Sunday, May 3, 2020

Pandora's Box of Slides

“Don’t even tell me that you are in the best shape of your life,” she said on one of the 100s of phone calls I placed last week. Isolation is difficult for me. I am a people person. So I sit in my 965 sq ft loft and get on the phone, wearing out one friend after another. I was about to wear out another one. This time, the tipping point was talking about how I was finally finding time to exercise. A lot.

“I don‘t want to hear about it.”

I am guessing that she wouldn’t want to hear about how I am finally finding time to scan my old family slides and photo albums. And I am learning Spanish online. And I am looking up youtube videos about how to make my own mask out of stretched out sports socks. (kind of a fail, btw.)

We have all read the advice from people who genuinely care and seem to know a lot. Advice that says “no, you are not going to learn a new language during the pandemic. And you probably won’t write that book you have been meaning to write for decades. Or repaint and repair all of the broken things in your house.”

I agree completely. No. I am not going to do any one of those things. I am going to do them all. Ish.

I have thrown myself into a lather of productivity in the effort to replace the work that has always taken up so much of my time and given me purpose and joy. And a paycheck. The abrupt rupture with my work has left me spinning with loose and crazy energy. I am trying to harness that wild energy because it threatens to spiral into fury or despair. Or something else that I can’t even contemplate.

I dug up the box of family slides and have been scanning them. I have been on a honeymoon with my parents. I have watched them welcome their first baby and a second - me. I have looked into homes we lived in but which do not reside in my memories. It was great until it wasn’t. But I am slogging through it.

I want to speak Spanish. I learned French in school and so hoped it might be an easy transition. It isn’t. I started with Babbel. A lesson a day for a few weeks. Uno, dos tres.. I am not sure how much is sticking, but it’s worth a try.

And I am working out. Almost every day I lift my tiny weights. I do yoga a few times a week. I ordered a TRX and have been using that - unevenly, I will admit, but still. And I walk. And walk and walk. There is no other way of getting out of the house during the safe-at-home era, so I am walking every day. Stifling and thirsty walking with the mask, but not as stifled as I would be at home.

DIY? Sure, I repainted a piece of furniture and there was the less than successful episode with DIY face masks. I bet I would be making bread if that wasn’t my husband’s thing. How much bread can two people eat?

But at the bottom of the box, I found the personality-typing profile that prepared at a corporate retreat almost 2 decades ago. I probably stuffed it there hoping I would never see it again. But there it is. Judgment in black and white.
  • “… people occasionally see her making decisions that fly in the face of logic”
  • “… she may harbor a belief that no one really understands her or cares about her”
  • “… she may show interest in so many different things that she has difficulty focusing on priorities”

I look around me at the office strewn with exercise equipment, craft supplies, old pictures and slides in a jumble and the clothes I forgot to fold after I did the laundry. And I immediately know that I will not come out of the pandemic like Shakespeare did with a masterpiece. I am, after all, still that earnest and overly sociable woman who, in the 90s, was “easily distracted and may have difficulty disciplining herself to complete the task at all costs.”

Or as my brother-in-law says, “hey look, there’s a squirrel.”

Sunday, April 12, 2020

What I know

I know the sound of her voice
it was the first sound I ever heard
in the time before memories and remembering
there is still knowing. I know I would recognise
the sound, a specific vibration in my skull that I cannot
pull into a memory.

I know she liked pistachio ice cream or strawberry
or butter brickle. I am not sure what butter brickle is
But I know it is delicious and very sweet.

She liked things sweet, like sugar
on scrambled eggs. Not fried or poached,
but scrambled. And molasses. I know she like molasses.
Put it on toast. Black tea every morning,
Red Roses orange pekoe.
She had a favourite cup. I know that but I can't picture it.

I know she was afraid of the water but liked to swim
not in open water, not a lake and not a river, like the one
that took her brother under a layer of ice, too thin to support a boy in motion.

She knew how to make jam and pickles
she made them every year during summer holidays from her classroom.
I know she hated lilies and thought they smelled like death.
Her husband taught her to drive a stick shift and how to ski.
She was a great dancer. She liked the music
of ABBA and Nana Mouskouri, but I never saw her dance

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Andrea's Baptism

Do you recall being bathed in soft yellow
like butter and candlelight and sunrise
all distilled in one perfect moment?
Do you remember this sight  filtered through 
the lids of your squeezed shut eyes?
Because you were there and it was there.

Do you remember all that beauty, 
right at the beginning of your story?
A story that would chase perfect light and colour
and then more perfect light and colour, always
seeking the lines and shadows that illuminated you 
at the very start

Friday, March 20, 2020

Soft Focus

My slide scanner is today's ouija board
summoning you from the digital darkness where
you dwell on, forever
twenty-five and impossibly far from sorrows
that lay ahead. The end not even thinkable.

Your face startles with its sudden appearance
on my screen. Pixels resolving into you, blurry
vaguely out of focus and out of reach. And so young,
your face unreadable as you consider your photographer.
Your new husband. Was he a disappointment yet?
Or is that longing. You must have wanted him then.
A desire that would endure beyond tolerance
and defy reason.

What does reason have to do with it, you might
be thinking. The light is soft. The man is here
and there is only now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Love in the Time of the CoronaVirus

We are together. Washing
hands and holding
each other in the dark and sometimes the light
of these very dark days and dull
times.  So much time
to listen to the clock’s digital hum
and the whisper of my breath while clouds echo
the grayness of the news.
And I remember a season full of sun
and risk when I would have given anything for an hour
of time alone with you, away from the tugging world
and our lives apart.

Wait, just now.
Is that a quickening of my breath? A stuttering 
of my pulse?
Fear, passion, virus.
It feels the same.