The Shape of the Wind

The woman sat across from me, ankles crossed, hands in lap, classic clinical posture. The younger woman sat slightly to the side of me, a still yogic statue, big eyed. We made a triangle, sitting there in my office.

“I’ve got skin in the game.”

The women seemed to really like that statement. So real. So peer.

I felt tired of it all.

The crossed-ankle woman, the senior clinician, leaned forward, her face lit up with an idea. “What if…what if you came and told your story to _____?”

I kept my face neutral. “Yeah, maybe I could do that.” I shrugged to emphasize my ambivalence.

Thought to myself, “Well now, how would that go?”

Imagined the scene, the big table and torsos surrounding, the smiling faces, the kind expressions, the hands clasped on the table. The windows and the sharp-lined slats of heavy brown shade contraptions, blinds. The look of the day outside, the look of the light. 

I could feel my chest get tight just thinking about it. What would that be like? I would have probably about 10 minutes, which may be stretched to 15 for people to ask me questions about my lived experience and how that impacts and adds value to the work I do.
Note: by adding value, I mean to say that I give significance to my workplace experiences that other people may not give to their workplace experiences. However, I also mean that my lived experience and the insights it brings to this work adds value, in that it means something to the people I work with that I have experienced some of the things they have experienced, and that I understand that my experiences of things like involuntary commitment are different than other people’s experiences, but that –  hey – I have had something like that happen to me.

I find it so distasteful to sum up entire pivotal life experiences with phrases like, “I got sent to the hospital.”

There is something silencing in being expected to do that, preferred to do that, for the sake of being concise, brief, not going into to much detail, too much trauma, nothing unnecessary, and be linear, do not loop back to how the experiences connect to each other, just like my going into medical shock after I broke my elbow at age 8 never would have happened if I hadn’t broke my spleen on Christmas Day, age 6, and spent those months in the hospital, which I hardly remember at all, save for two distinct memories. What those experiences have to do with me losing my mind years later.

How would I tell my story to those people?

They don’t want to hear my story.

Not the way I’d tell it.

I was 12 in 1988, when the market for adolescent psychiatry opened up in a big way. I had grown up on family land, the land my father had grown up on, the land my great-grandmother still lived on, an old woman with her face slack on one side from a stroke.

I loved her. She played cards with me.

That year, I rode the bus to school from one of the bus stops in the subdivision that had been built, over the two previous years, on our family’s land, which was no longer our family’s land. We still had a pocket of woods, at the back edge of what my great-grandmother called “the neighborhood,” and we still had our house, and the pasture, and my great-grandmother’s house, the little house behind it.

Our road was still intact, up until the paved road crossed it.

From that point on, our dirt road was gone. There were houses on it. A girl I knew from school who was from Connecticut and had yellow goo on her braces all the time lived in the first house that had been built on top of our road. The first “phase” of the subdivision was complete, just three streets, with stubs of paved road edging up to pine trees and palmettos, waiting in the hot Georgia sun, for Phase 2, and Phase 3. More naked lawns, more sod, more stump removal services, more holes dug for pools, mailboxes, the cul de sacs like cocks and balls as I rode my bike on the new pavement, swooping around the streets like I still owned the place. Riding through yards, going around in circles, an adolescent vulture in a tee shirt and white Keds, because that’s what all the girls at school were wearing.

I had never been popular, because I didn’t know how to talk correctly when I went into elementary school, and had to go to speech therapy for four years, and I wore glasses and brought my bear to school, and karate chopped a kid over a marker set in Science class. I lived in the woods and my nails were bitten and my mom cut my hair.

I got a perm in the sixth grade, and started wearing contacts. I knew how to talk by then, how to say my own last name.

I started blow-drying my hair, pushing my bangs up and freezing them with hairspray like a wave. I could get very tan, and my family – suddenly – had money, a white Jeep Cherokee.

Besides, school was full of new kids, Navy kids. Kids who did not know anything about me or my speech impediment, my elementary-years oddness.

The Base had gone into full operation, quietly at first and then with a great influx of personnel and a regular launching schedule for the nuclear submarines that were sleeping out in the water by Crooked River, out by Cumberland Island. The population expanded by something like 20,000 in two years. They had to build a new school. It smelled like paint, and was shaped just like Phase 1 of the subdivision, a line with three lines extending from it, like an E.

There were kids who had lived in Guam and California and Connecticut and Virginia Beach, Alaska even. With the influx of Navy personnel and their families, there was an influx of new cultures and subcultures. Many of my friends had Filipina mothers, Chinese mothers. There was suddenly punk rock and rap and new accents that were almost non-accents, because none of the military kids lived anywhere for very long. One new girl came to school with a shaved head, a fringe of bangs, a skinhead haircut and a bomber jacket.

That was the year I was 12. I had started smoking cigarettes with some of my new friends, had started to like the feeling of rock and roll. I was sobbing in my room, I was laying there stunned in the morning. I refused to go to school. I was on-guard, not at ease with anyone. Only at ease by myself, and not even then. Never at ease.

We pulled into the parking lot in the mid – morning, a low light blue building, Southern office space.

“Faith, we’re concerned about you. It will be good to try to get some help.”

The rooms were bright along one side of the building, the white light of sun through plastic blinds, glaring rectangles in the walls. There was hardly any furniture in the room at all. Chairs, a wicker and glass table, some brochures. A desk.

With each test, they explained what I needed to do. “Tell a story about why what you see,” the psychologist held up a picture of a furtive looking woman, a young man in the distance.

I went on and on, creating an entire exposition of friendship and misunderstandings, family conflicts.

In a room with no windows, they had me lay back on a reclined exam chair, and affixed the electrodes around my hair line and along my scalp, told me to go to sleep. I woke up surprised that I had slept, and they told my mother and I that I do not have epilepsy.

At the end of the appointment, the psychologist lady sat down with my mother and me in one of the bright rooms. “Your daughter is very intelligent,” smiling a peculiar stretched smile in my direction. They spoke for a few minutes about how I was smart, right on the edge of genius.

My mother nodded along, “Yes. She is so smart.”

“However,” the psychologist shuffled papers on her lap, “your daughter also seems to be showing signs of depression, which is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.”

They talked for a few minutes about counseling, about what to do if my depression got worse, and we said goodbye, walked out into the blare of sunlight and raw parking lot heat.

I felt a new sort of quiet, a new unease. I didn’t know what to say to my mother. She didn’t know what to say to me. We didn’t say anything.

I still had the electrode goo in my hair. I felt tired on the way home, crossing over the bridges.

Walking into the wood-smell of home was a sweet relief.

Nov 23 (1 day ago)

to me

Today is the day that I am going home. I will keep driving on the road on I take to work, will go right past the airport, and on down over the mountains, drop into the flat lands and then further down still, trace along the coast in the dark, and I will be there. I woke up early, two and half hours before my alarm went off, and felt calm, a little disconnected from the reality of this trip.

My left turn signal went out last night, on the way to drop off my daughter and then go to the store. “I will go to the oil change place and get it fixed. I want to have a turn signal tomorrow.”

The young blue-clad tech shaking the car as he wrestled with the bulb. Exclaiming a few minutes later, calling over his coworker. Showing me, “See, this looks like the same bulb, but these connection points here, see how they are lined up.”

The two silvery nubs sat right across from one another, perfect orbit.

“Look at yours,” he held the two orange glass bulbs beside one another. The connector points on the bulb they had pulled out my car were positioned at an angle from one another, like 6:05, instead of 6:00, or 12:30. 3:45, 9:15, etc.

I made plans to go to an auto – parts store, probably in my hometown on Friday, because I didn’t want to try to find an auto parts store on Thanksgiving Day, when I have a Mexican Fiesta to attend and traveling to do.

At the grocery store, after paying, I had a brief moment of wondering if I should not go. If I should stay home. Get the light fixed. Write here, in the mountains.

I do not know if I should trust the part of myself that pushes up the idea that if I don’t go, I will have made a grievous error, that I will regret it, that some pact I made with myself will be broken and unfortunate (or simply null) consequences will result.

There is a little bit of pressure with that notion, that this is something I, ahem, must do.

How do things like this, strong leadings, fit into non-attachment, or being in the present?

I guess it is in the attachment to outcomes, the expectation that if one does a) then a desired b) will occur…there’s where problems could occur, attachment and disappointment, hurt over the way things are.

How does that fit in with hope, that motivation to create something, that longing for certain things to come to be?

Acceptance would mitigate disappointment, a focus on the learning and growth that comes from deeply hoping and not getting what you hoped for.

Those who believe in a higher power that works within their lives in “mysterious ways” might trust that something was in store for them, that their higher power had reasons for denying them their hopes.

I think Garth Brooks wrote a song about that once.

I have some discomfort in the thought that our ego’ed perceptions and interpretations of what God wants of us, what we ought to do, are apt to be sorely misled.

I need to go pack, ready the house for caretaking. Go.

There is so much in this life, sitting in front of a fire while the sun comes up and the day begins. With children across town, and family out in the valley, and a place down the road, and objects to move, things to do, so many people, all with their own vast lives.

There is just so much.

I am excited to go home. To see what happens.

I do not know what will happen.

I will be okay.

10:04 PM (17 hours ago)

to me

It was nothing at all, stepping back into this house. Pressing down the latch of the door, pushing it open to scrape across the floor in a way it didn’t before. Either the hinges are sagging or the house is sinking. I haven’t been here long enough to know.

This is the dome. I grew up here. This photo was taken, incidentally, from the same vantage point as where I lay 35 years ago and could not breathe, because my chest and abdomen were filling up with blood spilled from my broken spleen.

Walking back into the house, was nothing at all. I’d done it a million times. Easy. The latch on the front door is still bent from where I slammed it so hard when I was a teenager, walking out or walking in.

I crossed into GA right at the precise moment of sunset, but it was cloudy and drizzling and low-skied, so there was no sunset to speak of, just a quick fade from dim to blue to black.

For most of the drive, I felt glad to be traveling, but not totally engaged with or excited about going home, though a timid happiness was stirring around every once in a while.

I listened to the radio and danced in the car and smoked cigarettes and drove the speed limit. There were hardly any other cars on the road for most of the drive, because it is Thanksgiving.

I got here in under 7 hours, like time had slowed down.

Right after Savannah, it hit me. Just a low rumbling around my heart, a shaky full feeling. I put my hand on my chest, made myself breathe more deeply. Checked my speed. Felt my butt in the driver’s seat, my sore hip.

Used to be that I’d have expected myself to fall apart about going home. I figured I might feel some feelings, but have been fairly committed to staying out of anything oriented around despair. Love can feel a lot like despair sometimes.

A massive joy rolled up out of me, made my whole head tingle, the points across my cheeks and jaws prickly and electric feeling, the very top of my head, where my skull used to be soft, bristling and warm. I felt my whole belly fill with this bright blue excitement, and my face lit up smiling in the dark, driving alone.

I needed to eat something. I was hungry. My blood sugar was probably low. I opened the window, turned off the radio.

I was happy to be going home, happy to have grown up in a beautiful place.

The sensations of my head about to explode with eustress subsided a little, and I took a deep breath,  turned the radio back on, some random country song blaring, but I threw my fist in the air beside me anyway, out toward the empty passenger seat, “Hell, yeah!” I hollered, “I’m going home!”

I threw a couple of right hooks, just to shake off the jolt of thrill I’d been riding with the past few miles.

I thought that it’d be strange, turning onto highway 40. It wasn’t. It was the same as it was, basically. More cluttered, more lanes, but the same straight line it always has been, with pines and pavement.

Before I came home, I drove downtown, to go to the Oak Grove Cemetery, to see if I could find my great-grandmother’s grave, my great-grandfather ‘s grave. It is Thanksgiving.

It was well-past dark and though I remembered which row they were on, it was hard to remember where exactly in the long and haphazard row their graves were. I had to climb over two walls, twice. I tried not to walk over any graves, but it is an old cemetery, very crowded, some headstones only nubs, some graves not marked at all.

I am hardly afraid at all anymore.

It didn’t seem remotely creepy to be wandering around out there at Oak Grove. On my second pass along the row, I almost didn’t look at the two graves near the wall. I was sure that I had checked them before, but decided to check them again anyway, fairly certain they were a King or a Gross.

The name of my great-grandmother lept at me in the light. Bam. There it was.

I wiped off the soggy oak leaves that had piled in the center of the big marble slabs, noticed the simple inscription, At Rest. Patted the headstone. Said hello. Sat down on the wet stone, watched the wind blows through the moss.

A golf cart drove by. This is now the sort of town where golf carts just drive around downtown.

Entering the subdivision, I found the roads torn up and a bizarre mess of cones snaking through the rubble. A bulldozer was operating, at 8:00pm, on Thanksgiving. Huge worm-like hoses coiled up near the cones. Great mounds of sandy dirt were piled along the edges of the road.

There was another bulldozer back near the house, parked where the old Arnow house was, building another road.

I didn’t feel much about it, the bulldozer, the road. I just found it interesting.

I would think that maybe I’d be triggered into some outrage about the machines and the land, the gouged earth. While I found it ugly, brutal, the torn up woods and dug up soil, the machines grinding and roaring, I didn’t *feel* much of anything.

When I walked into this house, it was just like it always has been.

Warm and wood-smelling, seeming to smile in the eaves and in the roundness of the dome.

“Hello, house,” she said as she pushed the old door open. “I’m here.”

9:00 AM (6 hours ago)

to me

I woke up early again, at 4-something. By a little after 5:00 I was running down the dirt road in the dark, passing by the surveyor flags and bright reflective flashes on the hulking dump truck that sat in whatever was once the small pasture by the barn. My plan was to run all of the streets in the neighborhood, and then – if I felt like it, to do it again, and then again. That’d end up being a long run.

By the time I had looped back through two cul de sacs, passing by only a bored – looking small dog and a raccoon skittering up a lawn, I had started to decide that it’d be okay if I only ran the streets once. My hands were cold, my head was hot. I took off the headlamp. I didn’t need it anyway. There are streetlights here.

I felt alright running, an easy pace, but not sluggish, breathing well, thinking about the idea that I’d had, to run around the neighborhood, raising the dead.

Well, not the dead, exactly, but the spirit of this place, the spirit of this land and all the people who have been here before what is here now.

This felt like something I’d like to do, as a way of honoring this place, and affirming all the life in this land, these waters.

As I curved around the cul de sacs, I waved my hands toward me, thinking “C’mon, C’mon, wake up…”

I was talking to myself more than anything, trying to find some alertness or great feeling, some energy. I was awake-but-not-on-fire, running through a boring late-20th century Southern subdivision in the very early morning.

There is an aspect of my experience which involves nearly constantly wondering if I am crazy. This consideration is largely reflexive, and is more analytical than it is judgmental.

“Is it weird to think that just because I was a kid here, and feel connected to the land that I can somehow summon the spirits of this land? Is it weird to even think about these things?”

As I write this, I am grimacing a little, both because I  am cold and because I am realizing that, yeah, it’s weird.

Who is to say that there are even spirits in land?

I don’t mean spirits. I mean electricity, atoms. Molecules. Energy. Who is to say that the things that have existed within and have been a part of land areas, whose bodies and old-time forms have been buried or burned into the ground itself…who is to say that any elemental remnant of sentience or soul remains?

Crossing back by the road that leads to the dirt road that leads to home, a road with a street sign that has my great-grandmother’s name on it, I looked at the silhouettes of the remaining pines and oaks, situated at the edges of yards, at the back of the lots, and felt a fondness for them, a fondness for how familiar they are to me, the look of them. The tall trees are the same trees that were there twenty years ago.

“They are just trees.” The land didn’t feel especially alive to me. It was just a place. I ran a little faster, and imagined my footfalls, tiny vibrations, making their way down through the pavement, into the earth, the small spaces.

The wind felt good, gusty and full of river, cold. I stopped thinking about raising spirits and whether that was weird or not, and just focused on running, trying to feel good running.

The neighborhood is the most boring place ever to me. I don’t know if it is so much boring as it is deeply baffling and disgusting in ways that act so powerfully as to shut me down to any feeling or thinking at all, because what is there to feel, what is there to think.

Oh, so much, and nothing at all. It is just a place. A truck pulled to the end of a street named some made-up name. Two of the streets in the neighborhood are named for my great-grandmother, and one street, the one closest to the highway, is named for the family who owned the land before my family did, the family whose house my father took apart to build this house with.

All the other streets have made-up names. Oak Stump Circle. Longwood Drive.

The truck paused, and I was a woman running in the dark, wearing a hat, my glasses reflecting the streetlights.

“Nobody knows who I am here. I don’t live here.”

I liked that thought, but it was still odd to me, that nobody knew that I lived here before they did, that this land used to be my home. That our road runs right through their living rooms, even if you can’t hardly tell there was a road there at all, except for the gap in the trees running straight up through the neighborhood.

I had a couple friends on every street when I was in middle school. I slept in at least one house on every street in the first section of the subdivision. As I ran, I thought about the people I knew who lived there those first few years after the land was developed. I have no idea who lives in those houses now. I don’t know what their lives are like.

I wondered if it was crazy to be running through a subdivision at 5:00 am. I didn’t feel crazy, though I didn’t much want to be seen, which was part of the motivation for running in the dark. I didn’t want to be looked at. I could wear a hat and put my hair in a bun, and wear long leggings or big socks to cover the tattoos on my legs. I would have a sweater on, so my back and arms would be covered. I would have on my glasses. Nobody would recognize me, would stop their car and want to talk with me. Some of the people back on the land near our house, people who live in my great-grandmother’s house down the river two bends, people who build houses on the pasture, cut down all the pear trees, a couple of them might recognize me. Maybe not.

The chances of me running into somebody at 5 o’clock in the morning are pretty slim.

Besides, the part of me that thinks about what a good time to raise spirits might be figures that the pre-dawn hours would probably be alright. I wasn’t looking to raise anything malevolent (haha, famous last words). I had thought about what the inclination was about, what I was hoping to accomplish by this thinking about raising spirits.

Peculiar, I am picturing a male psychologist type fellow, sitting cross legged in a chair, a clipboard on his lap, khaki pants, a lot of sandy beige tones. “So, do you know what you were trying to accomplish with the, um, spirit raising? What did you hope would happen?”

Ugh.

There is such a taboo about things like raising the dead. Jesus Christ.

I ran down the long swoop of road that is the main artery of the second subdivision phase. Remembered once being out running when I was 14 or so, on that very same road, in blazing summer midday heat, being startled when a car pulled up beside me.

It was my smug and smart-alecky used-to-be-a-delinquent-in-New-York-City-look-at-where-I-had-my-ear-pierced psychiatrist in a Mercedes, smiling, saying he was just taking a drive around. It wasn’t that surprising that he’d be in the neighborhood. His office was right up by the highway. He said it was good that I was out running, that I looked healthy, and then drove on away.

I intensely despised that man.

It was getting colder as it moved toward sunrise, and my knee hurt just a little, my lower back pinching every so often. Another car was coming up from behind me, and I broke into a sprint to hit the corner before them, to not let them catch up to me, pass me.

My hair was down, in thin triple braids all the way down my back, like three ropes. I was wearing purple sweatpants, an old moss colored sweater. I was probably a strange thing to see in the early morning. Running as fast as I could, turning that corner tight.

I got a wicked cramp as I moved from the pavement to the dirt road, and slowed to walk, pressing into my side, breathing slowly and deeply. I was in the section of woods that always terrified me when I was a little kid. The land that had been cattle fields that was then planted over in start straight rows of pine timber.

When I was young, I would get a forceful panicky feeling in those woods, like something was rushing at me. I felt the edge of that sort of fear walking in the dark through that corridor of pines, but I could see the lights from the houses that were built by where the road used to fork, and I asserted that nothing in those pines could hurt me, that I didn’t want any trouble out there in those pines, on that dark road, that no trouble ought to visit me, wasn’t welcome.

I straightened my posture and felt more at ease as I walked past where the old Arnow house used to be, the house my father took the wood from.  There was a tremendous grove of redbuds there for a long time, amongst the stray bricks and old rotting wood, rust – crumpled nails. The shape of a backhoe was sleeping there. I felt nothing.

The water in this house is sulfur water, from a freshwater well dug way down into the earth, down further even than the bottom of the river. Some water underground, a lake under the river. When I was a kid, I could not smell the sulfur in our water, because I was used to it. This morning, the smell was strong, but I didn’t mind it. I liked it. It smelled like home.

I wanted to be sure to be out on the dock at sunrise, though the sky was cloudy again. I wanted to see what they day would start out like. I walked out over the water and sat down on the cold wood, looked over to the new dock built out from near where that my brother and I had found those dead baby boars in the burlap sack.

The day would come on weak and grey, the sun just a dim silver behind the clouds. The light went to blue, and the marsh began to get some detail.  The sky was soft and grey. A November morning. Even with the clouds, I could still see shapes. A rolling wave shape along the upper ridge of one of the cloudlayers caught my eye. The shape of the wind.

1:11 PM (2 hours ago)

to me

It occurred to me that I ought to be reverent. Here I was, back home, watching the day come slow and grey. Here was the sky, the very first skyscape I ever studied. Above the rolling ridge of clouds, I saw a shape like a triangle, and thought about the drawing I had done the week before, last Friday morning, picturing what spirits rising and saying goodbye to this place looked like in my mind, a dispersing strand of triangles over a field that loomed vaguely like the sky, with a river drawn in under the layers of chalk pastel, covered up.

A dark shape like a heart formed up to the left of the triangle shape. It was the sort of heart I have thought about getting tattooed on my middle fingers, there between the first and second knuckle, one heart facing out on my right middle finger, one heart facing in on my left middle finger, little hearts that are clean edged and deep-clefted.

I took some pictures, because that is what I do when I see something I want to remember. I take pictures, and I think about how I might write about that moment.

It was cold on the dock, and right before I realized I ought to be reverent and look around, feel a little fucking amazed why-don’t-you, you are home, you came back to this place, here is the river, here is the sky,

I had been thinking about this interview with the musician St. Vincent that I think about every few days lately, how the artist was saying that it just doesn’t matter at all whether someone thinks you might not be okay, not in this day and age. It just doesn’t matter.

“I have a cowardice in me.”

These words rose up and I sat with them, knowing it was true and feeling all my reasons and all my justifications, all my explanations, rise up behind them.

“…but . . . but…”

“I have a great cowardice in me.”

Maybe that is how I will start the introduction, begin the query. It is not such a complicated scenario. I have been writing for over seven years. I have a book in me. At least one book, probably more.

Driving last night, there on I-95, I thought about the possibility that I might find my team of collaborators and that we might successfully create a book containing this story, which could ostensibly be marketed as a mental health memoir documenting the intersections of fucked up genius, psychiatry, and spiritualism, but which necessarily delves enough into my experience of psychosis and subsequent recovery to explore frameworks of understanding extreme states as a function of unique styles of cognition operating under the duress of sustained stress and trauma responses. In discussing the ways that psychosis manifested in my life, I will not be able to avoid talking about what was going on in my head and heart when I tried to prove God with pictures of clouds on the internet.

“What was I thinking?”

I will need to explain my reasoning, and share details of moments when reason faltered.

I have so much old humiliation around those times. I think that is where my cowardice comes from.

However, I was thinking last night, there on i-95, that I was bound to have to face some flack if I tell this story in a way that helps it to do what I want it to do, what I believe it needs to do. Probably quite a bit of flack. A lot of people will call me crazy, and will make fun of me. Some people will try to discredit me and make me out as a fool.

Some people might hate me.

I have read a couple mental health memoirs before. There are some books that almost every person with a certain diagnosis in a certain demographic has read, e.g. Jamison ‘s Touched by Fire, white middle class American women and their mothers. Why would someone who wrote a mental health memoir be scorned, ridiculed?

In most mental health memoirs, things like trying to prove God are written off as psychotic debris, delusions of grandeur, mania. These experiences are offered up as evidence of how truly sick one was, to be thinking and feeling and believing such outlandish things.

I would like to explore the conundrum of my experience as an atypically intelligent person with a remarkable set of life circumstances happening upon a series of expansive ideas rooted in empirical observation and a priori experience. I have no interest in considering my experience of believing I could prove something like God (or at the very least offer an elegant theory on the origins of human written language and iconic composition, or provide vernacular data to support an existing theory) as a dismissable by-product of mental illness.

 

The ideas I had about God and clouds and patterns in nature, about sense and language and sky-watching…those ideas are still solid in my mind, tenable. I do not know if my theory would hold up to further inquiry, but I’d like to find out.

Just a little bit ago, taking pictures of vague cut outs and reliefs of perfect equilateral triangles in the thin wisps of clouds out over the river, I thought, “Dang, it’d be nice to know how that happens, how a triangle shape can be cut out like that, how another can form from gathered clouds?”

There are so many things I’d like to learn about.

Sent: November 24, 2017 8:57 AM

2:43 PM (1 hour ago)

to me

The warmth of the dome has a soporific effect on me. The sun hits that room all day long, arcing it’s way across the sky, heating the space up like a incubator. After I came home from running, took a sulfur water shower and wrote for an hour and a half, took pictures of the sky from the dock, sang a warbling and quiet amazing grace, because that is something that has helped me to connect with my own spirit, thinking about the times I have sung that song, various circles I have sat in, singing with elders and wounded folks, lifting our voices. At some point, watching a heavy shred of dark cloud drift down in the mid-day, I shifted my humming, to Prayer in C, a another song that connects me to my spirit, taking segments of video a minute long, a minute and a few seconds.

I took a nap in the mid-morning, woke up feeling warm and logey, dull in my mind, sort of blank feeling laying there in a sunbeam. I remember that feeling, of being tired and sort of blank, from when I was young. Warm and wilted, content to just lay like a cat in a swathe of sun. It was okay. It made sense that I was tired. I work hard, had traveled the day before, got up hours before dawn, ran in the dark. I let myself lay there a bit longer, got up, ate some bread with peanut butter, drank a few tablespoons of honey, sat on the deck outside of my room for a few minutes, wrote some more.

“I have a great cowardice in me.”

Maybe that is how I will start off my introduction, begin my query.

I needed to go to the autoparts store, to get a new turn signal bulb, and I had the idea that I ought to go into town and find some WiFi, go sit at Seagle’s or the Riverview Hotel downtown, copy some of these recent messages to myself into a document that I can edit with no Internet. I also had the idea that I wanted to get the small tattoo project I had had in mind done, here in my hometown.

I thought I might stop in at the tattoo shop I’d seen by where the old papermill used to be, but driving downtown I saw another small shop tucked into a mid-80s shopping center, beside an Army-Navy surplus store. Turned onto the street that ran alongside the building and cut through the strip of grass to the parking lot. Young man with a big ol ‘ beard, like he was from the mountains, a riot of old ink on his arms, a small line-work bird on his left hand. I made arrangements to come back in an hour.

The bar at the Hotel was closed, but the woman sweeping the floor of the lobby said I could use the WiFi anyway. There is a row of typewriters here on the bench beside me. I like this place. It is nice to know that even when the land and the dome are sold, there is a place that I could come to. We stayed here once or twice, at the Hotel, when it was the only hotel here in town.

We were having the house fumigated.

Sent: November 24, 2017 1:08 PM

[Note: I have actively avoided opening my computer today, despite the fact that I came here with the intention of writing. I have been writing, plenty. 8000 words over a couple of days. On my phone. While participating in family and community activities, and then travelling. I haven’t begun the documents that I set out to create. This visit home strikes me as a significant starting point. There is a lot I want to take note of. For example, this evening, as the sun was setting, I decided to take a walk around the old place, the little hemmed in area of land around the house. See how things look.

As it turns out, things looked weird, old and broken, in abject disrepair, covered in moss and leaves.

The old screendoor lay flat on the side porch, the wooden walkway was broken through, a part of the enclosed pool collapsed under the weight of a fallen limb, some hurricane or another. There was a massive mound of fallen and cut branches and limbs near the barn. It took me a full two minutes to walk slowly around it, filming with my phone. I don’t know why I like to do things like that lately. Probably because I am a latent cinematographer or something.]

While I was walking around the big pile of limbs, I caught glimpse of part of an old cedar tree. I could smell it. Decided I’d cut myself off a chunk of it. Got the saw out of the car. I brought a saw, a phillips head screwdriver, a flat head screwdriver, a small trowel, and a pair of bypass pruners, a sharp pair of scissors.  I almost brought a stapler, but who the hell needs a stapler while traveling?

I brought tools in case I needed to cut any branches, scissors for paper. The trowel for any small digging projects I may encounter or be inspired to undertake.

As I sawed, I looked around and noticed more wood I wanted to take home, and also noticed that the sawdust from the cedar tree was a dark pink. When the split end of the torn log I was sawing came loose from the rest of the fallen trunk, a segment split off, exposed the perfectly smooth and dark rose heart of the tree, the first decade of growth.

I pulled the small jagged tears of wood off the main trunk, saved them for my dad for kindling, a holiday gift. Moved the cut log and the kindling over near the car, set them down like luggage waiting to be loaded. In the little tidal wash to the left of the house, where the water comes up high sometimes, there was an old river beaten cedar trunk, bleached white-gray, all the places it’d been cut were worn smooth by water.

I had seen it the day before, and though – hmmm – I should take that home. I like sticks. Branches. Especially if they come from a place that I love, from trees that I know. It was kind of a big stick. The trunk of a small tree. I picked up one end, sizing the length, the potential that it would fit in my car. I was feeling less attached to the idea of taking it home.

I don’t know how I didn’t see them before, but when I was standing there holding that tree trunk I looked down and saw that the tide-gathered marsh grass was littered with bones. Hip bones, shoulder bones, something of leg, an animal leg. Probably a deer. They had been cut in places, and were not old, still yellowy, not bleached, not dry. “What a weird fucking place this is.”

I took a picture of the bones. As I was edging around to check them out from another angle, I noticed an amazing twist of old root. Possibly even from the cedar tree that had stood there when I was a kid, the one I was hoping to take a dead or dying branch from, to sit with. It isn’t here anymore, that tree. However, there under a scraggly palmetto, was a root, damp and smooth and twisted into all sorts of forms and figures. I leaned down to pick it up, half-expecting it to be caught, still attached to something big under the ground, the rest of the root structure, but it lifted easily, was light.

When I was young, and growing up here, and when I was older and coming home here to visit or to live for brief periods of time. I would find things on the river bank, feathers and old bottles, once a broken figurine of two people dancing, both missing their heads and their feet. I consider those objects to be of the utmost importance, the things that I got from the tides, and they occupy protected areas in my home, mantles and high shelves.

The root will go home with me.

I set it with the cedar log and kindling, then moved it to sit atop the electric box, the dull green box that wires this property in with the town’s electrical grid. I could quite get the frame and light right for a photo, so I filmed it slowly, moving along its form. It was challenging, and my hands shook. My foot was in the first effort, and so I did it again, and it felt like tai chi, to hold my hands as steady as I could and to move my body to move the camera. It was fun.

Figuring I’d take a picture of the dumptruck in the pasture and the spot in the woods where in a dream I had when I was a kid I saw a mirror hanging in the branches of an oak and when I turned back to my family, who was walking on the dirt road with me, they were gone. There are more roads back here than there were. A backhoe sitting smack dab in the middle of the spot where the old Arnow house had been, a monstrously huge machine where there used to be a house, where now there is only a chimney standing solitary in the woods.

I looked down the pine road, and saw that it was beginning to take on that creepy feel in the fading light. “I should walk down it,” I thought, “and then walk back. I will walk down the road I was afraid to walk down.”

Because I had been videoing various segments of this trip, small portions of mediated experience, I decided to video my walk down the road I used to be scared to walk down. Such straight pines, so much burnished brown on the sandy ground, bone colored ground. The space around the trees was darker than the trees themselves, so they stood out, straight and in a line. I looked around as I walked, holding my phone in front of me. Noticed out of the corner of my eye that, so far, the video was going to just look like some Blair Witch Project shit. Kept walking. Noticed how, all the sudden, it was dark on the screen, except for the cutouts of the shapes of trees against the getting-dark sky.  Noticed, also, that I hadn’t hit record. I started videoing 1/2way down the road, only slightly disappointed that I had missed the first part of the walk down the road I used to be afraid of.

The tree shapes were compressed into inspecific contrast forms on the tiny screen of my phone. I felt a little nervous, walking down the road, just my footstep sounds and the sounds of a few late-day birds, some early night insects. I wasn’t scared though.

Watching the trees in front of me and on the screen, which was also in front of me, so that I had a split view of the world, in real-size and in miniature, I saw that there was one curve that traced through the branches that looked like a snake, and that there were globs and cuts and triangle shapes shifting up in the trees as a I walked, like a kaleidoscope animation, the overlay of different branches, clumps of leaves. It was beautiful, the shapes and how they transformed as I moved under them, one thing turning into another, turning into nothing at all.

I turned back, still recording. The video was getting long, but I didn’t want to miss my walk back through the woods, especially because the light from the still not-totally-set sun was twinkling at the end of the road, a flickering point that, as I moved forward, became bigger, a rectangle. The trees whirled their dark shapes against the sky, and the moon came into view, a bright white smudge on the screen.

I was having fun, looking at the world I was walking through, imagining different ways to see it.

It is morning now. I went to sleep early, the dome a dark circle, squirrels on the roof, something moving around under the house. There are so many noises here.

Twice, I have heard what sounded like footsteps, felt the house move a little, but nothing came of it, and I wasn’t scared. There are big machines working everywhere during the day, sawing noises, engine noises, heavy objects slammed on metal. The hollow ring of brick on brick. Today, I will saw some more cedar logs, and try to push the fallen leaves off of the porches with part of a broom I found under the house.

“What is going on with all these doors?”

“Doors? What doors?”

“In the barn, in the front part of it, there are 165 doors.”

“What? I don’t know anything about any doors.” Calls to my father, “Do you know anything about 165 doors in the barn?”

She speaks to me again, “He doesn’t know anything about it either. Hmmm, who knows?”

The doors probably belong to the person who is buying this land, who will own the barn. He is in, predictably enough, the construction business. Probably got a good deal on a lot of doors. 165 doors.

That’s a lot of fuckin’ doors.

This morning, I woke up later than I have been, at 5:22, and wondered why the alarm I’d set for 5:05 hadn’t gone off. Ah, it is not programmed to go off on Saturdays.

I checked the sky for daylight, but it was still very dark.

I had ½ planned to go running again, do the same loop around the neighborhood, the most boring run ever. A subdivision in the dark.

It is good for me to do these things, this running in the dark, going down unpleasant roads, because it forces me to try to find something of value in the experience, some way of tolerating it, of not quitting. Today, I got a stitch in my side at the beginning of the last mile before I was set to turn back, and I slowed way down, but I didn’t turn around early, though I almost did once, in the middle of the 2nd road that is named for my great-grandmother, tract houses and Fords, flags and bumper stickers. So many people live here.

Yesterday, when I ran, I pretended/imagined/considered raising the spirits of this land, and this morning I briefly revisited that notion, curving around a cul de sac.

It felt silly to me. Almost something to be embarrassed of. Creepy.

This morning, I wasn’t feeling much of my audacity. I felt a little old as I ran in my purple sweatpants. Didn’t really care.

This whole season has been a process of resolving my core sadnesses and ousting my longstanding insecurities.  Making peace.

Nevertheless, the doubt that undermines, again and again, has been leaching into me this morning. Sits in my belly like a goddam sinker, solid and heavy. This choking fucking doubt.

Doubt and my cowardice are bedfellows.

I have written 10,000 words in several days, and have felt good about what I have written, as I was writing it, but then that horrible doubt seeps into the good feeling, whispering, “You won’t actually do it, won’t actually finish. Even if you do, nothing will happen. You won’t do anything. You’ll embarrass yourself.”

Oh.my.fucking.god.

Enough.

See, the thing is, I know where that voice in me comes from. It comes from motherfuckers is where it comes from. People who have been dicks to me.

So, for that reason, if for no other reason, it is important to me that I go ahead and say fuck doubt, and go through the motions of doing this thing, in the best way that I know how, even if the doubt gets so strong that it crumples me inside. I can edit when I am doubting and have nothing to say.

I probably won’t be doubting so much as I have heretofore tended to, because, like I said: Fuck doubt.

It is an uncomfortable feeling, the doubt. It is in my body as much as it is in my head. Sensations. Feelings. A sense of weight across my chest, forgetting to breathe. My lower lip pushes up at the left corner, my heart hurts. Doubt makes my heart hurt.

She got up from where she was sitting with her back against the warm, south-facing wall. Slumped into an air mattress, the blankets making lumpy ridges underneath her. She was not uncomfortable in her posture, and the sun beaming through the plexiglass triangles of the dome room was warm on her legs. Her heart hurt a little, though. Felt soft with some tightness in its core.  Something bitter, like the taste of pennies. Her head got foggy when her heart felt like this, all the sharpness gone, just vague and distracted thoughts, a rummaging through times her heart has felt like this. Such a basic human tendency, to struggle to turn from discomfort, to remember pain.

She got up from where she was sitting, and moved a few objects around, put clothes back into her bag, put her vitamins away. She’d go back out to the dock. Sit in the sun. Be there for a minute, think about this doubt that had crept up in her. Try to get rid of it.

As she crossed the small strip of yard between the house and where the bank of the river began, she thought about how she had come across those bones the day before, how weird this place was now. Creepy. So much moss. She walked her heavy heart out to the dock, sat in a square of sunlight, looked around.

To the east/southeast, there was a broad swoop of clouds. Cold weather clouds. Wisps of ice hanging up in the sky, barely stirred by wind. She saw that one of them looked a little like a fist, another like a hand. She looked for the clean lines and angles that she found especially interesting in clouds, because she didn’t understand how such a perfect line could be made with something so soft as air and water moving in the wind.

Immediately, she forgot about her doubt. “It comes back to this,” she thought. “The shape of the wind.”

There was no wind up there, so the clouds just stayed in the forms they were in, only slowly shifting, another line, a triangle, a well-spaced grouping of density and light, a graceful curve carved cleanly. “This is all I want to do.” She felt that kickback, that backlash, doubt re-ignited.

She knew that it was possible to construct a life in which she got to spend more time in beautiful and tragic places that mean something to her, to spend more time gawking around at the sky and the trees, taking pictures.

My interior experience when I am watching clouds is one that I have come to think about as a state of attentive awareness, an open, but observational perspective. Noticing what is happening in front of me, what my reaction is, what thoughts and feelings are inspired. What comes into my mind.  I try to maintain focus, but let my mind drift. I am careful to split my attention between the image on the screen and the actual, real clouds.

I like to study them on the small screen, because the image – a big, big sky – is condensed, and it is easier to see some of the formations. When clouds are strewn across the sky, it is difficult to notice and to see the different parts of them, the eye is pulled in so many directions.

I look for lines, and angles. Also forms that look like something, a figure or a wing or a letter, eye-shapes. There are some compositions of cloud clumps that remind me of the points of light around the heads of saints in stained glass windows, such perfect spacing.  Other groupings of clouds look like stories, arrangements of cloud-ridge figures, standing and crawling, a tendrilous arm outstretched. I look, also, for letters, ways that the angles and lines arrange themselves in such a way as to resemble scraps of written languages, strange partial symbols, pulling together and then dissipating.

“Maybe I should call it a project. Just lay the whole thing out.” She balked inside at the thought of it. However, she knew it was a good idea, that these plans and notions she worked on tirelessly in her head were, by definition, a project. A big idea with several different components.

Her audacity is inspired by cloud watching, because her curiosity is inspired by watching clouds. “If nothing else, I really just want to find someone who can explain to me how that happens, why triangle shapes form in the clouds, and at the edges of trees.”

She knows that she could probably research this, and could likely find an explanation, some physics of patterns in nature. However, she thinks it will be more interesting to try to find someone who might help her to understand this atmospheric phenomenon by writing a book and starting conversations about rudimentary patterns in nature and the origins of written human language and religious iconography.

The crowd boos and hisses. “Get the fuck out of here, Audacity.”

The woman pulls Audacity from out behind the curtain, says: “Take a deep breath. It’s no big deal. We don’t have to listen to them. They’re just haters. Doubters. We can do this. I can do this.”

She holds tight to Audacity’s hand, feeling the bones of it. Begins to step forward, feels the resistance, the holding back.

“I can do this,” she thinks. Turns, studies Audacity, who is not feeling so audacious at the moment, who is actually cowering a little, meek around the eyes. “C’mon,” she urges, pulling audacity forward, “I can do this, but I need your help.”

She knows that all she needs to do is to go back downtown, to sit in the lobby of the Riverview Hotel and to upload her 1:00 videos to youtube. To put together a post of the 11,000 words she has written, spend some time in town, write some more. Saw more cedar logs. Write a letter.

