August rushes by like desert rainfall, A flood of frenzied upheaval, Expected, But still catching me unprepared. Like a match flame Bursting on the scene, Heat and haze of crimson sunsets. Like a dream Of moon and dark barely recalled, A moment, Shadows caught in a blink. Like a quick kiss; One wishes for more But it suddenly turns to leave, Dragging summer away. – Elizabeth Maua Taylor“August”
August is rushing by in its anxiousness to be done with this summer of upheaval: too many tears and too much tragedy.
The sky in weeping empathy leaves a quick moist kiss on our cheeks, dripping bedazzled.
It won’t last; we know these dangling drops will fade in the heat of the moment.
This wilted, withered summer won’t leave easy ~dragged away still kicking~ we’ll wave it goodbye, blowing our kisses in the air.
I took the dog and went to walk in the auditorium of the woods, but not to get away from things. It was our habit, that was all, a thing we did on summer days, and much there was to listen to. A slight wind came and went in three birches by the pond. A crow uphill was going on about the black life it led, and a brown creeper went creeping up a brown trunk methodically with no record of ever having been understood by anyone. A woodpecker was working out a deep hole from the sound of it in a stand of dead trees up there. And then a jay, much put upon, complained about some treachery it may or may not have endured, though most are liars anyway. The farther in, the quieter, till only the snapping of a stick broke the silence we were in. The dog stood still and looked at me, the woods by then already dark. Much later, on the porch at night, I heard the owl, an eldritch thing. The dog, still with me, heard it too, a call that came from where we’d been, and where we would not be again. ~John Foy, “Woods,” from Night Vision
We live near fields and woods so the evening walks we take with the dogs are listening walks. There is always plenty to hear.
It is an immense relief to hear something other than the talking heads on TV or podcasts. The voices we hear in the woods are unconcerned about upcoming elections, pandemics or the state of the economy.
I listen for the sound of breezes rustling the tree branches, the crunch of sticks and dry leaves under my boots, and more often than not, the woodpeckers tapping away at tree trunks, eagles chittering from the treetops, and unseen owls visiting back and forth from their hidey-holes. The red-tailed hawks scream out warnings as they float from tree top to tree top, particularly upset that we’ve brought along the corgis into their territory.
So, like the outside world, this woods has its own talking heads and drama, but I know who I will listen to and where I prefer to hang out if given a choice. I understand I’m only a visitor to their world and will be invited back only as long as we tread softly.
I found a box of old hours at the back of the fridge. I don’t even know how long it had been there. Summer hours. Smelled like roses. ~Duchess Goldblatt on Twitter
We all have things we’ve forgotten tucked away in the back of the fridge. A good cleaning now and then will surface some things that are barely identifiable and, frankly, a little scary. But those of us who are nostalgic creatures, like the delightfully fictional Duchess Goldblatt who dispenses desperately needed ascerbic wisdom on Twitter (of all places), also store away a few things that just might come in handy on a depressing day
I like the idea of taking these long summer days, the countless hours of daylight and slowed-downness, putting them in a box and pushing them to the back of fridge for safe-keeping. I might even label it “open in case of emergency” or “don’t open until December 25” or “fragile – handle with care.” In the darkest hours of winter, when I need a booster shot of light, I would bend down to look as far back on the fridge shelf as possible, pushing aside the jam jars and the left-over pea soup and the blocks of cheese, and reach for my rescue inhaler.
I would lift the lid on the box of summer hours and take in a deep breath to remind myself of dewy mornings with a bit of fog, a scent of mown grass, a hint of campfire smoke. But mostly, I would open the box to smell the roses of summer, as no winter florist rose ever exudes that fragrance. It has to be tucked away in the summer hours box in the back of the fridge. Just knowing it’s there would make me glad.
I used to think the land had something to say to us, back when wildflowers would come right up to your hand as if they were tame.
Sooner or later, I thought, the wind would begin to make sense if I listened hard and took notes religiously. That was spring.
Now I’m not so sure: the cloudless sky has a flat affect and the fields plowed down after harvest seem so expressionless, keeping their own counsel.
This afternoon, nut tree leaves blow across them as if autumn had written us a long letter, changed its mind, and tore it into little scraps. ~Don Thompson October
We’re in a time of seasonal abundance but our emotions are spent from containment through lock-down, shelter-in, social distancing, zoom-in and zoom-out.
As I meet with my patients via a televisit, I try to read their faces and find that along with the flatness of our screens, our emotions are flat too. My usual gentle humor to lighten things up becomes pointless – it is hard to elicit smiles these days. On the other hand, there no longer is a need for abundant tissues for tearful conversations because no one will weep on screen. There may be a hint of emotion in a catch in a voice, but I have yet to see anyone actually cry in two months of telehealth conversations. That would be too vulnerable – somehow being on camera suggests we need to put the actor-mask on, be expression-less, strong and invulnerable. And somehow my patient knows I can’t reach out as I would in an exam room, literally and verbally, to reassure them I’m present and listening. I’m not really present on a screen even though I’m listening.
And while out in society, we must literally hide ourselves behind a mask that conceals our smiles as well as our grim-faced frowns.
So our social and clinical interactions are as flat as the screens they play out on.
We need some unchecked tears about now, as well as endless belly laughs. Perhaps there will be a reawakening to the range of emotions we have taken for granted before finding ourselves in this time of restraint and restriction.
