Archive for the ‘just breathe’ Category

I don’t know! Clearly it was a bad decision. Stop trying to cross roads, armadillos! You’ve been around since the dinosaurs – stick around a while longer. Same goes for snakes and turtles. (Sob.)

That’s my road trip wisdom. Also, the Oklahoma Panhandle is one of the most desolate and sad places to drive through. Nothing moves but the wind, and it seems to have blown all the color away. You would not even notice the wind except that it blows your car around, and what trees there are are fixed in a position of permanent strain. I feel sad for them, with no rest.

So I was very happy that before entering the Panhandle I impulsively stopped in this place:

Gloss Mountains State Park. It was still early, and there was nobody there. (I don’t know if that had anything to do with it being early. Maybe no one goes there at all. It seemed pretty un-visited.) I climbed up the path with its rickety stairways, and at the top of the “mountain” – more like what I would call a mesa – I sat and had an apply with peanut butter. Hawks were wheeling overhead. A rosy-winged bird flew over me and straight out over the edge of the mesa, which made me wish I was a bird, and then feel very nervous for some reason. There were so many flowers I didn’t know the names of. Like this:

And this:

The mesa was striated with a kind of stone that a sign told me was selenite gypsum. This is what it looks like:

I took some pieces of it. And then I climbed down. And drove and drove, and then got to Denver. I had a lovely dinner with my Mom, slept, switched cars with Mom (the point of the trip), ate cake for breakfast at this amazing German/Japanese bakery where they make cakes that look like the cross-sections of trees. Went to the Cherry Creek Mall to get a phone charger and on the way out I swear I was hypnotized by a a silver-tongued Israeli flat-iron saleswoman. Left the mall half an hour later with very silky hair, and a ceramic hair-straightener. Wow, that was crazy.

Headed south on I-25, planning to stop for the night in Trinidad, CO, but I was lured off the highway by a sign pointing to the Great Sand Dunes. It’s true, they really are Great. Just look at this:

What are giant heaps of sand doing in the eaves of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains? I don’t know why, because I haven’t read the information they gave me yet. And why did I decide I had to climb up them? I think it’s because it was really out of my way, my footwear was utterly inappropriate, and I did not need to do it at all. Actually, it’s the most frivolous very difficult thing I’ve done in recent memory. I guess I’m craving altitude right now. Anyway, I climbed to what looked like the to, from the bottom, and then when I got there it became clear that there was so much more, but my knees were screaming at me, so I sat for a minute, drank some water, and went back down. Here’s me at the windy not-top:

See, my hair! It’s straight! Behind me is the rest of the dunes – not the part I climbed. Because it’s my solitary road trip, I had to take a solitary route instead of the way everyone else was going. I don’t know if that was easier or harder. What I do know is that I have blisters on the bottoms of my toes (yay for driving eight hours tomorrow with blistered toes) because I climbed the dunes barefoot, and I’m so glad I did. I’m in an Inn now in La Veta – I really meant to drive to Trinidad still, but this place called out to me to stop. It’s so quiet. So quiet.


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People who know things about bugs – don’t judge me. I’m about to write about ants and anthills without actually knowing if what I want to write about is true at all. It feels true.

I’m not a person who has ever destroyed an anthill on purpose, and that’s partly why I don’t know if this thing that feels true is true. But this is it:

My feeling is that if you destroy an anthill, the ants immediately start rebuilding it, or rather start building a new anthill. That makes me so uncomfortable. I don’t know what I would want them to do instead. Stand around? All move somewhere else? Give up on having an anthill at all? Of course they need a place to… do what ants do in anthills. I don’t know. I’m just troubled by the idea that work would never stop. It’s weird.

The last few weeks have been like that. Something devastating happened. Things were bent, broken, crushed, shattered. Real physical things. Many bones belonging to someone I love. Also a helmet, a phone, a pink bicycle. Also my sense of safety (fragile anyway), my son’s sense of safely (stronger, originally, I hope, but then much more precious), our home life, an idea of our future. Ideas, expectations, dreams.