She came down to the coast to construct a query, to devise a way of introducing herself and her work which encompassed the scope and vision of the project, but which was brief and charismatic, though not gimmicky, sincere. She thinks that being direct in what she is seeking is probably the best way to go, to simply offer some information about the situation, in the form of a longitudinal multimedia project proposal, and request consideration.

I might need help creating the proposal though.

That is what I was supposed to be doing while I was down here. Creating a project proposal, drafting a query letter. I have gotten off-track with those goals because I have been documenting my experience of coming back to this place, what I have been thinking about, what I have been noticing.

However, I think that I am closer to having a project proposal created than I was before this trip, because I have a better understanding of what it is that I am proposing. A book, yes. However, if a book is created to do something in the world other than to just be a book, a story on bound pages, then it becomes a project. I could – and may – simply write the book the best way I am able, but I feel like I’d be well-served by some guidance and feedback in the process, keeping in mind what the function of the book is, who it is being written for, what the aim is.

[Hours later…]

To make a golem for a book, you must first have the idea, driving alone on an interstate several days before you go out of town. Your friend from New York City told you about golems, explaining as he brought in a bundle of sticks gathered from the perimeter of the woods on the northern California coast that one could bring something into being by creating a representative structure or object of that thing, and imbuing that object with a will that what the object represents will come into being.

“I will make a little book, to symbolize my book, and it will be a golem.” You think this to yourself, though you don’t know anything about how to make a golem, or what materials ought to be used. You forget about the idea, forget to looks for a sharp needle and strong thread, for binding a miniature book. Wonder briefly, when the idea returns to you, feeding the dogs the morning before you leave, if you should you bound the small bookform in the scraps of peacock blue leather you have in a bag in the closet?

You did not bring leather. You did bring paper though, plain printer paper. You found a perfect small box in the backseat of the car, something that came with a cellphone, a tiny flat brown box. No stickers, no printing, sealed by two small flaps. The perfect box for a little book golem.

Driving into town night before last, when it struck you that you should go visit your great-grandmother’s grave, you had the thought that some of the dirt from around where she is buried might be a good thing to add to a golem, to give it the oomph of ancestors that love you, to connect your great-grandmother to you in this endeavor, to help you to remember that it was her, before it was anyone else, who told you that you were a wonderful writer, simply wonderful.  It was her, before it was anyone else, who taught you how stories could take you places, give you pictures in your head, feelings. She was a good storyteller, and you would beg to hear your favorites again and again, for years.

You almost forgot, that drizzly Thanksgiving night at the cemetery, to get the small spade out of the car, the old jam jar.  You didn’t though. You remembered, and said thanks to your great-grandmother as you scooped the dry, soft earth into the glass.

After you got your fingers tattooed yesterday, you saved the section of papertowel with two small blood-and-ink hearts on it.  You saved your fingernail clippings from last night, when you sat quiet against that wall in the room you couldn’t breathe in. The nails were from your hands, built from your cells. You fished a small coil of hair, pulled free in the shower, one single grey strand, out of the garbage, and used a hammer to split a piece of skull bone from an antler you found by the barn.  You took the feather from a downy woodpecker killed by a hawk out of your wallet. Your father had given you three of the feathers on Wednesday. “These are some special feathers.”

My father says lots of things are special.

Lots of things are.

I walked out to the dock, and stood where my friend had been sitting just a little bit ago. My friend and their lover had stopped by to say hello, travelling north. I stood there for a minute, glad that my friend had been there, then walked back to the point, stopping at the end of the dock to pick up a perfect sprig of cedar that I walked over with a friend who cares about me.

I hadn’t made a tiny book yet. I did have a piece of paper though, that had been folded and noted with page numbers on it, for a mini-zine project I did several years back. It had been sitting on my desk since I moved rooms back in the mountains, and before that it was on a shelf with books I value, and those felted wool figures from far-away Hastings Street, a red and white striped giraffe crocheted by someone who was a dear friend for a moment, and a hat I’d made for myself, a hat like a bird’s head, its beak like a pointed bill, stitched from felt, with scraps of red linen fanning back as feathers.

I decided that the sheet of paper with page numbers would be my golem book, and I gathered all the things I’d collected – the box, the cedar sprig, the piece of bone, the feather, the papertowel and fingernail crescents, the coil of hair – and went back out to the point.  Sat down on the ground and wrote a simple statement on the sheet, set a straight-forward intention.

Not asking, telling.

Stating what will happen: This book will be written by me. Stating my desired end: In service to the greatest possible good.

Folded the page and signed it with my full name, unfolded it, I put some of the dirt from my grandmother’s grave on the page, my hair and fingernails.  Poured a small amount of water from the well deep below this land onto the paper, watched the ink run, folded it again and set it down into the box, with the heart-stained piece of paper towel, the piece of bone, the sprig of cedar, the woodpecker feather. Found a spot on the point right between the oak tree and the cedar tree, where one can stand to see both the sunrise and the sunset. Cleared back the grass, dug a little hole. Such soft earth.

I got the thought, out of nowhere, that I needed to include a piece of copper, a small copper bird, in with my golem book and its hosts of offerings.  I ran back upstairs, got a bird that I had already made, that I had brought with me because I thought that I might work on holiday gift crafts while I am here, if I felt like it.

The sun was setting as I wrote out a small prayer on the bottom of the box, set it into the ground, covered it up, and then uncovered it, gathered a small scoop of marsh mud from beside the cedar tree and packed it over the box containing my book golem, covered it all back up.

My friend says that making a golem is a way of setting something into motion, and –yeah- it’s not magic, you still have to do the work of creating or becoming the thing which the golem is made for, but it creates an impetus, an intention, almost like a pact.

It really comes down to a couple of different theories.

The theory that I find the most interesting and worth considering is the one involving metapatterns in nature and how, if closely observed, the natural world may manifest the symbols and compositions that human civilizations associate with divine presence and/or workings, that these patterns in nature are mirrored in our written languages and iconic compositions.  There are sub-theories associated with this idea, involving how/why some people may be more prone to see shapes in the sky than others, and fuzzy concepts about the metaphysical mechanics of forces at work in shaping the world.  Some of the tertiary theories get a little weird, a little out there. They become problematic – untestable, speculative.

Another theory is that I am crazy, and nothing means anything.  That I am deluded.

That theory isn’t very interesting to me.

If I approached this idea of mine, that patterns in nature have a lot to do with how God and gods have been conceived of throughout the ages, and have mightily influenced our iconography and text-based languages, as a scientific inquiry, I would need to do rigorous research on the origins of written language, related theories, the aesthetics of icons across world religions throughout recorded history, incidences in sacred texts that may allude to the physical manifestations of divinity within the natural world, then I would need to document phenomena that I perceived to support my theory, and catalog those incidences, as well as consult with others, specialists in the field…whatever field such an inquiry may exist within…cultural anthropology?

I would need to be open to being wrong. I am open to being wrong. In fact, for a long time, my weblog was called Prove Me Wrong.

It was both a challenge and a plea.

While I was driving to the grocery store, to buy snacks to share with the visitors, my friend and their lover, I saw another triangle in the sky.

So, so many triangles in the sky here the past few days. I think I know how it happens.
If two large currents of air meet, intersecting at an angle, the way two currents might come together in a river…? If the temperature or air pressure or relative humidity within those currents, clouds may either dissipate or accumulate near the point of the two currents meeting (the apex of the triangle)?

Sometimes the appearance of triangles may be an illusion created by the layering of clouds and empty sky?

Yeah. That’s probably it. An illusion.

(Note: I sat in the Riverview for two hours, waiting for pictures to sync from my phone to my cloud-stored photos, tried to find the best ones to add between paragraph breaks. They were slow to sync, and I listened to a white-haired man sing Hallelujah, other old songs. At least three of the songs had mentions of books, of stories. The other people in the room and I talked while the musician took a break. Turns out that I was the only person in the room that is from this town, from this place.)

Nov 29

I planned to come home and work out a study+research of one particular form I’ve noted in the the clouds as being suggestive of some elements of written human language or iconic composition, explore the history and mythology of – for example, a trident or a triangle. That shape that looks like what I’d call a 3, but that someone else, from somewhere else, might see as something different, a shape with a different name, a different meaning. I have a small library of books on symbols and patterns in nature, and I have the internet. It was a helpful thing for me write out what I might need to do to approach this as a scientific inquiry, because while and not equipped to do exhaustive interdisciplinary analysis of weird clouds, I am excited about seeing what I can learn. I don’t know why I wanted someone else to help me to understand why I see what I see, and how these sort of structures in the clouds are formed, whether or not it is possible that other people, in other places, have – throughout history – also noticed these particular forms.  It’d be nice to be able to talk with someone about this, but I can do research, and write about that process, interesting bits of information I might find.

I am not opposed to being incorrect in my ideas. I just want more information.

The biggest barrier to me doing this sort of informal-but-purposeful survey of easily accessible information and related, but possibly less obvious, resources of knowledge is time. it is almost midnight now. I have slept an average of four hours a night recently. It’s not that I am not tired (I am tired), or that I cannot sleep (if I closed my eyes right now, I’d be asleep within two minutes). I have a lot I want to do, a lot I need to do. Also, I am experimenting with the possibility that I can train my body and faculties to function more adequately under adverse or stressed conditions, such as slight sleep deprivation.

There are things I want to do and be a part of that will require me being able to stay late and still be thinking clearly, functioning well. So far, my experiments have turned up some astounding insights…I do pretty well on scarce sleep. I don’t feel bad, I am not cranky. I feel a little more…but, I like feeling.

The other morning, when you walked out to add the slip of paper that you’d written the word for truth in Hebrew on 9 times to your little book golem box, you found that something had dug it up, left it laying on the ground, box pulled open, but contents undisturbed. You picture a raccoon, maybe a possum, smelling across the surface of the ground, pausing to smell the faint whiff of my hands, buried under the roots of the grass, pawing through, lifting out the box, pulling the flaps open, finding not much of interest, paper and dirt, human smells, tree smells, dry bone smell.

You set the folded paper into the box, brush off the little bit of mud that is on the cardboard, close it all back up, and take it inside, take it with you.  There is enough buried out there, left out there.  You feel good about the little book resting in the ground for a sunset and a sunrise. You wrap it up with paper, and tie it with a string. Put it your bag to go with you. Something out in the world, traveling close.

12:11 AM

Every Tuesday for the past 3 weeks, I have been leaving core sadnesses in the woods out at Pisgah. I have been running fast in the dark.

I don’t know if am actually running fast, because perception of speed changes in the dark, everything around you sliding by in shadows.

Even with my eyes closed, I know when I am running fast. I can tell by my breathing, and by my body mechanics, the posture of my arms, the way my feet hit the ground and lift. I don’t close my eyes when I am running in the dark. There is no need to.

I make sure to be off the root – rugged trail by the time full dark starts to settle in, back on the flat trail that I know fairly well. My night-vision isn’t wonderful, and the first thing to go after sunset is my depth – perception. I cannot run down rough hewn trails in the dark.

That would be stupid and dangerous. 

Tonight, I even brought a headlamp, but the bobbing light in front of me made me feel woozy, so I turned it off, and ran in the dark.

I have not run during full daylight hours at all over the past couple weeks. Early mornings and waxing sunrise in Georgia. Sunsets in the forest. Looping the dog around by the Hot Spot, down the big road, past the convenience store and public housing neighborhoods, past the store fronts and rowing machines and not-wonderful paintings. Past the people sitting and smoking outside of the old hotel, now apartments. Up the hill, racing up the steep slope at the corner, full sprinting up a hill, the dog exuberant, wide open.

I think I will need to do that run tomorrow night, take the dog out.

I don’t know if I will go back to that trail in the forest that I’ve been leaving my core sadnesses on. It’s a pleasant enough run. Not too challenging, but – overall – not too easy.  The second half, the way back, is easy. The first half is mostly easy…except for that hill. I had planned to run up that hill today, even if I had to go extremely slow, a quick upward March. It starts off with a slow incline, and then becomes steep, going up the hill.

I think it is mental, my resistance to this hill. However, I know – also – that my fitness and strength is still warming up to hill running, and that I probably need to quit smoking again. I can find other ways to modulate my norepinephrine levels, to produce dopamine and raise my serotonin levels. I will not go on a psychiatric medication, like wellbutrin.

“There is an urgent call for you,” my supervisor had come down the hall, down to the basement, to the laundry room, where I was folding sheets that burnt my arms, felt good to fold. I set the sheets aside, a big metal cart with rattling wheels that I loved to pull down the halls, stocking the laundry shelves, that hot dryer smell. The dust smell of the closets set into each long hall, rooms evenly spaced, like a hotel or a hospital, a school.

The place used to be a hospital. It was still a place where people came to die, came when there was no help at home.

My supervisor and I probably made small talk on the elevator ride back up to the main floor. The lobby desk. She liked me, liked my husband.

He worked in the kitchen, managed the day shift. Made me eggs, over hard, chatted with me as I got a bowl of cereal.

All the residents thought it was wonderful that we were married. I had just found out I was pregnant the month before, just a few days after our courthouse wedding. I found out that I was pregnant while we were down in Georgia, with our families gathered for our “real” wedding, there at the place where I grew up.

I had just had my first appointment at the ob-gyn. That’s who was calling, my doctor. There was no small talk. “Are you still taking wellbutrin?”

I felt relieved. I hadn’t taken it in months and months. I had stopped taking it, because it made me gain 30 pounds in one month and made me feel terrible, made me feel sick.

Two years before, I had swallowed about 30 wellbutrin, along with an entire prescription of opioid painkillers, that a different ob-gyn had given me, for a pain near my ovaries, an internal inflammation that I was given no explanation for, only a prescription. I hadn’t taken many of them. I had a lot left. 

“You know you could have really died,” the doctor told me, his face distorted because my pupils were so contracted and I was grimacing, so sick. Sick in every cell of my body. Poisoned. 

“I know.” 

I wasn’t yet glad that I hadn’t died. 

The following year, at the turn of this century, I ended up in the hospital again after “the bad morning,” the era of sitting at my grandmother’s card table shooting cocaine with the man who tattooed wings on my palms. I don’t think that I had experienced a rush of dopamine in a long, long time. I understood that I could easily addicted, because my brain got such a powerful signal that, “Hey, this feels good. We should do more.” Dopamine is how we are encouraged to participate in the activities of survival. Hunting and gathering. Wanting, pursuing, achieving. Grooming. Love. Drugs or activities that stimulate a dopamine release are interpreted by our brains and bodies that this cocaine or this new pair of shoes or this Facebook like or this new date must be incredibly important to our survival, that it really is something we have to do. 

“How are you?” He asked. 

“Immediately glad I did it.” I replied, without any hesitation whatsoever, but a wash of bitter in mouth and my heart pounding, stomach recoiling. I didn’t care that I felt sick. “This shit could kill me.” I knew that right off the bat, one second in. “This could kill me so, so quick.” 

I don’t think I ever really wanted to die. Not enough to do something that I knew would kill me. The thought of dying from a drug overdose or a rapid emaciation, arms addled with pocks and bruises, under the Burnside Bridge, some terrible thing or another happening to me and around me…this was not an appealing potential end for me to consider. 

Maybe I did want to die, enough to risk doing something that I knew my kill me, like taking all those pills the year before. Cutting so close to a major vein on that bad, bad morning. 

They sent me home from the hospital with a prescription for wellbutrin. I didn’t take it long. 

“No,” I turned my body in towards the wall, away from the women at the front desk. “I haven’t taken it in months.”

I had stopped taking the venlafaxine as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Drove cross country with a new husband and two dogs in the wintertime, coming off of effexor.

I didn’t know that what I was feeling, such sickness and volatility, was due to me being in a psychiatric drug withdrawal process. I thought I was just fucked up, that maybe I was sick and emotional, lying in the back seat of the car, woozy and tingling and jolting, at the very edge of vomiting for state after state after state. I tried to have fun, visiting relatives in California, eating pizza, listening to music. 

“That’s good,” the doctor said, sounding relieved. “Okay.”

“Why?”

The doctor passed, then told me that the drug I had been taking causes birth defects. I wasn’t taking it anymore, but I still felt sick.

8 years later, I would get an abortion, because I was pregnant and did not know it, and they did not give me a pregnancy test at the outpatient program I was court-ordered to go to. They prescribed me wellbutrin, which I was court-ordered to take. 

So, no, I will not go on a psychiatric medication. Those drugs only did me harm. I’m glad some people find them helpful, but they almost killed me, were a major factor in severe life disruptions and disasters. 

I would like to run up that hill. So, I will need to find a way to approximate the neurochemical effect of nicotine. Not right now though. Right now, I am enjoying smoking cigarettes.

There are hills I could train on near here. Work up to it. I run further up it each time I try. I could simply keep trying and then, one day, it will be done.

Tonight, there was no way I was going to run up that hill. I had planned to do it, half-wanted to do it. My head had hurt all day, and each footfall was like getting hit in the temple.

I thought I had talked to people for four hours, but as I started the run, orienting to where I was at, what I was doing, reflecting on the albatross of experience that is a day working in a state – funded behavioral health services program, I realized that, no, it’d been five hours. Actually more like 7, because even when I wasn’t doing a class or having an appointment tent with someone, I was still outwardly attending, talking and listening, sending emails while I ate a sandwich.

“What the fuck…”

I felt heavy, tried to enjoy moving through the forest in falling light, head pounding. I had decided that morning that I would dismantle a specific fear as I ran up the hill, a longstanding and especially pernicious fear, a prickly fear, that under its pervasively nuanced operations within my life has the power to completely shift me into a state of experience that, quite frankly, fucks me up.

I had been feeling the fear since it had mostly recently risen up during a conversation had in a parking lot. 

It was probably good that I was talking with people all day long, because if I am talking  with people, that fear eases back.

I think that part of how this works, this process of writing and reflecting on experience, is that I will set forth a statement, such as all my recent assertions that I am not scared of much anymore, and – then – a couple days later, something will arise that challenges whatever I might have momentarily believed was true. I probably, in this process, seek out challenging or incongruent evidence in some subconscious fumbling around trying to confirm whether what I said is true…or not true.

I don’t think I am scared like I have been before. I have fear though. In my body.

Someone told me recently about how to train elephants to stay in one place. How to put a collar on them that causes pain if they move out of a certain perimeter. Eventually, they stop trying to move beyond the boundaries of the collar, even if it is removed.

They just stay where they know they won’t get hurt.

Of course, there is a critical deprivation that occurs when an animal is not able to move about much for fear of being hurt. A slow, deep hurt, a gradually death of motivation.

Learned helplessness, yo.

Psychology researchers shocked dogs to learn how much it to took to make an animal scared to even try to get out of a situation, to give up.

While I had been feeling the fear – which reflexively comes up when I make small progress in my aim to be slightly more free within my life and who I am, what I involve myself with and how I spend my time – most of the day, went to sleep with it last night, waking up with it this morning, I didn’t fully feel it until halfway up the hill, and it closed my throat up, my eyes got wet. “What the hell? I don’t cry when I run.”

I think it frightened me, to find myself about to sob out in the woods with the sun going down, cold and damp with sweat. I kept running, and as the run got easier, the fear got bigger in me, edged into anger, into grief, made my throat tight, my heart beat even harder, my arms numb, my body a strange vehicle for so much feeling, so many thoughts and images, rapid fire reactions, the effort not to fall, to watch the ground, to remember that I am running.

Usually, running makes me forget most everything other than running. The fear, the body response, the felt sensations, the psychological phenomenon of a cluster bomb of flashback moments…it made it hard for me to remember I was running.

I kept going, because the only way back was forward.

While rationally I am so done with that fear, I still have that fear in body, telling me not go outside the boundaries set for me by other people under specific and longstanding threat relating to my family structure, inclusion/alienation within my family. To not even challenge those boundaries, or ask questions about them. Or even acknowledge them. To smile and be cooperative with the agreement, the arrangement. To me, family conflict and the probably – not-great outcomes that may come from self advocacy efforts within the current circumstances of power and reality that define my family, the impossible nature of the situation, in which if someone has a problem with me, it is likely to create problems for my kids…its not worth my sense of self-interested freedom to compromise the peace and relative stability within their family. While no one can take my kids away anymore, because they are too old and there is no justifiable reason, other than . . . oh, snap…other than idiots are likely to read this not as a dynamic work of creative nonfiction by a persistently inquisitive self-documentarian, but as some crazy shit that means I’m not a good mom, because I dont talk much about being a mom here, just talk about weird stuff and banal but sparkling everyday phenomenon that nobody cares to hear about, but that I would like to remember. Talk about big questions, meta-curiosities. Things I don’t talk with people much about, in my walking-talking life. 

I don’t think I can publish this writing, because it is just too personal. It is my most private and real fear. It is the soft core of me, my quicksand.

Who needs it?

I don’t want this to exist anymore, this situation where I have fear that keeps me from doing things that are important to me, like being myself, not a role-parsed and segmented self, all the most real aspects of who I am a secret. 

It is the time of year when I am on my commute during the moment of sunrise, when everyone slows down, because the sun is so bright, and the accumulated deceleration backs up way down the road.

It’s fascinating to me, the sunrise traffic jam.

Nov 29

Epic detours, such a lightness, some fun in crossing back and forth over this river. I am stopped in a parking lot, about to go walk in the forest. I think I killed some fear last night. The songs on the radio are encouraging this morning. Feeling stronger everyday.

 https://youtu.be/Mh3Kk5tZSmo looking  for the Logical Song, by Supertramp, because – yeah, story of my life, I found this song: https://youtu.be/-1rzsT2t2YY 

I am looking forward to today.  I love my life. 

Entities in Relation

She wakes up as she has every morning for the past week, the feeling of small stirring warmth, paws across her side-laying hip, the crook of her bent knees in the damp heat under heavy blankets, fetidly humid like a womb, a nest. She wonders at the human infant’s animal pull to the slight sour warmth under its mother’s breast, how deeply the new-born person must delight in the comfort of all the animal smells that we try to wash away and cover.

She doesn’t use shampoo anymore, because she is tired of the plastic bottles slimy and compressed into a ugly, squeezed-in bend, lids snapped and hanging sharply, the sweet smelling sudsy slick goo almost impossible to get out for the empty bottles to be recycled, the water running and running and running. 

See Her daughter insists on the Honey Treasures; “It’s the only shampoo I use, mom.” The seventeen-year-old believes that her mother is unreasonable to suggest that perhaps she find a shampoo that doesn’t come in impossible plastic bottles, the procession of the many, many bottles over the the years of her single existence adding up in her mind to be mounds and mounds on beaches, encrusted with sand and becoming brittle in the sun and salt, but still recognizable, Paul Mitchell circa 1991, bottles thrown directly into the garbage because what else was there to do with them in the woods where there was no recycling, only garbage picked up at the end of the road once a week?

The woman uses salt to clean her scalp – sea salt and epsom soaked in fragrant essential oils, frankincense and bergamot, lavender. She buys the bags, still plastic, of salts at the salvage grocery store, expired and pulled from shelves at stores that she rarely shops at, stores she can’t afford, where she feels uneven at the edges as she walks through the aisles that smell uniformly like herbs and bakery and always a little like fish, the unavoidable consequence of selling seafood in the mountains.

She doesn’t have an ideology or a practice or a belief about the salt and why she uses it instead of shampoo, only that she likes the burn of it in pinpricks on her scalp and on her ribs where she is itchy from eating bread that she bakes constantly now that there is an oven again. It reminds her of the ocean, the sting of it. She likes the thought of salt finding it’s way into her, and also likes the thought of salt pulling water out of her. She is porous. Things soak in, seep out.

She has not seen the ocean again this year, and now finds that the thought of traveling to the coast is bound tight, and she can feel the reality of going somewhat stretching and taut like an impossibility that – of course – is not really impossible, but is likely to rupture the fragile everyday likelihoods of experience that have defined this time of the pandemic…the routines that have kept her somewhat steady-footed through the slip into this different sort of world.

She vaguely remembers the odd possibility that the schools would close because of a virus. When they did, she and her daughter walked through downtown in the rain on a Monday morning.

Her daughter returned to school a senior, attending her one or two classes almost as novelty, doing only enough to get by not because she is lazy, but because she is economical about her investment in American History II at this point in her growth and as a member of a generation that is only now beginning to deeply understand that that country that they live in is a god-awful shitshow of a failed experiment in post-genocidal colonial democracy doomed from the outset by obvious conflicts of interest, basic lack of skills and capacities, and the natural consequences of crummy ideas.

If there were no countries, there could be no war between countries.

She has the simplistic thinking of a child, but doesn’t care anymore. The world is full of people who think all sorts of ways. Nothing about anything she thinks hurts people or rapes women or sells children or bombs libraries, burns forests, dumps shit into oceans, devises charismatic marketing for toxic products.

This is what she tells herself, as a matter of protection. She wonders what she feels she may need protection from, why it feels dangerous to say that she doesn’t believe in countries anymore. Why is that a dangerous thing to say?

In some segment of dream last night, full of boggy areas and a rainy outer stadium, she heard the sound of the Pledge, and in the dream she found her right hand moving toward her heart in the pale peach of a post-rain afternoon as she walked beside some unknown person who looked at her sideways and didn’t have to ask why she was holding her hand to heart as they walked, why she had stopped for just a moment, hearing the words, a little surprised to find how automatic it was to raise the hand, to focus on the words, she caught the side-eyed look and said, “I…I learned this. We had to say it everyday.”

https://youtube.com/shorts/wTMzAq4DSyg?feature=share

https://youtube.com/shorts/JRIWqsu6gwE?feature=share

I have some paper cranes made out of cloud photographs that I make when I think about people who have died by suicide, some artsy little practice+reflection cards, and some little wire bird magnets that are kinda cool, smaller items I could throw in as a “Special Presents for Strangers Gift Pack” – as all these items are designed to be left in public spaces for people to come across and wonder briefly about, a small and potentially lovely disruption.


Hi, are there any forums for _______people new to _____to get non-hype advice on what to ____ for short-term______, long-term _______, etc. 

There is a lot of information out there, and it’s hard to know who or what to trust, which creates over-caution and missed opportunities for low wealth people trying to create a base from which to expand _______and ______holdings…or are there specific threads or media sources that people trust to get information about _____or______?

I may have brain damage or perhaps have stumbled into an accidental state of being deeply authentic only by virtue of having lost the ability to mask or to figure out the complexities – the inevitable null conclusion – of masking strategy for social safety or connection, the broke level bars of her capacity to amplify, subdue, mitigate, regulate, mediate, emphasize, and play to certain facets of her being (none exactly inauthentic, but existing in the slant of omission bias and allowing people to believe certain things about her less from a spirit of endorsement than from fatigue in trying to make sure that people aren’t seeing her sideways, seeing her as only a partial and distorted version of whatever she might be as a person. 

She doesn’t know what she is, but she knows what she is not, and she knows what her values are though she is still learning how to practice and carry out her values in integrity and what that means for her as far as her relationship with the general culture and society that purportedly defines the country that she lives in, a country that she no longer believes in, though she can recognize and appreciate the mishandled (or manhisled) 

You know, it’s funny, I have never felt remotely scared in any of the sketchy situations I’ve found myself in through work and proximity with troubled lives. I think that even before I understood that I believe in and experience God working both in my life and somehow through me, I knew that I would only find something like grace if I followed where I was led to go, that I would be protected, and even welcomed while…

I’m doing really well, thanks!

I got up super early to give _____ a ride to the hospital for some minor heart tests and of course that unfurled into a bizarro sequence of complicated plans involving multiple parties to get a paper to a lawyer at the courthouse before 9 – a bit of early morning real world chaos absurdity in dysfunctional institutions. 

It’s interesting to see how unsettled _____ can make people when they get frustrated and confused.  I guess I’m just used to ____’s particular brand of volatility, the predictable rhythms of their anger, the things they say when they are angry. 

Anyway, when I went into ____’s apt to get them this morning, there was an awesome new pair of plain black flip flops with an ankle strap someone had given ____ and I got to keep ‘em cause they are just my size.

I’ve been doing pretty well, in general. Nash’s mom had puppies again and two of the baby girl dogs ended up w Nash’s foster and now they live here w us and are part of the protective orbit of animal family that I have assemble to surround me since ending our relationship. I have plenty of oxytocin and am not getting much done. How are you?

😂…and if ________ is going to have people running all over trying help to deal w all the various situations, we should at least be in touch w one another and maybe can come up w some kind of plan to improve communication and reduce frustration+shenani

Hey, ____- Thanks for reaching out and inviting me to chat for a bit. I’d love to say hello, and give a few minutes to my interest____. Let me know some times that may be good for you. I have had some health and household stuff going on the past couple of weeks (nothin’ serious, just a bad cold and rescue puppies 😍) and so my intent to check out the Mighty Network space and begin to participate in some small way was somewhat undermined. To be honest, my community and social energies are all over the place lately (lately meaning ‘in my life, always’ 😂). However, I have been getting ____newsletters and following along and signed up for a workshop that I ended up not signing onto. I am not sure how/where/if I’ll fit into to the ___ flow and movement, but the work you’re doing resonates with the work that I am doing that I want to be doing more of.

I am in transition from being ‘Faith who does Peer Support and Recovery Stuff’ to ‘Faith who is Burnt Out AF on Working Anywhere in Proximity to Formal Institutions and Rooms Where She has to Mask in Order to Be Remotely Socially Safe and Where She is Not Allowed to Say Anything About How Any Institution Claiming to Remotely Be About Public Health and Safety Needs to Address the Fact that Structural and Systemic Inequities and Abuses Along with Our Particularly Toxic American Brand of Codependent Consumer Capitalism is Causing Basically All of the Fucking Problems that Systems of So-Called Care are Absorbing and Wasting Billions of Dollars trying to Solve, Etc. Etc. ad nauseum, and so Now Faith is Finally F’ing Being Who She Is – Not that She Knows.’

^ I didn’t say this, of course, in correspondence. Speaking of, any correspondence here is solely my own end of conversations made entirely anonymous or indecipherable mysterious, because the ways that I communicate in different dimensions of my life is an interesting study not only in my uniquely gifted capacity for bullshittery, but also helpful information about what ‘comes up for me’ in considering whether or not I am being legit or just trying to show up the best way I can for something that may or may not make me cringe and and feel anxious – and I am no longer doing shit that makes me feel anxious because I finally figured out that basically, I was living in the wrong world, the wrong economy, and the wrong social and cultural milieu for the vast majority of my adult life, an adult life within which I have blah blah blah it doesn’t even matter.

All of that is behind me now and you – or anyone – can read all about what is behind me, what I am carrying into this next iteration of my endlessly re-iterative life that I LOVE because I am doing the things that I love to do and I am trusting my gut and not kowtowing to other peoples anything. I am so so done with thinking about people in the immediate social culturalperceptual landscapes. I cannot and do not – deeply deeply do not – care anymore and a large part of this likely is simply me finally having extricated myself from/waited out the unfortunate circumstances in which I was caused to need to become exceptionally preoccupied with what someone might think about some thing that I said or did or did not say and Did or did not do in someone else’s perception. I am not naturally inclined to care very much, actually. I’m far more interested in things other than people’s opinion and perception of me, yet I had a compulsive and neurotic need to suss out all the different ways I might be seen and, in the process, also consider the ways I was seeing myself.

SPOILER ALERT: Very little that we perceive as being ‘real’ about ourselves or other people is substantially and incontrovertibly ‘real.’ We are all – in our collective humanity – a tragically confused, wounded, miraculous and beautiful species. There is no ‘real’ ‘right way’ of being, but there are so many many ways of being that are hurtful or negligent of human rights and the rights of other living things’ as sovereign ecosystems that are older than we are and apparently much more intelligent than we are given they are not willfully wrecking themselves and their shared habitats, etc etc

So, yeah the reality is that there is a serious reality problem and it’s just getting more profound as the bizarro complex adaptive systems of reactive and confabulation media couple and layer and bind until you end up with some hyper-urgent nonsense about some dumb political distraction from the actually urgent matter of all the tremendous problems (AND SOLUTIONS! SO MANY BEAUTIFUL SOLUTIONS and ALMOST HERETOFORE INCONCEIVABLE ADVANCES IN TECH and DESIGN THAT OMG A NEW WORLD ACTUALLY IS and HAS BEEN and ALWAYS IS EVOLVING RIGHT BEFORE OUR VERY EYES)

I am looping back here, @_________…to say thank you for honoring us with your beautiful sharing of these memories of (_______). I think all mothers (and all children) just do the best they can to figure out how to get through whatever sets of circumstances, pressures, and opportunities we might find ourselves in…thanks for thinking I’m a good mom…

I don’t even like the word mom anymore…its just too loaded and – at least in my family – *’mom’* means person-who-is-stripped-of-all-other-identity-or-value-and-denied-any-venture-not-sanctioned-by-the-authority-of-the-family-and-if-you-do-try-to-do-something-a-family-member-does-not-like-or-understand-they-will-call-you-a-selfish-irresponsible-mother-and-use-mental-health-stigma-to-take-your-kids-away.

Thank god my kids are aging out of their childhoods and that I am emerging relatively unscathed.

Read, heard, & resonated. I am having contract work anxiety, too – and having to remind myself that if things go south with the gigs I have this season, then it is simply a message from the metaverse that I am supposed to be doing something else, that my amazingness is needed elsewhere. 

Still the real deal is it is scary and – for most people, me included – not sustainable seeming to trust the metaverse to hook a person up w the right opportunities and energies to move art forward as a means of living…I have fallen flat on my face (several times) trusting the metaverse…but, maybe that’s more cause I was a jackass about a lot of stuff.

It’s kind of incredible (and also really scary, cause of market volatility and scammers and the rabid transactionalism that seems to come w anything having to do with ‘money.’)

Hey, I can reach back out tomorrow morning. Sorry I’ve not been in touch – trying to get my own contracts and work structure off the ground so that I can be independent and able to maximize my personal quality of life and expand the scope of impact of my work. 

I have been exhausting myself and selling myself way short trying to hold and support other people’s urgent visions (regardless of whether it is well-informed or respectful of other urgent visions that may be occurring in the world and regardless of whether or not due diligence has been done in developing the vision). 

Meanwhile, hardly anybody I know *at all* (with the exception of a few, among who you are included in some ways) actually sees or understands me or cares at all about the work I have been building for 20 years beyond the extent to which it ties into or validates their work and vision. I feel like a tool and like a commodity in many ways and it does not feel good. I want to support people, but I am a person with serious fucking limitations and I am going through a few major life transitions – including my mom dying of cancer and my kids leaving home and me realizing that I only have literally 2k to my name and almost 100k of debt and I cannot fuck around with trying to help everybody, especially if they are not as invested in my vision as I am in theirs.

I am –

– for years supporting other people’s vision of what is needed and how it’s needed and it’s this totally bizarre thing where everyone is wanting to do their own personal thing – even if people tell them that maybe they should approach it a different way.

EFFORT #2 to respond calmly and supportively to someone who is not being respectful of me as a whole person and rather appears to think that I am a grant-writing machine of some sort.

Hey, I can check in w you tomorrow in the morning btwn 9&10 sometime. I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. I am waiting for information to be provided via email or document re the opportunity and what content/ideas are already at least partially documented from other materials.

It does not have to be a complicated summary of where a potential opportunity is and what you have in mind, things you might build on, but it is really difficult for me (as a person with an auditory processing sensory integration issue) to absorb and talk through a bunch of ideas on the phone, esp when I have zero idea about what is happening w the opportunity. I want to support your vision – but, I’m also fighting tooth and nail to get my own life a little more sustainable and supportive of my well-being.

Doing this work in the nonprofit sector for 25 years has left me almost a 100k in debt, and with almost liquid assets, savings, or health insurance that I am able to afford to actually use – which is disgusting to actually think about considering how hard I have worked. I srsly might have to completely step back from the standard issue nonprofit hustle and silo’ing and competition and limited framework for being real about the impact that economies and capitalist culture and structures of oppression are srsly fucking up peoples lives. I don’t think I can work for nonprofits in the way that I was. I don’t like the way they work. It’s not good for me, and I am not valued, appreciated, or utilized in those sectors. There is no reason to continue. Every reason to leave.

So I can check in tomorrow – but my energy for this stuff is super strained atm, and I absolutely have to prioritize my energy towards endeavors that are generative and not depletive, action-oriented and maybe not even having anything to do with the nonprofit industrial complex at all for awhile because the energies around that whole sector are just terrible for me rn. So, I want to help, but I also need to be realistic about how I am feeling around boundaries of energy and the critical need to get my shit together for myself in ways that have nothing to do with relying on the nonprofit sector to provide for me or my family. I have fucked around w trying to advocate and transform for 10 years and it’s gotten nowhere except me being burnt out AF and actually damaged in my humanity because I can’t even be who I am in these scenes and that sucks.

THIRD EFFORT

I love the purple and gold glow here. What a powerful about and mission statement. From a reader perspective, if I were to come upon this site I’d be…

inspired,

intrigued, 

…and also curious about the specifics – I’d try to click on the services listed to learn more about what a couple of things meant – like what does community service look like, what is public health crisis aid, what ebps do you do, etc.

The language about grooming and criminalistics might be confusing to me because of I’m not aware of the use of the terms, except grooming for sexual abuse or exploitation – which is definitely something to talk about, but I get the sense that you’re referring to the process of socialization, social learning, and power/threat manipulations that teach people to be disempowered or confused in their sense of personal worth, agency, and potential…and I wonder if there is another word for that? 

I am thinking about starting a mutual aid grant writing and project design strategy group for people who I know who are (or who have) independently reached out to me for grant writing or project design support  to potentially gather in one space to talk about and co-learn about and help one another in putting their work together. I think every single person I know is working on a start-up of some kind and I can’t think of any friend of mine who I haven’t provided pro bono consulting or copywriting services to in the past couple years – so, if this is something the universe is asking me to do, to help people get their visions off the ground as a matter of creating equity and building capacity in communities that have not had the privileges of education I have had (tho do keep in mind that I am a high school drop out from South Georgia that scraped her way through community college and then a 4 yr and then a MA and that I have 80,000 dollars of debt for the program that taught me a lot of what I know about designing dynamic community based projects that maximize impact of funding and resources while leveraging and expanding community strengths, blah, blah…

And anyone who is my friend knows very very very deeply that it is not – in fact – my dream to be a grant writer and it especially is not my dream to be a grant writer for dysfunctional projects that I wouldn’t want my name associated with out of respect for my integrity as deeply ethical person who feels literally nauseous when I see the nonprofit hustle bs that goes on in this town and tbh I am weary of people who barely know me but who decide on their own accord that we are friends (without my input or consent or agreement to the terms of that friendship as far as support, pro bono emotional and cognitive labor provided at-cost to my personal ability to show up for my own projects which aren’t just some thing that “I” (theoretical example person) decided “I” wanted to do a couple of years ago and for which “I” have done nothing but take some handwritten notes and with which “my” (again, not me – faith – example person) personal savior ego is inextricably enmeshed with and that “i” think is so special and unique that it deserves the sacrifice of time and energy of a person who “I” call my friend who has their own project(s) that my ‘friend’ (me here now, speaking of the characteristics of my own projects in development) have spent several decades actively working (and going into debt 😂) to learn how to develop in a way that isn’t just some poorly informed fantasy of community service and that actually might address some of the issues in community related not to substance use and mental health, but to fucking designed poverty and scarcity and consumption and capitalism and exploitation of basically anything in a hyper-transactional economy in which everything is commodity and competition. I have ZERO interest in sitting at tables with people who aren’t talking about serious transformation – and I get that, in ways, you are and____ is working in transformative ways, and that is why I am talking with you and also you’re my friend, at least in some ways, and I want to preserve and grow that and we have work to do w the community peer support stuff in _____ & _____. 

I do need more info about the specific grant opportunities w dht and the info sent to them so far and any potential proposal content that has already been developed, because I cannot generate grant content from thin air without seriously fucking taxing my communicative and imaginative capacities which I need for my own projects in development. So, all of that really needs to be known. 

I would be happy to create a 1.5 hour weekly drop-in co-learning space for people to talk about grants and proposal development, and the basics of what a person needs to keep in mind (from my perspective) about project design and the realities of the work people aspire to bring to their communities. 

I am so sick of cultures of competition and shit talking and petty side eyed territorialism derailing collaborations and am just not going to be a part of the same old nonprofit song and dance. I have been reallly clear with everyone for months that I am needing to step back from this world and figure out my own way and tbh it totally sucks that my friends tether me to that world and that some of my friends even echo the garbage-y perspectives on mental health that any one who actually knew me (and you – bless you, have never used language about mental health that is triggering or repulsive to me and that is another reason why you’re my friend – the mental health stuff ) and I’m sick of my friends asking me if I’m okay and thinking I’m not saying anything because I’m having mental health issues.