As we reintegrate and reunite, slowly, carefully and compassionately, let us re-experience in 3-D what we have been missing in our virtual meetings: tears that accompany joyous reunion as well as the lament of all we’re lost during this time.
I eat oatmeal for breakfast. I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it. I eat it alone. I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone. Its consistency is such that is better for your mental health if somebody eats it with you. That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have breakfast with. Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary companion. Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal porridge, as he called it with John Keats. Keats said I was absolutely right to invite him: due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime, and unusual willingness to disintegrate, oatmeal should not be eaten alone… ~Galway Kinnell from “Oatmeal”
But when the melancholy fit shall fall Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud, That fosters the droop-headed flowers all, And hides the green hill in an April shroud; Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose, Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave, Or on the wealth of globed peonies; ~John Keats from “Ode on Melancholy”
Oatmeal porridge and melancholy, poets and peonies, stay-at-home orders and quarantine, a rising COVID-19 death toll; a week of walking through the suffering of our Redeemer.
To be glutted with melancholy: I am not alone in feeling it is already too much to be borne on a holy Monday morning~~ nothing more need be said.
We do what we can to understand why He does what He must.
The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater. — J. R. R. Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Ring
Worldwide. a tsunami of tears overflows in households and communities as COVID-19 wreaks physical and economic havoc in hundreds of thousands of lives. We experience deep sadness and grief when older folks with health conditions are taken by a virulent pneumonia within a matter of days, often dying without a familiar face nearby. And there is no end to our distress when up to 40% of hospitalizations are for younger victims of the virus, most of whom survive, but too many don’t and won’t.
Our sorrow fills a chasm so deep and dark that it is a fearsome thing to even peer from the edge, as so many of us do, praying for far-flung family and friends to remain healthy and unable to be of any direct assistance even if they become ill. We join the helplessness of countless people in human history who have lived through times that seem unendurable.
We don’t understand why inexplicable tragedy befalls good and gracious people, taking them when they are not yet finished with their work on earth. From quakes that topple buildings burying people, to waves that wipe out whole cities and sweep away thousands of people, to a pathogen too swift and powerful for all the weapons of modern medicine, we are reminded every day – we live on perilous ground and our time here has always been finite. We don’t have control over the amount of time, but we do have control over how our love is heard and spread.
There is assurance in knowing we do not weep alone; Our Lord is acquainted with grief. Our grieving is so familiar to a suffering God who too wept at the death of a beloved friend, and who cried out when He was tasked with enduring the unendurable.
There is comfort in knowing He too peered into the chasm of darkness; He willingly entered its depths to come to our rescue with His incomparable capacity for Light and Love.
This year’s Lenten theme for Barnstorming:
God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are. ~Tim Keller
Angels, where you soar Up to God’s own light Take my own lost bird On your hearts tonight; And as grief once more Mounts to heaven and sings Let my love be heard Whispering in your wings ~Alfred Noyes
The sun came up chased by dogs Across a field of snow. As they passed the pile of broken logs Frost fluttered in the air Between the birch trees Standing in that spot exactly Where the ridge becomes a hill.
The sun goes in animal delight Over the farthest edge of earth Not far ahead of night And jumps into the dark pool With a last great splash of light. ~Tom Hennen from “Winter, Thirty Below with Sundogs” from Darkness Sticks to Everything.
Winter reduces me to my elements: light/dark chilled/warm hungry/sated empty/filled sleep/awake gray/gray.
It is a holding pattern of endurance, awaiting a sun that will linger longer, arrive earlier, and actually be felt, not just apparent in the distance.
I pray for a dawn or twilight splashed with color. Lord, any imaginable splash of color will do.
Moss the color of malachite weaves its way up and under bark crevices of an old oak. Enchanting furry tendrils reach out as I walk past, my head burrowed against the January morning fog.
Because it seems the sun has vanished for the foreseeable future, I am so lost in grayness I resist the curled invitations to dig deep, to engage to applaud the colors of the fog even as it surrounds me. ~Claire Weiner,”The Sun is in Hiatus” from VerseWrights Journal
Come here and share the rain with me. You. Isn’t it wonderful to hear the universe shudder. How old it all, everything, must be. ~Eileen Myles from “And Then the Weather Arrives”
I’m looking longingly at a weather prediction for rain all day. I want gray, wet and miserable when I am buried in a windowless room at work all day.
Some winters bring too much perfection for too long: 360 degree views of snowy mountains and foothills that gleam in the sun, glistening crystalline fields of frost, sparkling clear waters in Puget Sound, and bright blue cloudless skies. It is difficult for any northwest native to tolerate. It is hard work keeping up the smiles and general good humor that goes with excellent weather. There is always a clear expectation that one should be outside enjoying the rare sunny day, when it is far more appealing to curl up with a good book and a warm dog by a roaring fire, pretending not to notice how nice it is out.
We native Washingtonians are congenitally grumpy people, born to splash through puddles and lose our boots in footwear-sucking mud. We don’t carry umbrellas because they are useless when our horizontal rain comes from the side, not from the top. We wear sunglasses on mid-winter sunny days because we can’t possibly get our eyes to adjust to so much brightness. We perpetually wear sweatshirt hoods and baseball caps, even when we are indoors, just in case, because you never know.
Gray is preferred. Gray with wet and cold is even better. No one even questions my staying sequestered inside on days like this. Being in a good mood would be highly suspect.
So I savor the opportunity to act outwardly disgruntled with such obvious justification as a rainy evening.
Downright crabby. No apologies needed. No excuses given.