A friend sent me a book of poems and I read it and I thought what do I say now? Wow? So good? Amazing? True and also weak, because those adjectives could as easily describe a slice of pie and while I love pie, love also being a word corrupted by overuse, pie does not slice – ha – through the layers of thinking thinking thinking encircling my brain whereas poetry cuts right past the brain into the heart into that place where feeling instinct response unfiltered resides.
My research on house sparrows yields varying results. Some bird lovers – those enamored by bluebirds, particularly – hate them for being bullies. They don’t look like bullies, the little brown things, chests of black and patches of white, snuggling up in the garden path taking dirt baths all day long. I have noticed a lack of robins, however, and wonder if the sparrows – not real sparrows, the internet says – are to blame. For the record, the mourning doves remain plentiful, the ospreys still traverse the sky and the turkey vultures trail shadows over the kale and strawberries every sunny day.
I wonder where all the time I’ve saved not traveling has gone. It certainly has not made itself available to me. Work – I am blessed to have a job – has escalated into nonstop emails and tasks I dutifully add to my list even as I doubt they will ever get done. Payday arrives and I open my “Bills/Debt” Google Sheet, make sure I have enough for the recurring donations – the NAACP Legal Fund and Humboldt Baykeeper – and subscriptions – the Times-Standard, Pimsleur an array of glucose products from the diabetic supply store. I tumble from work into making dinner as my husband arrives home, drift into the evening tallying all I failed to get done (including Pimsleur). One night I rejected that way of thinking, pulled out a journal and wrote down everything I had accomplished. The list was long and I should do this more often.
My brother tweeted a while back: “The stress of this is killing me,” I thought, before remembering that tens of thousands more people are actually going to die.
To sit and savor the garden seems obscene. To spend money on vodka, whiskey, another pair of soft pants, when lives and our democracy are at stake and I still lack any semblance of an emergency kit? Random flashlights, a promotional life straw, a cache of batteries and empty liquor bottles refilled with water will not see us through the coming collapse. I grow distant from friends who do not adopt the severe attitude appropriate for these times.
The words landed like an arrow in my heart. The pandemic terrifies me. I fear my husband will catch COVID and die a terrible suffering death. I fear my son will, that my daughter will, that my other daughter, the healthier one will, because I have forgotten to worry about her as much and lately she’s been having trouble breathing. I fear for friends and other family, especially my small nephew Dudley – my brother and his wife have decamped to her parents’ ranch in rural Washington where Dudley can be safe. I fear Dudley and his little brother Artie won’t know me by the time we see each other again. I think every day of how to make a fun video to send, clips of various animals I’ve already accumulated. The osprey that flapped up outside my office window. The small fish in the Van Duzen. A fat beetle scooting along the sand.
I regret my poor memory, my brain too often saddled with stress or deadlines or alcohol to hold on to recollection – I am not a collector of much. I remember to get the mail, hoping for a magazine and the biscuit cutters I ordered. An osprey flaps across the sky, sunshine glinting off the silver fish clutched in her talons. I call out to my husband in delight, the osprey! She has a fish! Look up!
Maybe this is a time in which forgetting everything, everything that doesn’t serve at least, makes sense. To hold on only to what’s dearest and tuck what hope can be found into my heart. To focus on the sweetness of the strawberries and let the sparrows be.