I am just trying to stay focused on getting my own life on track and I have had 3 people leverage the whole money thing about “don’t you want to be able to get paid by me to do my work to make my project” and it’s like “oh, gee thanks there is no other way I could make it in the world without shackling myself to poverty in the nonprofit world and the mental health world that has been fucking up my life since 1988. Yup. That’s all we see for you, Faith – you can just do our work for us. Fuck your own work. Put your own dreams on back burner.”

I seriously need anyone who is actually my friend to acknowledge and respect that as a survivor of psychiatric violence and significantly impacting multidimensional marginalization due to disability factors whose life has been extremely fucked up by other peoples dumb perceptions of who I am and how I am doing I have a right to have nothing to do with the mental health world if I choose to. I do not have a personal responsibility to transform the mental health system and I want people to stop tagging me for work that is toxic to me and using emotionally and ethically manipulative tactics to impel to involve myself in work that is not mine to do.

I am not a fucking martyr to the system that hurt me and whose dumb ideas and shitty policies has caused the death of many of my real friends who actually knew more than a FB profile scroll about who I am and cared about me for more than how I made them feel or what I could do for them.

The SFB Sanctuaries and Living Arts CE Space

There are many birds in proximity.

Initial feedback for this idea has been 100% enthusiastic.

As cities and towns struggle to address the reality of homelessness and housing scarcity, exploring ways that privately owned properties can be transitioned to publicly held assets that serve a purpose in the communities they exist within and create opportunities for investors to think beyond property values and to contribute to innovative re-purposing of assets to maximize both positive community impact and investment value is an area of surging interest and new research into emergent models of collaborative asset and resource management.

In our individual and collective struggles to make sense of lives and purpose in a rapidly changing and very confused world, it is increasingly important that we identify simple and integrated practices and dialogical, experiential approaches to supporting people in healing from bad ideas and mistreatment of their humanity. 

So, yeah, I’m sorry to go on. 

I’m a ‘mental health professional’ – (a peer support specialist, QMHP, MA, etc) – who is transitioning out of the maw of the nonprofit industrial complex, due to aforementioned critical burnout and my brain literally f*in refusing to do the work anymore, like can.not.

@ – when I get scared about wtf is happening w/my brain, I remind myself of neuroplasticity & try to stay out of fear cause that makes whatever is happening way worse.

my memory is really bad, too ~ but, in a splintery way, like sometimes (rarely) things are super clear/spot on, & throughout the day I’ll have brief events of my brain working (reminders of what it used to kind of feel like to be who I am ~ as I realize this -> having some feels)…most of the time it’s like everything that is happening in my mind space is me standing in the middle of a flooded library stunned, numbly looking around, occasionally picking up some soggy book, opening it to whatever page…

I had a major burnout/slow grinding breakdown in March…probably actually started like a year ago, ten years ago (haha, so hard to pinpoint the causative event other than the stress of being the person I am in the life that I have in the world that I live in, a lot of dynamic causation, catalysts and mitigators.)

I am a self-taught differently-abled artist-researcher that has worked professionally in mental health and community-building organizations for a long time. I am a Peer Support Specialist, which means I have my own history w/ mental health/big-struggles-with-living.

Since 2009, I have been living kind of a double-life, ‘cause I have been doing a longitudinal art and autoethnography project basically on the downlow and now have a ton of artwork and writing and media experiments/communication research that I am ‘emerging’ with since I can’t work in the nonprofit industrial complex anymore and it is super important to me to feel totally alive and stoked and curious about what I’m doing, clear about why I’m doing it…really, art and ideas and daydreams about wrecking dysfunctional and oppressive systems through elegant innovations that redistribute power and reformulate values to center the rights of all sentient beings…well, that’s where I feel happiest and most alive, most like myself…so, that’s what I am going to be doing more of.

This is an experiment in layering cloud photos into short videos on Kinemaster. 

CLOUD WAKE 

CLOUD WAKE II

CLOUD WAKE III

CLOUD WAKE IV

CLOUD WAKE V

I am almost invisible.

There was a moment this afternoon, standing fully immersed in the subtly alternate possibly actually real reality I inhabit…

On Oct 16, 2021, at 9:00 AM, <faithrhyne@gmail.com> wrote:

When I have written for a while, it always feels like there is too much and no fair starting place. 

Over the past months

two of them, to be precise

I have lost time, since…


this is the year, huh?

that all appliances break 

water heater, stove


big truck can’t get up

no backing no pulling, stuck

food warming in bags


re-load it all then 

these things happen, no real deal 

restore the old world


dirty fridge, duct tape 

cold air leaking from the seam

between inside, out


No lying, won’t do it

that was the problem, I see

I was lying. Wow.


Whole new injustice

making people lie 

forcing them to smile


when the truth is grim

obvious in sweating palms 

sick tight feeling there


dissonant grinding

inside of me all the time 

Lying lying lie


When I told the truth

they said I was lying then

named truth as a lie to me


What in the actual 

hell, no wonder I’m confused

no wonder, no lie


I’m confused. Really. 

You said I was lying then 

all the time, lying


What I saw: “Not real.”

Felt? Hahahaha, feelings. 

Those aren’t real either.


Everything mine

was a lie, everything me 

all manipulation


Games, fuckery, lies 

you told me that I was sick

I needed your help


All I want to do

now is tell the truth of who

is the liar here.


I don’t like lying

it makes me sick, all over 

myself, my inside


I was going to write a haiku series on the experiences of the past couple of months, during which the vast majority of my writing energy has been spent creating project design plans and social communique in various spaces. I joined a club, a small club. Very nice people. 

I joined impulsively, coming across the opportunity in the process of participating in another opportunity.

For months, I have felt hermetically sealed – encapsulated and separate from most human channels and flows of movement, participating only minimally – very, very isolated for the past few years, only family, only work, many people suffering, that consuming relationship – there was no time for art and easy talk, exploring the potentials of collaborations with friends.

I had no real friends. I had a family – but, I only exist insofar as my role defines me in my family members’ minds, and the aspects of who I am that either conflict with their role expectations (e.g. mothers should not be pomo experimental artists that hang out with interesting strangers discussing the operative dynamics of reality and the potential to simultaneously disrupt and heal through acts of great beauty and the creation of new questions to live in, new possible worlds to create while partaking in the joyful absurdity of existing at all as a person in a fucked up and beautiful world that is 4.5 million years old, mothers should not pierce their noses, mothers should not get upset, mothers should not care about anything but their children and should focus their entire fucking lives on the stewardship of their offspring but only if doing so adheres to the compulsory consumption of capitalist mom-culture and American youth culture which is a social and economic construction that shapes entire lives and potentials of both mothers and their children.) Father’s, too – I’m sure. All I can speak to is the mother part – which, for me, has basically been a total mindfuck.

I absolutely love my children – obvs. – and am so, so glad that they are in the world, and I wouldn’t change anything – really – except I probably would, because this whole mothering experience – which is of course eternal and which I participate in gratefully and with appreciation, but which also – thank God – conceptually transitions when one’s offspring reach ‘adulthood’ – the laughably arbitrary age of 18, in the United States, some subjective state of emotional, psychological, and financial independence autonomous in relation to the parent, which was an entity to oneself with purpose beyond the breeding of additional human beings on an already crowded planet with limited resources because we all want something to love and to be attached to and in the West we want to buy all those cute baby clothes and have that cute baby and be a person who has their shit together enough to have a baby and take care of a baby and make a sunny wholesome life for a young human that you will love and steward into a purposeful and fruitful adulthood which you will continue to be a part of as you age and can, perhaps, even nurture a reciprocal stewardship in your old age, and your then-adult children will take care of you, not only accommodating you, but centering you and your care as you get old and die, just like you did with your parents because that is what people do, they take of their families, their clan. Tribe.

These ways of caring for our kin are written into our animal codes for survival and the body does not know it is expected to work outside the home, away from the family, or that the children will be dropped off before the sun rises to be cared for by strangers, and that the parents will be dealing with all kinds of personal stressors and challenges. The animal body doesn’t understand why the family fell apart under the duress of shepherding two somewhat difficult (let’s be honest here) young humans successfully into elementary school while both parents tried to work and deal with their own emergent adulthoods and the fact that they didn’t really get along very well in some basic ways relating to their personality types and approaches to living, recreation and social needs, parenting styles, all the things that would be obvious topics for two people who were planning to enmesh themselves with one another to discuss but that were not discussed or not discussed in a way that generated any sort of actual understanding of one another, as both parties were invested in a constructed view of the other partially comprised of attributes that were specifically highlighted as complementary of or meeting a need – conscious or subconscious – that had been previously unmet, perhaps by the respective parties’ parents themselves, who – if white and middle class from America – were likely victims of the reality-truncating news, sports, and weather regime of the United States governmental and informational ‘non-offensive’ entertainment media c 1950~present…


Experimental short media made by layering photos and videos of clouds. I have been taking pictures of clouds for 11 years and am exploring ways to play with cloud photos as a medium in making new abstract and subtly expressive images. Here, I started off thinking about counterclockwise motion, Fibonacci spirals, and architecture and ended with camellias and the suggestion of a syncing at the end of this short piece, which took about 12 hours to make, not including the thousands of hours spent studying cloud forms and movements in nature, nor the 1/2 hour I spent recording this segment of guitar sounds in – I think – the key of D 10 years ago. Value is relative, as is time. Thus, I say: “Dread not, alternate camellia clock!”

The idea of alternate clocks is something I consider a fair amount, though I have no notion just how much a ‘fair amount’ is or how it could be measured. I supposed this the gist of that song from RENT – how do you measure a year…but, all of those examples were tethered to human action, experience, and perception of value, and the song – ironically – reinforced the concept of a year by returning to it in chorus and refrain as a anchor, a set frame. 

I am not so good with time, but I very much enjoy studying clouds and considering light. The pink violet here is a tone I’ve been vibing with lately. 

Anyway this is all experimental and I will continue to experiment, so on we go. 

If you’re interested in other experimental endeavors in arts and letters, you can check out my developing portfolio site – which I am still working on. 

Thanks for checking this out. 

Have a wonderful wonderful day, ♥️,

FAITHRR 

Thoughts and Documents Regarding Crisis and Support Planning: 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1K6ZiwNGFLajLJ5qFz8sbKmm6HqdY_p3YdRYXFm3m_uI/edit

—-

Maybe something that happens with most poets, eventually, is that the experience of an everyday and everymoment broad view of the multidimensional beauty and tragedy and pointless profundity of one’s existence, in general expansive scope inclusive of vast minutiae that are simultaneously mundane and singularly miraculous in the same phenomenal way that every molecule comprising life of Earth really, truly is…becomes impossible to convey or share with anyone in ways other than the humming resonance of mutual experiencing which itself is a dubious testament to whatever might be called understanding…and yet we all want to tell of our worlds, to know our worlds are real to others in the ways they are real to us, or at least acknowledged as being possible, recognized as being valid, not figments or conflations, but the real blood and guts and smoke and light of all the living and dying that the poet sees and has seen…how do you say that you are a person alone in a large room connected to other large rooms and the lamp is lit, fire is burning, one-eyed rescue cat a tucked-up form alongside the ashpan of the stove, puppies wandering in and out of the periphery of the fire-lit room, which you know glows warmly orange from the view on the street, that it looks – actually – as though the house may be on fire?

You’re sitting in your great-grandmothers chair, which may have been her father’s chair, though you don’t know for sure anything about who sat where a hundred years ago, how many people had thought deeply of the dead while sitting in this chair and you bend to pick up the littlest puppy, the pale female runt with a still-neonatal look about the eyes and an especially pitiful way of rolling over and looking beseechingly to be petted, to be held, to be nuzzled and kept warm on these days that have turned sudden and damply cold, a perfect entrance to November, bright leaves dripping fog, the arm full of almost frozen water, everything tightening in a little against the wind that you know is like a baby hurricane over the city, the slightest little storm cell spinning off from the walls of the land itself, this seam in the Earth that people have called many things, even names that have been forget, secret names and sacred names, family names with stories tucked in, places only you might know and ways of knowing you might know if you’re of the people of the land.


__ at_ah, I think

Forgotten ways bring storm winds

breathe life to old names


We live in so many different worlds and – really – I may have reached a critical mass of dimensionality this morning, in all my noticing and remembering in the early morning, which is and has been when I do what my practice may be – which is to wake up, and to sit outside, and to notice what seems to be rising in the morning, smells and sounds, the cast of light and breeze, how loud the air is against skin, warm or cold or sweetly perfect, always felt and reminding you to seek sun, find that warm spot on the stairs later in the day, when everything nocturnal has fallen asleep, despite the brightness, because of the light.

In the clarity of morning, I feel like an egg, a decoupage, a complex cell, and everything in me is warm and listening, watching the world wake up again and again, different everyday, never ever the same, not even for a second.

I like in-between times and in-between places.

I am interstitial in my relational preferences, not being anything but a space between, a space that can change, a space that is fluid like water, able to drift like air with variable impact and increasingly minimal will, as it seems I may have brain damage or perhaps have stumbled into an accidental state of being deeply authentic only by virtue of having lost the ability to mask or to figure out the complexities – the inevitable null conclusion – of masking strategy for social safety or connection, the broke level bars of her capacity to amplify, subdue, mitigate, regulate, mediate, emphasize, and play to certain facets of her being (none exactly inauthentic, but existing in the slant of omission bias and allowing people to believe certain things about her less from a spirit of endorsement than from fatigue in trying to make sure that people aren’t seeing her sideways, seeing her as only a slanted distort of whatever she might be as a person.)

I attended with a friend, despite not really being ‘into’ the healing arts and spirituality ‘scenes,’ so to speak, because I am not really ‘into’ any scenes. I somewhat drift along. During the years I was in active relational proximity with the friend that introduced me to your work by inviting me to the talk at the medical offices off of the street they named Choctaw,

With the same friend, i also attended a group sound healing session in a closed room that involved whale sounds amplified through a phenomenally good sound system, as well as participated as a supporter in an earth burial and homecoming ritual at which I bonded with a wasp that had crawled into my friend’s body-warmed shirt while waiting for her to be ready to come out of the earth. When she put her shirt back on she began to yelp, and I saw the wasp quickly and pulled it out.

It didn’t sting me, but rather sat on my hand for a very long time as I progressed through the remainder of the ritual with my friend. Wasps and I tend to have a respect for one another, and are sometimes even companionable.

I didn’t want to bring skepticism into the ritual, because that would close me off from experiencing the evening and would not allow me to connect with either the land or the night or my friend, whom I was – admittedly – a bit wary of connecting with, because they felt sticky and obscuring to me, as though they got into me and onto me. I didn’t want to be skeptical, but I wanted to be conscientious and perhaps even a bit cautious because you never know what ghosts might rise when you’re digging into the earth of the Appalachians.

I helped to dig the deep hole into the cold clay ground and helped to cover my friend’s body with dirt, sat with them in the backyard of a semi-rural suburb out by Leicester. In my pocket, I had a small bundle containing a scrap of bandana, a blanched placental cloud of crocheted twine, and some other small object that I do not remember all bound together with a single piece of my mother’s white-silver hair. “Give me a strand of your hair,” I asked-told her as I was leaving their house over in the eastern part of the county the day prior to the ritual, suddenly struck by a sense of importance that I have something of her for my part in the ritual, which was that of supporter, a sort of stand-in for a chosen family.

 I am not always a good friend in the ways people want me to be there for them, but I am very good at digging deep holes. 

Yesterday, the day before, yes…the day before, driving south on the same highway she had driven on for those years of going across the valley into the forest mountains, that small town that was a regular anchor point, a stitch – if you will – in the thread of where she went and how she paused, how long she stayed and why. 

Is it possible that every iteration of human society and belief system endlessly replicated the irony of believing that their way or code or law or gods are the one and only code, law, god, etc. Are humans doomed to be trapped in their own blinding myopia, even after they themselves subjugated others unto their beliefs, thus proving the mutability of ways and codes and laws and gods. 

By looking back across history, even the history of one’s own country, even in a new country like the United States and definitely in an old religion like Christianity, etc. (the Abrahamic religions), and see that things change, ideas change and practices change, people change and cultures change. Heroes become villains and fools will be sages. 

Why is there such a vicious clinging to the myth of eternal validity that we ascribe to our prerogatory and socialized perspectives of reality and conflations of truth? 

What, in the western world and especially in America, is so sanctified about a history that is only a few hundred years old and that is – ultimately – a history of brutal colonialism and lofty ideals undermined by the lust for dominance and wealth, a dominance over wealth, and what a human thing it is, to want to have enough, to want to have it all, to want to be in control of the things that give us power in our societies and economies – resources, assets, food, weapons. We are ingrained with tribal hierarchies and the lessons of place and purpose and punishment taught to our ancestors, whomever they were. Even the wealthy are punished in ways, but that is another line of thought corresponding to social learning and rigid codes of behavior and communication, gender based role expectations, etc. etc. and all the ways we come into to world with knowings of what to be afraid of in our half-feral, just-born animal bodies. Loud voices, the smell of fear in our mother’s sweat, the taste of it in the milk from her breast, an unknown knowing conveyed by subtle signal of fear communicated without language in the most simple terms of a racing heartbeat, a tightened hold on a child, a raised voice. We learn what to be afraid of, and these learnings – to which all humans are prone and vulnerable to by virtue of our shared species ancestry and the basic knowings of our nervous systems, taught over hundreds of thousands of years of fighting, fucking, and trying to stay alive in conditions more animalistically brutal than most modern humans could even imagine.

 As I travel through these mountains on the relentlessly cold grey and steadily raining days, surveying the fog-held rounds of the knobs and gaps that define the ways the land has slowly softened from the ancient toothy rocks pushing up from the ground as the substrates shifted over millions of years. 

It’s difficult for me to think about houses built to last in forests that are the almost miraculous still-endlessly-evolving phenomena of millions of years of fires and floods and cuttings and droughts, hard freezes and wet summers, the rise and fall of every.single.living.creature that ever.existed not only in the immediate 2 acre lots that have been cut into the sides of mountains whose real name we will never know, in that specific forest, but in every micromillimeter of living, breathing, dying Earth that touches its edges and merges one ecosystem to another…

I am a person who grew up on land that was old and that I was taught to see and to love as an entity filled with small lives all connected, the web of the nephila arching over the palmetto roots that lump and hump across the sandy soil, rough and rowdy, those brown fur roots, just like the hogs that nose through the soil, looking for grubs, for anything really. 

I watched that world be destroyed and paved over. 

There is a part of me that will never stop grieving, the images still in my head, pressing out like the gasp of fire fed by breeze, puff of pine smoke in the air, the growl of a Caterpillar – a sad, sad name for machines that kill caterpillars, machines that mimic the mechanics of small creatures that may eat small sections of a forest to destroy vast swathes of woods, rumblings and tearing, the atonal arrhythmic whine of chainsaw on top of chainsaw. The hot acrid smell of new asphalt and the flush across your chest when the construction workers hollered, whistled, made comments about you walking home from one of the houses in the subdivision, a brick and stucco boredom smelling of plaster and new carpet, hot black trampoline with pinching springs on the pine needled scrub that is the backyard along the fence that separates the neighborhood from the dock and the train tracks just beside it, the RXR that you saw everyday crossing the tracks on the dirt road that led to your home, the dirt road that is now only a stub, built over by houses most of it, the houses of people who would briefly be your friends, in the ways of middle school friendship, petty and full of salacious scandals, hilarity and indulgence, the in-between time of still being kids. What else were you going to do when half the town kids and kids from out at the smaller, older subdivision by the spit of land across a marsh out by the base, the nuclear submarine deployment and training facility that had spurred all the houses, brought the new kids, hiked up the cost of land, pressured re-zoning and increased taxes making it all but impossible to maintain and somehow, in some conversation you have never been told about, your father was introduced to the idea of selling the land that was called Shadowlawn even before your great-grandparents moved there in the 1940s because your great-grandfather was not able to live in the city anymore, had a nervous condition or something that still nobody has ever told you about, your father only mentioning his grandfather in brief cryptic allusions to despair and not knowing what to do after some timber consolidation contract had gone south, or something. You have no idea what the circumstances were that impelled your great-grandparents to seek 750 acres of land in rural South Georgia, a town barely on the map, not even on some maps, pine woods and swamp and small bluffs, marsh and old oaks, a branch off of Borrell Creek that you can take clear out to the St. Mary’s River and Reed’s Bluff, that small majestic crust of North Florida just nw of Yulee, the town where you turn left to go to the beach, which is where your grandfather had a house on the beach and a Cessna he was building, for reasons you never quite understood because you had no desire to fly in a plane that was built by someone you know because everyone you know seems very imperfect, and there is – for example – a rusty spot in the floorboard of the van where you can poke a pencil through the ragged opening and point down at the ground. 

The Coppertone bare-bottom girl and dog presided over the first glimpse of the beach, a postcard-like memory of the right turn onto Fletcher Avenue, Fernandina Beach, c.1983, the Atlantic always there. 

It is Monday morning now, though she doesn’t particularly feel the reality of that fact, isn’t sure if it is actually a fact, or if it just a concept that is broadly accepted as being a valid construct by which to order our lives, our schedules of working and education, which is required for working both practically in the learning of skills and tolerances for tedium and learned powerlessness, helplessness in the expectations of Monday. It occurs to her, briefly as a flash in the roll of awareness as the sky begins to lighten and her hands are cold like they were in the desert, a place – also – that has a slippery sense of day and time, the alternate clock of the sun beating down at midday, pulling the moisture from your body, the air itself drinking your sweat so that your skin becomes dry, begins cracking like the crust of the Earth that you ruin with your footsteps, that she should be concerned by her lack of caring about Monday, not even a lack of caring – more like a forgetting, the day and it’s expectations existing as an afterthought, something she must remind herself of and that feels like a distraction, almost an annoyance, if she cared enough to be annoyed – which she does not. There is not even a lack of caring. The fact of Monday is simply null, and she recognizes that this is problematic in the world that she lives in, the world is clock-set in the ways that it is. 

For the past few days, she has considered the course she is interested in signing up for, and also her reluctance to be listening, listening, listening, having to speak in some syntax that makes sense, to hem in her speech, be concise, ask in generalist questions, do not overshare, do not take up too much space, be aware of blindspots and privileged perspective, exist as a student, pay several hundred dollars she does not have. She doesn’t know if she will write the teacher or not. The course starts today and although she doesn’t especially mind that – if she were to reach out – this may be one of those situations in which she appears to be a dismissible hot mess that is disrespectful of people’s time and attention, but she also knows that she is actually interested in what the teacher has to say, despite finding it difficult to be in human-to-human listening space because she is often in other listening spaces. 

She has had several experiences of listening to this teacher and hearing the voices from other spaces in the resonance of the teachers words. She recognizes a sincere, humble humanity in the teacher, a safety in the energy around them. 

It is necessary for her to have human teachers that understand that she prioritizes being taught by wind and dogs and dreams and her own ancestors, all the ghosts she has around her and has had around her for as long as she can remember, probably from before she was born, the small specific facets of light, calibrated rememberings of who her people were in all the times they lived, and all the times that surely she must have been mingling with the dead as she was half-dead herself, asleep in the hospital, secured to the bed for as long as it took for her young restless body to heal the deep rupture of her blood-making organ, her spleen.

She has only a few memories of the months of her first major life threatening injury, her inoperable broken spleen on Christmas Day, 1982. Two years later, she almost died again, also by gravity – as if the ground were hungry for her, always pulling her bones down to the soil, breaking them, bruising them, grinding small crystals of what could be called sand but what may be bone, what may be tree, what may be rare jewels from distant mountains scraped across the miles and miles by the shifting lands and waters that created the place she called home for many years and which she may still call home, the rivers and marshes and east-west sky and storms and ocean smells down in that place that flows out from the River Styx, deep in the land of trembling earth, the Okefenokee itself, currently being assaulted by extractive activities by the Twin Pines Corporation based in B’ham, Alabama – something to do with toothpaste, some mineral.

There is no possible way to say all that she needs to say in 15 minutes. She feels a crush of overwhelm, sad bite of reality. How much there is to do. As soon as the day breaks she is tired, a defiant retreating laziness that usually sends her back to bed for her morning sleep, after she wakes up so early, several hours before light to write or say hello to her friends in the only social media platform that she is currently participating in, which is a small network of artists on Discord, to look at art and to realize what she must do, every day damned to realize again that she doesn’t especially care that it is monday, that she has a meeting, that she has a deadline. Multiple deadlines. There are people who want to talk with her, people who want to know if she is okay. 

She is totally fine, though she is gravely facing the facts of who she is and her inclinations, the times she feels most at ease in existing, the times it’s not just a horrible chore that she has to get through, show up for, be effective in. She is facing facts. 

In the talk last week, the last teaching in the online course she signed up for but hardly engaged with except for the last day, which she was determined to attend and set an alarm for and then forget and then remembered and was certain she was precisely where she needed to be as she logged on slightly late, being that person. Dogs all in the background because that is what she has been doing, tending to her animal family, this last household-based animal family that she will ever steward and be a part of. She will never have another household-bound animal family and she is in the process of bonding with the scrappy quadrant of new energies that is the rescue dog adopted in March, the found very sick feral kitten in some summer month, a cloudy day, warm. The two sisters of the rescue dog, the product of the mother dog’s next litter, living outside and eating garbage, bonded as though they were one dog. 

She has been making short videos of layered cloud forms because she finds them beautiful. 

https://youtube.com/shorts/MCJJSiSMNB0?feature=share CLOUDWAKE small genesis (and others) 

Several times a day she records herself speaking about the set of circumstances she finds herself in – forgetting about the relevance of Mondays, slipping blithely into deep personal financial crisis, surrounded by beloved animals that are safe friends to her, safe family to her, who – she is now realizing – has been ½ feral for much of her life, the animal in her – the child in the woods, the child who was not allowed to run, who was suspended from learning, disrupted from learning, who could not learn, who could not see, ½ blind until age 8, always getting hurt, a speech impediment that was especially humorous to other children, a traumatic experience of severing and racism in kindergarten that seeded in her a deep, naive confusion about what in the actual hell was going on in this world outside of the plexiglass geodesic dome back in the woods, all the sad reminders of why she must never, ever repeat anything her great-grandmother says, because her great-grandmother – beloved as she is – is a huge racist in the worst ways of the Old South that she was born right at the edge of, Georgia, c. 1894. 

Is it any wonder she was confused and skeptical about the validity of adult views and the integrity of adult decisions as she watched her father sell of land and arrange for streets to be paved, the ways they responded to her grief over seeing the world she was connected to as a creature and the world that she knew as home, as sanctuary, be scraped away, torn away? 

What can she say, st this point in the morning – when she is supposed to be having a meeting at 9:30 and she still hasn’t fully oriented to what she is doing…or rather, she has, and what she is doing is nothing at the moment, other than thinking and writing and considering what she needs to do over the next few days and…

As quickly as that, the conveyor of the day starts. 

The next morning, she begins again with the thinking of what she might say, imagining herself sitting down and speaking – the tilted circle of a loose-fitting ring light staring at her as if cocked-head, asking what she is actually trying to do there, wearing that hat and speaking like she has something to say, what is she talking about. The fear of not making sense, of the dead-flat space between her and another person’s misunderstanding or simply not understanding what she is talking about, what she is saying. It has been her problem, the inability to be understood, rather than a simple difference in language, a difference in thinking and seeing. Leaps in logic. Mind blind. Florid, forgetting that gestures make no sound, and that nobody knows what your tone is meant to convey and you wonder if you warble, like a voice underwater, hellllllllllllo you screamed into the snorkel, broadcasting a push of small waves on the wind of your breath to strain through the blue of the pool as something like a voice, something like a greeting. 

It is several hours later, since she woke up at 4:00am, excited to be in the dark pre-dawn, that interstitial time. 

She has fed dogs and cats, swept floors, brushed her hair for a very long time, rebraided it. Watched the sky turn lapis azul, a morning twilight with Orion having slid all the way across the southern sky, shining bright through the silhouettes of trees that the small barks from young dogs cut through, bounding voices toward the figures moving along the street, through the dark. 

Sometimes there is a commentary narrating experience, the speaking of steps to sweeping the floor, the remembering of the dust pan upstairs and the forgetting of the broom, the singing to animals and tumbles into some facet of their care, some tending to or settling, as small creatures need a lot of that sort of thing, tending and such. Settling. It becomes a sort of clockwork, the clatter of metal bowls in the cold kitchen, running the water until warm. Wasteful, yes, but cold wet food is no good on a cold day, and water makes a sort of sauce, almost a broth, slurry of crumb and oil, warm like soup. 

Walking the elder dog, who is still very much a puppy, she saw the unmistakable form of a figure asleep on the sidewalk, and — 

It is now two days later. Two days since she saw the sleeping form of the girl who walks down the middle of the street, thin and ageless, bare feet or flip flops. draped w a blanket, a towel, a sweatshirt – some grubby thing hanging off of her as she moves down the street as a child half-asleep in a midnight hallway. Sometime she will raise a hand, call to a car. Sometimes accept a ride from a man who only messes with the really crazy girls, a man who only likes the girls he can do anything to, the gone girls, women who were babies and women with daughters, women who’ve turned to ghosts on this street. 

She knew the sleeping form was the girl because of the cracked brown sole of one bare foot edging out from under the once-white poly fleece blanket, the kind they sell at grocery stores on the end caps this time of year, when it starts to get cold. 100% Fleece. Made in China. A simple band of glossy plastic around choked up around the bounding softness of blue, red, white like soft snow, beige like the nondescript comforts of old age. New blankets for the season. 

The dog walking with the woman was surprised by the form on the sidewalk, looked up from his smelling around a small holly hacked into a shrub ensconcing the metal sign stake marking the bus stop in front of the new middle school, almost 5 years now since the old school was torn down, a baseball field where the small front parking lot used to be, where she walked her son on the second day of 7th grade to vomit on the front walk and then return home, where the lower floors were dark and yellowing, shop class and band, storage. The vacuum silence of classroom instruction time in session, hallways surrounding a small simple square of shaded green grass, overgrown and unused, now somewhere under the new parking lot, where the woman had seen the fox in the very early morning last winter when the track was still open and she went before dawn everyday to run in clockwise circles and practice breathing only through her nose, practice only moving, focus her attention only on her breath, the look of the tops of trees sliding by as silhouettes, to only breath and only move and just watch what comes up in the blur of morning thinking, solemnity of intuition as footsteps in the dark and knowing the nagging was only the truth of what she needed to do and what she wanted to do, which was to be alone so that she could pay attention to the world in the way that she needs to, could be present in her work in the way that she needs to. That is what she learned running around in circles watching the day break in whatever way it might break, as sun or rain, frozen ground and slippery track, a whole series of seasons telling her the same truth every morning.

The track has been closed for months, and now there are dogs in the morning, a slip back toward the life of being beholden to the needs and tending of a quadrupedal family in her home, an animal family. She intended only to get an additional cat – a friend for the last remaining member of the prior iteration of her animal family, a post-feral kitten.  

{Interlude: She considers the phrase post-feral, prefers peri-feral, the state of being in the process of becoming feral, and also like peripheral, which is what Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction had played with in his name, but yet totally different in that the peri- and feral in periferal are not just homonyms for peripheral, but also have a meaning. }

Self-Sovereignty in Seeing




[Please note that there are contained within this post sentences that do not end correctly, that drop off after sprawling. This is due to the fact that I write – mostly – on my phone, mostly on the porch, and that the dog – bless him – sometimes barks at something on the street, and I have to get up suddenly to quiet him so as not to be a nuisance, and not to draw attention, and – also – so that I might focus on whatever it was that I was saying. I minimally edit these assemblages of emails to myself that accumulate over the course of a month, sometimes a season, and so there are many, many imperfections – which I am okay with. Occasionally, I will clean up an old post, but this project <here> is…hmmm, I was going to say that it is not a product, but it is – just like emails are a product and thoughts are a product and language itself is a product. This is not a product that is designed to be in line with the aesthetic slickness and flashofdrollcoolandsunnydayselfcaresuninhairmeditationinternet of a properly engaging website in the year 2021. Here’s the thing: when everything is slick and designed and perfectly hi-def, nothing stands out and there is too much of it all, though we are gluttons for smooth images on screens, moving pictures in scroll, the intrigue of what comes next, what answers may be found, what stories told, who to listen to, what to watch and read to satisfying the gnawing need to look at something, to play, to explore, to watch…it all starts to look the same. When everyone is clamoring to be heard and seen, liked and followed, listened to, appreciated, paid by price, power, or ego satisfaction, who does a person listen to? What is deserving of attention when everyone is trying so dang hard to get it? I am not intentionally ‘doing something different’ – I am different, and I don’t know how to do many things, and thus can’t do a lot of things that might be good to know how to do. I am okay with that. I am doing my best.]

July 30 2021 5:11pm

My current thinking, as I sit here is “Holy Mother of God, I have got to tell someone about this.” My mind quick-spools through the carousel of possibilities, degrees of separation between myself and someone I could actually trust to help me with this.

Then I remind myself that the vast majority of the world 99.999999999(…)% of people do not have any idea what I have been doing or saying, and that even those who may have a dim awareness of this project’s existence…well, they really don’t have any idea what it is actually about – a longitudinal study of form and experience and meaning, of curiosity and the impact on paying attention.

Internal voice is telling me to shut up, get to the point about what do you do?

You will not feel safe when people know about this and know you are connected to this, because people are crazy and you just might be right, there really might be something weird going on with the clouds. I mean, I dunno, I could even see that the dozens and probably hundreds of super strong examples of what I have referred to as atypical and repeating patterns in cloudforms, well…that might just be called cherry-picking the best examples of unusual phenomena that – while strange and rare – are not technically impossible, just highly unlikely. An explanation could be given that selective attention coupled with strong skills in pattern recognition and picture completion led me to ‘cue in’ to clouds that met general criteria for being similar to the ones I had believed – and still do believe, actually, even in light of my scientific grounding, or – perhaps – because of it…represented an ancient sentient Godforce that arose in the subtle pulse and patterns of all things living over 4.5 Billion Years.

I can’t stand that anything remotely resembling an ecosystemic God or Gods is popularly relegated to the bubbly sphere of the New Age, or that elements of useful information about the nature of living things in a multidimensionally* interconnected and underaccounted for real world.

Multidimensional meaning across multiple domains, as in areas of connection – food, proximity, DNA, electrical fields, air, bacteria, etc. (not necessarily dimensions across the continuums of space and time, though that would be super interesting, and doesn’t seem entirely unlikely since we as humans have arisen as a species over hundreds of thousands of years in direct and intimate contact with the earth and the species that share our habitats with us. It’s only within the past few hundred years, maybe the past few thousand in the ‘seats of civilization’ – that our cosmologies (at least in the Western mind and experience) have been bifurcated, segmented into God and us, nature and us, humans a thing apart and a thing above, above nature and – in their actions – above God. Splitting atoms. Making new species in labs. Killing people. Mechanizing slaughter. Desecrating sacred places, holy places. Etc, etc.

We didn’t used to have time. We had rhythms and signs. Now we have numbers and measures. Commitments made well in advance, non-negotiable meetings, binding reservations. The time maps of our days, weeks, seasons…what we are to do and when…creating the territory we move through in our lives, where we place ourselves and for what purpose.

Anyway, it doesn’t seem that weird to me that an ecosystemic force would a) exist and b) muster its oldest instincts and speak up in the ways it can about what is happening and – perhaps – what may well happen.

It doesn’t take a prophecy to know that by virtue of the existence of nuclear weapons in a world that is war-oriented, we are at risk of nuclear annihilation, which will decimate the genetic information of all creation and basically create a world of horrible things worse than any hell one might imagine.

So, here I am. The past two months of clouds are a data set in and of themselves, as I’ve taken probably a thousand pictures. My camera roll is – as my project summary for the Proving God w/ Clouds thing states, ‘a blur of blue.’ But, also near black and bright gold. All the forms I identified in 2010 as being awfully peculiar for a cloud are represented in the June-July data set. There are plenty of examples of what I am talking about with the triangles, the 3, the eyes – and then some, so much more. The look of entire stories rolling and jumbling, yawning into profound detail, moving cleanly, decisively. An eye opening with such a human gesture that I exclaimed, ‘Oh!’ and my body jumped back a little, surprised – still – to see a perfect eye in the sky opening in such a human way.



July 31st 9:44pm

It really is very difficult to hold this possible reality in which I am going to sit down and calmly, effectively introduce the cloudform documentation project, hypotheses, and possible problematic or potentially world changing aspects of the project as I see it, and to see – ultimately – what someone else (whose perspective I trust) may see in it, without any attachment to their perspective being one thing or another, and with full intent to move on to the next potential source of assistance in both decision making as to what one ought to do with a project like this, especially when there is an undeniable sense of unfounded belief around the occurrence of ‘radiation’ symbols in recent cloudforms echoing around her extant fear, her child-fear, of nuclear war and nuclear anything because she grew up by one of the largest nuclear submarine facilities on the east coast, heard people say how her hometown would be a target, the town that wasn’t on the map before the base came, the town that became a target, because of the base. The speculative conversations of middle school students, their fathers, men at gas stations: “If there were ever a war, an attack on American soil, this place would be a target.”

She needs to come up with another descriptor for the sensation of her ‘mind unspooling’ – because she has over-used that concept, tho’ it is fitting



August 1, 7:25am

The morning is soft, sleepy. The sense of much to do, tho’ – not a cognitive sense, a body sense, something that feels like intuitive urgency, but that may just be my imagination.

In light of the recent set of data that has emerged unanticipated, events in nature sometimes do, depending on how well one understands the indicators of an event, the ways that complex events such as animal migrations, species adaptation, or simply the event of seeing a thing, if it is known that the event is likely to take place at a specific time under specific conditions, the prodrome of events, early signifiers and causal relationships.

While I did not exactly anticipate that I would spend quite a bit of time gathering, contemplating, and organizing new cloud data over the past couple months, and have been genuinely surprised by how rich a showing the skies have offered on recent evenings, it would be a lie to say that I entirely did not anticipate the event of a particularly strong opportunity to gather additional evidence of the phenomena I am investigating both cloudform phenomena and experiential phenomena, phenomena of belief.

This project summary was compiled to serve as a framing context to support the assemblage and publications of prior inquiry relating to the structure of cloud formations and experiences of religious and/or spiritual association, meaning, and belief. Because I have gathered many examples of the forms that I find to be so curious, so auspicious, I intended to only periodically document additional clouds. ‘Periodically’ would mean simply maintaining my regular life practice of paying attention to what the sky and world around me is doing and taking pictures of things I find interesting, so ‘periodically’ would mean everyday probably, but not everyday definitely and not everyday for a couple of hours. A few minutes here and there.

Additional to the data set of cloudform documentation from the last two months is the data of experience in the process of documenting the shapes and movement of clouds while trying to be aware of my automatic interpretations, to allow for them without holding tightly to them. To observe what sense occurs in relation to the clouds, what knowing might arise, whether it is a comfortable knowing or an uncomfortable knowing, trusting neither comfort or discomfort to be anything other than the whispers of hopes or fears, misunderstandings of the mind and heart of the observer.

Aug 1, 6:22pm

The overwhelming impression that I get is that I need to show this work to someone. It comes down to a matter of faith, whether I trust that people will see. Whether they do or don’t, now or never, is not up to me. It is not my job to make a person see anything. My job is show what I see, and to try my best to show other people what I see, because it is beautiful and powerful and important, our human birthright to stand outside and watch the clouds spell out exactly what we are.

The cloud roll has been – again – tremendous today. Many candles. Many, many candles. I guess I can take a hint. Though I don’t know if my interpretation of ‘times a’runnin’ out fer ya. Runnin’ out for us all.’

I first saw the fire form a few days ago. Tiny fire form on a lit match held between two fingers. Very distinct, at least to me. It might look like a dozen other things to someone else, or like nothing at all.

Here’s a draft letter:

Hello. My name is ——— and I am reaching out to you because I believe that a longitudinal art and observation project that I have been engaged with for 11 years has come to a sudden point of phase-fruition that calls for me to seek advice as to what I might need to do next, given that there is a slim but charismatic chance that observations I have made of observable atypical/unlikely micro and macro patterns in cloudforms correspond to distinct spiritual or symbolic associations and experiences.

When this project started in 2010, I lost my mind – to much personal and familial detriment, it’s worth noting, from which we have all blessedly recovered – when I started seeing icons and language in cloudforms.

At the time, I believed that what I was seeing was the most important thing in the world, because that is what a person – or at least this person – feels when they see something that looks and feels like a God you could never quite imagine is showing itself in the sky, forming and unforming, transforming in all the strange holy glories of everything that ever mattered in this brief world we know.



Aug 3 5:17am
There was a bank of clouds somewhere to the west. She knew it was cloudy across the river, over railroad tracks, out toward the taller mountains because sun seemed to have been going down for hours, too early for the season. The afternoon felt like Fall, maybe late September, early October, still two months off, and she savored the anachronism of a cool grey day in August, especially after the heat and glare at the end of July, the everyday sweat and squint.

