Sunday, April 24, 2022

Long weekend visiting old friends

people we haven't seen since before the pandemic, in a place we haven't visited in years before that, but here, we so easily fall back into the rhythm of our relationship, as if nothing has changed even as everything has changed. Let me tell you a story about this friend

a time when I was entangled in a toxic stew of a mess way beyond my paygrade (I was a volunteer) with people who had utterly confounded me, and one day after a particularly exhausting and maddening interaction, I found myself crying on the phone to her, and then, just as suddenly stopped

because I didn't DO that, cry in front of people, never mind spill out my guts, so I immediately apologized, and my friend said, gently, You don't have to apologize, Jody, you're my friend. Which actually got me crying again for a moment, because how kind that was, and what a gift, never mind a lesson in how to be a good friend. 

This time there is no crying, but lots of catching up and lively conversation. Also, we had to install the Little Free Library my husband had made for her and her husband. This is a new hobby of my husband's that started back in the fall when I asked him to build one for me and has morphed into him making several more, including two for an elementary school in our neighborhood. 

I am bragging about this here because I know he will never brag about himself but LOOK HOW ADORABLE THIS IS:

One of the topics I keep bringing up in conversation with everyone in my orbit is how do we make sense of Things, the utter craziness of the world lately, or really, forever, as some of us are only more recently waking up to it, and no one seems to know the answer. Sometimes, I confess, I can get quite emotional when I bring up this topic, and I immediately want to reel it back in, apologize, but this time

I don't, remembering who I am with. We are sitting on the front porch, drinking our coffee this morning, and one of my friend's neighbors walks by and comments on the new Little Free Library and how nice it is. It is warm and sunny and lovely outside and birds are singing all over the place and my friend shows me an app on her phone that can identify bird sounds, 

and then we go back to chatting and sipping our coffee and it occurs to me that there is no answer to my question because we can't make sense of things that don't make sense. 

And maybe that's okay, at least in this moment, when there are little free libraries and spring mornings and coffee and kind neighbors and singing birds and dear friends.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

One Sunday morning

in church and I was little, squirming in the polished pews, my baby brother crawling under the seats, popping up like a prairie dog between the other church-goers' feet, the irritated sighs and judgmental whispers, and no one in my pew capable of fixing the situation. Embarrassed, I stalked outside and did flips on the metal railing by the rectory until a priest caught me and asked why I was skipping mass, 

but how could I verbalize back then my shame? For my brother who was too young to feel it. For my parents who were old enough but didn't seem to feel it either. And who else was going to take on the feeling but me, and what an expert I became at that. Regardless, 

it wasn't a good reason to miss mass, so the priest led me back inside the church, and that was double the shame. Triple. Quadruple. The mortification blooming, swelling, replicating like a virus. Be kind to them, he told me. Forgive them. 

I did. I did. Still, sometimes I wish he'd said be kind to yourself too, for you are also worthy of forgiveness. That lesson took half a lifetime to learn and it didn't happen in church. This morning 

the two newborn mourning doves in the nest on the back porch bob their small heads, their parents, good parents, close by and mindful. My husband coos at them, and after a beat, they coo back. God only knows what they are saying, but isn't it lovely, the song.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Yesterday it graupled again

Graupel is a word I've just learned. Basically, it's a version of snow-sleet-hail. On a spring walk with the dog, the sun shining when we set out, then turning, the dark clouds moving in, spitting the strange mixture out. It bounced off my coat sleeve and off the dog's head. Soft pellets that remind me of styrofoam balls, and I can't help thinking about the end of the world, like the pictures my son sent me from San Francisco when the city was surrounded by burning fires and the sky went orange.

When was that? I search the word orange in my journal and find this entry on September 10, 2020: "the light is orange and eerie. [My son] told me a few days ago that he and his girlfriend have jugs of water in the car and are ready to go at a moment's notice. He said, if we go, we'll just keep going and never go back." 

I had forgotten he told me this. Something handy about keeping a digital journal is that I can do a word search for anything. Orange, for example. Or my mother. Holidays. The dog. Places I traveled. Lettuce. And every kind of weather--and instantly find my thoughts on whatever topic going back nearly twenty years. 

For the past several weeks I've been reading David Sedaris's collection of diary entries. David Sedaris is a serious journal writer and I love him for it. His first set of published entries can be found in the collection Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) and his latest is A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003–2020). The entries cover the mundane: overheard conversations, recipes, how much money he earned at odd jobs--

to the serious: his mother's cancer, his troubled relationship with his father; and in between, lots of funny and absurd encounters and observations. He says in the introduction that he could've chosen any number of entries to include and given a totally different sense of himself--as someone more stupid or generous or selfish or sensitive. "On any given day," he says, "I am all of these things and more."  

The same year of the orange sky, our next door neighbor climbed a ladder and took down the orange painted shutters on our new-old house. I made cranberry-orange nut bread with my daughter when she was living with us during the lockdown. One day my mother brought over some oranges and an open package of figs.

I wrote: "I don’t understand the fig thing. She said she didn't want them. Not sure why she wouldn’t throw the rest of the package out. This is interesting to me. She and her siblings were raised in a poor household and now, 75 years later, they’re still anxious about waste. It makes me wonder how long the effects of covid will last. Kids growing up now—what will it do to them fundamentally? Crowds, hand washing, coughing, masks?" 

I forgot that I had written this too. It's a weird feeling keeping a journal for so long. Regularly since 2007, but before that, sporadically, going all the way back to when I was nine years old. I wrote for myself, or sometimes I envisioned a Future Me reading, and now, I guess, I am the Future Me. 

In two years, five, I imagine myself doing a word search for graupel. It won't show up at all until April, 2022. And then, maybe I will never write about it again. 

Or maybe it is only the beginning of our strange weather.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

First Seeds

It snowed two days ago, but today I am planting lettuce. Years of pushing seeds in the ground and I still think there's something magical about the first shoots poking up out of the dirt. A month from now, two? I will be collecting whole salad spinners worth of leaves and if that's not a sign of faith, hope, love, I don't know what is. The world keeps whirling.

The mourning dove that (stupidly, ignorantly, kindly) sat on a cowbird egg last year, is back and possibly about to hatch another cowbird. Every time I open the back door to let the dog out, the two of us look at each other. Not the dog. The bird. Her eyes are glassy and wide and I have never seen them closed. Always vigilant. So, we have that in common.

For a year I have been writing pieces of something that could be a memoir. The process is like digging around in the dirt. What's down there? What should I leave right where it is? What needs to be lifted out, exposed to the light? The truth is I don't know.

The truth is I have something to say, but I'm not sure I should say it. But when has that ever stopped me? My plan for planting the lettuce is to clear the moldering leaves from the hard, packed ground. See what lies beneath. Draw lines with my finger in the dirt and drop the seeds. It may take the entire afternoon, but I'm in no hurry. It takes time to plant,

time to hatch a cowbird, time to write the truth.