writing to survive
. . . only the retelling counts

Beyond thinking, beyond thought, beyond sleep

I’m not allowing my brain to tell my fingers that it’s beyond thinking, that it’s had enough and needs more sleep because it’s an aging brain, a middle adult brain, but my fingers (stiffer now and slower on the keyboard, missing strokes left and right, their skin serious, grownup, marked with gloveless winter days and showers too hot by degrees), my fingers have got their own problems.

I wanted to turn this into a rant post. I have a number of rantable topics: the rheumatologist who mixed up PFAPA medications (or mixed up their effects; no harm came of it, it was just a big mistake that undermined my confidence in her). The dust and fur and crap adorning every surface of this house, probably even the walls, and the way my sweater is coated with cat hair because I'm sitting on a couch that needed cleaning a month ago. I could complain about the half-eaten state of the front yard, about the shaggy pile of dirt and trio of empty pots by the steps, waiting to be tripped over. But these are happy reminders of a truly fine morning with the boy (more on that later), and at the moment the yard is lightly blanketed in streetlight darkness, invisible until the gleam or gloom of tomorrow. My psych class is always good for a rant, too, but the topic and my whining weary me.

I’ve been carrying around an unexpressed anger today, a suppressed fit ready to smoke up the room with the insanity and inanity of it all. It’s fun to write about it, to go with the run-on sentences and the stream of consciousness. I need to write. I need to attack the baseboards with a damp cloth and a bucket of hot, soapy water. I need to make vet appointments and brush the dog and coat the backyard in a fine mist of water and weed killer. I need to fill the cracks in the dirt with fresh cut daisies and fake ivy , with metallic pinwheels placed evenly along the meandering path.

But I’m done. I’m done. There’s good stuff to balance out the small irritations. Like Thursday morning with the boy. We pulled our little red (plastic) wagon to the local gardening store, filled it up with succulents, a kumquat tree, and starter sets of lettuce. We even got two six-packs of corn seedlings. Corn! He planted them in the long high planter out front, where the sugar snap peas thrived earlier this year. The corn may thrive; it may not. It’s a fun experiment and, as the boy said, no matter what, the plants will be beautiful. Our own little bit of the Eastern Shore in our Berkeley concrete front yard.

Last weekend was good, too. In a 48-hour period from Saturday night to Monday afternoon, I was a textbook reading, quiz taking, homework and discussion board question writing machine. It was beautiful. The only interruptions were the dog and my need to eat, with a couple of welcome visits from my husband and the boy. It was enough human contact to keep me sane, but not enough to make me feel like I was responsible for the well-being of anyone else but Nora-dog. Perhaps it spoiled me for the real world.

In about 20 minutes, I’ll head upstairs for the bedtime routine. After the usual ablutions, I’ll sit in bed with a cat on my lap and write down the things I am grateful for. I’ll open
The Virgin Suicides, read a few pages, and close my eyes. Asleep, I'll fall into the land of the dead, where I explain to them the basics of the coffee press and the latest from the New York Times, just as if they were there with me, ready to sit in companionable silence over an old-fashioned Sunday newspaper.


Image by Ed Yourdon.

Pretty f***cking lucky

It’s nine o’clock on Saturday night and I’m sitting in the semi-darkness of a rental condo on a golf course in the Sierras, drinking a glass of Riesling that has just the right hint of sweetness, listening to the Rain Birds distributing water over the well-trimmed green. Nora-dog is across the room, resting her head on her front paws in quiet sleep. The pine trees on the other side of the course are only silhouettes now, shaggy creatures looming at a distance from a darkening backdrop .

Outside of the dog and the crickets and the hum of the icemaker, I am alone. Tonight the boy and his dad are at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, about twenty miles from where I currently type. Our house/dog sitter fell through at the last minute. School deadlines loomed. This is our compromise, a way for me to be with them some of the time, while being connected to the ether and my books the rest of the time in order to get my work done, in addition to keeping Nora company.

It’s a little strange. Right now the boy is sleeping under the rush of pine needles, or maybe he’s still awake, staring at pinpoints of stars. My husband is having a glass of wine with friends by lantern light. And I’m here on the scratchy couch with my feet resting against tan carpet, my mind attached to my computer. Yes, I like sleeping in a real bed and I prefer my bathroom down the hall, not down the path. And I am grateful to be this close, to be a part of things in a way. So how can I really complain? I am thinking of this as if it were a retreat, a time of studying and quiet with family activities mixed in.

It’s 9:20 on Sunday night and I’ve stuffed my head enough for the day. I am slowing down and whatever else I would read tonight will take me half as long to digest tomorrow morning. One quiz down, one discussion question drafted, referenced, and posted. Last night I was feeling all lyrical and one with the golf course landscape, but tonight I am in a different place. The boy and his dad came over in the afternoon. We ate bad food at a place that smelled like stale disinfectant. Before that, the boy ate all my baby carrots. We got some groceries (a woman cannot live off of macaroni and cheese, cherries, and rugelach alone).

The boy told tales of sneaking out of camp activities and creating potions, of seeing fish swimming in the river and having fun and laughs with his friend S. I’m missing it and I’m not missing it. If I were at home (one of my options), I don’t think I would have gotten as much work done. It would have been lonely in a different way. I wouldn’t have been able to hold the boy close and listen to his stories. And I would have taken time to clean. The house desperately needs cleaning. But this place is not my cleaning responsibility.

Instead, I’ve plowed through some school work. I’ve had a few deer sightings. I have listened to crickets and admired the big dipper, heavy and low in the mountain sky, as tangible as childhood. And I’ve let Nora sleep both on the couch and on the bed. Even though she’s a little confused by the situation, she’s enjoying the little luxuries.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty fucking lucky.


Image of Nora resting her head on the couch pillow, tonight, by me.
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