They sat on the porch, a small tidy porch, clean and swept, enough room for the two rocking chairs and a tiny round-topped table, inlaid mosaic and thin spindly legs, curved metal like a helix, easy to knock over. Her porch at home was large and not clean, stretching across the whole front of the house. There were two rockers on her front porch, too – the ubiquitous two rockers of the southern home. The rockers on her porch needing to be painted, white finish gone grey at the spindles joining the seat, paint worn off the armrests, a million gestures of standing up, unthinking grasps of the chair. Her elbow resting on the right arm had worn a special spot that marked the years of sitting and smoking, writing emails to herself on her phone, her great-grandmother’s heavy gardening table set against the dust-filmed white wood of the house itself. Everyday she thinks about washing the house, but she hasn’t washed it yet. She waits until the warmest day, but then is tired when it is house, not wanting to be wet, to be moving, scrubbing and lunging, watching the water run black-grey, the dust of roads clinging to whatever it touches. On the hottest days, she only wants to lay still, though washing the house would – if she were to do it – likely be more fun, and would, she knows it, ‘feel good’ – which means that this action of cleaning her home would temporarily assuage the dull and constant inner sense that she is a lazy slob, which she knows isn’t true, but that still makes her feel self-conscious and like she has a secret as she sits on the small porch, the tidy porch with a delicate table.

“Well, good,” the man said as an a-ha, “you’ve already said one word, and that is ‘book’ – which is good because that’s what I know and what I can help you with. All the art stuff, I don’t know about anything with the photography and art, but I can talk with you about a book.”

“Don’t you think that, in today’s publishing market, there is room for multi-media projects? Especially with digital publishing, you can have books that employ things like non-traditional formatting, lots of pictures, interesting layouts of text.”

‘Book’ can mean a lot of different things. It can mean a wall of words between two covers, a world that is bound by text, open only to those who can read in the language the book is printed in. What if she wants to ‘write’ a story that a refugee could ‘read’?

There are a lot of stories she wants to tell, and many people she wants to tell them to.

What would be the story she would write to the refugee, imagined person, hands like ropes, hot air, the single phone passed round a canvas-walled room, a story that could be told in only one moment, only one image, only one word, a word that tells of the great power in the very air we breathe, the miracle of our breath, that tells a person that their suffering is seen, and that they are not alone, and that all the forces of good and graciousness in the world are relentlessly fighting for mercy to be upon them?

What if I wanted to write a book for a child, or for a politician?

What if I wanted to write a book for everyone?

What could I say that would matter, that would help turn the tide of so much suffering, so many different sufferings?

She sits in the dark of the early morning, and considers the feel of her body held by the rocker, wood hard against the bones of her form, insects pulsing out their brief life in a rubbing of wings and legs that seems impossibly loud in the trees, the air all around, as birds begin their very first songs of the day, saying “I am here. It is day. Where are you? Where are you? Where are you? I am here. It is day. Where are you? Oh, what will we eat this morning?”

There are no words, no words for the simplicity and wisdom of the birds’ waking hour, the pull to fly, to eat, to find one’s friends, to wait for the warmth, to keep living.

“You’ll need to make a proposal, and I can show you some really good examples of what that might look like.”



Aug 4 6:53am

I am careful with the extent to which I share experiences of awe and belief, what runs through my mind and heart as I am watching the sky contort into stories and figures, a simultaneous disbelief and depth of belief as straight-forward and simple as the existence of my own right hand, my own left hand, the ground I stand on, which I understand to be billions of years old and teeming with entire worlds we cannot see.

I understand the sky, also, to be billions of years old and teeming with entire worlds we cannot see.

The need for assistance in this is profound.

I have mustered myself to show this project to a couple of people, but it hasn’t quite worked out, though I have an appt with a friend on the 11th, to zoom and screenshare. I should probably make a presentation, because that would be helpful.

Yes. That is a good idea.

I have a lot of good ideas. I’m a good-idea kind of person.

Having spent the majority of my consciously and experientially recalled life as the person I am, ever since I began to learn about the world outside of my small home-world of woods and family, dirt roads and old traditions I didn’t yet know to be strange, speaking in a way that I could never have known wasn’t entirely normal until I went to school, crossed the railroad tracks, went into town, and nobody could understand me when I told them my name.

I had a severe speech impediment until I was 9. My mouth simply would not form the sound of R, tooth the tooth and edge and growl out of every word. Turned word into wood, bird into bud, my last name into wine.



Aug 5 5:26am

She noticed that the day had turned dark in the afternoon again, hinting at the season to come, reminding of the impermanence of summer. Why, she wondered, did she persist in doing things that she recognized were not ‘what I am supposed to be doing’? The question scaffolding her wondering is ‘why do I feel like I should be doing a certain thing, and not doing another’?

The answers are intertwined in her skepticism of what feels like intuition, and the necessity of balancing reason with feels and being diplomatic, patient, not jumping to conclusions, or acting in a hasty or irrational way.

Yesterday, like the day before and like every day she had stepped out of her ceilinged home, she had bet herself that there would be nothing there if she looked up, that the sky would be the same old sky that meant nothing.

She could barely remember the sky that means nothing, the sky that is just a happenstance pretty thing, the bearer of circumstantial rain and wind, simple science of water and air.

She hasn’t seen that sky, that simple sky, for a long time. She doesn’t know if she misses it or not, or if she will ever see it again. If she were to see it again, what will she have lost?

Within moments of her looking at the sky, she recognizes the beginnings of form, the glint of an eye, the hint of a line. Yesterday, as she stepped out onto her street to walk the dog in the strange cool-dark of the mid-summer early morning, the street still quiet, even the birds hushed in a way that made the world seem paused somehow, holding its breath. She liked the quiet, but likes birds more, the aliveness and singing, feathers in flight, perfection of beak.

How many birds has she seen in the sky here of late? As many cloudbirds as real birds flying?

The clouds that made her lose her mind in 2010 were nothing compared to the clouds that she sees lately, but she is not losing her mind.

There really is something weird about the clouds.



Aug 5, 6:05am

Yesterday, she was relieved that she hadn’t contacted the FBI. That would have been a bad decision, and may have significantly undermined the progress of this project. The only reason I considered contacting the FBI is because of the fear-knowing feels that I get when I see symbols that could be called holy and clouds that look like mushrooms, the sad-eyed faces of animals, rictus of horror on some white man’s face, graven stare of birds, all these freakin’ clouds, man. Does this qualify as aerial phenomena? Is the sense of fear that I – as an individual with a longstanding fear of nuclear war and nuclear anything – have when I watch the clouds and the shapes they make spell out a story to me of doom, a doom like I’ve never imagined, could never imagine, shudder to even think to imagine, shake as I see the disambiguation of all sacred form, the roll of life and death stretched out over me at sunset time.

I mean, my personal feelings about and interpretations of clouds do not constitute a national emergency.

“Yeah, but Faith, what if they do? What if some weird shit is happening where there really are ancient omniscient sentient and all powerful forces that exist inseparably from us and from everything alive, the earth itself, the smallest forms, and what if people used to be able to see evidence of these forces in nature and circumstance – and still can, and still do, all over the world – but, the connection was disrupted by history and by design (long story, save for later), and maybe cause I am some weirdo who has long been geeked out about patterns in nature and who has had an unusual set of lived experiences, and has an atypical strength in pattern recognition and picture completion tasks of ‘intelligence’ I noticed something that is happening, because it is interesting and beautiful to me, and – lo and behold – it actually is really strange and I actually cannot explain it, and I actually do need help understanding why I see what I do and what it means, if anything. The sky is public domain. If I – as an intelligent, observant, and concern citizen of this planet, ensconced in sky as it is – see something that is concerning, shouldn’t I say something?

This is what I have learned about saying anything about clouds:

People think you are weird if you talk about clouds, and think you are crazy if you talk about God and clouds, and they definitely think you’re crazy if you say you see things in clouds.

Even if you have pictures of what you see and can explain why you see the lines clearly (because they are right there!) and are genuinely curious from an environmental sciences standpoint, as well as an anthropological standpoint, and have taken the time to think this through (for 11 years!) and have demonstrated an awareness of one’s capacity for objectivity and are not trying to do some wild media thing or freak anyone out or anything like that at all, and just really, really, really want to know why the clouds look like they do and why I am so compelled to watch them, and why I feel the way I do when I see them – do some psychoanalysis around all that, but not seek to unsee the sky, never, to never unsee the sky and to defend my right to see and observe the sky in whatever way is innate to my evolving nature as my human right.

The only reason I talk about rights is because I am a person who has been court-ordered to take whatever psychiatric medication I am prescribed, and I am a person who has been forcibly injected with haloperidol and who has been held in restraints, despite my sitting still and trying to explain, only standing to ask for my bra back, to not want to be naked under that thin cloth in that cold room. Restrained only to keep me from getting up to ask questions, being as cautious as I could, because I understood the situation I was in and what people thought was happening with me, which was – to a certain extent, yes – actually happening, the psychosis, the delusions, but it really wasn’t so bad, and there were lots of chaos factors in the complex events that led to my being in the hospital. Those events, those complex events, were singularly attributed to me being crazy and weird.



Aug 5 4:08pm

What am I hoping to accomplish here, with these pictures, this name[Proof of God!…]?
Do I really want to prove God?
Do I think I am proving God with clouds? What do I want to do? What do I want the outcomes to be? What do I expect the outcomes to be?
Do I really want to prove God?

No. Not especially. I don’t even know if proving God is possible, given that we don’t know what God is, and even if we discover something that could be like God, even if it tells us that it is God, well – I don’t know if even that would be proof of anything other than something that appears to possess the attributes of what we humans imagine God to possess, and identifies itself as God. Who knows, could be the Devil in disguise?

Do I think I am proving God with clouds?

Well, not exactly, but I do think that some of the forms that are observable in cloud structure somewhat resemble symbols associated with various religious traditions within human cultures, and somewhat resemble what I as an artist observe to be faces and eyes, animal shapes and strange geometries, plays with light. However, I do understand that what I see is simply what I see, and that one person seeing a thing proves very little other than their individual capacity for pareidolia.

Nonetheless, many of the features that I find to be unusual are distinct and obvious enough – in my opinion – as to meet criteria for being able to be seen with the naked eye by most people, or so I would imagine.

Those criteria are:

clarity/accuracy of form

completeness of form

quality of form documentation

I just made those criteria up, and will need to further define them, but what I’m getting at is that some of the features of the clouds I observe are not difficult to discern from other aspects of the sky’s composition at that moment.

It’s like, yeah, people should be able to see this really beautiful and detailed face that is hanging in the north/northwestern sky, or the equally, singularly irreplicable wonder of eyes set in the eastern sky, or a dolphin swimming in the waters of the southern sky.

Shouldn’t they? Is it really just me?

That is information I need to have, if it’s just me, if I am the only one who sees this stuff, meaning that I have taken thousands of pictures of perfectly normal everyday clouds that don’t look like anything else at all.

I need to know if that is the case, and the only way to find out is to show people.

I’ve already addressed the inherent challenges of saying anything beyond a passing commentary on weather or prettiness about clouds in general, and saying anything at all about God and clouds, or what that whole situation is. Most people seem to have 0 interest in discussing such things and appear to consider a person strange or unseemly if God and clouds are brought into any sort of everyday conversation. The people who do want to talk about God and the clouds want to talk about such things in a way that I don’t always find especially helpful, as far as my need to figure out what in the actual is going on with all these triangles.

While I find it interesting to hear about the crazy ass cloud that someone and their cousin saw in Florida when they were tripping on acid, or the way they like to find animals, pointing to a run-of-the-mill cumulous that isn’t doing or being anything at all, saying: “See, it’s like a bunny.”I find most things interesting though, and at this point in my inquiry, I really need to focus on my questions and finding answers to them, not going down the rabbit hole of cloud trips with a random person at a bus stop.

So, no. I do not think I am proving God (or gods) or anything other than that there is some weird stuff that goes on with clouds, man, and that there are cloud-distinct micro-pattern phenomena that show up again and again, like that 3, and the Y. I find this interesting enough to warrant further investigation as to what atmospheric phenomena produce the conditions that create these forms. I don’t really have a good excuse for why I haven’t earnestly begun to research this prior to now, but I have good reasons, reasons that make sense to me.

I have a bit of trauma experience around this project and doing anything with it that may result in me having to admit that I am ‘doing the cloud thing’ again – which means prioritizing my interest and curiosity about cloudforms over other important human relational and economic endeavors. That sort of behavior, the cloud thing in preference to other behaviors and activities, is not something that I am supposed to be doing. This is what I have learned from external feedback ranging from dismissal to criticism to ostracization and ridicule, paternalistic smarminess about how it is interesting, isn’t it?

At this point in my life, I don’t want to deal with any of those things – but, I also don’t care if I have to in order to move this work forward, because – in all honesty – that’s really what I need to do and what I need to be doing right now, because whatever the origins of the belief – narrative, delusion, misread intuition all bungled with the static of my insecurities and unmet childhood needs to be seen and understood – I hold a belief that if I willfully and out of social cowardice deny the impetus to do this work, this work that I love and that I find purpose in, this work that challenges me and mentors me in how it must done, stretches me – for better or for worse – to the ends of my imagination as entire possible worlds are transformed each day, from living to death, to the life of new things…

If I deny the impetus to do this work, to pour all of the energy I give to things I don’t really care that much about to earn wages or to appease perceived social pressures or out of simply getting swept up in the charisma of a bad idea that sparkles nonetheless, then I will regret it every day, multiple times a day, until I die, and it will be like a curse, this not having done the work that I understand to be my life’s work, the thing that is mine to do in the ways that I might do it.

I have no idea how I am going to earn a living exploring patterns in cloudforms and the anthropology of patterns in nature and religious cultural symbols and icons, especially since I am neither a) cloud physicist or a b) anthropologist.

I have noted that as I have been writing there have been no clouds – the sky is totally blue. God, I love that. It is actually not entirely easy to watch clouds closely for a couple of hours straight. It is easy only in that it produces a sort of flow state and a suspended state of sharp focus and so I am not consciously aware of the fact that I am tired, or hungry, or that my shoulder aches, my neck hurts, my eyes are sore. I am sweaty and overwhelmed and yet totally calm, studying the clouds because that – in those moments that stretch into afternoons – is my work and I am working.


08/06 5:58am

About

This website (note: refers to http://www.imfinethankyou.net) is an experiment that provides summaries of other experiments across multiple media. The primary researcher in this work is Faith R.R. – a differently-abled self-taught artist and healing justice worker who is formally educated in sociology and psychology, with specialized focus in social justice and transformative social change studies, including an undergraduate minor in Black Studies.

You can learn more about Faith’s professional work in human service systems and mental health recovery education here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faith-rhyne-11651b53

This site is a living space, which means that projects are always in development and that content is likely to be added, removed, or edited as methods are refined and inquiries evolve.

Any experiment has a driving question: “What will happen if…”

The motivating curiosity driving the creation and sharing of this site is: “What will happen if I show people my artwork and share the things I actually think about and care about?”

‘…if I show people how weird I really am…if I show people who I really am…if I tell people what I notice and experience…’

As a differently-abled person that has extensive experience of mental health challenges that impact social and occupational health, Faith has learned that it is typically not okay to be herself, that it is not socially safe or socially advantageous to show what she cares about or to talk about what she thinks about.

She is unlearning that fear of being herself and – in the process – learning quite a bit about what actually matters to her.

Despite trying very hard for many years to successfully make her way through the typical economic activities of education and employment, and despite working in professional roles that dealt in the business of people’s lives and deaths and suffering, and despite being exceptionally skilled in many areas, a MA’ed utility player, very good worker, etc. Faith has never earned more than 27,000 a year and generally earns less, some years much less, due to simply not being able to work a typical 40-hour work week doing whatever it is that she is being paid to do. The sensory stress, social and communicative complexities, and schedule/time logistics are overwhelming (not to mention the executive function challenges involved in doing the work itself) to the point of creating a state of burnout that is not just being ‘tired of working’ or ‘burnt out’ – but, is probably more akin to the phenomenon of autistic burnout, wherein people lose skills and function in multiple areas is impaired, as well as there being physical indicators of burnout like exhaustion or somatic manifestations of distress.

I often begin from a place of doubt, such as here on a rain-drizzled Sunday morning, unseasonably cool, more like early October, insects singing the question of their lifespan, the only song they know. I did not wake up at 3:30 in the morning full of vigor and ideas, a deep-grinning enthusiasm in my belly, my mind sharp and dancing with the imagined future, feeling it and seeing it so thoroughly as to make it real. A man from Alabama once informed her that the middle of the night is when the spirits rise, and she wondered what he really knew about el duende, which is what she had been mentioning to him, this learning about the spirit of art and creation, beings in protection of the forest. They exist in all the stories, is what she was going to say, but by then the man was going on about something Jungian, his own experience of dreaming.



She did not wake up at 3:30 in the morning, but slept through and through the cool damp of night still summer warm in her bed, under her heavy blankets, her weighted cave for sleeping, always sweating through her sleep in the summer as a fact of the necessity of being covered heavily as a condition of her sleeping at all

Some mornings, there is no doubt. Today, there is doubt – or, rather, there was. She begins from a place of doubt because she knows that is she begins to name what she notices as a discouraged uncertainty, a lack of confidence, bungled sense of one’s own efficacy in being a person who does anything other than be a lazy fuck who lets their life and potential and brightness slip into dying without ever really trying, really trying to do this thing they long to do.

At this point in my life, I really just want to be able to be myself, and to be able to be open about what I think about and what I care about, to be known for those things and visible in being who I am – which, of course, is changing all the time.

Note a chorus of white men rising up to tell me about how there is no self and this I that I imagine myself to be does not exist and that the things that I care about are ego attachments and the mind must be silenced of what it thinks about, become nothingness.


And, really, it’s like – “Okay, got it, yeah, and shut the fuck up please because the planet is on fire and flooding and animals are dying and there is some truly horrible shit happening on the daily everywhere and I care about that. This is the world I live in and I care about that. I care about my art and my process, the fiber of my spirituality – which is not some imbecilic idea of the ego or identity, but the very substance of my existences as a brief phenomena of blood, gristle, and experience, of witness and walking-talking participant, on this earth, the very substance of what connects me to everything else that is alive and dying in the world as some dude drones on and on about his theories on the theories of other men…”


Why this work is important and not something I need to ‘let go of’ or ‘get over’ so that I can ‘focus on what I need to be doing’ – earning wages in a professional/semi-professional occupational role and not thinking too much about things like post-modernism and peri-apocalypse, definitely not thinking about trying to save the world because even though our culture in the Western world is completely saturated with heroic narratives on unlikely high-stakes missions to prevent some global calamity or another, it is not actually okay for everyday people to be thinking about what they personally might be able to do to save the world.


We can think about ‘being the change we want to see’ and ‘doing our small part’ and ‘helping just one person’ or ‘planting just one tree.’


However, if everyday people start thinking too much about what is actually creating the situations the world (people, planet, animals, ocean, forests, children, future, etc.) needs saving from, and if people actually start considering what they may be able to do to try to contribute to greater change, they are seen as…


Hmmm…I feel a research question coming on.


What are people’s experiences of ambitions to create significant change in social/economic/environmental justice areas?

Are there people who daydream about saving the world?

Are there people who want to try to save the world?

Are there people who are engaged in activities that are motivated by a belief that these activities may ‘save the world’?

This is interesting to me, and reminds me of my idea to develop myself as an artist-researcher that does projects in the public sphere about topics I am interested in, particularly those related to transformative social change processes, and the phenomenology of individual experience in the context of larger social, economic, and cultural spheres.
“Individual experience in the context of larger social, economic, and cultural spheres? Gee, Faith, that sounds like a pretty big scope of interest.”


Speaking of which, I sat down to write out a few ideas about why this is work and why this work is important. This is work because – for example – I personally do not necessarily want to always be noticing the clouds or documenting the clouds as a matter of methodology in my inquiry about rudimentary patterns in nature that are related to the development of human language and distinct cultural/mythological/religious beliefs may inform us of how our ancestors may have seen and experienced spirituality in relation to the natural world.


As a side note, although I’ve said it before, I have no idea where I said it or if I said it well – it makes no sense to me why ancient humans would go to incredible lengths to inscribe stones and build temples – massive monuments – if what they believed was God/gods were not actually really, really important. I wonder if the motivation was for rulers to be seen as God/gods, to position themselves as God/gods.


Jesus Christ, humans are so freaking confused. I’m confused. I mean, really, what in the actual…?




08/09 7:59am

Yesterday, 08/08, I did not especially intend to take over 2,000 pictures of clouds. My camera roll tells me that the first image of a cloud was not captured until 4:22pm, a whole day of skies undocumented and largely unseen save for dog walks and brief glances from the hall window, more habit than anything, checking the blue that remained mostly unbroken for much of the day. The last cloud picture was taken at 8:38pm. I intended to write more yesterday, and thought some about drawing, about painting. My daughter is on leave from work as the school year begins, her senior year. My son leaves for college this morning, traveling from his father’s house across town. Yesterday, he came by to pick up some new socks I got him, say goodbye to the dog and the kitten. I’ve not mentioned the kitten. There is a kitten.

I will send my son a text message here in a few as I get ready to walk the dog and go get a new toilet because the tank on the one upstairs got a strange hairline crack, slow seeping water like tears gathering. The ignition element for the old gas stove’s pilot light broke last week and I’ve not yet repaired it, going back and forth between calling Arnie the kindly and fastidious repair man or ordering the part online and attempting the seemingly simple repair herself.

Most things that seem simple are not, but sometimes they are. She is glad she knows how to replace a toilet.

Despite her current hiatus from wage-earning, she has been thinking a lot about work and the necessity of earning money, trying to figure out just how precisely she is going to do that and reminding herself that while it is very good to exist in the stress-free mirage of optimism and strong faith that she is not blithely tumbling toward irresponsibility, slow ruin.

It won’t take long for her to set up her ‘professional website’ and she can create the content needed for her ‘art website’ so long as she actually opens the computer and begins to write, to copy/paste from old writings, refined drafts and culled emails to herself for an ‘ABOUT’ page.

The difficulty of existing as someone who is deeply engaged in an observational and contemplative art project on the topic of patterns in nature and experiential perception of the numinous – i.e. Proving God w/ Clouds: An Emergent Scientific Inquiry – and living with one foot very much planted in a speculative future which finds me cleverly and strategically connecting with ‘experts’ who can help me to either contribute to a new area of study in the micro-pattern formations of cloud structures and the origins of human mythology and spirituality, or simply help me to understand why I am seeing all of this and to determine – once and for all – whether it is important for me to continue to observe and contemplate the ongoing presentation of the clouds or whether there is actually nothing weird at all about the skyscapes and I can work on organizing my documentation up to this point and identifying which cloud photos I would like to begin painting. I need to be drawing and painting what I see in the clouds because – regardless of ‘meaning’ and ‘importance’ outside of my own experience, the forms of clouds are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, again and again. As I assess the matrices of my strengths, interests, and limitations, I recognize that – if nothing else – I can probably build a happy, sustainable, and fruitful career as a strange surrealist, a futurist. An artist.

However, my ability to take the steps necessary to create that reality (such as, um, establishing a regular practice of drawing, painting, and sharing work, finding ways to sell work or to support my work) is being undermined by the continued feeling that I ought to document the clouds I notice because – dang – sometimes they really do look important, though I can’t say why. They are beautiful, yes, and even if/when I get the information needed to make an informed decision about the time I invest in cloudform documentation, I will likely still look at clouds everywhere I go and I will still – I’m sure – take pictures of the sky because that is where some of my gods live. However, the gods I believe in – nameless gods by many names, I’m sure – also live in water, in trees, in animals, in people, out in the world.

I don’t want to spend my whole life looking at clouds. This is not my only project.



Aug 11 5:32pm

Well, here I am again, trying to “prove God on the Internet with pictures of clouds.” It really was necessary for me to have this immersive re-experience, re-iteration of the summer of 2010, when I lost my mind in part because the clouds looked weird. When I first started noticing the clouds, I wasn’t actually that crazy. Circumstances, however, soon aligned to create a unique set of stressors and complexly coalescing impossible situations that exceeded my capacity to cope and engaged a somewhat hyperattentive problem solving state as I tried to reconcile my little world of work and family and routines wavering toward chaos, collapse.

I still believe that my seeing strange formations in the clouds was not a matter of mental illness, a hallucination. There is, after all, photographic evidence of the phenomena of form that created such a strong impression on me, a person who – it’s worth noting – is generally very impressionable. The shapes in the clouds are a neutral objective observation of a phenomenon in the natural, physical, material world. The meaning I attributed to them and the ways that I responded and reacted to that meaning are where I got a little crazy.

When I first started noticing the clouds, I tried to talk to people about them because I thought – as an artist and a person who was pretty geeked out about patterns in nature during that particular season and who had been drawing a lot and indulging in the richness of the visual sense in the way that only a person who once had been near blind can indulge, every detail and nuance of light a small miracle.

Nobody would have a normal, curious conversation with me about any of it, and began to develop concerns about my mental health which – as such concerns often do – expressed themselves as a general doubt of the validity or rationality of anything I might say or do, watching me with a slightly stern mouth, a guarded, skeptical, impatient eye.



08/20/2021 6:20am

Here at 5:50 am on 08/20/2021, sun still down, earth still turning, insect symphony in the dark, always the word pulsing in the song they sing without knowing anything else to do, it’s probably a good idea to take some notes, as I have reached a turning point with this project. My intent in June was to begin what I expected to be the long process of refining my telling and showing of the ‘time I lost my mind trying to prove God with pictures of clouds on the Internet.’

The framing of the story was one of creative non-fiction, literary non-fiction…magically real first person account of neurodiversity, spirituality, and psychosis told in mixed-tense utilizing elements of autoethnography and employing a third person narrative voice to situate the subject (me) in the broad context of the world I live in as it is constructed of vast phenomena, both material and conceptual, atrociously tragic and stunningly beautiful, etc. etc.

I was approaching this project as a person who had been through something (my life as a person who had a non-ordinary childhood – what is ordinary? – and who had been impacted by a confluence of beauty, loss, alienation, fear, and life-threatening injury as a child growing up in a sacred, ancient place – all places are sacred and ancient. I was telling the story I have been trying to tell ever since it began in 2010 – tho’ really, what is the beginning of any story? I was telling from the position of a person who had stanced themself apart from the events, the experience, but who still had a need for deeper resolution, who still had significant questions about what had happened in her life that year she began seeing something that felt like God in the clouds, what had happened in her life to even situate her to have such an experience, the factors that contributed to the formation of perception, meaning-making, and the chaotic interplay of internal and external realities that ultimately led to her being involuntarily committed, forcibly treated with psychiatric medication and held against her will for – How many days? She doesn’t remember, but could look back at notes, look back at records. Medical and handwritten in her same pressured scrawl, letters in blocks set sideways and up, filling the pages – and ultimately losing legal custody of her children not because she was really a terrible mom, as she was definitely not a terrible mom, but because there were concerns about her ability to ‘make good decisions due to her mental and emotional health’ as a result of impressions that were formed in response to early cloud documentation and inquiry in a somewhat hostile relational environment characterized by negative bias, invalidation of strengths (and – in the course of some conversations – worth as a human being in general) and mental health stigma. She conceded legal custody for the purpose of neutralizing any further divorce drama as it was not productive nor healthy for anyone involved, least of all her two kids. The neutralization of conflict through accepting surrender allowed her to retain partial physical custody of her kids and begin the process of restoring some form of stability and security in their small lives. She had not imagined, when she began watching the clouds out of a pre-existing and long-standing interest in patterns in nature and a happenstance spiritual practice that she stumbled into, so to speak, as she sat on her porch alone, heart-wrenched and grieving, feeling profoundly alone.



She began this project summary portfolio from the perspective of someone who was ready to begin researching all the different ways of seeing and understanding the madness that had changed her life so thoroughly, that had changed her. In many ways, perhaps entirely – yes, actually, entirely – she is profoundly grateful to have experienced everything she has experienced and is grateful even to have lost what she has lost, as those tragedies small and large have taught her heart what matters and what it feels like when something beautiful is wrecked because of bad decisions and distorted priorities.

At 6:25am, after sending the writing as a first installment of notes saved to multiple mailboxes via email, getting up to get some coffee and noticing the pleasant, grainy feel of being awake with unbrushed hair as the sky lightens slowly, bringing day, with a brief reeling recall of early morning travel, being awake all night – which, it’s worth noting, she was not. She sleeps for 5-6 hours and then wakes up to work, sleeps for 1.5 hours in the late-morning or early afternoon, wakes up and continues on.

Lately, her work has been toggling between setting up her professional LLC to offer specialized consultancy for wellness, growth, and transformation – or something like that – a hybrid of individual and family coaching for people exploring intersectional and integrative wellness as part of the journey of understanding and developing strategies to responding to mental health challenges and disruptive distress that acknowledge the complex adaptive nature of structural and systemic factors that impact our experiences as humans and the resources available to us in our individual healing journeys, and working with community initiatives and nonprofits working with vulnerable and complex trauma impacted communities to build informed, functional infrastructure around models of collaborative, dynamic, and inclusive leadership and methods of participatory action research in public health efforts to address mental health and substance use in relation to poverty and trauma.

I already have my fall consulting contracts lining up and I am excited about the work I will be doing with a few different projects. Leaving my work as a wage-earner was the best thing I could have done. Not that I had a choice.

In any event, there has been that work. Meetings and emails. Documents. All good though, interspersed with the work of home – animal family, old dusty house, non-driving teenager who works and goes to school, needs a ride here, a ride there, dishes and laundry, repairs and maintenance, walks with the dog, exercise, hygiene, etc.

The rest of her time lately is spent watching clouds, taking pictures of clouds, thinking about clouds, and pondering what in the world she ought to do about the fact that she began to create this summary of an experience and then began noticing – actively noticing, really paying attention to, the clouds again, and the clouds – almost seemingly in turn – began to become completely amazing and holy beyond belief.

If she had seen some of the things she has seen lately back in 2010, she would have lost her mind so hard. The clouds she saw then were probably 25% as profound and persistent as they are now. She can no longer see ‘regular clouds’ anymore, except for the towers of cumulous far off in the mountains, their details blurred by distance. As soon as she looks at the sky, she can see the suggestion of a shape or a clearly wrought face and the forms spring into their slow shifting movement, twist and flux of vapor and light, rising and dissipating to create the most remarkable forms.

She recognizes that her pareidolia is out of control, sees elements of the same forms in the silhouettes of branches, the drift of sandy gravel in rain-washed gutters, the light through the trees glowing gold on the wall, salt gathered and sculpted on the surface of water not quite boiling.

It’s not that big of a problem, as far as her functionality. Seeing things is no big deal. She has non-ordinary perception. No biggie. Makes total sense to her given the development of her sense-sight as a child with uncorrected near-sightedness that grew up straining to see in a world full of blurs, the relief of details seen up close. She has an atypical strength in processes of pattern detection and picture completion, and is an artist. She has a refined sense of vision, despite only being able to see in the blurred perfect circles of pointillism without her glasses on. It makes sense to her that she would have a tendency toward pareidolia, and that she would integrate this into her artwork in some way.

However, even the most severe apophenia cannot explain the objectively observable forms of a human face in detailed composition, the head of a bird, the measurable angles of an equilateral triangle, the repeating form of 3. She wants to know why these things are showing up in the sky so clearly, and what – if anything other than her subjective sense of meaning, which she experiences as being rooted in the profoundly numinous, holy, and sacred – these forms mean, what these faces mean, what these figures and this light means?

Surprisingly, she isn’t losing her mind and trying to prove God on the Internet through chaotic and bound-to-be-ineffective tactics guided by no clear design or strategy. She is asking questions and holding herself in the dialectical space between profound belief that the ancestors and spirits of all that is living and has lived are rising to say stop, are rising to say please, are begging – actually – for mercy and warning of the consequences of war, the rising death tolls, the rising waters, radioactive seas, etc. I wouldn’t say these impressions of meaning are like doomsday prophecies, because I don’t really know anything about that and am not a prophet. I do know that we are in a global pandemic in the midst of a climate emergency and that by the sheer existence of nuclear weapons the history of the future is in peril because people – human beings – have apparently lost their fucking minds and are freaking out even though we need to be checking ourselves and our realities and our values and staying calm and remembering that nobody is supposed to be killing anyone and that humans – so far as I understand it – are supposed to be stewards.

This is just a content analysis of the impressions I get when I watch the clouds, when I let myself really see them.


So, as a note in process, the matter of this project has somewhat changed over the past two months, during which I have taken thousands of pictures of clouds and studied them intently. I have decided, based on both logical determination of potential importance given what I perceive as evidence that the clouds are weird in that they are making clearly discernible pictures of people and animals and symbols to the extent that the clouds don’t even look like clouds anymore, and the deep-felt intuitive sense of profound urgency to seek assistance in this and – much more importantly – to show people, and – most importantly – to show people who can advise her as to whether or not this sort of cloud activity is unusual and – if so – what, if anything, she should do, because her gut instinct tells her that she needs to tell someone that she sees radiation symbols and that she sees mushrooms clouds and that this scares her because she has been terrified of nuclear anything ever since she saw her first reactor tower by Savannah and her belly went to ice and she felt sick without knowing why. She grew up in the era of Chernobyl. She lived by the east coast home of nuclear submarines, Kings Bay. She grew up three miles from the base.

She acknowledges that her personal psychology creates her perception and understanding and that it is entirely possible, likely even, that she is seeing this stuff and interpreting it as having specific intuitive meaning due to her being under duress because of the pandemic and her mom having been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer over a year ago, right after George Floyd was murdered, and as the big nonprofit pandemic hustle began as her relationship with the person who was her best friend began to end and her elder orange cat slow-died of cancer while her mom was in the hospital after the big surgery that removed her belly button, among other things.


08/20/2021 1:34pm

You know, it’s crazy, but I seriously was almost at the point of feeling like I really was severely and persistently mentally ill, mostly in the form of what had been an increasingly intransigent depression and emotional blunting that made life feel like a series of chores to get through, but not even because you couldn’t even feel that anymore, you just did the things and said the stuff and smiled the smiles but you knew you were dying, possibly already dead, except for when you would come alive again, just a little, out walking alone, running in circles in the dark at the track, the year a strange suspended state that – looking back – doesn’t seem quite real and yet you know it was, because you remember so much of the detail of days and conversations, all of it close-pressed and living. Writhing and flashing as dying cats and hospital halls, the silver shine of a rain-puddled track in the dark of morning under metal halide, the learning to breathe – to breathe in and breathe out, keep your mouth closed, keep your mind clear, focus on the details until they blur into a million sweet savorings of star and footfall, the lungs and heart, gravity and gentle swirling whisper of fallen leaves in the slipstream of your movement.

I wonder if all that trance-running in the dark did something to my brain, augmented my visual acuity in –
I just had the interesting experience of scrolling through this week’s edition of Aeon/Psyche and being interested in most of the articles, appreciative of the range and facets and approach to reporting taken by the online publication, and yet aware of a definite resistance to reading the articles now, watching the 7 minute improvised animation that is an absurdly delightful something-or-other on creativity.

I am trying so, so hard to stay focused and to remain unbiased.

It’s a delicate thing, this getting clear on one’s ‘own ideas’ – which is a ham-handed way of saying allowing for the intrinsic synthesis of knowledge derived from direct individual observation and experience, taking into account that no individual lives in a vacuum and that the space between individual learning and external teaching is extremely porous, reflexive and complex – in an environment that is full of ideas and expressions of ideas, theories and paradigms and philosophies. I am not entirely sure if my resistance – at this point in my development as an artist-researcher – to devoting large chunks of my time and headspace to the canon of interdisciplinary literature on: God; atmospheric sciences; cloud physics; early language development; cross-cultural myth and religious studies; various philosophies pertaining to the construction and deconstruction of ideas, perception, meaning, etc., as well as work exploring the mathematical relationships in patterns of nature as they may be reflected in iconographic representations and the elements of rudimentary and refined symbols which are observable in the forms of clouds, as well as in other arrangements of living things…is rooted as much in a commitment to being primarily world-taught rather than ego-auto-educated, pursuing the attainment of certain knowledge because I think I want to or should learn it, and being open to the lessons that circumstances, situations, opportunities, and seemingly happenstance information might have to teach me. Life, for me, is much, much more interesting and – besides – although there are many, many people’s work I want to learn about and from and, as evidenced by the list of intersecting interests relating to just the clouds project (not to mention the adjunct, affiliate, secondary, tertiary, associative, or entirely out of left field interests relating to other projects I am engaged in both personally and professionally.

By ‘out of left field’ I mean my interest in the craft of millinery as an art form, as well as various branches of metaphysics and practices that are lumped together under the umbrella label of ‘occultism’ and ‘paranormal’ or ‘supernatural’ phenomena. I neglect studies in those areas as much or more so than my inquiries into religion and the origins of ancient languages, for much the same reason – in terms of wanting to allow for knowledge synthesis through open experience (this does not mean going and ‘doing a thing’ for the sake of having an ‘open experience’ – this means engaging in an everyday way of learning from the world and paying attention to what crosses my path, what associations and impressions are part of the encounter or experience, and how all that situates in the larger context of my pre-existing so-called knowledge, or synthesized understanding that – misguided, misinformed, misinterpreted or not – seems to help me feel like I can make sense of some small or constant working in the world of and in and surrounding whatever might constitute my ‘self’ – a construct that I am increasingly certain is comprised of light and sound, a pattern all my own.



08/22/2021 7:47pm
For the sake of reflection, I will say that I have talked with a couple of trusted and informed friends about this project, and they have offered good feedback, though not in a conclusive direction.

“Isn’t there a hotline or something? Like you call and someone listens to what’s going on and takes you seriously and looks into the situation?”

In 2010, I tried to email the Vatican by way of a VaticanTV contact email, and also tried to contact St. Paul’s-Outside-the-Walls ‘cause, well, Paul wrote a lot of letters and I figured the place was at least in the neighborhood of people who consider themselves to be authorities on things like holy visions. Not that I was/or am claiming to have had a holy vision, but it’s hard not to imagine that at some point in history in some place on this planet, some of what I have been seeing may be similar to cloud configurations that were seen as God and or gods, stories and figures, characters and creatures.

There is no way to conclusively prove anything at all about what ancient people saw or did not see in the sky. They didn’t have photography or materials other than sand or fire charcoal and stone to sketch quickly.

The only evidence we have of what people saw and experienced as powerful and important in the ways of a god are the stories and symbols left as records of what these early civilizations deemed important enough to carve into stone and build monuments to, create icons of.

If one considers the record of artifacts spanning thousands of years and geographies all over the planet, it would be quite the undertaking to examine similarities across and between different icons, early languages, and mythic figures to identify elements that may be represented in the forms of clouds.

At this point in my observations, there are a handful of auspicious figures and forms that I see often in the clouds that I may be able to survey various cultural icons and symbols to investigate the presence of similarities. However, even similarities between weird clouds and ancient language does not prove anything other than the appearance of similarity. Similarity does not equate relation, just as correlation does not indicate causation.

I continue to vacillate back and forth between non-belief and belief. When I am not looking at the clouds or studying pictures of clouds, indulging in my new play with settings called ‘shadow’ and ‘brilliance’ to see what forms might be seen if some layers or tones are emphasized or de-emphasized. There is so much I can’t explain, and – personally – I don’t have a need to explain it. I am happy with not conclusively knowing.

In the dubious impression of the shapes in the clouds possibly being important or relevant in some way that extends beyond my immediate, individual experience of finding beauty, awe, and a reverent fascination that humbles me in the way that something holy might humble a person in watching and contemplating the light and movement held by water and dust in the sky, I have developed a nagging need to confirm/disconfirm the cultural or scientific value of my observations of this phenomena.

What if something like God/gods really is presenting itself boldly in natural forms because something like God/gods is real and is alarmed at something that would be deeply evident to an omniscient, or at least sensitive, ecosystem force of knowing – like the fact that humans are destroying the planet, committing mass atrocities against humanity, and fucking around with nuclear weapons that could wreck large segments of the genetic material that creates what we understand to be life on earth?

What if something like God/gods is trying to tell us something by drawing angels and birds and all the old holy signs that people used to know and watch for and pay attention to, but people don’t notice because this something like God/gods doesn’t show up in the way it’s expected to, or because we simply aren’t paying attention despite the fact that we all know that times are troubled and pray for mercy all the time?

What if something really important is happening or about to begin happening and only a few weirdos with atypical visual processing styles, a nerdy preoccupation with patterns in nature, and a high tolerance for ‘boring’ activities like watching clouds are noticing and wondering why the clouds look so strange while the rest of the world goes on as it does, suffering and forgetting and waiting for the rapture?