But things don’t stop. Some force of life that is stronger than I could have ever imagined begins immediately to rebuild. Even too quickly. Blood clots to stop its own flow. Bones knit back together any which way. (By the way, that is a very inappropriate word for what bones do, even if it is the accepted word – if anything, they splice, but they do not knit. Any knitter would recognize that.) A body can work so fast to heal itself.

So fast, my feelings, thoughts, ideas, expectations can’t keep up. I’m grateful, of course, for the healing. In awe of it. I’ve never seen anything like it. But part of me is still back there, grieving for the old anthill. Life wasn’t perfect before. I was unhappy about a lot of things. But now here we are racing furiously into the unknown. I know the future is always unknown. But this is such a different unknown from the unknown I thought it would be. I just want to slow down and get used to it. Sit down and figure out what I’m doing. Just for a little while.

Then I’ll get back to work.

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I have learned that it is best not to make promises to my son, even about the smallest things. Sometimes I forget. Like, I’ll say, “I’ll bring a treat for you when I pick you up from school.” And if I remember to do that, then everything’s great. But woe betide if I forget that treat. Because you know he didn’t forget. Even if there is a treat waiting for him at home, which is only five minutes away, that broken promise offends his sense of justice so deeply that two treats probably won’t make up for it. So I really try not to do that. My husband is the first to remind me, via Derrida, that every promise carries with it the possibility that it may be broken.

I feel like I’m breaking a million promises to him – my husband – right now. He’s been in the hospital for twelve days now. What has he had to eat, in those twelve days? Well, there’s the goo from his tube-feed, going straight into his intestines to bypass the surgery they did on his upper intestine, which does not make an empty stomach feel less empty. And there was the cup of applesauce, and the cup of fruit cocktail, that the speech therapist brought to test his swallowing ability. Those were a few days ago – I can’t remember how many. I’m not even sure he can remember anything else from that long ago, but I know he remembers the applesauce really clearly. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s thinking about 90% of the time he’s awake. For days now the doctors have been saying that he should be able to eat really soon. The first time they said “probably tomorrow,” I went right ahead and told him that, because I thought it would give him something to look forward to. And it did. Until they said “no, he’s not ready yet, maybe the next day.” We’re several days past that now, and I can only try to conceive of how hungry he is in relation to how hard he tries to convince me to give him food, even though we all know he’s not allowed to have it. I feel like every day I am breaking a promise to him – although I’ve stopped saying anything about when I think they might let him eat. I’m not stupid enough to keep saying “tomorrow” every day.


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I figured out how to get into the hospital courtyard, which has actual living greenery, and is very deserted. A good place for thinking, although my brain capacity is limited.

I keep revisiting different philosophers, to see which ones actually have anything useful to say in this instance. Maybe Nietzsche – maybe later. No one is feeling the joy of convalescence yet. I feel close to Pascal, but I think he would look down on me for my dependence on technological devices of distraction. Freud helps me understand things – more and more convinced that he’s right about almost everything – but does not offer comfort.

In general, poetry is more consoling than philosophy. Akhmatova is my friend. The stony word that falls on the still-living chest. “I will deal with this somehow.” Grateful to Elena that I can still remember at least two poems from Requiem word for word. Baudelaire never fails. “Sois sage, o ma douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille.” I hear that in the voice of the irreplaceable Douglas Allanbrook, my senior language tutor. “Sois sage,” he repeats, with his white cat, Pearl, prowling around his feet, “is what you say to a little child.” image

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It’s okay

I’m constantly cold. It’s okay. I’m tired. It’s okay. Every hour of sleep, every shower, every meal feels like an indulgence. Don’t worry, moms everywhere, that doesn’t mean I’m not sleeping, bathing, or eating regularly. I just feel like I’m indulging myself when I do. And that’s okay. You’re supposed to indulge yourself every day, right? I can’t make all the phone calls I need to. It’s okay. I can’t pay all the bills on time. It’s okay. Money slips through my fingers like water. Really, it’s okay. My hair is frizzy from hotel shampoo. Whatever. My dog misses me. Sigh. It’s okay. My son gets upset when I call, and I don’t know when is the next time I will see him.

Deep breath.

That is okay.

My husband got on his bike to ride to school for his office hours, got hit by a car, and he’s in the ICU for we don’t know how long.


Everything else is okay.

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