of myself. And I just keep explaining it’s not like I’m taking a holiday. It’s not like I expect true respite here. I am only reaching for a little less stress. This is an act of desperation. Attending any Zoom meeting right now requires superhuman effort. Leading the meeting pushes the stress into the extraordinary range. I adore my Meetup sessions. There are beings there I love with every bit of me. But I can’t relax into them right now, can’t bring my whole self. My attention is split and scattered, my body anxious, stiff, my heart constrained. I am going on hiatus in the hope I can find a way to lead these sessions again with an undivided heart. I miss you already, my dear ones. May April be good to you.
I am on the phone with my good friend. She mentions in passing, on her way to another story, that she once did a documentary with Julia Roberts. I am standing in the back yard, and I watch my mother walk down the hallway inside the house, obedient with her oxygen, so the tension in my shoulders lessens. Two red-tailed hawks appear against the blue and fly slow circles above me while I listen to my friend’s voice. And all at once it is one of those moments, when everything aligns, and for several seconds I am not understanding words, only standing there, taking in the sounds. The hawks feathers brush against my cheeks, and I am at the center of it all.
I have a hundred things sitting on my shoulders, turning them to bricks, dangling off my head like snakes or like the orange cat sitting on the teenage boy’s head in the funnies the other day. Harmony escapes me most of the time, except moments like this, with all of us writing together, and the house finch singing outside the open window.
I am grinning, my spirits lifted a bit by the lightness of humor, by just being together, and maybe because we are such funny creatures, we humans. We have a history, of course, and a present, both far from funny. You do not need to hunt for atrocity in our world. It lives large on every page, large print as we grow older, maybe even the books we love to hunker down with, embrace the horror with the unlikely heroines, or dream of the day when the U.S. Congress is finally, forever and ever, no longer so hideously white and male, but dark skinned and female and queer all rising to the fore.
[Spontaneous writing session with the words humor, hunker, hunt and history.]
It comes on me in quiet moments, between one moment and the next, looking out the window in between tasks or standing and waiting for my tea kettle to boil, that deep longing for my little trailer home. I remember what it was like there when I could just let things fall away, in my courtyard under our big desert sky, or sitting in my living room listening to the house finch chatter on the open louvers on a hot summer afternoon. Sleep is different there, too, deeper, simpler, and waking seemed quieter, gentle and easy, lingering longer in the space between sleeping and waking, the delicious heaviness of the covers in winter, the cold air on my face, turning over, maybe, to court more dreams, or to lie awake in a kind of quiet joy, letting my mind roam.