I have been asking the same questions for years.

I have been living in these questions.



Setting: 4:40am front porch, cool air, amicable cat, slightly restless dog energy, neighborhood and town sounds muffled to a hum behind the usual insect noises, never the same, the tone of summer waning and the full moon setting has particular urgent sweetness, the pulses quick and longing, clamoring and dancing tucked into the trees all around. God, I love insects.

Note that a man on a bike rides down the hill, up the hill, yodeling softly in a way that sounds like the screech owls she hasn’t heard this season, maybe in the fall, maybe in the winter.

There is so, so much we/I take for granted.

Sometimes, I feel a bit of sickness in me, a sad heavy nausea, sea sick, just a little, when I think about how incredibly fucking beautiful the world is and how dumb humans (myself included, of course) are.

What are the ways I’ve been dumb?

Well, yesterday I was considering the actual potential reality that I – as a person who had a long-standing preoccupation with patterns and form in nature and a quiet, everyday grievous concern, anticipatory sorrow and immediate lament for all the completely brutal things that go down in the world all the time everyday, with a simultaneous awe and gratitude and joy in simply being alive to see any of it, to be able to smell sweetness and to notice what I can of the vastly interlocking worlds that are living and dying all around me, to remember to say: “I see you.” – this life that I am living, this person that I am here in the anthropocene, this possible reality in which my penchant for patterns and pictures and my fascination with the beauty of light and the eternally sovereign patience of the sky, really am noticing something that is important, because the sky did not look like this before 2010, and I did not feel the way I do when I look at the sky before…well, that’s not true…there have been many, many times that I sat and looked at the sky and felt the shift of aperture, an expansion and pull-toward focus, a sudden situating in the middle of something amazing and delicate, some fleeting scene of a woman on a beach, sitting with legs pulled to chest, staring at ocean, considering family walking back to the house, the sun going down, all the lights in all the houses coming on, a running dog at water’s edge, moon rising late summer, the roads to get to where she is, rolling a shell on the sand with feet damp and skin sticky with salt, the heaviness of humid linen, the sharpening sandy wind, water sounds wind sounds voices clipped and boomeranged like ghost calls as the grasses bend toward the land, dry roots exposed, eroded sand, the scar of a small fire, upturned pink flip-flop bleaching in the sun, cooling in the night as the fish rise and the turtles swim, and the shrimp boats make their way home in the channels mapped by sonar – has led me to learn to notice a particular function of the sky and clouds (and leaves and trees, and silt on sidewalks, the patterns that gather in water-based atmospheric media, the porous watery world that moves in ways that perhaps everything moves toward, the shapes of ourselves and everything, in everything, as slowly and quickly as our rigidities allow.

These same patterns may be in rocks? Yes, probably. Certainly igneous rock, rock created by flowing lava.

(Oh my God, the earth is so fucking old.)

…so, yes, I’ve felt the deep presence of a fleeting sort of grace and maybe sometimes I felt the flicker of connection, like whatever thin barrier between me and the sky opened just a little and I could feel myself there, out over the ocean, but – by and large – I was separate, and so why now do I feel like the sky is alive, and that I am somehow connected to it, or that it is connected to me?

Why do I observe that the sky seems to respond to my watching it, seems – actually – to rapidly, almost desperately, begin to shift into form, as if saying, “Look, look, we’re still here. Not going away. Not your imagination. We are right here. Go ahead, take a picture. Prove it to yourself. Again. Do you really have to prove it everyday, Faith? Do you not have enough evidence that the clouds are peculiar? Enough proof to persuade someone to help you to understand why the sky seems so alive, so communicative?”

In considering the – at this point – actual possibility that, yup, there’s something weird about the clouds, and reflecting on my conscious reluctance to all but demand that people look at what I’m seeing and help me figure out what’s going on because this could (or could not) be important in ways that I am not qualified to determine.

If you see something, say something? Right?

If this does turn out to be a matter, ahem, of significance and I am questioned as to why it took me 11 years to finally get up the gumption to make sure that the right people were informed of this phenomena and could thus respond in a way that is appropriate to the situation, learn more about it, determine its salience, etc., why did I bide my time and sit on my hands and literally, actively procrastinate the decisions and actions required to make this inquiry project real, why did it take so damn long for me to get strategic and grounded in this endeavor, for me to be effective?

All I can say was that I, in the context of the world I live in, was dumb. Most human dumbness is caused by lack of information and ill-preparedness to handle complex situations in a way that isn’t just an emotional trainwreck or act of affront against oneself or someone else.

I don’t know.

Twelve years ago, in the middle of what would become a very difficult year, I decided to draw a picture every day for a year. The intent of that initial project was to re-engage with my creativity, to give my badly atrophied artist-self a space to come alive in, and come alive it did. The daily practice of drawing and reflecting, in whatever little segment of time and setting I could – at work, while I watched the Berenstain Bears with my elementary-school-age kids, late at night or early in the morning before anyone woke up, sitting out on the porch in the late afternoon when the house was peaceful, halcyon, kids playing, doing something they were engaged in, a happy relaxed energy – quickly revived the workings of a younger self, a woman with short bleachy hair, drawing and concentrating on a bedroom floor in a shared house in Portland, the same bassline again and again coming up through the house from the basement, band practice all the time. From the time she was 15 to the time she was 23, she lived in houses and hung out in houses where bands practiced, where people made zines and masks and letterpress covers for 7” records.

When she drew, she felt the same as she did when she was 19, which felt the same as drawing when she was 9.

The aspect of her that has been most constant throughout her life has been that she is an artist.

It’s 6:30 am and the dog has been needing a lot of interaction. I may take him for a walk in this pale blue grey light that is the same color as the silk jacket I wore to my courthouse wedding on a rainy day in Portland, c. 2000. It’s weird to think that for a few years now I have been separated from that arrangement – somewhat – longer than I had been in it, and that the arrangement I have been in – that of the disgraced mother who is a screw-up and is irresponsible and who doesn’t fit in with other moms and who is just strange, she’s just strange, the way she walks around the neighborhood looking at the sky, wearing the same dress again and again, talking openly about social anxiety as a means of making conversation, not cutting her hair, why does she keep it so long, thin rope down her back. Cords like the narrow vertebrate of a rattlesnake?

>

Why does she say things like that?

She recognizes that as the sun is rising, she is getting a little tired, her morning session drawing to a point of transitioning to the mindless drifting —

I was in conversation with someone I genuinely like and respect the other evening, volleying a sort of state-of-the-world commentary as the state-of-the-world —

Here is how I am doing my work currently, the imperfect-and-still-refining method of my life as an artist-researcher-catalyst- healer which – it’s worth noting – is a designation that I just added the words ‘catalyst’ and ‘healer’ to…

I had been calling myself an artist-researcher in regard to my art practice, and a specialized consultant (a rather bland nomination, in my opinion) in reference to my professional career in the nonprofit public health and recovery sector, and considering ways to be both things > an artist-researcher (catalyst) and a specialized consultant, as one thing somewhat cancels the other in ways. Maintaining a professional outward facing self that is appropriate to the work of the —

Aug 24, 3:24pm

This project is a tactic in a larger strategy to disrupt perceptions of reality by telling the truth of what one experiences and sees in the world for the purpose of creating opportunities for the exposure of unseen and unspoken assumptions about what is real and valid and what is not. This work inverts power structures and casts a critical light on the institutions and perspectives of what we understand to be modern western civilization, revealing them to be stubborn ideas, problematic systems, nothing that can’t be undone.

A lot of we assumed would last forever is already gone.

08/24/2021 9:21pm

For the sake of notes, I spoke confidently and connectedly to someone about this project today, an artist. The experience was overwhelmingly positive and I would like to speak to more artists. However, I think it’s important for me to be realistic with myself about my social limitations and the unlikeliness that I am going to find my people by casting a broad attempt at social media friendly charisma out into the hashtagged ethers. I don’t have social media hustle, it becomes a job, another artwork in itself, a perplexing striving for a balance between authenticity and appeal. I don’t even know. I feel neurotic just thinking about it, and so I don’t think about it.

08/27/2021 5:44am
For the sake of reflecting, here at 5:04 in the morning, let me say that there are prompts in this way of telling of her sitting on the porch as always in the morning, still sleep-sour-sweet with a pleasant fuzziness around the eyes, loose clothes and the season’s forecast against the bare skin of her arm in late-August, that cool and slowing sound of insects dying as she sits and considers – as she does – this matter of experience and conundrum, tells herself not to think too deeply about it. Nothing can be definitive and even if it could – so what?
>

She employs a prompt, a sequence of opening statements that elicit a telling without trying, simply taking notes of what she observes, has observed, of the world and of herself from her limited perspective, her fractionated view. “It’s been a while since I’ve written…”; “For the sake of taking notes,…”; “I should probably spend a little time reflecting.”; “For the sake of reflection,…”, etc. – an assortment of initiatory statements, openings to whatever she might end up saying, which usually has more to do with the act and process of telling, those aforementioned conundrums of self-situation and the difficulty, really, to tell about anything with words, as communication inherently mediates experience, absorbs, interprets, tells, is seen/unseen, understood or not, maybe simply null in the space outside of the communicator, the source of expressed experience, a failed conveyance that nonetheless took action and created impact if only in the scope of the individual and their experience of telling, of trying to say something of themselves and the world they see, the world they inhabit.

She considers this, 5:29am, as she suddenly remembers – a little jarring but not so much that her expression changed as she sits in the dark with the dog and the cat and the dark pocked with streetlights through the trees. Sounds from highways, crashing sounds from buildings being built, heavy and booming up from down by the river, up the steep slope of the thin tendril of remaining woods that presides over the train tracks and the curious north-flowing waters. Ah, yes, she remembered, sudden and jarring – like an out of place image in a lulling scene, the insertion of the fact that her mother has cancer and the ca # is ‘creeping up’ – ‘creeping up’ being a euphemism for two fold exponentiality that she now recognizes creates a severe and sudden anxiety in her to even think about, to do the math back to the number before, when her mom was so sick, before she was – for a time – better, so much better that she, and everyone, almost seemed to forget that – [she does not write the words, those words that define and stage the aberrant cellular phenomena that will end her mother’s life in this iteration of existence. “I like being here,” her mother had said on the phone as she walked the dog up the hill, slow and smelling his way along as the mother and daughter discussed [what? She cannot remember as she writes, and recognizes this as a sort of dissociative compartmentalizing of experience that is just too fucking much, really. “Well, you’ll like being wherever you end up after you’re here, too. If you let yourself, which is probably important to do.”

She scrolls back up the screen, the words precarious in an unsent, unaddressed unsaved email draft that could disappear into digital erasure if she is not careful.

She addresses the email to herself, and sends the message to be resumed here a few lines down the screen at 5:47 pm because there was brushing-the-dog-in-the-dark-with-long-handled-deck-brush and fumbling around in something like a fog following the remembering of the adjunct life, the very real life, of herself as daughter, as mother, as person with a name that walks around and is seen and is loved, etc. – not just this thin silverine thread of narrative from the glinting shifting space of herself in reflection, white screen black text, mediated twice or thrice or as many times as there are readings and tellings, each only grasping at and maybe glimpsing some view of what is being conveyed, which – even in the recognition of something to tell – is distorted in interpretation by the consciousness of the teller, and then – of course – further transmutated and twisted in meaning or representation in the ways conveyance is received.

How can one tell of experience in a way that is representational, but not explanatory, the showing not telling, when what there is to show encompasses so much, the flashes of what’s important or interesting or horrible or simply there, drifting like a shipwreck, floating like a lotus, some random scrap of seeing that is there and then gone, a near constant churning and the absurd effort to tell about what’s right now right this very moment, when the cat is sitting on the cypress bench and the dog lays on the porch and she is thinking about what there is to do during the day, but not thinking about it at all as she considers cloud forms and the documentation project and – oh, yeah – this little opening of time during which she might have a chance of connecting with a potential future that may only be possible during this window of time, as a defining feature of all potential futures is that they are only possible in the specific sets of circumstances that create events and directions, that shape perception and choices, responses and reactions, energy and engagement, resources and access to resources across domains of life and health, vulnerabilities and assets, a constant collider of possibilities that are there and then gone…there and then gone…? As she writes, the dog is getting restless, wanting food at 6:03. The cat is sitting patient, looking around, waiting as cats do.

08/28/2021 7:23am
It’s the next day, 5:40am. She has done this for as long as she can remember, this early rising. The hour between 4:00 and 5:00, 5:00 and 6:00 – such a sacred time, slouching and waiting for the caffeine to kick in, that sudden shift into awakeness and delight in being awake while so much of the human world in immediate proximity seems still, to be sleeping. The world is awake like the dog gnawing a stick on the porch, the rattling sounds and clattering sounds bright like cool wood in the cymatic hum of insect sound in damp air.
>



6:09

There was the usual getting up to hush the dog as the sky lightened toward hints of a bright, warm day. A day of doing things. A wakeful day.

She feels like this every morning, steeped in potential, like anything is possible. It is difficult to connect this state to the person who was severely depressed, tormentedly depressed, the person who – even on good days- would wake up with a paralyzing anxiety, a lattice-work fear tightly wove up through the center of her, making it hard to breathe in the dark, head blaring with all sorts of dreadful and discouraging messages, thoughts and images, body remembering, heart pounding and clenched in numb morning, too warm under blankets, too cold, bleary and hating the fact of the body, the fact of the bed, the need to rise and to speak and to move about, doing all the things that the person with your name and your face and the life you’ve supposedly built but actually more like fumbled your way into and now must live with integrity despite the criteria for integrity in this life that is presumed to be your life, this person you are seen as being and the person who you are in context, at work, in family, in community, do not always line up well with the principles and values and actualities of who you actually are, the person you are that you don’t completely show anyone because, well, that could be dangerous. So, you move about in the life that is yours as the person you are supposed to be, knowing that nobody is ever anyone or anything in a way that is eternal and fixed, not subject to the absurd chaos odds of falling apart in some major way that redefines everything. Never anybody or anything, except maybe the fact of our aliveness and existence in a world that is older than we can begin to really wrap our heads around.

She needs to make a list, an outline, the most crucial things:

First and foremost, though not necessarily first in terms of order in which to be completed is to create (in a process-manner that is efficient and focused, intent-full and not her going down the rabbit hole of overwhelm, ideas, and a suspended sort of reverie, down on fascination street, which is – truth be told – very much her favorite part about engaging in art, in play and illumination, exploration and questioning, showing something that is hard to show either through object/action of interpretative representation or via the function of receiving the work, seeing the work as a relay to the actual art, which is showing a person something about themselves or the world that they did not quite see before, a brief pulling into focus or shifting into frame some phenomena of experiencing one’s beingness as a person considering a ‘work of art’ or an ‘art installation’…or a picture of a cloud on the Internet.

I am passive in my showing and sharing and promoting of this work, in large part due to the reality that a self-led showing/sharing/promoting this work in anyway other than posting content to my – ahem – research notes, which are in many ways central to the art of this project, the practice of observing oneself as a phenomenon (or set of phenomena) in broad context, an intentional practice of not taking for granted the vastly complex conditions that have led one to the divinely singular moment that one may find oneself in at any given time, pulses and points of light across the span of our lives and the lives connected to our small worlds, the entirety of everyone, all places, through all time…and, yet, here we are…not amazed at all. Anti-amazed, as a matter of fact.

Hello. My name is FaithRR (Faith Rachel Rhyne) and I am an artist-researcher and healing justice/systems transformation worker in Western North Carolina. I am also a person who is differently-abled in ways that have created significant barriers to my participation in the normative economy. Nonetheless, I have worked for nonprofits and community initiatives for 25 years, and have a MA in psychology, with a specialization in Transformative Social Change, which is the study of how ideas, movements, and cultural/economic institutions develop and – ultimately – shift in some way or another. I am a high-school drop out from South Georgia who has a BA in Sociology with a minor in Black Studies from Portland State University. My first college classes were held in a meeting room in a building that required special security clearance in the form of being checked in and scanned for weapons, briefly questioned in the wide windowed entryway of the Trident Training Facility at the Kings Bay Nuclear Submarine Base as a student of a Georgia Military College satellite campus in the town I grew up in, where I was raised in a geodesic plexiglass dome house my father built in the woods on the land he had grown up visiting, the ‘family land,’ only ours by deed for a few generations, ancestral lands of the Utina, oyster shells still thick in the receding banks of the river, bones long turned to dust, returned to the earth, to the flow from dark water to open ocean.

She watched land that she loved and was deeply connected to be destroyed and paved over for a subdivision that was the result of real estate bullying and increased housing market pressures due to the establishment of the largest nuclear submarine facility on the east coast being opened three miles from her father-built house out on the point of land that would, with time and ride, become nubbed down, worn away like the edge of a stone, the tip of a pencil. When she was growing up, she thought it would all last forever. For her, that childhood limitation in cognitive ability to conceptualize the world one lives in being something radically different than what it is in your perspective was a lovely thing, a magical thing, a world all hers and the woods and her family, the seemingly eternal dirt road that led home.

Despite having gone to pull-out special education classes for a speech impediment until the fourth grade, I was not identified as having significant learning and processing differences until I was in middle school, at a psychologist’s office where I’d been brought to be evaluated because I was ‘so angry.’

I was watching places I loved be destroyed, literally scraped away, burnt away. Paved over so thoroughly as to have never been there at all. I did not have a framework for understanding that I was grieving the land, or that – perhaps – the land was grieving through me, howling as roots pulled away from the earth, the deep wince at screaming saw bite. I was angry. My entire world was changing as my hometown became a military town, a base town, where protestors from far away places sometimes laid down on the spur line railroad tracks leading out to the base, trying to stop the trains carrying materials to support the operations of a nuclear weapons facility.

Although the psychologist who evaluated me knew about my learning and processing differences, even reported on them briefly, in the preamble leading to my diagnosis of depression caused by a chemical imbalance for which I may need to take medication for over the course of my entire life, but that I may be able to live comfortably enough, work, have a family.

Nobody talked about the ways that learning and processing differences and circumstantial factors such as traumatic loss and grief re: the land might be connected to my depression. Nobody, in fact, ever talked about me even having learning and processing differences, except to say that I was smart, and had so much potential, etc. – a statement that, to me, only meant that I was doubly and maybe even triply a fuck up because I should be smart enough to be able to go to school without crying, smart enough to not waste my potential.

I ended up dropping out of high school after a couple of years of filling the school years with enrollments and unenrollments, transfers and delays and lengthy absences caused by mysterious severe migraines that I now believe I may have learned to give myself out of an all consuming desperation to avoid the sensory, social, and psychological agony of going to school.

I left home early, returned a lot. Left again.

From the time I was 13 to the time I was 23, I was hospitalized in a locked psychiatric facility 4 times, and spent most of my adolescence on and off different combinations of psychiatric medication in the early boom of adolescent psychiatry, the 1990s. I experienced lithium toxicity at age 16, and by the time I was 23, had attempted to end my life/inflict serious harm upon myself twice and was on multiple medications.



09/01/2021 4:24am

What I need to be clear about is why I am pursuing the path I am pursuing, which is to become a niche phenom in the new media arts/outsider arts scene and creative nonfiction world while concurrently catalyzing a global conversation about cloud physics and human perception of God, gods, etc. through strategic positioning of myself as a lone-wolf artist that is experimenting using an iPhone and Kinemaster to ‘prove something about something like God/gods, etc. on the internet with pictures of clouds.’

I go for the language of proving because I think humans – probably myself included as evidenced by my lightly-held obsession with this question of whether or not clouds can prove anything at all –

On Sep 1, 2021, at 4:13 AM:

Now that my circadian rhythms have been able to ease back towards whatever my body’s natural and evolving circadian sleep/wake cycles might be, I’ve been waking up happy in the middle of the night. I have stopped setting my alarm because I realized that I was waking up 2 hours before the alarm everyday, would be walking around the house as the sky lightened, feeding the dog and cats, beginning to feel a little tired after being up at 4:30 and writing, editing whatever I’ve been working on, uploading pictures, taking notes, scrolling horoscopes sometimes, reading news sometimes, but not often, just the article titles in her inbox, Kabul, Ida, fires, rural overdose deaths, the Poor People’s Campaign, voter suppression, covid, anti-vaxxers, Q-Anon – those haplessly deranged people, addicted to self-righteous indignity, the need to be right against a horrific wrong, privy to a secret world…so, so confused about what to believe.

Man, anything that involves beliefs that inspire a person to kill or violently humiliate and dehumanize people is a bad idea.

Not the truth.

I can’t believe someone killed their kids over that rubbish. I used the word rubbish to denote garbage ideas, shitty ideas that aren’t even functional anymore, that do nothing good but take up space and create harm. Bad ideas as pestilence. Scourge of the earth. (I have, it’s worth noting, looped back to this segment of writing to clarify the usage of the word rubbish, and am now noticing that it is 4:30 in the morning and because I got up very, very early and have been happily working at uploading and writing just for the sake of writing because it is fun today and I feel hopeful and awake.

(Hidden factor: I will be submitting to an opportunity later this morning, and another one later this month, and I am excited about what might happen next, whatever it is.

>It is for that reason, among about a million others, that I have come to believe that it is – if not important, then at least interesting in a timely way – that I devise a strategy and some actionable, efficient tactics to share the collected body <note: a sense of double entendre in the phrase ‘collected body’ in that I was referring to the albatross of this work, all of here, not just this project, but allll the projects, the aria of them, and yet what came to mind as I wrote the phrase was the thought a physical body, perhaps my body, being collected, as in retrieved, a package picked up, garbage, debt, something ominous, and it reminded me to make a note of the fact that a courage barrier in this work is the concern that some deranged Q-Anon person will decide I have serpent DNA or something completely bizarre like that, because of course I have serpent DNA and so do they! We have DNA shared in some way or another with everything alive. Don’t we?

Serpent DNA would be badass.*

I have a whole little set of rattlesnake vertebrae that I got in a shop in SE Portland and always thought that I’d feel much closer to the bones if I’d found them, but now – 21 years after I went into that store smelling like lavender and rain and cigarettes smoked in the car during that strange winter of returning to Portland to play gin rummy & performance suspension & iv-drug-user/hardware-store-employee with the haunted person that tattooed my palms and my back, the dots on the back of my ears, the heart within a heart formed by a set of inverted f’s. That person died because their heart stopped in the middle of the night. My heart could stop in the middle of the night. My father’s friend’s heart stopped in the middle of the night following a brain aneurysm. Age 14, I answered the phone call from his wife, who was crying and telling me the news of the man I hardly new having died in the night, and having to go tell my dad, who was watching television. I don’t remember why I didn’t just go get him to take the call, the woman just started talking, and I didn’t know what to do, but felt very present, listening, hearing myself tell her how sorry I was, etc. how I would remember the time we had a fire..

Carolyn Wright, elliptical poet, died in the night, too.

I could die in the night.

*See, it’s saying things like that that undermine my potential to be taken seriously. But, let me remind myself, at this point the only thing that I desire to be taken seriously as is a person who has questions – serious questions and absurd questions, and a person who is seriously curious, and – in my way – seriously spiritual, tho’ my experience and orientation to spirituality is always evolving, shifting in some way, which is okay with me and even desirable to me because it allows me to stay open to new experience and perspectives and doesn’t have me into any particular doctrine or ritual practice, tho’ I totally get and deeply respect that that is some people‘s way of being in connection to Holy Spirit (God, gods, Jesus, angels, ancestors, all the sacred names, all the sentience, etc.) I’m am in no way saying that my perception and various interpretations of perception through the kaleidoscopic lens of human experience in a singular moment of time during which the specific configurations of thought, sensation/feeling, visual memory, visual thought, external stimuli and circumstance lead me to come to certain knee jerk conclusions about how the cloud look and how that makes me feel, the looping back and forth of feeling and perception, an amplification of seeing in the space between me and the sky…I am not saying that the way I see things is the ‘right way,’ or even what a right way might be, and – if such a thing as a right way to see a thing like a cloud or anything else does exist, who is the arbiter of that way, who determines what is ‘right’ (read:true)?

If anything, I am saying that I know that I am not seeing things clearly, because no person has the capacity to see clearly, really. I don’t think we do. We are too limited and bound in our frameworks of defined reality and emotionally charged opinions to be able to have any neutrality or objectivity. However, we can at least get clear on that, and learn a little bit about the ways that we are uniquely distorted in our seeing.

Revenge is a distortion, I think? But, that is not the point I am trying to get to, which is that there is no point. Nothing I am trying to prove anymore, other than maybe my own sheer relentlessness, which – come to think of it – doesn’t need proving because it was proven a long time ago.

It is fascinating to me that I have so, so much internalized stigma and shame and fear tethered to writing and to art. This is because I am, likely by nature and certainly by nurture, a surrealist, a magical realist. For some reason, people in my family think that it was totally cool for Salvador Dali to be a surrealist, but when you talk about anything you are interested in or prod at some subtle absurdity, want to dress like the Little Prince, or have deep and meaningful relationships with objects and spaces, blur the lines, live in a magically real world where everything is alive and connected in ways that we might only be at the outer edge of understanding and that maybe it would be better if we stopped trying to understand so much in a fact-based and researched way, a substantiated way, and just experience the phenomena we study?

This is a loop-around I am employing to ease the fact of me being a shitty researcher in traditional methods of research, due to both lack of experience and lack of innate and active aptitude for the coherent documentation and consistent analysis and reporting style that constitutes quality research. I am skilled at sussing out whether something is research of integrity, just by reviewing the methodology used and finding the holes in it, and I am good at finding the connections between different areas of research across disciplines, and synthesizing relationships between existing knowledge and new information or perspectives.

I am limited in my effectiveness and potential as a researcher due to lack of experience and lack of desire to engage in what I understand to be the tasks that create the work of research. The computers. The talking to people. I like looking at data. Sometimes. For a minute.

I much prefer clouds, personally.

Additional limitations include difficulty with consistent ability to engage certain cognitive and communicative functions that are helpful if not required in most methodologies of research.

Methods of analysis I enjoy are content analysis and coding for content. I like listening to people talk and taking notes, pulling out the themes, l like designing surveys on platforms that provide reports in clear visual formats. I do not like entering data into white spreadsheets, tho can do so for limited periods of time. I am able to enter data into databases fairly quickly, but do not especially love doing it.

There are HUGE gaping holes in my knowledge base as far as information about history, art, religion, math, basically everything. I mean, most people aren’t walking around with a specialized interdisciplinary knowledge of esoteric minutiae and scientific facts in mind at the ready. Considering that I basically dropped out of high school in the 9th grade in South Georgia, after being ‘educated’ in some really terrible school environments, it’s amazing that I even maintained my love of learning, my curiosity and concern for all the worlds I can’t see, that nagging knowing that I can’t unknow that tells me there is so much that I don’t see, so much that I am blind to.

I want to see the world, and – in my spirituality – I want that to be a moment of reverence. Every time I see the world, anything alive, everything alive. Everything. To see the world as sacred.

That is the change I want to be. I want to see.



09/04/2021 4:09pm

Let me take a moment to reflect and, more importantly, develop+express a plan for the next ten days, of which today is the first. 09/04.

In ten days, it will be September 13th, and – as I consider the span of significant dates during that time, I recognize that the 20th anniversary of 09/11 is two days prior.

09/11:
Essay and compilation of media re: why I quit watching television after 09/11+ways that disengaging from that form of constant media exposure has – to my knowledge & through my assessment at time of essaying
and that…

09/09 – 5 days from now – is a nice number and on that day, 09/09, I ought to write an account of the 9 dots I have tattooed on the back of each ear, because the different arithmetics that the numbers hold together is deeply satisfying to me.

In the meantime, I would like to try to capture a coherent synopsis of the focus-plan for the next 10 days, which could be pivotal or inertic. I don’t know if inertic is a word, but it is meant to convey the state of being characterized by inertia.

I’d opt for pivotal, though pivotal in way that is intentional+strategic, tactically sound, with concrete actions and clear objectives, restricting room for chaos shenanigans by design and anticipating…

——^ at which point these notes to myself ended in the early morning and did not resume until 24 hours later, the full first day of the 10 day plan gone by without the creation of the 10 day plan.

It is going to be important that I document in a way that is consistent over the next week and a half and that I stay focused on my measurable objectives and daily to-do lists if I am going to maximize the potential of this small window of time, characterized by confluence of cultural phenomena and a point of maturation in this work, an organic emergence into play with new media that – like all things – could be explored and nurtured, expanded…or could briefly flash and then atrophy, neglected in the strain-economy of keeping up with a daily life that is not structured around ones art, a daily life that – for the most part – involves activities that try as one may to bring art into the progression of movement and orientation through the tasks of the day just really don’t have much directly to do with developing ones art and research projects other than offering an exercise in participant observation and reality orientation as part and process of going to the grocery store and being a figure walking a dog up a hill, a woman in a car driving out to see her sick mother and bewildered father, delaying the work on art, the actions of using media documentation and artifacts of experience synthesizing experience into a format that is an accessible & engaging summary of my work, experience, & interests in different areas, and that also serves as an art piece in and of itself, a little internet island of one person’s experience and what they chose or were able to show of that in the telling of the time. Her work is beginning to cohere, new practices are forming up, ways to manage my energies and attentions to maintain an orientation to and engagement with the processes of art, which means creating the opportunity for ones art work —

It is now 09/06, and although I purchased a planner yesterday – (mid-Sunday morning almost empty parking lot, almost empty office supply store, music playing loudly like a party nobody is coming to, a lone middle-aged woman testing office chairs alone, moving from one to another, half spin, lean back, move on.

I wake up early naturally, have done this my whole life, save for a few dragging slurred years of late-sleeping adolescence and hung-over early adulthood, depressed and avoidant little periods of time when the solace of sleep was much preferable to the anxiety of being awake.

For a very long time, I woke up with fairly hideous morning anxiety, immobilizing dread. I don’t have that anymore, because – over time – I extinguished those synapses, quieted the expectation of and searching for the maw of blaring angst that I used to be consumed by almost every —

–waking moment. Learned, first, to understand that my ‘anxiety’ was connected to stress and trauma, to experiences that correspond to the neurobiochemical state of elevated cortisol, which tends to rise in the early morning as a process of our waking. I learned, slowly, to shift the vigilant attention I would reflexively give to my dread – a function of negativity bias and the human tendency to look for what presents a threat and to orient to it, generating a psychological and sensational experience that is primed to think about, visualize, and anticipate all of the terrible things that might come about from being awake. By developing a perspective of my experience that buffered me from full immersion into what I was conceptualizing and reacting to in the first conscious moments of wakefulness, the narrative of what was happening to me and why, the amount to which I was invested in believing that I was doomed and the cost of that belief in light of the much stronger likelihood that, really, was a person who had had a lot of hard days, a lot of stress-producing experiences in the early light of dawn, getting ready to go to school, go to work, find something to fill the seemingly endless hours stretching out in a way that you understand could theoretically be filled with the possibility of wonderful things, but instead felt more like an inventory of nearly insurmountable challenges, the first of which was the rising from bed despite shaking in your chest and metallic ringing in your ears, weird wooden feeling feet, what the fuck is this body, this heavy tired body that cannot rest, that feels like a cord of electricity all frayed in the wires, thick on the floor and all that terrible shit in your head, the cold numb fluttering thud of your heart in the dark again?

Reading over this writing, she finds herself taking a deep breath, because it is easy to conjure that space, that state. She has the memory-images of those times and she can see how severing they can be, how persuasively seizing they can be, those now-imagined scenes of times and places, rough mornings that she never wants to experience again, and perhaps never will, unless she gets dementia and the part of her brain that is able to recognize that the the ‘anxiety’ is a product of —
her nervous systems response-effect of stress will forget that and she will think the horrible dread is how she really feels, what she actually believes. Secq I AQqqqqqqQqqq a q a a qqq q a qaaaqXX
[pocket-typing]
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This project is a culminating experimentyes in love cfsdwcc V ngitudinal research building since 2009s — [pocket typing ^]



08/07/2021 3:07am

I’ve been making these short layered-still videos lately. There is something about the rhythm of the shifting images that reminds me of the slide of water against a bank, subtly arrhythmic, small shifts in timing, tiny slapping wavelets, a breath draw in, held, released.

I have many, many multi-photo capturings of various sky-moment phenomena, dozens of almost the same image, but not quite.

The videos make me feel a little seasick, which – while an undesirable effect, experientially – is interesting, that visual/spatial/sensational outcome of watching the dance of blurred trees at dawn.

The eye tries to find images, patterns. I can feel it searching, even when I try not to look. It’s always scanning, not even knowing what it is looking for, anything familiar, anything to make meaning. The silhouettes of trees become a text, become a slurring story told not in words but in the drift from one layering to another, a visual conveyance of the perceptual process, that effort to see what it is we are looking at, a suggestion of some form we can recognize even as we know it’s only trees we are seeing, only clouds.

I have to remind myself to see a tree as it is, not as a tool or a representation, a ‘tree’ or the ‘shapes’ that it holds, but to fold into my seeing a recognition of bark, the details of lichen and unseen colony, the coolness at the crown, right at the soil itself, breath of earth seeping up and drawing down in the rise and fall of water, wind of billion stomas opening, closing, trembling to life, wood like living bone.

This project is a culminating experiment in one branch of longitudinal experiential research that has developed through emergent process and autoethnographic methodology over the past 12 years.

By design, the work of faithrr as an artist-researcher is virtually unknown.

As a self-taught differently-abled with polymathic tendencies who was not identified as having the learning and processing differences that profoundly shape perception and conception of meaning, faithrr has spent most of her adult life in a state of multiplicities – a worker, a mother, a community member, a person sitting alone on her porch emailing herself notes about the experience of watching clouds, ideas for the latest strategy and analysis of the motivations of that strategy, a play with possible futures, an indulgence in a secret secret, a bold-speaking self, the creator of a massive archive of story, reflection, and image, a bricolage of prose, poems, drawings, excerpted emails, and photographs spanning 12 years in the life of the great-great granddaughter of Georgia State Supreme Court Chief Justice Marcus W. Beck (1905 – ), the man who accepted – on behalf of the South – the as yet unfinished monument to Robert E Lee that was being carved on the face of Stone Mountain, Georgia as part of what would become the largest monument to the Confederacy in the United States.

Faith Rhyne grew up on haunted land.



Reality Testing

The past few weeks have provided further confirmation – a grounded, deep-seated confirmation (as opposed to a panicked and delusional, thin-walled conviction) – of the necessity and purpose of me emerging as a writer and as a person who pays attention to things, makes note of them, a person who watches the world, and who watches herself watching, tries to capture and articulate what she sees when she looks around and within.

An artist. I AM AN ARTIST.

I mean, duh, that’s what I have been saying for years.

However, for a long time, I was also trying to be a lot of other things. A wage worker. A person in service. A mother-steward. A girlfriend, of all things.

I will still, and will always, be a mother-steward, and will still, always, be a person who lives in service to the suffering.

I am NEVER going to sell my time and energy and heart to anyone or anything again. Not for nothin’, man. Definitely not for 19.00/hour and no health insurance and no voice.

As I put together my summary-of-work site, I am struck by how much I have done over the past 11 years, over the course of it all.

It’s like I am seeing myself for the first time, and some of the work I have done is worth having done.

Some of it, of course, is terrible, but there is enough that is not terrible to instill a genuine confidence that I can now move forward in making my way by simply being who I am and following my instinct about what I need to be doing with my time. I have enormous faith that this is what the ‘forces’ at work in the multiverse – or whatever one may want to call this vast and interconnected world we live in out here in space – ‘want’ me to be doing, leaning into myself, not being afraid.

While it’s true that I am currently medicated, taking not one, but two antidepressants, I feel like something that had me in its grips for a long time has let me loose. I don’t think it’s just the medication, because I was depressed af for a long time, on medication and off medication.

You know what I think it is? I think I am now doing what I am ‘supposed’ to be doing, as odd as it may seem to someone external to me, someone who perhaps finds their sense of deeply satisfying congruence with purpose in selling patio furniture or being a sports fan or any number of other things that are totally acceptable and even admirable, laudable, as a way to live out one’s life.

I feel happy and motivated. Untroubled in my mind and comfortable in being who I am.

It’s probably important for me to define this matter of ‘forces’ in the world. I am talking about what people might call God, and I am talking about what people might understand as ancestors, and maybe I am even talking about the forces of the earth itself, all the ways that living things work in the world.

I am moving in the right direction, that the pervasive and terrible sense of not doing what I need to be doing, of being on the wrong path, trying to build the wrong sort of life, has all but disappeared.


I am so grateful that I never let myself drift entirely away from writing and paying attention. I mean, I really had no choice, because the thought – and the experience – of a life without time spent with this voice in me, this voice of myself, is akin to that self dying, and I truly believe that there were many times that I was, in fact, dying. 


At least my spirit was dying, maybe something like a soul. I felt that, many times, and living with that sense of death inside of me is not an option. 


I believe that – at this point in my development as an artist and as a human being who is participating in the world – I have done the due diligence of waiting, and of failing, of enduring humiliations, and of working along nonetheless, trying to keep tethered to what is alive in me.


It’s funny, because in the narratives of family I’m kind of this fuck-up person who has never gotten my life together. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t my life


I have so much to do to make this thing fly, and to fly well, to not just be a chaotic and impulsive mess, because I believe my work is important and it needs to be taken seriously. 


Why is my work important? 


The scope of importance has yet to be determined, but if nothing else I am a person who was diagnosed with a Severe and Persistent Mental Illness and…

This was taken at about 3:40pm on 07/30. It’s a small segment of a larger sequence of cloudform arrangement. I LOVE how the dark areas on the left appear to be a figure holding the small opening in the clouds, as if showing, and how the opening seems to hold a clear, dark-sky night, with bright little stars, even though it was the middle of the afternoon.


Oh my God. That reminds me of the brief thought I had a little bit ago, after coming up from the sidewalk where I cleared away the burdock and poison Ivy and where I will put rocks and ferns and maybe a native azalea.


What if there is nothing visibly weird about the photos of clouds I have taken? What if even in pointing out the clearly strange formations that look to me like something – a 3, a triangle, a Y, shapes like a chromosome, eyes, x’s, arrows, figures, snakes, etc. – aren’t even in the photographs?!

Like, what if someone looks at them and is sees just a totally normal puffy white cloud, a cumulus, or a simple everyday stratus, nothing other than the supposed chaos of vapor formation and dissipation in the wind?


What if all this weird stuff is only stuff I can see, like a photographic hallucination? 


It happens all the time – me seeing things in the clouds. The more I pay attention, the more I see. What if I am hallucinating, and somehow that hallucination transposes to the photos I take?


A clue that this may not be the case is that the photos stay the same. Aside from the slow digital deterioration of .jpeg files, there are many, many photos in my archives that I have studied specifically, and I recognize them and know the details of their forms. 


If I were hallucinating photo content, wouldn’t the false perception get all jumbled across photos, imprecise and messy? 


Obviously, I am reality testing here, because that is what a person must do when they believe that they may have noticed something more important than they ever even imagined was possible. 


I have done a lot of reality testing over the past 11 years, and a lot of reality testing in the years prior. 


Reality and I have had a complex relationship. 


In writing things down, I make sure they become real. It is too easy for me to sit here in the dark musing about notes on how, in the few months since my departure from the way things were – with the depleting and corrosive position earning wages in the chaos hustle survival game of the lower echelons of the nonprofit industrial complex, all its emails and urgencies, deadlines and meetings, documents and scrambles while people o.d. behind dumpsters a block away – I have been through the strange process of reconfiguring my time and energies, the landscape of my purpose.

Just now, as I was writing a sentence referencing my former employment, I could feel a mute grinding anxiety rise up the column of me, the sharp-edged tangles of my left-brain springing to life as my amygdala throws up arms.

The other day, I went to a meeting with a start-up run by a person whose company I enjoy, whose intent in work I appreciate, and a potential funder, the director of the org I worked for…and, ugh, really, even writing about the impact of inhabiting that space – that world – makes me feel blunted and disconnected, tired, and whirring overwhelm coiling right around my ears, making my eyes close, the deep breath becomes a tool of defense, rather than simply the act of breathing sitting here on my porch in the dark of early morning, with birds singing waiting for sun and chirping along in their patient code, night insects buzzing and humming so thoroughly as to be the sound of sound itself.

I should take notes on the process of reconfiguring my life and energies as I continue the small navigations that create the course of the day, the rhythm and feel of it, the outcomes.

I like how I feel in the world where my development and emergence as an artist is real. I like thinking about clouds, and feeling deeply the immediacy of the dying oceans, the incomparable joy of considering possible futures in which the world will itself have reconfigured its complex adaptive multiplicities of life and energies, and sitting here – in this moment – recognizing how much could be said about what – actually – I really mean when I talk about the world, these lives, this energy, and how – really – only poems suffice to tell about such changes, their reasons and details, the death of war machines and the re-seeing of everything and everyone as holding God.

I think about how much has been said of such things, how many possible worlds have been prayed for over the millenia of our recorded existence, how many prayers for peace…

Yesterday, I did not watch the clouds for long, save for the very end of the sunlit day, photos blurry, nautical twilight, that blessed kudzu bobbing like a cobra, twisted wire, small bird on the pole sings bright out of frame, not existing in any captured image, which cannot possibly depict what the picture is actually of: a woman seeing God, small bird on the pole and the air cooling with the slipping sun, the coming night.

She considers the fact that she spent the vast majority of the day looking at pictures of clouds from the past 2 months, since she began documenting again more earnestly, began to allow herself to re-inhabit the world of believing that the look of the clouds means something and that what it means is probably important and that she oughta tell someone, because even if what it means is that she has a raging case of pareidolia, apophenia, well…that would be important information to have.

She, herself, does not believe that what she sees is only a matter of seeing things as forms representative and depicting of other things, faces in the clouds, etc.

The incidence of peculiar clouds is too great to credit to apophenia, pareidolia alone. Her attributions are as much about interpretative seeing as they are about measuring form, and considering the observable structure of material features, how they are shaped like other things, have the same lines, the same dimensions.

The classical arch of an angels back in flight, the uplift, the outstretch. The triangle of eyes and nose, space between edge of iris and tiny spot of pupil. All those perfect, beautifully perfect, equilateral triangles. My God. So perfect. It is easy to see why Egyptians built pyramids.

InboxYesterdayStar messageTo:Me, faithrr@pm.me

Can I remember what I’d written, edging into poetry. Draft deleted because I had pocket Cc’ed an accidental forward to poemaday —— and thought that I had already sent the message to myself, and – oh, better not send it to them! That‘d be so random… – and I quick deleted the draft and then *gone* whatever I had said that made my heart uplift, that way of speaking, of telling, deleted.

All I remember is this, the question of pareidolia, apophenia, the repetition of these words in a statement that, yes, knowing would be important, it’d be an important thing to know, if all of this is just a raging case.

There was the satisfaction of that phrase in the dark of morning with the birds chirping out their patient code, yes, their patient code, that is what I said, and the night insects buzzing and humming so thoroughly as to become the sound of sound itself, and nothing else I really said – actually – yes, there was some of that, the play between – actually – and – really – the dashes of emphasis, satisfying – again – satisfying.

Ah, she had said that the thought of writing down notes about the process by which she is currently reconfiguring her life and energies after leaving her wage-earning position in the chaos hustle of survival nonprofit work, the urgency, the deadlines, the emails, flat-eyed meetings, tangle of synapses in her left brain sputtering and firing, short-lived sparkle, while amygdala throws up arms, a cold brittle creeping up the column of me, frost from the ground, think of the trees, Faith. Think of the trees.

She did not say any of this, but she is saying it now, as she tries to remember. The point she made about the clouds. Oh, yes. The clouds. “She doesn’t believe that her perception of peculiar clouds is only a matter of pareidolia, apophenia. Her seeing of forms in the sky is not only a matter of interpretation, but of comparison. The classical arch of an angels back in flight, the uplift of the arms, the outstretch.”

Yes. She said that. Something like that. The triangle of eyes and nose, the ways that animals become humans and humans become animals, all the merge and swirl at the edges. Ah, yes. The triangle. All those perfect, perfect, perfect equilateral triangles. My, God. It’s easy to see why the Egyptians went to all that toil and trouble to build pyramids. Shame about the slave labor as a way to build an edifice, a tool, to honor gods? God, humans are idiots.

What did she say? Oh, she didn’t watch the clouds much yesterday, save for the very last moments of the sunlit day.

Yes, the sunlit day. She said the sunlit day.

The writing above is from two emails to myself, the first was sent, but I thought I deleted it and the second was me writing out what I could remember having said in the first. This picture was taken in the morning, as the sun was just getting warm. I was out taking the dog for a walk while all this iridescent action was unfolding to the East. I see a figure here, an eye, detailed facial features, a V, a dark U with no curve on the bottom, instead a straight line, very dark, and there are shapes like smudges, like eraser over charcoal. There is a vague image of a child’s face, another set of eyes, the curve of faces.
There is, also, a dark well-wrought shape of a pawn.

Sometimes, she writes out letters to suss out how a possible reality of communicating something may feel. 


Usually, these draft letter experiments are related to asking for help, or trying to explain something. 


What would I say? 


What do I need to consider of another person’s imagined perspective of what it is I am saying, how I am telling?


The sky is overcast with the far edges of a storm that will soon be soaking the crushed bodies in rubble a thousand miles to the southeast. The rescue crews are working hard to find remains as vultures begin to catch the hint of a scent that will rise thick over the beach with just a few more warm days. There will be no way to stop it, the smell of rotting bodies hidden by concrete, bodies exploded, crushed into forms that can be neither found nor moved. 


The pale green sheets were damp in spots and blotches, dark twisting lines as the signature of a night that really wasn’t so hot. Though the day had been warm, at least for the mountains, the night was reasonably cool, and she turned the window fan off in the morning as she pulled a sweater over the still-moist tank top she had slept in.

It’s the caffeine and the nicotine that makes her sweat, the busy, urgent dreams that she has lately, unrememberable – except, aha, last she had been at her great-grandmother’s house, showing it to people, and there was a woman picnicking with a toddler on the small bluff by the fork in the road, people on the land, it no longer being a place that was her family’s. There were other people there on the land, in the dream, and she knew that she could not explain to any of them that the place used to be her home, a long time ago. 


She was showing people – unremembered – how to get into her grandmother’s house from the back door, the kitchen door. There was the pride of knowing, of showing, of the sense that she had the right to enter because she knew to walk around to the back of the house, to go through the kitchen. The trees were dead and dying, hanging over the yard and yet she remained optimistic and dream-wondered if her father could use them for firewood, yet felt a doubt because the wood was so soft, so black and rotting where it stood. The kitchen was turquoise, dim lit, semi-gloss walls that held an additional sheen, decades of oily air settled on every surface it seemed, and the air thick with the smell of a place left behind.


The dining room, where the big table had sat under the cut-glass chandelier, was painted a bright green. 


She doesn’t remember the rest of the dream, except for the feel of being transitory, and trying to solve some problem with strangers, trying to hide, to not be seen, as she is in almost all of her dreams, never at home and with the sense of there being no home, always going somewhere in the surreal flooded and ruined worlds she moves in at night. She remembers roads and features from dream to dream; the landscapes are familiar, but never anywhere she has been, anywhere that is real. 


The dog woke up barking at 12:35. She ate dry cereal from a paper cup and smoked a cigarette. Woke up again at 2:35, but didn’t know why. Ate more cereal, and when she got up at 6:07, she saw the frosted wheat biscuits she had spilled on the counter, fumbling the box and bag and contents into the small mouth of the cup in the dark, no glasses, using only her hands to see. 


There was another frosted wheat biscuit on the porch, dropped in the nighttime movements from kitchen to bed to porch, ’round and round.


She realizes that she doesn’t dream of places that are real, that she dreams of this house she lives in and sleeps in, the house next door, the street in front of the houses, but they are never like they really are and the neighborhood is a different place, with odd houses new and old. Always some bizarre situation unfolding, a group of people on the porch, strangers in the rooms, long walks and cutting through yards, again trying not to be seen. 


Did she ever write of the places on the coast that she dreams about, those flat roads and pressed down skies and the steps that lead up to a deep green pool of the ocean itself, instead of to dry land, the waves and heat of dunes blown to expose sharp-stalked mounds, roots of the grasses that held the mounds of sand together, the sand pushed and piled and swept for years and years and years, rising to catch the wind that created them?


She feels like she is able to remember a lot this morning, sitting on the porch and smoking with the day a blessed grey. No clouds. The dog was barking and there was a headache-y, tired feeling to the morning. Next door, the neighbor dog, a slick-bodied country mix with narrow paws, two round testicles still intact, barked on his tie-out, came over to the gate and tussled with the dog she is steward of, her angel dog, who is – alas – very much a dog. 


She keeps looking at the pictures she took yesterday, which – to her – are just as mind-blowing as the pictures she took the day before yesterday. There is a definite avoidance, however, of writing about the experiences of seeing what appear to be holy forms and figures in the sky, because she can still remember when even the idea of it seemed absolutely crazy to her, and she understands that most people cannot see what she sees, because you have to look closely and follow the lines, fill in the small spaces left by dissipate vapors, like finding pictures hidden in clouds. 


She can’t quite shake the tremorous feel seeded in her belly yesterday by the thought that maybe there really is nothing there, or that people will begrudgingly acknowledge that there are shapes that look like something, but that looking like something does not equate being something. A cloud that looks like an angel wearing a crown is not necessarily an angel. It is a cloud that my human perception – forged by the beliefs and images I have been immersed in ever since the day I opened my eyes, and which my ancestors were – –

…same morning as above, same walk, to the Towers and back, where a man with his legs removed recently, double amputation, bandages still, sat in a mobile cruiser wheelchair that had run out of power, stuck in the bus stop, had been there all day, smelled like urine, remarked that at least he’d been able to get to the bus stop by ‘free-wheeling’ down the hill from entrance to the Towers, where they had told him to that he had to leave, that he could not charge his chair in the hallway there, at least he was out of the rain. He looked like the man who called me sister a long time ago, by the Senior Opportunity Center. He lost his legs. He said someone was on their way to help, so I walked home and got him some money, walked back, gave it to him. It took me a long time to get back, because I kept taking pictures of the sky.

— shaping their views of angels and God. 
The way that ideas show up in my head is sometimes like a hint of question at the very edge of all the things I think I know. 

I might give the impression of being cavalier in my talking about all of this, or irreverent. 

It feels very important for me to stay grounded and rational around the topic of seemingly portent clouds. It is easier – and safer – for me to hold a stance of outward skepticism, keep the clouds at arms length, study them as I might study something that didn’t have the potential to change the way I see and understand the world. 

It may be worth questioning why would I want to study anything that didn’t have the potential to change the way I see and understand the world? 

Easier, I said. Safer. Safer than what? 

A lot can happen in a single walk. The look of a bear or a wolf, head of a bear, ears of a wolf, symbols above the head, a circle with a curved lines crossing to make 4 sections, the look of a candle fades behind it, though who is to say if it is a candle or anything at all.

The kitchen was grimy-seeming in the bare-bulb light, green gloss around the windows like something mossy. Spots of dust gone black that she swears isn’t mildew have settled onto the small interior lip of the window itself. Standing at the stove, turning the greens and the olives and the pasta shaped like butterflies that she knows will nonetheless taste macaroni, she can’t see the lattice-work of tiny webs that coats the exterior of the screen of the window facing what she and the neighbors and her children, almost-grown, call “the alley,” the slope of breaking concrete between her house and the house next door, a sober house where people smoke cigarettes on the porch almost as much as she does.

She is already thinking, standing at the stove and making one of the two or three dinners she rotates through eating a few times a week – the greens with the olives, pasta fried in olive oil, some kind of fake meat, some kind of fake cheese, bread – about when she will get to smoke again, puts a lid on the pan and goes outside to smoke as the sun goes fully down.

She is smoking these days, but – she tells herself – it’s working for her. She is self-medicating and she knows it, but medicine is good when you need it, and so she smokes, sits on the porch, writes emails to herself, organizes her pictures into folders, looks around, considering. She is happier and more like herself than she has in a very long time, even is beginning to feel like cleaning the windows, not because she needs to – tho’ she does because the windows are disgusting – but, because she wants to. It is a wonderful feeling, the wanting to do some thing that probably needs to be done.

There is a lot that needs to be done, but it makes sense to her that there would be lots that persists in needing to be done, suspended and waiting, gathering the dust of the house very slowly falling apart. She had noticed that she was thinking, standing there by the stove in her grimy kitchen, her old appliances, the door to the freezer held shut by a construction of high-quality duct tape and Velcro, that she is embarrassed of her house, that she is house-proud and house-shamed.

It’s all bullshit, she knows. I mean, really, what would anyone expect? It makes total sense that her house would be dusty, in need of repair.

Sitting on the porch smoking, the first few fireflies lighting up around the hedge-trees, she remembers the firefly she had found earlier, laying prone on the floor right outside of her room, in the immediate process of dying, abdomen exposed and glowing as brightly as it might were it rising from the grasses. She picked it up, careful, and say that its abdomen had ruptured slightly, and its legs were pulled in, contracted so that the whole tiny structure of the firefly was smooth along the edges, a compacted and dying form.

Why, she wondered, was the thing still lighting so brightly? She understood that the firefly had no choice, and had no idea that it was lighting up with what seemed to be all its might, no idea that it was dying.

She tried to take a picture of it, a video of it in her hand against a white wall.


She didn’t understand how the glow was still so bright. It didn’t occur to her until the next day that it was likely the demolition of the lightning bugs fragile, tiny insides, damage to the small workings that make a firefly light up that had caused the persistence of glowing even as the rest of the insect’s body systems were immobilized and dying.

Glowing wasn’t a choice, she reminded herself, it was just something that was happening outside of any conscious will of the lightning bug. As she stood on the landing of the stairs, considering the matte-soft almost velvety glove of the fireflies abdomen, the wound that to her was the size of a pinprick, but to the lightning bug was a massive wound to its delicate body, injurious to the extent of death, a death, she understands, that was likely caused by her lightly stepping out of her room, on her way downstairs to get ready to go meet with the people she is getting to know and who she might end up working with, depending on how the next few weeks pan out.

She is, she tells herself, in an emergent process, a feel-it-out and wait-and-see period of time after she left her job in the culmination of a previous emergent process that had led her to spend a lot of energy in stressful situations. She is, at all costs, determined to avoid wasting her life and time doing things she doesn’t like to do and isn’t good at and if she is good at them, they exhaust her, these actions of being a walking-talking person, saying-stuff-and-doing-things while, really, she is thinking about and longing for other things. Not longing in an ungrateful, or attached, or stubborn way, but longing in the way of knowing that if you don’t move toward the direction of the longing, you will continue to die inside and you won’t be able to laugh or feel the feeling of beauty. Love and compassion. Presence.

The longing wasn’t to be doing any specific thing, or having some specific thing, arranging or controlling anything in a certain way, but was for the feelings of being at ease in who she is and what she is doing, the feeling of living a life that she doesn’t all but have to force herself to participate in because she simply is not comfortable.

She is tired of telling herself to suck it up and be comfortable, don’t be spoiled, she is lucky, no – not lucky – privileged. It doesn’t feel like a privilege to be under siege with a deadening anxiety everyday because you have to go to work to earn 19.00 an hour even though you should probably earn way more, but you’re lucky, no, not lucky, but more privileged than millions of other people so get comfortable and get to work. 


Let us cease in calling meek, 

a young woman in a dress printed ladybug

black circles on red, or vice versa

corset strings cross chest brown boots on her feet, 

accentuate the young man’s face, 

three days growth, 

high school football, not quite a star,

field filled with huge boys, too small for touchdowns and tackles

just the right size for the mat though,


you wonder, sitting beside the girl,

what in the fuck happened down there, side-steps of a church closed up 

red glow inside the office door sanctuary light of the exit sign

above the locked door

candle on the table, restaurantwhite/red checks, a nice date

family dinner imagined in black/red dots,

they flitted and rolled,

whispered like ghost walks cross,

uncross the legs,

then jump and scatter, and – damn, girl! – who the fuck are you talking to over there in the bushes 

walking in your circle, grass damp and dark, fireflies rising, yearning, fading fireworks,

as you hiss in your old voice, about gang rape and Rick Starr

and you speak back more than you say

spit back retorts, brief defenses, accusations

without a clear subject, a clear action,someone named Shannon, genderless, low-down, FEMA camp bots

motherfucker, looks at sky, exasperated, smooths the bugs down from the skirt

x ankles like a college girl

relaxing on the green, for only a moment.


“The color blue has…certain associations…”

Looks off, cryptic coffeeshop philosopher

blue line of something like ribbon

beside the left hand. 


She gets up, brushes, spits, adjusts her bag, begins to walk,

“Hey, man,” the witness said, extends the blue line with an outstretched hand.

“Don’t forget your tourniquet.” 


What I have come to understand over the past two days – and have come to understand with deep certainty – is that it doesn’t matter what I believe and that what I believe is not even the fucking point here. I clearly recognize that there is an auspicious preponderance of seeming-symbols and seeming-figures in seeming-interaction in the sky, and I recognize that in my direct individual experience, I find that beholding said seemings is the singular most profound moment of my entire life, again and again, day after day, if I watch long enough, if I stay focused and attentive to what the clouds are appearing as, which I understand is a matter of my perception and of my imagination, which has been shaped by the cultures I have been in proximity with and the media I have had access to. 


For over ten years, almost entering a twelfth, I have agonized over what does it mean, what do I believe, am I crazy, are people going to think that I am crazy, blah blah blah. 


Now, I understand that my role as an artist of this sort is not to understand, or to interpret, it is to show people what I am seeing, so that they may see it and experience it for themselves in whatever way they may experience it, drawing meaning or no meaning. It’s not my business or my job as an artist to tell people what to believe, though I can certainly share what I believe with people. 


The past few days have been extremely intense, as far as cloud implications and my incremental movement toward strategically sharing this work. It doesn’t matter if I am scared, or if I am nervous. It is not about me.

As an artist, I can declare myself a vehicle for the expressions of the world that I bear witness to, but it is not about me at all. 


It is about what is conveyed to me through my art process, which is – in the case of this project – me paying attention to the forms of clouds and noticing my reactions and assumptions to what I perceive. 


What I have perceived in recent days appears – on the basis of objectively observable thematic content – to be, again and more persistently, about the ocean and about the animals, and God Damn IT – that wretched radiation sign that I have hoped and hoped is an emblem of pagans or something, and not the sign of an energetic cancer unleashed unto the Holy Spirit and all it touches. 

If someone painted these clouds as part of a picture, they would be a surrealist.

Ahem. 


As I have said recently, it is very important to stay grounded. I lost my mind with this before, and it is not going to happen again, because this time I am approaching this from a position of grounded and scientifically informed curiosity. 


(Jesus Christ, Faith. There is some serious shit going on in the world if you’re seeing legit detailed dolphin faces and even a squid and – Oh, My God! – so many manta rays, so many rays, even a sea purse just to prove it, to prove it to you. You have seen the face of a Florida Panther fill the sky with clear bright eyes. You have seen humanity and angels in the clouds, so many beautiful animals. That little mouse. You know that you are loved and blessed and in favor when you see animals in the sky. Bullshit, Girl. You don’t know shit. How about the earth showing you everything that stands to be lost and you mooning around over the mouse. The planarium or tape worm or whatever it was. Did you see that motherfucking mushroom cloud? Did you see that submarine? The flag? Listen, you’re not going to sound fucking crazy. Okay, fine. Maybe a little crazy. YOU HAVE PICTURES. All you have to do is say, “Hey, this is what I saw and this is what it looked like to me.” Two sentences. My God, you are impossible. Just show the people. Don’t you have faith in the wisdom of such a profound force to trust the impetus to show what you see. Don’t explain it. Don’t interpret it. Just put it together in a way people can access and allow for the work to communicate what it may in the world. “


Are people able to understand why I want to talk with someone about this? Can I see this in my neighborhood at 9:30am and not think there is ‘something weird about the clouds’?

I mean, seriously…right?!

Messaging

We’d wave at the train, the 501 engine

closing the road on the way to school,

open beds, stacked pine bodies,

“that’s the smell of money,”

men would say,

long after it was clever.

Richly acrid, sulfurous,

a grey-white fart blooming

over the intracoastal

from the broke-pipe intestines

a building that eats trees,

turns them into toilet paper,

brown bags to hold the groceries,

white bags to hide prescriptions,

gifts for the sick and grieving

We’d wave at the train, the 501,

morning light, a lucky day,

to see the train on the way to school,

to not yet know

that there was anything perverse

about its passengers

laid like the dead

It’s been a few days since I wrote anything at all, other than a couple brief beginnings of things that I did not finish. My avoidance (of being awake in general and basically everything I ‘need’ to do, but like actually need to do, in order to both keep my daily life going, and also to move forward and not just continue this slump toward yet-another so-called failure, a failure that actually is a failure) has been noticeable, acute anxiety that doesn’t even surface to my knowing, but quickly and effectively, calmly and thoroughly shuts my mind down, like I can’t even form a sentence, subtle waves of utter humiliation lap at the edges of this silence, a confirmation of my inefficacy –  a fact I don’t believe, but still feel. 

I understand that the only real way to counter this state of immobility (like srsly, I find myself at least 10 times a day frozen in a semi-catatonia except who really knows what catatonia feels like from the inside, whether or not me forgetting I even have a body and just being stuck watching the leaves on the trees without seeing much, transfixed by the unspooling of disparate thoughts and images that burst and puddle and pool in mind, sensations of near breathlessness, breath shallow, hypoxic because I forget I have a body and so forget to breathe) is to move around, do the things, begin the doing, and yet it is like a massive weight – no, not a weight – almost an absence of a weight, an immateriality in my existence as a creature of will and agency, a lack of substance in the strength of my hands and in the damp firing of synapses, no snap, no crackle, no pop…maybe I should start eating breakfast? Maybe I should start running again. Probably. 

Here’s the thing: everything changed. Not true, Faith – not everything, not you. You haven’t changed at all. How many times have you done this, let a perfectly good life go to rubbish out of awkward, exhausting avoidance? 

If you are going to make this time different, go ahead and do it. Defy the odds set by yourself in all your failures, and get shit done. 

That’s the funny thing about this sense of anxiety/avoidance – it’s like not even directed at any particular thing. It’s a globalized sense of dread and overwhelm that muddies what exactly I have to do. 

It’s really foolish that I don’t make to-do lists.

Wouldn’t a person who knows they have a very difficult time, ahem, managing their time make a fucking list, keep moving, not just fritter away the days in doing the bare minimum to show up, interspersed with the sweet refuge of naps, a different consciousness entirely. 

Maybe today I will do things differently, as an experiment. It’s really very difficult inside my headspace, like a big sprawling tangle. It’s entirely possible that my brain needs rehabilitation, rest, reset. 

That wouldn’t surprise me, after the prolonged acrobatics and coping and forcing of this past year. 

How many times can a person recover and reset before the basic function is impaired, irreparably bungled? 

I don’t think anyone is irreparably bungled, as even profoundly brain damaged people can be rehabilitated to some extent, though I suppose there are accumulating limitations and intransigent damage. 

It’s probably important to remind myself that I am a person who – many times over – was diagnosed and treated as having a severe persistent mental illness and whether or not I agree the etiology ascribed to my struggles with the human experience in America in the 20th/21st century, its true that I have had a hard time and that – logically enough – the fact of my hard times and the ways that I have had a hard time do probably make me more vulnerable to impairment, as well as to a death that may come 10-25 years earlier than it perhaps would have had I not had such a hard time, so many times. 

*sigh* 

So, I was saying something about a to-do list and then remembered, speaking of dying young, that my friend Hoffman died young on May 8th, tho I didn’t know about it until the end of May, an email from his mother, brief and apologetic tho it was her that had lost her second son to some variant of madness. “The medication didn’t work anymore.” This was all she said, and I don’t understand what she meant. I need to write her back. I might have done that already. 

Example A of why I ‘can’t get anything done’:

(Factors that contribute to the narrative of inefficacy and its functional outcomes) 

I was thinking I need to pull together the documentation of my friendship with Hoffman – which is vast (the documentation and possibly the friendship) – an add it to my autoethnographic projects on the website that I have only worked on minimally – uploaded photos, created galleries. It’s a lot of uploading, a lot of going through old content. So, I was thinking about the to-do list and about Hoffman and autoethnography, and went inside briefly to get an energy drink because I seem to need about 700mg of caffeine – okay, fine – 1,000 probably, with the 2 pills of 200, the coffees and energy drink…hahahaha, no wonder I’m anxious, but srsly, I have no trouble sleeping at all and can fall asleep right after I drink a Red Bull, go back to bed after I take a caffeine pill and feel just as relieved to ‘succumb to sleep.’ I went inside and immediately forgot I was getting a drink, and paused to tell my 18 year old that I was going to make a to-do list, to which he looked amused because how many times has he heard that? Then my mom called and I wandered upstairs to talk on the phone and take a roll of toilet paper to the bathroom, and Bandit the cat was at the foot of the bed, cleaning herself before she sleeps all day, and she let me play with the paws of her feet, some pink and some black, some a mottled blend. She licked my hand and looked drowsy while I told my mom about the dinner I have eaten most every night for two weeks, the only meal I want to eat, supplemented with popcorn, smoothies, and occasional granola, some nuts. Kale and peppers and onion and garlic, black and green olives in abundance, vegan sausage and wide pasta fried in olive oil, vegan cheese melted throughout. 

For a month after I moved out of the house on NE 19th, and into the Mitchell Apartments on SE 7th, c. 1997, I ate no meal other than angelhair pasta with stewed tomatoes, mozzarella, bleached white bread that I got from the small grocery store up the street from the Sassy’s strip club, pink lights on rainy streets, early dark, crossing the parking lot on foot to get more bread, more pasta. The comforts of the same thing again and again. 

Interestingly, I’m seeing that the brief account above connects to my friend Hoffman because he also lived at the Mitchell, tho several years after I had and in a different apartment. He had Lemeirre’s when he lived there, a sustained high fever, an unidentified illness, a near-death. Also, he left Asheville after living in my spare room for a few months, four or five, when a police officer stopped him as he crossed a parking lot and accused him of stealing a jacket, brought him back to the house, at which point I decided it was probably better for him to return to California, and he did almost immediately, without argument or debate. He had become the strange-thin of people who are not inherently thin and then lose weight suddenly. He slept most of the day and had become accusing and paranoid, obsessed with the potential of lead poisoning as a causative factor in why the world is insane and radiation as a predictive factor in why the world is doomed, both points that I understood and also yet I also understood that I had to pick up the kids from school and not be fucking around with any madness in my house, any ink thrown cross the bed like a curse to which I did not react, because what could I say when my friend who’d been a saving Grace in the spring following the worst winter of my life began to lose his mind even though we were determined to help keep one another well, to be artists or something, except I was working as a peer at the recovery education center and trying to be a normal mom and not get into trouble or create problems or stress or drama for my kids. 

The to-do list: 

Ah, yes – the example…the dog, with wet paws and a wild morning smile climbs onto the bed and paws at the cat, who stops licking my hand and looks pissed, and my mom is still on the phone as my daughter walks in and there is some mediated hellos, me the proxy, and then I am getting off the phone because there is too much happening with the dog and the cat that I have lifted onto the top bunk of the bed fort I sleep in even though I am supposed to be a fucking adult, and it is time to feed the one-eyed small cat that lives in my daughter’s room because she (the cat, not my daughter) was feral at a house with over 10 cats and even though she is tiny and was born with only 1 eye and only 4 teeth, she had somehow survived to be an adult cat that weighs 4 pounds and so she is special and doesn’t need to deal with any bullshit from any other living thing. She deserves peace and security and knowing her food comes everyday and she gets picked up and held and melts into the hug, merges with me as I cradle her and scratch her chin and I can feel the oxytocin and the easing of my nervous system and she can, too – I’m convinced – because it feels like we are feeling the same thing, tho I can’t be sure. 

My son says I need to ignore everything else to make my to-do list, to “treat it like it is work.” I think I should schedule my to-do list time to not be in the morning when things are happening. 

Speaking of work, I am supposed to go to a staff meeting that is mandatory as a prn staff for the organization I was working for in a high-responsibility role and from which I have not spoken to anyone in a couple of weeks. Weird. 

I woke up this morning not thinking about much, other than the usual assortment of ideas and intentions mumbling in the muted humidity of June dawn. It was easy to ignore, the morning thoughts, impressions just after waking from a too-warm night during which the dog barked and then wouldn’t pee outside and instead laid down like he was going to sleep in the mulch. I think it’s dumb to gender animals. I will just call the dog Nash, that’s the preferred pronoun – his name. Dog. Gendering runs so deep, such a habit in our language and the resultant frameworks of how we see the world. It’s easy to understand why some people geek out about linguistics the interplay of language and culture and meaning, how words begat reality and yet are also reflective of how we wish to understand things or how we simply do understand, whether we wish to or not. It’s a fascinating reflexive relationship. The words we use reinforce reality and Vice verse. ‘Dog’ is a container for the creatures we call dog and how we see them.

I think ‘my dog’ might be ‘an angel.’

There is so much meaning in that sentence.

It is full of assumptions of ownership that are defined by both law and relationship, and images of floaty beings, winged beings, a certain spirit.

Nash’s fur looks like angel wings, golden and pale and with a warm reddish that looks almost pink, and is the color of sun on dried grasses at the beginning or end of a day.

I woke up thinking about two things:

The work I need to do on the website/s.

The need to reach out for support from an author with whom I have a secondary acquaintanceship with, that has created a career in reflecting on their relationship with race and identity and family history in the South, and also about the use of psychiatry as a tool of racism at the Georgia State Hospital in Milledgeville.

Psychiatry and psychiatrists going on TikTok and the need to write a letter to Dr. Martelli to be forwarded to him in his retirement, requesting a summary of my treatment between the years of 1989 and, what, 1992, 1993?

I don’t know, it just went on and on.

The weekly appointments, paid for out of pocket by my family. The two inpatient stays at Charter By The Sea, a facility later closed due to allegations of Medicaid and Medicare fraud by the corporation that operated the private in-patient facilities.

I need to explain to him that it is possible that I may need to file for disability as I enter my mid-forties after a few decades of psychiatric struggles and the resultant impact on my capacities to cope with and tolerate and – more importantly, do – work that is commonly available in the existing job market. My cognition is all fucked up in regard to some things, a lot of things actually, and I have serious challenges with stress-vulnerability factors. I should have gotten on disability in 2000, 2001, and then maybe again in 2010. I could never do the paperwork though, and – besides – still very much wanted to work and tried to work, and yet could never work full-time with much success and the times I tried I ended up in the hospital. So, I have never had much economic success, tho’ have had relative security (pun possibly intended) at least as far as keeping a roof over my head and food, basic and additional resources for the two young people that I had a part in creating and raising.

I know I have said it before, and I will probably say it again. If not for my family’s resources, I would likely be dead or homeless. I might be happier homeless and with no expectations placed on me to be a productive member of a working world that was not built for the health and well-being of people such as myself, but the increased risk of trauma that comes with being a homeless female in a country with a strong rape culture would likely mean that I would not be happier, though I would technically be more free – or less impeded – to just be who I am without social punishment beyond the social punishment reserve for the homeless and the crazy…this line of thought is not panning out to make much sense. It would suck to be homeless. It also sucks to be in a long-standing financial codependency with ones family because you are differently-abled and have basically be left to figure all this crap out yourself because despite people (one’s family included) deciding that you have a mental illness, you are still expected to be able to do all the things that people of normative experience and ability are able to do.

There is some sneering dick in my head, that I’m sure I’ve identified before in response to me sharing my experiences of frustration re: social and economic expectations of normative participation in the working middle-class American lifestyles and activities – like, I’m, going to work everyday to a job I hate and doing it anyway at the expense of my ability to be present and happy in my life because I’m so tired and blitzed with dumb information and petty bs that doesn’t even matter because I have to earn wages to pay for a house and a car and all the fixin’s of a ‘normal American life’ – (which – increasingly – includes closeted alcoholism, conspiratorial delusions, quiet white supremacy, gluttonous destruction of the environment, and child suicide attempts).

Yay.

Anyway, I was thinking about psychiatry and about even googled – not for the first time – my old psychiatrist’s image, and considered how important it is that I make a request to him for a summary of my diagnosis and treatment. Depression. Bipolar. Pamelor, Prozac, lithium. Lithium toxicity. Getting my blood drawn in the hall by the reception desk. Falling out with a wild metallic ringing in my ears at the reception desk of another doctor, my pediatrician who did not like me and who no longer wanted to treat me, which was fine because I was a teenager anyway, I could drive a car, was on birth control (because I had no sexual boundaries despite also having no real sex desire) – a terrible implant that made me bleed all the time and that I had removed.

I wondered if I should sue my old psychiatrist for malpractice, iatrogenic harm. He had access to the psych eval my parents had done when I was twelve, the year before I “got sent to Charter” (which was a phrase common in the dialect of my hometown and its many troubled teens, almost a rite of passage for bad kids and weird kids, kids whose Southern Baptist parents thought they were into devil worship because they listened to Slayer and smoked weed. I didn’t listen to Slayer, or smoke weed.

For the most part, I still listened to Poison and Bon Jovi and 95.1 WAPE, the top 40. Some Led Zeppelin, a Metallica tape, The Rolling Stones.  I was upset a lot – ‘flying of the handle,’ and screaming about how I wished I’d never been born, slamming doors, biting my hands, punching myself occasionally when especially explosive in my adolescent rage and grief, the reasons for which were totally off my radar.

The transition from being ‘normal’ to being ‘a kid with problems’ happened all the sudden, one day they were at school, and then they’d be gone, ‘sent to Charter.’

There is probably a statute of limitations for pediatric psychiatry malpractice suits. Ah, yes, as I was saying – Dr. Martelli had access to the records from the psych eval that got me a diagnosis of depression, which was probably not inaccurate because I was in puberty and watching my hometown turn into a military town and my dad sold the land and I saw places I loved – even our very own dirt road home – get destroyed and paved over. Of course, nobody talked about any of that because my depression was ‘caused by a chemical imbalance. She may need to take medication, possibly for her whole life.’

The psych eval also said I was basically almost a genius, or something like that. An IQ of 151, learning and processing differences.

I guess the mental health professionals of the late 1980s just didn’t think that would matter much as far as mental health vulnerabilities. Idiots.

They just thought that because I was ‘smart,’ I should be able to figure out how not to be a fuck-up and that my being a fuck-up was somehow an insult to my smartness, a waste of it, a disappointment because I had ‘so much potential.’

I’ve said that before – made that point about the dark side of being seen as ‘smart’ by people who don’t know anything about intelligence or learning.

One thing that has occurred to me is that I could do a thematic analysis of all this writing and pull out the things I say over and over again, the stories I tell and retell or make reiterative allusion toward. This is a drawn out recursive process of figuring out what is important for me to tell.

So far, it’s taken 12 years and I’ve told about a lot of things that aren’t important, and maybe the things that I think are important really aren’t – except I know, I know in my bones and in my heart that they are, that there are kids out there right now who are literally dying because people don’t understand them and want them to just be normal.

I mean, seriously. There is all this dialogue about youth mental health and these seas of information about learning styles and trauma and mental health and yet the story that is told continues to be this reductionist tale of mental illness and it hurts people.

I wonder if it’s possible to sue the American Psychiatric Association?

🤔

By the time they met, she already believed in divine interventions – the way that the follies of circumstance sometimes align to create opportunities and barriers, sometimes just simple lessons that may seem like bad luck at the time.

She doesn’t realize that every topic she has selected represents a ton of work. Even for topics that she has a fair amount of content for, there is the process of editing and uploading, formatting and transcribing, re-naming and compiling. It is an enormous amount of work. She has spent hours fiddling with photo layouts that might not even load correctly and that may need to made into a different portfolio altogether, or even a video.

Fortunately, at least today and yesterday, she feels actually interested and excited in the process of putting together a semi-coherent and easily navigable website to showcase the accumulation of variably skilled artwork across several different media, and to create a space where she can continue to work on projects in process and have all the existing content in development in one place. I think a lot of artists keep their works in progress secret, and don’t show the mess that leads to the final presentation. As a person who has spent much of her life trying to figure out how to do things in a way that is efficient and yet authentic, focused and simultaneously open to things not going quite as planned, disciplined, but not perfunctory.

I just went on a little tangent of dialects relating to what I envision an optimal set of characteristics or attributes for self-directed work. Efficiency alone is a challenge – because some processes are not efficient by nature, nor should they be. Life and living is a complex and adaptive meandering across myriad factors, domains, pasts and potentials. It’s not efficient. Nonetheless, papers have to be written and household chores done, emails answered, a hundred little tasks that move us through our days. In art, I sacrifice a lot of efficiency, because I don’t like the feeling of having to finish something in a certain way, in a certain time frame. I am not a production artist beyond objects like paper cranes made out of cloud photos, wire birds twisted during meetings. Objects with mindless mechanics in their making, soothing to the hand, repetitive motions. Sometimes – okay, often – I don’t finish art projects, paintings or textiles, assemblage left on mantles, stored in boxes.

I really need to revisit my how to be an artist that changes the world series, which I recorded only one video for, that is kind of hokey and my hair looks bad and there is hideous lighting at the end. I seem to be procrastinating a follow up episode. It is probably important that I go ahead and make that happen, follow up. I have good ideas for episodes and ways to fold my otherwise-isolated and not-held-accountable completely inefficient process of accounting for my art and taking inventory of my art supplies, etc. discussing what it means to change the world and a couple of my potential projects which I believe have the capacity to change the world, both of which are exceptionally lofty and also possibly dangerous, but only because there are -ironically – a lot of crazy people out there. I say ironically because people will say I am crazy and have said I am crazy before. However, given some of the utterly atrocious madness that is unfolding across the world and the general anything-goes landscape of culture and economy that I find myself existing in, i am just really not that crazy and even if I am, it doesn’t matter and the nuances of my particular crazy may actually be important and relevant to lives beyond my own in that I am a person who was not identified as having profound learning and processing differences (we’re talking multiple standard deviations from the normative modes of interpretation and meaning making, a very different way of inhabiting the experiences of thought and idea and feeling, and yet I am not alone – there are other folks who are more like me than the vast majority of the population and who I am – perhaps – more like, with the clause of everyone being different and nobody being the same, etc.) and who instead was identified as having a manipulative personality and a severe persistent mental illness and whose ways of being differently abled were totally unseen and unrecognized. I also grew up in an interesting place, and my family history is full of mysteries and what may well be curses.

Anyway, I have to go pick my daughter up from work in 4 minutes.

It’s like over an hour later. Jeez.

I don’t understand how two nearly grown humans, a couple of cats, and one puppy can be so utterly time consuming. Who am I kidding?

No wonder I was so stressed out and exhausted when I was trying to show up to a bunch of zoom meetings and respond to a ton of emails about wildly different subjects and functions, anchored to waaaaay too many relationships and professional expectations.

(Later) 

From this point forward, I will cease in reiterating self-defeating barrier narratives and will no longer see myself as unseen. I will be seen. I am seen. I will be discovered. I am discovering myself and recognizing the value of my work. I have worked hard and deserve to be recognized for both my efforts and for my achievements. I recognize myself. 

The tricky thing about naming what it is you are recovering from is that it is very easy to inadvertently reinforce the perception of oneself as a…victim, or as one who is powerless. 

I do not want to be in any relationship – intimate, familial, or economic – that takes my power from me, or asks (as a condition of the relationship) that I compromise my power (to make choices in what I participate in and to define my own values and to not be complicit in things that are harmful to me or to others) in ways I am not comfortable with in warped and confusing tests of loyalty, obedience, kindness, humility, intelligence, or love. 

It was a severance,

not-quite-clean splitting in the middle of April,

movement from one season

dripping and pooling and tearing

falling

into another

to be shaped by the absences

of so much that had seemed

like it might last forever

the heat came in saffron at dawn

already a haze

rain the sky will not let loose 

no matter how hard we pray

I recall a haiku right before taking a nap yesterday, which was the day that I got the email that Hoffman had died. Passed away was what his mother said, poor woman with two dead sons, both victims of LA in their own way. Heroin and madness, respectively.

My ex-lover left for Maine in the morning.

My son came into the room grumbling about a 28mm socket. It was hot af and I was not asleep, but still thinking about the haiku, was certain that I’d remember it, but I don’t. Not at all.

Yesterday was difficult, a low energy and my head glutted with memory, dull grief in my chest, the pressure to travel to my parent’s house in the afternoon, to visit with my mom and her sister after they got back from the cancer doctor. A feeling of pure not-wanting-to-go.

How much of what is called anxiety is a not wanting to do a thing? Not wanting to perform, to show up and be engaging and pleasant, conversational in the right ways?

I went through the motions of getting ready to go, and then called my mom and told her that I wasn’t going to, that I just couldn’t. I told her Hoffman died, and —— went to Maine. I hadn’t slept the night before because it was hot and sweaty and full of dreams about flooding highways under construction and buses filling with water and that neighborhood on a hillside that sometimes I dream about, the twisting streets and potted plants in driveways, people in the houses, always a borrowed house, and my daughter was not my daughter, but had been born to someone else.

I didn’t feel well yesterday, but told my doctor I was fine in a chipper enough tone when they called to ask how the new prescription was going.

Can I be honest about something? Yes. Yes, you can. You are writing an email to yourself, Faith. Nobody is reading this. It doesn’t matter what you say here. Your headspace is a mess? Is that what you want to say. Well, duh. All morning you’ve been walking around with your brain in some sort of muddled, flooded overdrive, with gestalt knowings and entire narratives tumbling around over one another, a distinct sense of social anxiety that you recognize as having been with you almost forever, and you’re scrambling to figure out how to move forward and what to do, and all the possible things you might do are unfolding and retracting in your mind space as you stand in the yard with the dog and you through the ball with the sun coming up through the trees and you realize you seem totally ‘alright’ – you are dressed and you are not crying. You’re not doing some crazy shit. You’re throwing the ball for the dog and trying to focus on your deep breaths in and your deep breaths in through your nose as you consider an essay about how running taught you how to breath again, how to be in your body and – with that consideration, tossed up into the swirling mix of thoughts about how truly problematic it is to have everything all in a jumble in your head, and how you are supposed to have done a hundred things and none of them got done, which is not to say that you did nothing, but that you didn’t build a website or cut the dead wood out of the hedge trees or complete a content analysis of your great-great grandfather’s totally over-the-too Lost Cause glorification of Robert E. Lee and how you really need to say something about that today, and then there is the matter of being a mealy-mouthed apologist in your effort to not offend the Sons of Confederate Veterans or something like that – some vague and vehement irrational audience that you are speaking to, and holding the balloon of knowledge that your voice doesn’t really matter much in the sea of all the voices and that you really have no way of being effective in this dialogue of existing that requires a constant and engaging social media feed and the ability to talk to people consistently and it is with no small measure of silent internal alarm that you recognize how seriously and severely and persistently you are impaired in your capacities to say shit and do things and what the fuck are you going to do about that.

The thought of drawing and painting feels like an oasis, a thoughtless oasis, where you don’t have to do anything but focus on the pull of water and pigment across paper. 

Your mother is going to the cancer doctor again today. It is the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, and the person you love and who you lived with is getting onto a plane to Bangor, Maine. You’re supposed to have a meeting with the NAMI guy and the Operations Director and two other people at 9:00 and you almost shudder to think about actually showing up because you feel frozen in your voice and your executive function is fucked and you can’t stand to hear the talk of SPMI and the two-syllable softness of the NAMI word. As much as you can’t stand the thought, the NAMI guy is probably the only one at the meeting who would actually get any mention of impaired cognitive and executive function, social difficulties. These are SPMI issues.

She doesn’t think she has an SPMI, other than almost unrelenting depression and profoundly normative social anxiety and an inconsistent capacity to do effective work for other people because she is continually nagged by a sense of higher vocation that she is beholden to through ancestral debt and reconciliation responsibilities that are indicated to her through a sensation of knowing and idea and through small circumstances which are interpreted by her to mean that she is either in moving in the right direction or the wrong direction.

😬

I have learning and sensory processing differences, and am perhaps on the autistic spectrum, just as two of my immediate family members are on the autistic spectrum, and also have learning and sensory processing differences. If I reflect on the experiences and circumstances that surround my episodes of ‘mental health crisis’ – those periods of time when I found myself increasingly unable to regulate stress responses, perform socially, and participate in work that requires complicated executive function tasks and social intricacies, and I began to find myself in a panic because I couldn’t make my brain work and I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but I had to keep showing up, and my mind went more and more blank as the things I needed to do piled up inside all jagged and echoing these whispers of what a lazy fuck up I am and how I really need to get my shit together and just figure it out and do the things. This is the messaging I have received my whole life and the messaging that I continue to receive from my family and from the world at large. I can feel in my chest a sense of frustrated sadness around the fact that nobody has ever said – “You know what, Faith? You are a differently-abled person. You have remarkable strengths and gifts and you have worked so hard to try to use your strengths to create something useful, or helpful, or beautiful in the world. You experience thinking and feeling and sensing in ways that less than 3% of the population does. YOU ARE DIFFERENT. This doesn’t mean you are better or worse than anyone else in the world. You are just different. Different is not special. Everyone is different. It is obvious that you have tried really hard to fit in and find a place for yourself in the world, and we know it has been difficult to do things like go to school and show up to a job when you are struggling in your experience and can’t think right and can’t calm down. It is amazing that you have learned so many skills to try to help yourself to do the things that are expected of you, and we’re sorry that sometimes it was so hard that you just couldn’t do it, and you hurt yourself because you didn’t know what else to do and felt so terrible about yourself. You are a really good person, with an amazing mind. Given who you are and your life experiences, it makes total sense that you would have a hard time earning money and being social in the ways that people expect you to. Why don’t you try to just be you, and we’ll trust that – with time – you will forge a way to live so that your life isn’t so hard for you to show up for?”

Today I went to a couple of meetings hosted online by the organization that I was employed by and where I thought I was still ‘PRN staff’. When I tried to clock in for the meeting, I was informed that nobody by my name was ‘Active Staff’ and that I should talk to my administrator. That means I was taken off the payroll. Aside from a brief conversation in a parking lot last month, where it was decided that I would remain PRN and yet also file for unemployment, I haven’t really talked with anyone from the organization. It’s the same sort of thing that happened with my longtime roommates in 1997, where I was just cut out of their lives with no real explanation after I moved out. I had expected to still be friends, but we weren’t and nobody told me why. Similarly, in my departure from the Icarus Project after they decided to hire someone else for my role without really telling me why, nobody ever explained to me what I’d done wrong, but I remember feeling like people had talked about me, and the question about what I had thought about my recent participation in meetings. I thought I had been doing fine, well even, especially given that other people were not always on their a-game and it seemed okay for them. 

There is something about me that some people don’t like, something challenging or disconnecting, that minimizes me and files my efforts to contribute under ‘ignorable.’ 

I think that sometimes I can be too direct, and that other times I am passive aggressive and use long-winded rhetorical flair to make my points especially cutting in a way that is not technically impolite, but that probably makes people uncomfortable. 

I only do this when I feel strongly about something and when I believe I am not being heard or being asked to compromise my values or when I see something happening that needs to be acknowledged and that nobody is acknowledging. 

In any event, there was a feeling of relief as I sat in the work meeting and heard about the new rules they will have to be enforcing at the city’s hotel shelter project, and how something that was intended to create the dignity and safety of shelter has now become a little carceral in the restrictions being put forth because of some of the problems that have arisen from rapidly transitioning people who are in active addiction and who struggle with profound trauma and mental health difficulties and who were living outside into an EconoLodge and a Ramada Inn. 

I have other things I need to be working on, my www.imfinethankyou.net site primary among them. I am redesigning that space to better serve my purposes as a not-yet-emerging-but-possibly-emergent artist and writer, as an experimental autoethnographer, and as a person who has zero interest in being complicit in systems and economies that I recognize as being harmful to living things and to the potential futures of the planet and its myriad inhabitants. That’s a fairly sweeping statement, I know. I should make a visual diagram of what that statement holds. Speaking of visual diagrams – I made a draft of an explanatory graphic re: why people kill themselves, in broad terms, and have thought some about how to use digital collage and text to refine the basic idea and design. 

That would be something on the to-do list that I never made this morning. 

About Suicide

The house beside the one she lives in is a sober living house with the exact same floor plan as her home, except mirrored so that the two bathrooms face one another, and sometimes when she is walking up the stairs she can see through the landing window that one of the “guys” is walking up the stairs indoors. Last night the dog was barking and barking and barking, looking out the landing window and watching as a former resident of the house next door entered the yard, leaving the gate open, and then went and knocked on the door. It was almost 4:00am. The dog barked and barked until she came downstairs and took him outside, and blurry-eyed saw the gate open, stopped the dog from running into the night after scent and curiosity with a sharp discouraging noise, the “EHHT!” that has been used to correct dogs in her family for decades, a reflex-friendly noise that means “No!”

Sitting in the dark with a light rain falling, not caring and wondering what the barking had been about, if the person who was keeping some of their clothing in a bin on the porch had come by in the middle of the night, and feeling a little perturbed at the thought of it, but too tired to really care or to deal with it at all, the coming by, the banging on the door. Even in the daylight, she didn’t like the feeling of being intruded on, and yet simultaneously was disgusted by her privilege in being a person that had the luxury of feeling intruded upon, the luxury of a door that locks, a porch to sit on, a choice in who she inhabits space with. 

She watched as one of the neighbors parked across the street in the middle of the night, coming home. Petting the dog on the chest and whispering hush, trying to be quiet because she didn’t know what to say to her neighbor at 4am and felt awkward. 

“Is that you, Faith?” 

“Yeah, it’s me. Is everything okay?”

The neighbor explained that someone who had lived at the house, but not for a long time, had come by knocking, “tweaked out of his mind.” 

“He paid me 60 bucks to take him to a hotel. Made me promise I wouldn’t call 911. Thought a bunch of people were after him or something. He kept saying he wasn’t high, but he obviously was.”

Faith v_—_😊🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣😂🤣🤣😂😂😂😂🤣😂😊😊🤣😂😂😆😆🪟🎈🪟🛍🪟📱📱💽🥂🍾🍾🍾🍾🥃🥃🥃🥃🍷🍷🍷🍹🍷🍷🥃🍷🍸🍹🍹🧊🍴 

Haha – still in Gmail, I was talking to my son on the phone about mountain bike repair, proprietary tools, designed obsolescence, and financial security philosophy and practice. I face-dialed my name ( plus v_–_) and the above emoji sequence. 

“I like things to be planned. I have to see the numbers before I am going to trust that resources I am not in control of are there before I make a purchase. We’re very different in that way. You think about it differently, probably because there always were resources.” 

One afternoon about five years ago, after the sword fighting in the park, the day summer-hot, she sat in the car with her children before ordering pizza to pick up on the way home. Dialed the number and entered the last four digits, pressed 2, and learned that she only had 13.84 in her checking account, which was her only account, she had cut her hours back at work, needing to regroup and have a break from the hour commute in the morning after dropping her kids off, the anxious rush home on Mondays to pick them up. Blazing hot traffic jams. The lack of a single-day during which she did not have something important to show up for, so that she could show for other important things, like trying to be an artist and write a book. 

These were mostly secret goals, down-low goals and she allowed people to think that she was like any of the millions of people who want to write books and be an artist and who probably never will, and who might not even be that good at writing or art by any measure, subjective and technical and ethical. 

(Interesting these measures she identified, the subjective, technical, and ethical. She would like to expand on those terms, define them and explore her thoughts about how they are measures of quality in art and writing.) 

Something shifted in her a little after the 12 year anniversary of her note-taking and paying attention to clouds and inhabiting the third person, a participant-observer of herself. Twelve years is a long time to do something in near-secret. Odds are that the longer a person does a thing, the more likely they are to be discovered to have been doing it. As I wrote out the above sentence, I wondered if it was true. I think in matters of Vice and art, it might be true, but not necessarily. What do I even mean, “discovered.” There – for me – is a sensation of being caught in the word, rather than a sensation of being recognized favorably for doing a thing. That makes sense to me, that I would feel a “getting caught” feeling around this ongoing project. 

For years, she has periodically imagined the person who might be taken by a phrase or by the mere existence of this behemoth depository of email-saved drafts and unrefined poems* and who might be the sister of an editor or an agent, a person who sees books in big piles of story, a person who can see the diamond in the rough. 

At this point, she is no longer looking for anyone to tell her whether or not her writing is any good. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. She can feel the difference, and notices when she is being dumb in her thinking or insufferable in tone. Even after sussing out the validity of the perceptions of ‘dumb’ and ‘insufferable’ by seeing what voices, experiences, and perspectives these assessments might be rooted in, she has to admit that some of her writing is simply bad. 

Then she has to remind herself that not everybody likes “good writing.” The Average American only reads at a 5th grade level. Still, some ways of telling a story are better than others, and she has learned those ways only by instinct gleaned from the stories she has read, certain shine in certain phrases, a satisfying cadence and syllable sound.

She doesn’t know many literary terms beyond what might be taught in Comp 101, which she took in a meeting/presentation theater room at the Trident Training Facility at Kings Bay Nuclear Submarine Base, St. Mary’s, Georgia as a post-GED student at the satellite campus of the Georgia Military Academy, which was based in Milledgeville at the time. Milledgeville is also where the State Hospital used to be, and where her great-great grandfather (The Judge) may have died, but she isn’t sure. 

There is so much to research. 

The atmospheric qualities that shape clouds the look of ancient letters, the science behind what she sees as defying the typical currents of wind and air and water. Her great-great grandfather’s death. Her great-grandfather’s death. Her mother’s family. Lebanese names. Literary terms. 

My phone is at 10%. Today I woke up feeling like maybe it would be a quiet day, a day during which I did not get much accomplished and possibly felt like crap because of hormones and the dog barking at the tweaky ex-neighbor in the middle of the night. However, that has not been the case. I got up and got dressed. Fed animals and loved on them to establish a fresh oxytocin bond for the day for the benefit of their health and mine. I let ________ use the phone because they got frustrated and smashed theirs, just like they got frustrated and smashed a car’s window with a rock, and told off a bus driver to the extent they were banned, and almost lost access to the FQHC, and got charges from telling off a landlord and…the list goes on. Somehow, it has not occurred to the system of care that this person (who has been homeless for over two years, almost three years, and who is over age 55 and who has a disability) might not be able to effectively self regulate their emotions and communication styles because they are sick and tired and have had a huge amount of trauma and poverty in their life and every freaking day. Someone just needs to get this person a damn apartment. Just give them the keys. Housing First is more like jump through flaming hoops of bullshit in uncoordinated systems of care and act grateful as fuck that someone is helping you fill out the forms even if they are a dick to you and even if they disrespect you don’t say anything or you won’t get your housing because you aren’t working hard enough or cooperating with the process or being patient even though you have to wait months or years to even get the housing that by law you are entitled to. First. All those things – the bullshit and the waiting and the forms and the rude, ineffective people who are burnt out because the systems they work in are broken – all of that comes first in Housing First. 

Gave them a ride to the arts district, went to get a different nose ring installed. A small pink gold band, tight fitting. Got some energy drinks for the afternoon at the house alone and the intent to get something done with her time as far as building the website/s logging her job searches so she can keep getting unemployment, use this time well, not fuck it up, etc. 

*echoing iterations of the same handful of stories and topics that she has been trying to learn how to tell about and to figure out what she actually believes and doesn’t believe, and why.

I’ve been focusing (I initially wrote ‘trying to’ – but, caught myself in the habitual linguistics of falling short) on developing content for my arts-focused website and – to a lesser extent, as far as actual productive creation goes, my ‘professional’ site, for which I’ve not yet gotten an LLC, but will soon because I need to be able to write things like ring lights off of any future taxes.

It is so fucking hard for me to stay focused. Like, ridiculous.

Recognizing that I am a) coming out of a period of profound burnout that seriously strained some of my capacities to the point of loss of skill and ability and that b) I have not had the opportunity to develop a set of focus skills specific to the independent creation of media projects and media products that are oriented toward art and service, and c) the whole world is still reeling and scattered from the (ongoing) pandemic and total reality upheaval (thank god) that has thus far characterized this century, and d) my mom has cancer and I am a person who struggles with depression and anxiety, all of which can impact focus and task-orientation, I am not considering this difficulty in focus to be a fixed attribute of my cognition or executive function.

I get that I am able to focus sometimes and that there are internal and external factors that affect my focus. Right now, being at home with the youth and the young dog and my future (I almost wrote looming, but it’s not looming. It’s not uncertain. I am going to be an artist and a writer and a change-maker. I am going to share ideas and perspective and experience for the purpose of perhaps helping that anonymous kid in a basement that I always think about possibly stay alive.

I don’t know why it’s always a basement, like a rec room in a ranch house in the suburbs or something, some kid hating their life and their parents grieving and freaking out because their kid wants to commit suicide and has a mental illness, etc. It could be anyone, I guess – that maybe me sharing some of the key things I learned doing recovery education classes for eight years and staying alive myself through all kinds of grueling times might help. There might be someone who does not find anything that I have to say useful or relevant to their experience. That’s fine.

I am convinced that there is someone out there who might really need to hear me talk about mental health.

So, I need to help that person find my voice, and that means getting my voice out there, and that means videos and possibly podcasts, and indirect potential voice-amplification opportunity projects involving art and story.

I don’t need to write that my future is looming and uncertain. It isn’t.

I know what I want to do, and I know how to do it, and I am ready to do it. All of it. Bit by bit.

So, that is pretty awesome, huh?

I have chosen my path, or – rather – I have surrendered to the path that I’ve known is mine for a very long time.

I woke up wondering about the lunch meeting I had agreed to – ‘a brainstorming’ – with a person who I respect and appreciate and who therefore triggers both my social anxiety and my social/professional efforts to please and impress, which leads to masking and also to me doing things like suggesting a lunch restaurant that they might enjoy despite the fact that I don’t enjoy going out to lunch and I know the meeting will exhaust me – the movement and noise of cars and people, forks on plates, water glasses being refilled.

I already know I probably can’t work on their project unless by some miracle my brain becomes some other brain, some productive and focused brain that does not balk at the thought of a database.

Name me a steward.
I’ll agree to nothing,
but to witness, tend.

Ah. Yes. The cancer doctor appointment. That thing I did today without really thinking about it at all, without feeling it. May as well have been a trip to the grocery store with my mother, a routine check up.

I could tell the news wasn’t the greatest, because of how Raeleen was talking, chipper and seeming to draw out the small talk that has gotten more personal, more personable over the months and months my mother has had appointments at Hope. I focused on a mole that might be a sty in the corner of Raeleen’s left eye, and tried to imagine her riding a bike, having a life, as she and my mom talked about some weekend plans she’d had a month ago, when the cancer marker was at 86. An almost infinitesimal number compared to 3900, which is what the cancer marker was when she began treatment last summer, a year ago. The doctor took out most of the cancer marker making cancer cells in the fall, during the do-or-die surgery that removed my mother’s belly button, along with most of what had been contained within her abdominal cavity. My father recounts the conversation with the doctor after surgery, the doctor’s exclamation that “everything was fused together. I’d never seen anything like it.”

Raeleen asked my mom if her fatigue had gotten worse. “Well,” my mom explained, “it’s not terrible. I wake up and have a couple of good hours of energy in the morning and then I have to go to bed in the mid-afternoon, and maybe I can rally again in the late afternoon, but…”

“It’s a familial trait,” I broke into the narrative of my mother’s fatigue. “I’m the same way.”

Raeleen looked at me like I was not making sense. Was I really as fatigued as my mother who is slow-dying of cancer?

I shrugged. “We have the siesta gene,” making a joke of the our familial fatigue while explanations of melatonin levels and learned behavior flit through my mind and I wish I was taking a nap.

Raeleen cocked her head, made a noise that was not quite a laugh.

“It’d be nice to live somewhere where that was part of the day, wouldn’t it?”

I knew she’d be at work all day. All of the people in the building would be at work all day. I would not be at work all day, and had hardly ever been at work all day, in the same building all day long, indoors under fluorescent lights, sitting in the same chair, moving along the same halls, back and forth all day long.

She discovered that, on days when she really could not stand being at school, when 9:30am felt like staring down the barrel of a gun and she could feel herself walking away from the building, running inside as the plain-face of the clock bore a mocking witness to her sitting there in the desk in a room full of people – her peers – that she did not talk with, that she felt like she couldn’t connect with, didn’t want to connect with, had no interest in spending the day with. She wanted to be at home, alone in her room. She discovered, on days that the wanting to run was a blaring under her skin and her head felt like a lump of clay set atop her body, arms cold and prickled in the air that was not cool at all, an inner chill, she figured out that she could ask to be excused, say there was something wrong with her contact lens, go to the bathroom put water into her eye, let her contact fall into the sink. It didn’t matter. The brown paper towels pleated into the dull metal dispenser bolted into the cinder block wall – like a prison or a health department – were perfectly textured to irritate the eye, and when she scraped them – dry, but dampening, the sick-smell of wet paper all around her face – across the surface of her eye, she felt that it hurt, that her eye wanted to close, and she pressed harder, set-jaw and determined to inflict injury sufficient to silence any questions of whether or not she should be allowed to call home, to have her mom come pick her up. Only when her eye would not open after the scratching, when the right side of her face would scrunch with the look of the light blurred and fractured through the sticky feeling seep of tears that her eye would not stop crying, only then would she be satisfied, because she would get to leave school, go home again.

It is the day of the Strawberry Moon, a moment I missed in the driving around, the heat of the parking lot, air pump busted – again – tin foil somehow stretched and held over the hidden coin mouth, and so I drive away wondering what it is like to try to break through metal in the middle of the night for a handful of quarters, the desperately simple chaos of never having enough, only needing more…full moon rising in a blue-hued sky unnoticed, save for a brief span of feeling like I was home again, and happy.

I’ve been making draft videos about mental health. I say ‘you know’ and ‘like’ way too much and am sometimes circuitous in getting to the point. My levels of confidence are vacillating pretty significantly these days. Rapid cycling, haha. However, the sting of low confidence is not so bad as it was, and I have – I think – reached a point of healthy disregard for ideals of perfection and people pleasing. I will never say or do anything if I continue to be wary of what people will think. I know that – somewhere in here – I have written about how it makes a lot of sense that I would be nervous about offending people’s sensibilities about what is and is not okay for a person to say or do. Continuing to mediate who I am with precautionary edits of what is made visible to others keeps me the victim of snarky kids from my hometown, and mean, small-worlded people who don’t know anything about art.

My kids are almost 17 and 19 now. Nobody can take them away from me again, other than themselves of their own volition, their choice to be (or not to be) in relationship with me as a person who is their mother or as a person in general whose company and connection is valued.

I have little to lose at this point, and that is a very good position to be in. I do run the risk of not trying hard enough, of being sloppy or irreverent in the small window of opportunity that I have. I could waste time, or tumble right back into another job that usurps my headspace and energies, another set of social relationships that silence me and exhaust me, another muck of narrative around not having time.

I don’t want to do that.

This morning I researched the so-called Atlanta race riots of 1906, the year after my great-grandfather became a judge. I have been using most of my writing energy toward building and editing content for my art website, which – in ways – is a more organized extension of this space. A distilled version of what I have been doing here for all these years.

Everyday I am thankful that I did not stop making notes and paying attention and reflecting, that even during the times my voice was quiet, I wondered where it had gone and what I needed to do to bring it back.

Since leaving my job and ending my relationship, finally having some blessed time alone to be present with the existence of the world and to feel out what I need to pay attention to, what is important beyond an individual’s emotional and social needs, an organization’s ever-consuming to-do list, to prioritize my time to reflect what really matters to me, which right now is being present with and emotionally/socially available to my two almost-grown kids as they fledge out into the world, and being present with the slow-but-imminent death of my mother, and telling whatever story I might need to tell in my life to put my soul at peace and reconcile some long-standing dissonance in my spirit, appease some old ghosts, because I could die at any time – any of us could.

This morning I considered drawing a card to gauge my fortune, but I had no real need to. I know that if I continue to work toward showing who I am and what I have tried to express over the past 13 years, if I am brave in sharing of my experience and of my heart and of my hard-earned still-learning wisdom, then everything will work out fine. That I am and will be blessed, so long as I follow my heart.

I think I finally found faith.

A condo collapsed in Miami and an acquaintance reached out to me, saying they hadn’t seen me on social media. As I was walking the dog a bit later, I wondered if something had happened, if yet another person I knew had died, or was dying or something. If there was an event or occurrence that I ought to know about and do not know about.

Tomorrow my mother has a CT scan to see what is happening with her cancer, to inform possible treatment options that may stem the proliferation of damaged cells that just won’t die. Is there an exponentiality in the growth and replication of cancer cells, the more you have, the more you’ll get because they multiply fast and don’t die like they should? I notice, standing at the counter in the kitchen, cutting up garlic and onion and thinking about her mother making spaghetti, as she reported that she had today, after I mentioned her making lentils and rice in ratio with spaghetti dinners, that I am sad that my mother has to get the CT scan, that I do not want her to have to withhold food and water for 2 hours, to have to have her port accessed, to be thirsty and prodded at.

Yesterday, no – day before yesterday, I went to my mom’s cancer appointment with her and it is hard for me to acknowledge the reality of the situation. I find myself not thinking about it, and when I notice myself thinking about it, I feel a tired and dull, a sick weight in me. Somaticized grief? The fatigue of being awake to know all the things that one knows when awake?

I have been writing about cloud watching, and that whole period of time thinking about perceptions and experiences of God and gods as they may and may not relate to cloudforms.

That period of time has never really entirely stopped, since although there were spans of weeks and maybe even months when my thinking about God and clouds became very distant, something I almost forgot and then remembered, but didn’t hold tight to, didn’t give time to, except to sometimes notice a cloud that looked like a triangle, that looked like a letter, a bird in flight, a fox’s keen eyes, and to notice – sometimes – the feeling of a greater set of workings in my life, a peculiar sort of resonance in the crossing paths with strangers or the songs playing on the radio.

I have been writing about it some, as a summary, an introduction, a distillation of that ongoing endeavor which still holds so much wonder and so many questions for me. Because I have been writing about clouds and perceptions of God, interpretations of God, and because I am currently unemployed – again, just like 11 years ago, unemployed in the early summer, looking at the sky following a rough time of transition and loss – and have time to take walks and look at the sky, I am watching the clouds again, taking a few photographs here and there. Being that person standing on the side walk taking pictures of the sky. In many ways, the circumstances of eleven years ago are similar to some of the things happening in my life currently – tho, there are definite differences. No family conflict, and whole lot more skills around staying grounded and keeping my spirit oriented toward blessing and gratitude and graciousness, a far more certain sense of who I am.

(Today)

Yesterday, I was walking up toward the intersection where the Varick Chapel sits quiet on the corner across from the bus stop. A woman was waiting for the bus, or was sitting on the bench, looking like she was waiting for the bus, like she had somewhere to go. She had a cough that I could hear all the way down the block. A smoker. COPD. I didn’t worry about coronavirus, but  wondered if the woman would get the Delta variant, if she was vaccinated. As I approached, I could see that she was trying to make her hair look nice. A bad bleach job, a bad perm, waves like 1987 to her shoulder blades. She looked old in the way that people who have had very hard lives look, a slump in her posture. 

I looked up at the sky. I have been doing that again, because – like I said – I’ve been writing some about the clouds, about what I saw and how I read it. There were some angular forms, and what looked like a figure, an lumpish angel or a manatee, a shape in the clouds with tendrils being pulled by the wind, making a new shape even as I walked toward the corner. Through a break between the street trees, I saw that there were numberish snakes of thin cloud that had settled out front of the mass that was breaking up, expanding and shifting above me and my dog, the woman on the bench. If I crossed the street to the steps of the Varick, I’d have a clear shot. I got my phone out of my pocket, and kept walking up toward the corner, staring hard at the trees above me, but also trying to seem like just a person walking a dog. A 12 lay on its side in the sky. I said hello to the woman at the bus stop and she was sweet like most broken women are to strangers, trying to be nice, to be pleasant. The dog smelled around the bench, and I tugged him a little, saying, “C’mon, leave it.” The 12 was gone when I got to the corner, and I took a picture anyway, took a few. Standing in the sun and staring hard as cars turned the corner. I was struck with a sense of knowing that I had failed, that there had been a brief thing shown to me and that I had not crossed the street to where I could get a clear view, a clear picture. I had chosen to not confuse or offend the woman at the bus stop by a sudden crossing, had chosen not to be a person taking pictures of the sky across the street on the sunlit steps of the Varick Chapel, had not wanted to seem weird or out of the ordinary. I felt a flicker of knowing that I had been tested, and that I had failed, choosing my vanity and social appearance over bearing witness to a 12 written in the sky with clouds. All the sudden, I remembered the reality of it, that whole period of time when I thought I was seeing something written by God, shown to me by God, in the sky, and the remembering of the reality of how desperate and pressured and consumingly strange those long days and months were, the determination to watch and document relentlessly, to the exclusion of everything I could put off or neglect, agonizingly distracted in my attentions to all that I could not put off or neglect, my children impatient in the car as I stopped in a parking lot to try to capture the living sky that nobody else seemed to notice. My mother going blank and awkward as she drove us to the home improvement store, a family outing to buy flowers, me leaning across her as she slowed to stop to turn, my voice flat and transfixed as I muttered something about, “…it’s everywhere, see, right there…there is this blue light around that cloud. I have to take a picture.” 

The real world felt watery to me, just beyond a surface I could break, but that still separated me, muted the voices and movement of everything between me and the rest of the world. 

I have a tendency to remember the awe, the roll of singular and encompassing beauty that unfurled every day beginning at dawn. I remember the delicious urgency of bearing witness to something that only lasts a moment and then is gone forever. The comfort of believing that even if I was seen as a crazy loser who needed to get their shit together by almost everyone in my walking and talking life, I was doing something beautiful and important, something that a force much bigger than me was asking me – (me, of all people?!) – to do, and…would know if I did not, and would be disappointed in me and would perhaps even punish me if I dismissed what was being shown to me in the sky, conveyed through clouds. I felt a distinct adrenaline in feeling like I was doing important work, work that made the rest of my life make sense, work that was mine to do, that I was chosen for. I wanted to believe, and I believed and so with every strange cloud, I was rewarded, flooded with the satisfaction of knowing that I was doing a good job, a job only I could do. Who else can watch the sky for hours and hours and hours each day, pay such close attention, for months and months, and think about what they saw, try to read what they saw, question their own readings, try to figure an explanation for all the triangles in the sky.

The dopamine was tremendous. The more I watched, the more I saw, and the stronger my conviction grew. 

The dark side of awe is that it erases everything other than the feat and wonder beheld. 

“Behold!” 

…to be beholden. 

I notice as I write this that I have a sickish nervous feel at both the center and the edges of me. 

Yesterday, I felt shivering as I walked down the sunny hill, contemplating my failure and the difficulty of not paying attention to – or, worse, willfully ignoring because you don’t want the random person at the bus stop to think you’re weird – the thoughts, perceptions, and experiences that attributed as being bestowed upon us by a power greater than we are.  

I just went into the kitchen, did the dishes, swept the floor. Small daily rituals of sanity and presence in one’s life. 

I really did lose my mind, but that’s not going to happen again. 

I was silly to think that I could say anything about clouds that look like God after only studying them for a few weeks. I am a naive and excitable person in many ways. Foolish. I am okay with that because it is wonderful to believe in the impossible and it’s fun to try to figure out how to make the impossible possible, real. 

I watched the clouds real hard on the rest of my walk, dog trundling along beside me, enjoying the pauses as extended opportunities to smell things at length, to sit, look around. 

I am blessed to be the steward of a dog that likes to look around. 

“There’s just too much. It is all happening all the time.” 

I took a deep breath and asked forgiveness for missing so much. 

For 13 years, I have felt watched, like everything I do and do not do, all of my thoughts and secrets and imaginings, all of who I am in my indulgences and short-comings and fears and devotions and gratitudes and ingratitudes. Truths of my heart that even I do not know. Everything is seen, all the time. 

I am trying, always, to do the right thing to the best of my ability. I fail often. 

There are slumps, of course – days when I am aware of a distinct paucity of thought and a melancholy orientation to…um, basically most things, but especially my own uselessness as a human being. I recognize this sense of being a supreme loser fuck-up as the dumb voice of a low-grade depression that settles in when I have been running around and doing errands and not having a sense of connection or purpose.

I had a work meeting today, with the employer that took me off the payroll and then didn’t say why, except today they said it was so I could get the unemployment, but the unemployment was for reduced hours due to coronavirus, which was true because coronavirus made the organization I worked for basically impossible to function within to the extent that my ability to literally even think straight was all fucked up.

This morning, before the work meeting, I got the notification that the SAMHSA grant was not awarded, largely due to the shenanigans of a grant writing wonk that was hired to write the grant, but that really didn’t do anything other than challenge and disregard the work that I did toward putting together a strong application and who then ended up submitting some piece of crap at the actual 11th hour, blowing up my phone while I was on a zoom with the third-party evaluator talking them through the completion of the two page evaluation protocol that they were contracted to complete, while my email was jammed up with stuff for the Emergency Solutions Grant.

It’s possible that my mood and cognition is all fucked up because of the work meeting this morning, as I notice that even briefly thinking about that whole scene makes me incredibly anxious.

When I am anxious, I am joyless and tense and can’t think because all my brain’s energy goes to my sympathetic nervous system and my pitiful little parasympathetic functions that are wheezing confused old person trying to lift their cane to shake it at a 225 lb thick muscled assailant that is trained in Jujitsu.

It took me 45 minutes at the gym to feel 1/2 way decent, and then I got anxious again as soon as I got home and then needed to go back out to get my daughter watermelon which she then said was disgusting. I felt optimistic about the walk with the dog being pleasant, but I had to call my mom to make sure my aunt got into town okay, because that is what I am supposed to do – want to talk to people and make chit-chat and be relational, regardless of whether or not I want to talk with anyone at all. This is what one has to do. The pressure is enormous. My social anxiety exists in correlation to social pressure. The more the perceived pressure, the higher the anxiety. Note the use of the word perceived. People say there is no pressure, but I have a hard time believing that if I neglected to call my mom and ask about my aunt’s arrival, it would be noticed with at least a twinge of disappointed wondering about why I hadn’t called.

I feel really ill about how utterly bad this writing is, and about how much I want to say that doesn’t need to be said, the voice of some wounded adolescent self that seriously just needs to get over herself and stop harping about blah blah blah, this whole thing.

I mean, I get that waaaaaaaay more people have waaaaaaaay more hideous situations than being a kid with learning differences and processing differences and social differences and a history of severe medical trauma, a kid in the midst of a grief that was not named, a grief that only people who watch places they love and are connected to get utterly destroyed, a grief that she did not even recognize as grief, because nobody suggested that she may be grieving, that perhaps it was difficult for her to watch a place that she knew intimately, a place that she had worlds within, a place that she was safe and at ease in, get completely raped, burnt, cut, re-named and paved over, a kid that was forced to go to a violent White supremacist high school and a bunch of other gross schools that only taught subordination and the social sexual meat market of secondary education.

There has been something that nags me about LinkedIn lately.

A lot of my social media connections are in the “recovery community” – people who have had their lives fall apart because of substance use, mental health challenges, incarceration, homelessness or some combination thereof, and then have been able to make positive changes and create a life of wellness, or something like that.

It is not uncommon to see posts about people who’ve turned their situations around to be able to get a job, work full-time, buy a home, get a degree.

#RESILIENT, etc.

The messaging is this commentary on people’s lives and the outcomes of their struggles and efforts to recover is that in order to be resilient you have to be able to rise to the goals of middle-class America, to get a job, buy a house, to – in short – “be a productive member of society.”

This is not to say that folks who find joy, meaning and vitality in recovery by achieving these economic milestones are not resilient or amazing or truly strong individuals. They are, I’m sure. Major props to each and every person who has transformed their lives in ways that are important to them.

What bothers me about measuring resilience as normative participation in the economy is that the coupling of recovery and resilience with economic success in the market place is the assumption that in order to be resilient, in order to recover, a person should be able to work a full-time job, earn a good wage, and make investments in the form of major purchases, etc.

That, to me, is an ableist definition of resilience and recovery.

There are many remarkable people who’ve been able to leverage their personal determination to gain economic success, professional esteem, and social standing in the recovery community. They absolutely deserve recognition and celebration for their accomplishments in turning their lives around.

However, limiting the label of “resilient” to people who’ve been successful in meeting the criteria of economic success and meaningful participation in society set forth by a capitalist economy which relies on workers in order to gain profit for corporations sends the message that people who are not able to participate in the economy in ways that generate success through earning wages from an external (often corporate) entity are somehow not resilient.

There are many reasons why people may not disability/difference-in-ability that prohibits or limits participation in the normative wage-earning economy, discrimination based on race, socioeconomic status, gender expression, or ability, or personal/political/ethical values which dictate a reluctance to earn money through being complicit in the work of corporations or institutions that one understands to be harmful to people and the environment –

If I was going to tell someone how they might see what I see in the sky, I would say that it is important to forget about the sky that means nothing, forget the flat plane sky, forget the clouds as puffy shapes, cotton balls or marshmallows or pillows stuffing. Do not think ‘cloud’ when you behold the forms etched and strewn and piled and cut of wind and water and heat and light, the dust from cities and the worlds of small drifting things that are alive in the sky. 

See the sky in detail, the shapes in detail…study the edges and the depth of what might look like a simple cloud. Think about what sort of winds might be blowing to make the shapes you see. Consider the reality of vast currents flowing-always-flowing in the air above us, carrying the ocean and the sands of everywhere. Imagine the pull of the earth itself, the pressure of the atmosphere, the full extent of space beyond what we see as solid blue. 

Watch the movement – expansion and dissolution, dissipation. The building of great towers out of what appears to be nothing, and yet there it is, the forms drawn forth from the air itself. 

Remember, the sky has been doing this – has been being what it is – for as long as the earth has existed. Consider all the beings that have lived beneath the stars, all the people who have studied the sky through the ages. Imagine how an ancient person might see the sky you are studying, what they might see if they believed that the wisdom of the earth and heavens spoke to them through clouds and light and the wind in the trees, the movement of birds and the strangeness of circumstance. How would you look at the sky if you had never seen a television, if you had only the science of your experience and the stories of your ancestors?

What might you see? 

How would you feel if you read the sky as the word of God, gods, the wisdom of the earth and heavens, hints at the eternal workings of all things arranged in certain figures, certain patterns, symbols and markers that tell you: 

“Pay attention.” 

…?

Without Ceremony

(This is dog fur.)

“Pulse is slippery,”

woman in white coat declares 

fingers warm, press soft 

It’s entirely possible that I have been dissociated since the end of May last year, or possibly earlier, and/or that I am dissociated now. I am living in my head more and more, spinning out ideas and intentions that I am beginning to recognize are quickly forgotten, and are forgotten so thoroughly that they may as well have not existed. I am sitting alone on the front steps, contemplating my heartbeat – wondering if my pulse is faltering.

I am trying to changing my practice, or – rather – my practice is changing. My tendency is to start sentences with ‘I am trying to…’ or ‘I am going to…’ However, these linguistics of striving set me up to be in tension with my action, prepare me for a push, set my jaw and move me toward a course of action that I have decided is the correct path.

For me, there is so much error in that. 

It is difficult to develop a practice of not doing, because the willful  aspects of my personality tell me that practice is doing, that a practice is something that you do, that you hold yourself to doing. 

Several months after the global pandemic made landfall in the U.S. and crept its way to the smaller cities of the east coast, I began to take longer and longer walks in the mornings, before my teenage kids got up to sign on to virtual school and before my first Zoom meeting of the day. 

I’ve broken my year-long streak of 10 miles a day. After a week of waking up tired with my heart pounding and a dull headache, and getting out of bed anyway – pushing through, I thought: “This is beginning to feel a little stupid.”

Last Sunday morning, as I was running on the greenway, in mile 4 or 5, I stopped to take a picture of a goose on her nest built into the grass at the base of a tree by the river. Another runner paused as I put my phone away and picked my stride back up. “How far are you going?” 

“I’m not sure,” I said, really not knowing. “I try to do some combination of walking and running 10 miles every day.”

“Wow. Are you training for something?” 

“Just to stay sane.” 

“Fair.”

The question the runner asked me was a good one. Why – after all – was I running so fucking much? Was it actually keeping me sane? 

I did not (and do not) feel especially sane. I’m not insane, but suspect that I am not entirely whatever sane might be. 

I just accidentally deleted a lovely draft of a dream and I wonder if my subconscious did this for me, to keep me from sharing my dreams. 

I sat down to draw a picture of a dream, or – rather – and image from a dream I had in which three GIANT feathers were hanging in the trees, not tied or suspended, but caught in the branches, loosely held by twigs. I couldn’t imagine how big the bird must have been, the bird that the feathers had fallen from. Could an albatross really be that big?

The feathers were the size of a child. 

In the dream, I thought, and fell a sense of wonder, excitement, disbelief, and wanting.

I wanted the feathers. 

The light was beautiful, a green springtime light coming down through the trees, filtered by leaves like beech trees and like chestnuts, hickories. 

A feather fell, heavy and with little grace, a matter of fact falling. 

There was a road, a forest service road, gravel and with small tufts of wild forest grass, low mounding, soft growing wild plants. Flea bane and dead nettle. 

The feather that fell lay on the left side of the road, just a few feet to the right of where I stood. 

I couldn’t believe my luck, and I was quick to grab the feather.

(May apple/Mandrake)

It is morning on the first day after the first full moon of spring, the full worm moon. Before the sun rose, the moon hung pale glowing in the early spring pastel dawn-palette of soft pinks and gentle blues, the brightness of new-growth green.

I woke up early, because sometimes I sleep less during full moon times and also because I knew that I would have a lot to do today, a knowing that showed up in my mind as the image of my calendar, the thin lines of blank white between blue and red blocks. A busy day. Meetings and conversations. An appointment at the YWCA in the afternoon with my daughter, masked movements on elliptical machines, miles counted in orange digital font, the suck of fabric against my mouth and sourness of my own breath breathed back.

There is this birdsong 

The sun rises steadily 

Morning air water

This morning, I went to a work meeting and realized that I have become almost completely disconnected from all that is happening there with this city money and the hotel rooms for the people who are being cleared out of ‘homeless camps.’

It was like I had become a different person over the past few days, with my hair pulled back from my face, sitting at my desk not even trying to pretend that I had been around. Over the past two months, the organization’s annual budget has ballooned by over 400,000. New ESG money, state money from the feds. A doubled grant, a new contract.

COVID has been a boon to the nonprofit industrial complex. The city can move people into motel rooms. Pay 3300.00 a day to keep them from camping on the greenway during tourist season, keep the homeless off the streets. Burn through the money allotted until winter, go back to business as usual. Code Purple shelters and not enough beds, probably.

Good luck. 

There will always be people sleeping on the street, so long as there are people who can’t – or won’t – follow the rules put in place for them, people who miss the bus, people who can’t get in on time. People who would rather sleep outdoors than jump through the flaming hoops of paternalistic bureaucratic bullshit of most services – or who have no choice but to sleep outside because they are not able to navigate all the processes and procedures and communications and rules that come with shelter. 

(Later)

I went to another work meeting and had the experience of almost desperately wanting to be away from the work meeting, not wanting to listen to the people.

(Later)

I am so exhausted. 

(later) this small screen keeps snapping back to the beginning, but it doesn’t really matter, the sequence of words that tell stories in no sequence. 

I don’t think I understood the depth of my fear before. I did not know it’s origins. “This is a problem with me, that I have this fear of being myself.” 

I didn’t quite grasp that the fear was learned, taught by cruelty and reinforced by the quiet codes of normalcy. 

How is it that some people don’t have this fear? People like Lady Gaga, or Little Nas X, people like…well, any real artist I could think to name. 

These people didn’t waste their whole lives mentally wringing their hands in fits of social neuroticism and egg-walking. Did they?

I mean, for me, the social fear and fear of judgement+punishment runs so deep as to be woven into almost everything I do so far as it relates to other people. 

I can recognize now that this is not a rational fear, that there are no people waiting to judge me, to have conversations about me, to talk behind my back about how I am this that way, and – besides – who cares?!

(Later)

I just submitted a poem for a contest being held by the Fairview branch of the Buncombe County Library System. I worked pretty hard on it, really challenged myself to feel out the nuance and sounds of the words, read it outloud alone in my room and noted a change that needed to be made.

Today I have thought a lot about how there is this pressure to make a good product of yourself, and that – in the United States and westernized world – that means doing some slick thing that looks good and is technically complicated enough to be interesting and engaging in a media-saturated landscape of quick, bright images, pushing buttons of appeal.

That assumption – that in order to be seen as valid and not a sad loser, one has to put together some mediated self that is consumable in ways that make sense, that aren’t just you rambling about your life in a poorly lit room with crummy audio and weird facial expressions – is a huge barrier to me doing anything creative that is shown to other people. However, that assumption – which stems from a deep wrought belief that if I show my actual self – knowing that said self is likely to continue to evolve and that various aspects of said self may emerge in strange, inconsistent ways which obfuscate or contradict other aspects of said self, and that whatever might be most authentic is that there are mutable complexities that constitute this being a human being in society and that no matter what I bring of who I am, no matter what I show, as soon as said self is witnessed by an external entity, their perspectives becoming the dominant defining voice. Because I grew up female in the 1980s and 1990s in the American South, I have a tremendous amount of psycho emotional and relational baggage around physicality, desirability, and likability. 

When I picture the vague person and/or people that some really immature and unconfident aspect of myself is terrified will make fun of me or create harm in my life if they know who I really am, or found out about this thing that I do, this writing and thinking about things like I do, they would make fun of me and create harm for me, these people show up in my head as a messy collage of faces and voices, sneering drawls and middle school cafeterias. 

Is it really possible that I am stifling my inner drive to create and to speak, and to make art and share it with people to be able to say what I want to say because it’s not even that weird, and it’s definitely not (in the broad context of human experiences) crazy, because of worrying about what people from my dumb hometown would think? 

Oh.My.God.

I mean, I guess that sort of fear – the fear of social judgement – lives in a lot of people, shows up in a lot of ways. 

That fear has no business in my life anymore. The fear of exhausting my life trying to make other people happy doing things that I’m just not that into anymore is greater than the fear of negative evaluations from people who don’t know that much about art, neurodiversity, and/or poetry to begin with. Even some experts are idiots.

If a person looks at what is favorably evaluated by haters, it doesn’t take much to realize that some opinions don’t matter at all anyway.

(from earlier)

It’s a little heavy outside, muffled with clouds in the late-sunset time. Suddenly a new season, the dissociation from the wintertime.

Fall into sleep in the mid-morning

fuck it, doesn’t matter none 

She knows she’s slipping, being birthed out of one life and into the next. 

(This has happened before.)

When she recognizes that she is increasingly disjointed from the world of her co-workers and their lives, from her partner even, ending the relationship, re-committing her…

(Ugh) that is the sort of writing that comes from a tired mind, a mind tired of talking. I think it’s a matter of needing to diversify my modes of communication and the different parts of my brain activity. Like a lot of middle-class, educated white-identified people, I have become very rooted in text-based communication styles, and – notably – writing on my smartphone. This a certain mode of operation. I conceptualize and express things differently when I write by hand, or when I am painting, or playing music. 

Some things she has thought about this morning:

– filling out the physician’s referral form to the Asheville TEACCH Center https://teacch.com/ because I want to have a conversation with an informed and ethical practitioner about the possibility that I may meet diagnostic criteria for an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or whether my neurodiversity factors may be the underlying ‘disorder’ in my ‘mental disorder.’ My bias in considering this is that I already believe, as an informed and ethical practitioner myself, that the way I process sensory and cognitive information and how these processes impact my nervous system and learning plays a HUGE part in whatever expressions, tendencies, and behaviors constitute my perceived mental disorder. We are not working with a clean slate. All of the experiences and micro-evolutions of being that make up my ‘life’ and ‘who I am’ have led to all sorts of interactive and reactive conundrums, compensatory measures, learning how to smile and make eye contact, learning to do whatever you need to do to put other people at ease and not give them any reason to think you’re weird or crazy 😑. 

I mean, I have been doing this ‘social survival’ stuff for a long time, both consciously and unconsciously. I have never felt – to my recollection – a usual, everyday, impulse to be around people or to talk to people. I do not maintain friendships well, and relationship is completely fucking exhausting for me. It’s like whatever is happening with other people consumes my attention when I am around them, because you have to pay attention. I have happenstance friends, who I consider to be more allies and teachers, or someone that I am ‘supposed’ to be around for some reason known only to the divine workings of all things. Which is a hand-wavy way of saying God. Sometimes, the people I feel most a sense of friendship with are the people who I believe crossed my path for some purpose that is greater than me and my stupid will and intent. 

This morning, ________ came to the house at 7:00 am. I was bustling around with a cup of dog food in my hand. The puppy was barking and bouncing around at the cat, who was enticing him by rolling on the floor and running around the rooms of the house, getting him to chase her and bark and make a big ruckus. I felt stressed, and didn’t want to see ________ at 7:00am. 

“________, I’m feeling stressed.” The woman opened the gate, moving the old wire tray from a rabbit hutch, the split spike of an old fence picket that closed off the yard. She 

watched the elder person’s slow climb up the stairs, noticed the dog calm down and stop the mischief business with the cat and say hello in his doggy way, sitting and standing, smiling, tail wagging. “Why you stress Miss Faith, what’s going on?” 

It was a good question. Nothing bad was happening. The dog was barking, moving around in a way that was distracting. She worried what the neighbors would think about the barking so early in the morning. She wanted the puppy to be a good dog, not a barking dog. She was getting ready to take him out, put him in the car to go walk. He wouldn’t walk in the neighborhood, because he wants to stay home and play with the cat, go to the neighbor dog’s house. He won’t leave the proximity of home. 

“I’m getting ready to go over to AHOPE and meet up with Ron to fill out the forms for the Asheville Housing, put me on the list for Lee Walker.”

(The new apartments on the hill across from the little store where ________ likes to get a Tahitian Treat and a scratch-off, talk to the countergirl for a while, used to be called Lee Walker, now they are called something else, but nobody remembers the name. They still call it Lee Walker, from the old apartments that they moved everyone out of, bulldozed.)

She is sitting on the porch smoking, thinking how it worked out fine to give ________ a ride, and how the elder person fell asleep in the car on the short trip to the homeless services day center which wouldn’t even be open for an hour, how she figured she ought to just take the dog down to walk by the river and let ________ sleep in the car for a while til the place opened. 

She and the dog had a nice walk and even ran a little, her still wearing her house clogs that make her taller, a poppy red dress. She was happy to be out, happy with the way things we turning out, the chance to look around, notice the grasses in morning light, wind, the way the river looked green in reflections of trees. 

________ getting to rest, small mercy. 

Lately, I’ve been having re-experiences of the very best moments I have ever had. Laying on the pallet of blankets I’d made on the floor of the upstairs room at the house in Portland, 4317 NE 7th, baby blue and red trim around the windows, the paint thick and textured from a hundred years of simply covering the layers that were falling away, sealing them under new layers. Late afternoon after painting the walls in the near empty – the south-facing rooms lit up all day, the kitchen shady and moldering in the way of old houses, crummy sticky-gloss white cabinets, thin sheets of wood with handles screwed on, hinges gummy and painted. She loved the house, the way it looked a little like a children’s book illustration, even with the old burgundy carpet stapled a million times to the paint-splattered hardwood floors she was trying to uncover without having to call anyone. Pulling away the stained disintegrating carpet, it’s fibers joining the dust of the place. Prying out the staples one by one, wondering whether methamphetamine was involved in the carpets installation. There were thousands of staples jammed into the floor. She became a strange machine, hunched in a crawling child’s pose, moving along the haphazard staple lines, a screwdriver and a pair of needlenose pliers, her eyes trained on staples and the details of the floor of the house she had persuaded her mother to help her to buy, in lieu of going to Australia with a backpack to ride a bike to Adelaide because she liked the sound of the word, it’s blue green feel, like wind coming off the ocean, a graceful turn there on the coast. She had planned the trip impulsively, used her credit card to buy a ticket, filed the Visa request, got a passport, and then – while briefly residing in the stifling hot back room of a house she’d shared with the roommates who still lived there, on NE 17th Ave, she began to forget why she wanted to go to Australia. Two black and white kittens were found in the dumpster of a produce market managed by her former roommate. She adopted the kittens. Got birds tattooed on her feet, the words hope and courage in her own handwriting. Saw the house on the downhill slope toward Fremont for sale. The slope of its roof like a wave, square windows on their side as diamonds set into the walls of what she would discover were closets the size of small rooms themselves. She didn’t want to go to Australia anymore. She paid 75.00 to cancel her flight, and began the campaign to buy the house in Portland, to fix it up. To move back to the Pacific Northwest, away from Georgia, where she had returned the year prior to attend graduate school in Athens. She moved back home to St. Mary’s after a legitimately dangerous suicide attempt after dropping out of graduate school because she just couldn’t make her brain do the tedious work of research and citation, the expectations of consistent participation when there was a hurricane (Floyd, I believe) threatening the coast she still – at that time – thought of as home and which she had psychologically and emotionally problematic attachments to in that she felt grievously sad and longing to go home and yet felt grievously sad and longing even when she was at home, as she’d been the previous summer before moving to Athens, after moving from Portland, driving crosscountry with her mother in a full Honda Accord, her hair short and wearing the nerdy glasses of the PNW to pose for a picture at Arches, slim black pants in the desert. Will Oldham was playing the 40 Watt the day she got to Athens with her mother, rented a room on the far side of town, tired of eachother after the last leg of the drive, Jawbreaker’s eye 5 playing too loud through the arteries of traffic in Atlanta.

Her mother seemed confused about the certainty that it was a good sign, to find Will Oldham playing the day she got to town, and she went to the club and stood by the wall and smoked cigarettes, felt her heart big with some of the songs, dislocated and flat in being there, knowing no one and not seeing anyone she especially wanted to talk to. She spoke to no one. That felt appropriate.

(Later still) it is almost 4:00 pm. Today, I have taken the dog for a walk up the street with the cat, gone to visit my mom, taken my daughter to work, repaired and improved the front gate, cut back some sprawling hedge branches. Painted a little – noticing that I am immediately – lately – dropping into hyper focus on the fine lines and layers. It’s only been the past few years that I have emerged with a style of painting that is my own, washing thin, watery layers over one another again and again, so that everything appears as water, sinew, or wood. 



(Later)

My children seem to have this idea that moms cannot be artists and that it is irresponsible for moms to want to quit their jobs and devote time and energy to developing a different career that is more in alignment with values, motivations, and sustainable skills and which – truth be told – would probably be way more lucrative than the current situation. It’s not as though this artist thing is coming out of nowhere – as evidenced by this record. It’s not like I’ve been working in accounting forever and have a good salary and a 401k and insurance that I can actually afford to use. A 7,000.00 deductible. Give me a break. 

It’s not as though I have zero talent and haven’t put in the time to try to spend time developing my art, my voice, my purpose as a artist. It’s not as though I haven’t been making sacrifices for years to be able to do art, or have not compromised my participation in other aspects of my life for the sake of an art project. 

Why do my kids have this kind of harsh set of narrow expectations around what I am supposed to do and not supposed to do. The cult of White Middle Class American Motherhood and all its misogynistic trappings?

It doesn’t matter what they think so much as it did before. They are almost grown. 

If they have a problem with the way I am living my life, well – that goes to show how little they know about just how crummy parenting can get, meaning that – for the most part – I am a really, really good mom, and – besides – the ‘mom’ role is shifting. 

People always be thinking they can think something about other people’s life. 

My kids both have really good boundaries around how much commentary and opinion I can have on matters that are really none of my business. However, they haven’t quite put it together that they have limited domain over the person that I am. 

(this has looped back to the beginning again)

Note: Depression Spectrum image 

Okay. So I am really fucking sick of computers. My phone is okay-ish. I can maintain a pretty well-segmented consciousness when I am writing on it – meaning I can write and still be sort of present in hearing the birds sing and noticing the world around me. Sometimes, when I write I can get into a semi-trance like state, where it’s like I’m suspended in this voice and there is a swirl of image and a sense of knowing behind the words that speak themselves through my voice. That is not all the time though. I don’t use my phone to write as much if I am feeling anxious about the small screen, or if I am feeling cognitively blah. 

Omg. The spectrum of depression. I am finally figuring out how to manage my depression and I realize, as I feel better, that I have been seriously fucking depressed for a long time. 

(later) 



The morning was spent writing and spending time with the dog, the easy rhythm of feeding animals, brushing hair, putting on the red-orange dress again. I have three of the same red-orange dresses, and the same dress in multiples of black, multiples of pink, a single yellow, a sole light mint green. I’ve been wearing the same dress for months, despite having many clothes. I am comfortable in the dress and so I keep wearing it. 

I have done this my whole life. Clothing jags, food jags, schedule jags that feel like compulsion. Last year was intense with the walking/running 10 miles a day, the routine of pre-dawn circles at the track, watching the clouds in the dark sky, seeing stars, the cloak of fog, veils of rain in the streetlights, trying to keep my heart alive and strong, to know what I want and don’t want early in the morning, to get clear on that. 

(before)

I spent the last 5 hours painting. I think I really might be something like an outsider artist. Thank God I didn’t stop doing art or trying to write. I mean, I don’t think I could have given up this part of myself – the artist part of me, which is way bigger and more important to me than the working-in-a-non- profit part of me. 

I mean, Jesus Christ, I lost legal custody of my kids because of an art project (which was significantly augmented by mental health challenged spurred on by traumatic grief and a possible spiritual awakening). 

 “Let’s not say possible. Let’s say definite.” 

Really, though, it was the art project that really raised concerns, at least at first.

I don’t talk about any of this, but the reality is that for the past 10 freaking years, ever since I lost legal custody of my kids, I have been trying to be as normal as possible, and – if not normal – then at least some minimally achievable measure of responsible, meaning that I maintain employment with an external wage-paying entity for the purpose of meeting my kids’ needs and being a good example to them. I have kept myself shrouded in employment as a Certified Peer Support Specialist, surrounded by mental health professionals who – theoretically -could vouch for me not being crazy. 

I am so sick of earning wages. Literally, mentally ill with wage earning work. 

For the past week and a half, I have barely managed to work. Last week, I was almost certain that a heart attack was imminent. 

Is it crazy to believe that if I don’t do art, I will die by some hand greater than me, the currents that fire my heart stymied, staggered bolts and flutters, my life seized by the hand that governs poets, the cost of my stubborn, fearful silence. 

Gods laugh at me, “Lord, child, all you have to do is the thing that makes you joyful and everything will work out fine. All you have to do is let us guide your hand, speak through you. Do your job, the work that you were wrought to do.” 

My ancestors, in concert, shake their heads patiently, wring their hands in the center of my anxiety – which goes away entirely when I am painting and writing – hoping that I will not let them down, weary of waiting for their will to be done. 

Their disappointment is my depression. 

Is it crazy to feel these beliefs with a sense that is like intuition, a deep clear knowing, the bell of myself ringing with something like akin to truth?

Delusions are disorders of belief, malfunctions of intuition, confusions of truth. 

I don’t believe that it is crazy to believe that my ancestors are with me, or that something like God has a hand in my life. Many people believe these things. 

My experience of believing in ancestors and God – how these beliefs show up in me through thought and impression, how these beliefs integrate into my meaning-making processes and lines of reasoning, my weighing out of what’s important, what feels important – may be different than how these beliefs show up for other people – like, maybe a person believes that their ancestors are with them only when they are struggling or on anniversary days, or when they see a butterfly, and that maybe someone believes that God wants them to buy a bunch of guns and kill innocent people because their skin is a different color, and maybe some other person believes that it is the Devil itself that drives the war machine, and maybe…

You get the point. 

I don’t think that it is crazy to believe in my ancestors presence with me at all times or to believe in the infinite and stunningly beautiful complexities and mysteries surrounding this world and our collective sentience, the wisdom of the workings of all things, to want to understand how those workings work in my life and experience, or that I believe that it is supremely important for me to not sell myself in order to participate in an economy and lifestyle that doesn’t suit me well, that impairs my well-being and my relationships, that asks me to compromise my human right to be with my mother as she navigates an imminent death, to be present in the rituals and preparations of my children leaving home, to have the headspace to be a good steward to them, to be there for them during this time in their life. It is so fucked up that these human rights to participate in our own experiences of what it is to be human are undermined by the demands placed on us by our fucking jobs. I am super privileged in so many ways, especially when considered in relation to global measures of wealth, housing quality and stability, and access to health supporting resources – like food and clean water and clean air.

—-

Dear Potential Ally, 

My name is Faith. I am reaching out to you because I’ve found myself in a bit of a predicament. 

I am seeking assistance from the community of my unknown peers. 

She sits on the front steps, sunrise pink slipping toward the pale gold that ushers in a hot, clear day. The air is still cool, mid-Spring alive with birdsong melange and the rising buzz of one-season lives just beginning. Her hands are cold and she stumbles over what she is saying, what she might be able to say about the situation she has found herself in, the situation of her life and endeavors. 

It’s unreasonable – and off-putting, she thinks – to just launch into a whole life story. What could she possibly say to even begin? 

Would she sensationalize the high-drama of hospitalization? 

Is there an emoji for that? 

😳

Exactly. The world is cluttered with people talking about themselves. 

(The stories of our experience are sooooooo important. Really. They are.) 

There is no precedent for the letter she is trying to write. (That is not true. For as long as there have been artists, there have been letters asking for help.*

*The image of a project, a collection of letters written by artists to people who they believe may be able to help them to be an artist. Efforts, antics, and earnest intent. A beautiful book. A collaboration. My need to learn – ah ha! – from the community of my unknown peers, who – as it turns out – may not be the poets and artists who have ‘made it’ – who are recognized for their work in the arts and who are uplifted in simply doing their art, who are not expected to be able to do anything other than their art and that which supports their art – whatever it’s process may be, whatever the peculiar requirements to achieve the consciousness of being a conduit for the workings of ones own subconscious, but also – perhaps – for the subtle (and not so subtle) voices, whispers and commandments, of the larger ecosystem of phenomenal experience, nuanced communications – such a fragile thread! – with ancestors, earth, the memory and knowing of all things coalesced. 

Ugh. 

Why even try to name the gracious state of existing a little closer to the world where everything is sentiently alive and God is real? 

(That is what humans have been trying to do for as long as we have had the consciousness to try to explain our experience in the world to ourselves? To name and describe the experience of being uniquely attuned to the mind-blowing matter-of-fact existence of oneself in the midst of the precise workings and beautiful relationships that create a simple blooming flower, the seeming miracle of breath and sight and thought itself, the sensations that tell us we are alive, we are dying?) 

She has paused in her writing, walked around the yard with the dog, slants of sun illuminating the still-tender green of new growth so that the air around her is a wash of green, a watercolor blue in the lightening sky behind the trees. There were no trees 11 years ago. She used to be able to see the sky more; She could watch clouds. The bricks had grown into the soil in some places, laid like teeth to make beds that have since settled and sprawled toward indeterminate tangles of violet, wild rose, the English Ivy (curious. auto-correct will not let me uncalitalize those words) that is strangely thriving this year, choking out the (scientific name for poison Ivy). She had made a small pile of loose bricks the day before, right at the base of the curly willow, to the southeast of the grave of the dog under the small path bracketed by a volunteer hibiscus, a sky-stretching peach tree that had grown up from the small fallen fruit of a peach tree planted for her by the father of her children. The year the marriage ended, the peach tree took blight, thick black-orange fungus around the trunk, seeping down into the roots. The tree didn’t live through summer, but somehow small peach trees sprung up around that corner of the yard every year. She didn’t tend them or coax them in any way. They are not there anymore except for the one very tall peach tree that somehow, despite disregard, took hold to bloom pink every year, the first sign of spring, well before the lilacs, right after the single orange crocus that holds a space for itself in the winter-cleared yard. 

She pulled a few bricks up, and liked the cold familiar heft of them in her hand. There is nothing like a brick in the hand. In the year 2000, after she had dropped out of school, gone to the hospital, had her stomach pumped, and moved away from Athens, she and her father stacked bricks at the edge of the small clearing by Catfish Hole, the land she grew up on, where she was going to move back to, build a small house in the clearing, figure out something to do with her life since she hadn’t fucking died. “There are old those old bricks out there,” her father kept mentioning, intimating that any building of a house would be predicated by doing something about the two big mounds of bricks that had been taken from the falling chimneys of the long-gone Arnow house by the edge of the pasture. The bricks were heavy, covered in old lime-brittle cement, mossy and crumbling, damp. Others – the ones near the top, perhaps, in sun and in rain – were almost perfect. “We have to knock off this old cement.” Her father is holding a hammer and a chisel. 

(note to self: find out names of all viney weeds.)

Hi, my name is Faith Rhyne and I am the great-great granddaughter of Judge Marcus W. Beck, who reportedly accepted the monument to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain on behalf of the South. 

I have spent a great deal of my life in efforts to understand and reconcile what I know of the history of my family, the state I grew up in, and the country I live in. 

I am deeply anti-racist and anti-colonialist, and yet am continually awed by how thoroughly white supremacy and capitalism have entrenched themselves in my most basic worldviews (to see a tree as ‘a thing,’ to think in terms of value/worth and productivity, to feel my own self-esteem wither in the culture I am immersed in, and even in the rate of my breath in response to certain news, certain figures). 

All that is to say I am still unlearning and will continue to unlearn until I die this condition of being seen as a “white American female” in the 21st century. 

Like many people in the South (and in the world), I would like to see the monument to the confederacy at Stone Mountain, Georgia removed by whatever means necessary, with respect to the earth form which that grievous memorialization of an American insult to humanity is carved upon. 

I understand that many activists and legislative advocates have been working on creating a path to the removal of the Stone Mountain monument through legislature, grassroots campaigning, and tireless prayers for justice. 

There are many ways that a person could help to support the work that is already being done, and I am reaching out to you to see if you might have any suggestions as to how I might best contribute to the efforts to remove the monument at Stone Mountain. 

As the great-great granddaughter of the man who accepted the monument on behalf of the South, I would like to do my part (whatever that may be) to aid in the gathering of a resounding rejection of the monument by the people of the South. 

I am not able to contribute more than a few dollars to campaigning. I am a person with a disability who works part time in the nonprofit industrial complex. However, if there are key ways that I might support monetary contributions, let me know. 

Professionally, I have a background in community behavioral health and recovery support services. I could offer you more information about education and experience if you would like to consider ways that I specifically may be an asset to the effort to remove the Stone Mountain monument. 

In any event, I have subscribed to your newsletter and am so supremely grateful that the Southern Vision Alliance exists to do the work in the world that you and all the many allied organizations and networks that are working with you do. 

Please let me know if you have any idea how I might best fit into this. 

I don’t want to do some rogue thing like make a long-winded YouTube about how my great-great granddaddy was a judge and in the Klan, etc. etc. where I look half-mad and don’t even know wtf is going on with all the work that has already been done. 

I’d like to extend – humbly and graciously – the offer to help in the effort in whatever way might actually be helpful. 

I want to see the monument come down, and to help use the opportunity of bringing it down to shape a new narrative of Southern History. 

Let me know if/how I might help. 

Thank you for all you do.

——

Privet cathedral

Street light silhouette, green glow 

Arc of all movement 

Yesterday was a wash. I couldn’t write for shit and my brain was a fuzzed out. I wanted to sleep, but couldn’t quite take a nap. The morning was rainy; there was a damp dog around the house for hours. The evening time was like an Easter egg – all soft and pastel blue, soft after-rain blue, very white clouds, gold light. 

I didn’t go outside. 

I was just wandering around the house and trying to figure out why I couldn’t make my brain fucking work. 

“Just sit down and say the things. Do the things.” 

I understood the sequence, and had a dim, forgetful awareness of what I needed to be getting done, but I felt seriously stymied in doing it. 

“Is this just me being lazy? Just me procrastinating an unfun task?” Or is it a problem in the action-initiation process, the movement from intent to behavior, the doing of the thing. Am I stuck in thinking about doing?”

(Note to self: behavior can predicate the process, meaning if you engage in the actions of behavior without motivation to begin, one might then shift into the sequence of the behavior, the state of the behavior – meaning the parts of the brain and body and nervous system that are operating to create and sustain the behavior?) (so it goes both ways, a person can muster a behavior by will and intent or through simply doing the behavior. The same neural pathways become activated regardless of whether the initiatory impetus was will or action?)

Anyway, I need to open my computer and do the damn emails, communicate something to my employer about what the fuck is going on with me. 

I actually spent a lot of the day yesterday considering and lightly researching the phenomenon called ‘autistic burnout’ – in which people with sensory, cognitive, and social differences which impact their ability to comfortably function in and participate in a world built for people who are fundamentally not like them and who have very little awareness or shared experience with them (them, here, is people who are differently abled in such a way as to be diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. I think that the phenomenon of burnout as it intersects with mental health tendencies and vulnerabilities – regardless of diagnosis – is definitely worth contemplating. It’s basically the stress vulnerability model, huh? I guess what’s missing in the stress vulnerability model – and most models of ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ – is the reality that some people are discluded from full (safe) inclusion and participation as who they are in social and economic structures that are designed around the abilities and preferences of people who are not like them in areas of mobility, sensory processing, social and communicative abilities, and other access factors. 

Access doesn’t just mean getting in the door, it means being welcome in the room and being able to stay in the fucking room long enough to be a part of whatever it is that is happening in there with all these conversations at the same time, and people moving around and saying things and touching my arm, and omg, there is a radio and a television on and I hate this fucking song, and holy shit, what is anyone even saying, I’m sitting here smiling and feeling numb and my mind is blank and what the fuck am I even doing here, I fidget with something, maybe stand up and stretch, try to see if I can help with something, seem happy and well-adjusted, laid back, cheerful and smart or something, don’t over-disclose, don’t over-disclosed, connect, but don’t be intense, try to connect, try to connect, where do I need to be here, there is no place for me here. I am wearing clothes that look like pajamas, I don’t want any of this fucking food, I hate Walmart, I am about to jump out of my fucking skin with all the noise and movement. 

I feel a longing – an actual, sickening, swooning longing – to be at home, in my car, outside, away. 

#workmeeting 

Jesus Christ, it’s almost 9:00. 

Yesterday, I went to a meeting on zoom and the rest of the day was for shit. I couldn’t write. I didn’t paint. I drew a burdock in the work meeting, and that was the only thing that made it bearable. Burdock protects against the evil eye and I have a ton of it growing in front of my house. I think I will leave it. 

I did a couple of work related emails – which I now am having trouble remembering, though they seemed to take a whirl. Oh, yeah. Reading the documents, saying the words. Making the commitments to continue showing up, though not indiscriminately and not for everything and not forever because this is the year that is mine to emerge within, festooned as I may be with 12 years of problematic and occasionally beautiful bloggage in my wake.  It can take a long time for a person to find their voice, a long time to find the line. 

This morning I messaged a person that I knew through the radical mental health movement – a person who is a mentor and an inspiration to me because they seem to understand what it is to be deeply post-modern without trying to unbelieve, and they are a fucking genius. 

Which brings me back to the unknown community of my peers and who those people might be. When I was losing my mind and had a sense of great certainty that I was somehow connected to a tremendous undoing of ideas and illumination of the human condition for the purpose of contributing to the salvation of the history of the future vis a vis proving God with pictures of clouds on the internet and realizing the extent to which I, personally, was seen and ‘understood’ in ways that were totally idiotic, diminishing, and ill-informed, not to mention cruel and insulting not only to my ego, but to the person I am in my most raw humanity – who is a person that does not want there to be any more avoidable suffering in the world because there are ways to do anything that reduce suffering and we should not be doing things that create or necessitate the suffering and harm of sentient beings or earth forms older than we can even fucking imagine, or the waters of the earth itself – also eternal – and I am mostly just trying to be a good person in a world that I only feel safe alone in. 

(Weird sentence – figure out some other way to say In this world, I only feel safe when I am alone. But also when I am with children, dogs, and trees. Birds, too. Once other people get to be a certain age, they start to see me differently, in ways that are bizarre and inaccurate and partial. In their perspective, I am not who I am to myself and this creates enormous confusion, because as they are interacting with me, they are interacting with their idea of me and who I am and what – based on that idea – I should be doing. Mothering, daughtering, friending, meeting, etc.) 

Today has been slightly less mind-blitzed. It might srsly be the zoom meetings and the need to attend visually and auditorily and be conscious of what my face is fucking doing because my face does peculiar things at times.  I had one zoom meeting today and it was only with one person, but still I was struggling to attend to what he was saying, and distracted by the space behind him and the look of his face moving and my face there being tiny and yet knowing it was huge on his screen. Aye. So unnerving. I started externally processing my thinking and had a couple of collisions of visual thinking narrative and concrete actionable steps in linear progression, kept repeating to myself what I was committing to doing – making a flyer, setting up a Google form. Those things wouldn’t be hard, right?

Now, hours later, I am noticing that the process of doing these things – these relatively simple tasks which actually have a few different tasks nested into them – is looming, feels daunting. 

I need to balance my writing and observation of primary thought line on various topics with observation of secondary and tertiary thought lines, somatic and visual impressions associated with the thought expressed. Also notes on the external, a woman sitting on her porch, face cool and clean from washing with water from the kitchen sink, a day during which a dog was walked, a meal was prepped, conversations were had with the eldest child, the younger one. A silly song was sung. Someone was taken to work. ________ walked by the house in the rain, but didn’t come up, and I didn’t call them up to the porch. Wondered if maybe my recognizing the warding off properties of burdock and arranging the bricks in a square form that could approximate the same general dynamics of the Turkish kilim for burdock might be keeping at bay the troublesome aspects of the person. The person is not all trouble, but has some trouble. They are welcome here. I am sure they will be back when their check runs out in a couple of days. That’s a crummy thing to say, but it is within the realm of possibility given previous behaviors. 

I will see. 

They may not show up when their money runs out, or they may show up with a winning scratch off. Who knows? 

Anyway, I feel reasonably at peace in my response to the situations that showed up at my door and the efforts I have made to be a friend and to balance the complex needs of multiple parties myself and the primary inhabitants of this privilege-gained house included. There is a part of me that thinks it would be totally reasonable to invite the person to stay here, to have a room until their housing works out. My son said he would move out. My daughter does not come downstairs with ease when the person is here, rummaging through their box of belongings on the porch, using the bathroom, sometimes resting in the living room. Part of me thinks it would be equitable and entirely fair to let the person stay here and part of me believes that maybe God wants me to let them stay here and that by not letting them stay here, I am committing a sin of some sort. It’s that old belief I have that if I see a way to help and do not help, I will be disappointing some great higher good that works in the world. I am constantly trying to figure out what God wants me to do. There are so many ways to help so many people. How can I know what I am supposed to do, what God wants me to do? I have been caught up in some really bad situations because of poor discernment about moral obligation and the potential judgement of an omniscient force or set of sentient forces in the universe. There is such a thing as trickery, I believe. Fuckery. Ego and misleadings, warped intentions. Then, there are also a lot of fuckin’ hustlers and predators and chaos-makers in the world. I have no innate sense of suspicion about anyone. It does not occur to me that someone could be awful to another person, could take advantage of them or hurt them. I have only been instinctively leery of people a few times in my life. My instinct is not strong about not entirely good people, but is strong about very good people. I tend to pick up on the good in people – even people who have learned to be bad or who have gotten caught up in some bad business with the living and dying world. I have been taken advantage of many, many times. 

It wasn’t really a conscious choice, like “My marriage was a disaster. There are two people in the world that call me Mom. I am my parent’s daughter, my brother’s sister. I know what my name is and where I grew up. I have a general sense of what my values are, but – really – what the fuck is going on in my life and relationships that people seem to just expect me to work and be and mom and…just be okay and pleasant all the time…be able to do “fun” things like go out to street festivals with small children, and be “normal” in their elementary school worlds even though I became a mother already bearing a tattoo on my hand and a scar on my arm from the year after I dropped out of graduate school and tried to die. 

The scar wasn’t from the time I tried to die. That was from a different time, later in that same year, when after working full time at the hardware store for two seasons, I became increasingly depressed and anxious and closed off in myself, wooden feeling. I lived in Portland then, and the tattoo artist who had tattooed the palms of my hands in Athens was living in my house as my boyfriend or something like that. He was an amazing artist, and taught me about Nick Cave and “glow lines” in graphite drawings. He taught me how to draw a sacrum and brought artist’s anatomy books into the house. He also taught me about shooting up cocaine, and for a period of time we performed together in a small troupe of suspensionists called Trancesend or something like that. He and I would be woven together by hooks at our chests and arms laced through with parachute cord and in that way we would dance a peculiar push-pull marionette with one another. I tried to dread my hair and cut the word BURDEN into my leg, carved and angular heart shape. 

It was winter in the Pacific Northwest and the parking lot of the Fred Meyer’s was always black and slick with rain. 

“What should I say?”

“Tell them your aunt is diabetic.” 

One morning, I woke up and couldn’t imagine myself going to work, pictured the hardware store and its classic rock and paint spattered patrons, the bell over the door and the expectation that I would smile, that I wouldn’t break into tears…it all seemed totally impossible. 

The only thing I could think to do at the time – in state of desperate anxiety and panic – was create an injury that would necessitate me staying home, so I cut my arm open in the single bare bulb light of the bathroom in the very early morning. 

It wasn’t until much later in the day, in the blue of late-afternoon night, that I went to the behavioral health triage center at the hospital. I didn’t go about my arm. I went about my mental health, the feeling that maybe I should go to the hospital or talk to someone or something. After several hours of waiting, I talked with a nice therapist who gave me a referral for low cost counseling at a graduate program, and encouraged me to explore getting back on medication. 

Right before I left, referral papers in hand, the therapist asked if there was anything else I needed help with. I calmly pulled up the loose sleeve of my sweater to show her the paper towels wrapped around my arm, blood seeping through them. 

“I think this might need stitches,” I said as though the four inch slice through the soft skin on my wrist, right through the tattoo of blue roses like an open mouth, was not that big a deal at all. 

I did not get to go home that night, and rode to the emergency room in the back of a police car. 

The year before, when the long-ending of my marriage began in earnest, I had started drawing a picture every day, with the goal of maintaining this practice for a year. I – like a lot of parents – wanted to “reclaim my creativity.” For years, I had brought creativity into almost everything I did, just because of the person I am and how I think about and interact with projects and processes. I made gardens and games and a birthday cake shaped like a 3-D wave, gummy sharks emerging from the icing on the crest. I drew pictures with my kids, and built awesome marble runs, and took them on ambitious day trips. I filled the house with helium balloons that I was able to bring home from work almost every Saturday, left over from the birthday parties that were hosted in the classrooms on the weekends. 

I liked working at the museum. I knew what to say and how to relate to people in that environment. I could play and be silly and say peculiar things and be friendly with all sorts of people who are out visiting the kids museum with their families, or bringing their second grade class to learn about dental hygiene from a musical stage show about a candy-loving dinosaur that didn’t brush his teeth and was at risk of losing his tooth.

Sometimes, I got to play the Mom Dinosaur.

In another stage show, with dancing fruits singing about the dangers of watching too much television, I was a Sexy Banana. It was an alright job. My kids could come with me sometimes, and I got all those free balloons, brought home presents from the gift store, stopped for ice cream right next door to the museum courtyard. Nonetheless, about 6 months into working full time at the museum, I began to get fragmented at the edges. I lost weight. I cried and got angry. I only wanted to be alone, drawing. 

Due to a funding debacle created by costly traveling exhibits, the museum began to downsize in preparation for moving to a smaller space. I had started to cry every morning before work, and was pretty-occupied with the threats my kids’ father was making about getting a “divorce lawyer who specializes in mood disorders.”

I got a psychological evaluation with all the diagnostic questioning and intelligence testing in preparation for the possibility that I would need to make a case that I might have had a pretty gnarly mental health history, but I was generally functional and okay and even great at being a mom and not being fucked up in ways that created harm or neglect for my young kids. Of course, in actuality, my mental health challenges did create harm for my kids. I never hit them, but I would get overwhelmed and yell, start crying, slam doors and occasionally kick a wall. 

When I was young, a teenager, I used to punch myself in the face and bite my hand when I got frustrated or emotionally overwhelmed, which was a lot of the time. 

I am a person who was diagnosed as having a “Severe and Persistent Mental Illness” at a young age – 13. I am a differently-abled person who learns, processes, experiences, and expressed themself in ways that are outside of what is considered to be “normal,” both statistically and – in some settings – culturally. 

When I got the results from the psychological evaluation and read through the information about how I learn and how I process information differently, how that can impact emotional processing, and how only 2.6 % of the tested population processes in a way that might be similar to mine, with high levels of capability in some areas and thoroughly average ability in other areas of so-called intelligence, it was like a question I had long forgotten that I was asking was answered. 

“What the fuck was wrong with me?!”

That question, which I had asked in ways both quiet and screaming, and which had been answered in mysterious and disparaging phrases about brain diseases and chemical imbalances and severe, persistent character flaws, had a new possible answer. 

Maybe the way I processed information and emotions had something to do with why I got so tired and depressed and overwhelmed and upset and rage-full and impossible to have a calm conversation with? 

Maybe I wasn’t exactly mentally ill, but mentally different in a way that made me vulnerable to certain struggles, or to struggling in certain ways, but – as the little double lines of test results showed me – I also had gifts. I was, in fact, really smart in some ways. 

Right before I became a CPSS, I had been hospitalized involuntarily and court-ordered to attend intensive outpatient treatment and to take any psychiatric medication I was prescribed. After a year of profound mental health challenges – which edged into a glorious and then chaotic state of wonder and divine possibility that was clinically described as “psychosis,” I was in the process of losing legal custody of my children, who were 6 and 8 at the time, due to concerns about my mental health and my ability to make good parenting decisions. 

I had been with my children every day of their lives. For months, I was only permitted to see them during supervised visits. I cannot quite name the heartbreak and wrenching, gasping frustration, outrage, and grief that resides in a mother who cannot see her children, who is being kept from her children. There is some twisted cruelty in telling a mother that she must remain calm as her children are led away from her crying. 

In order to be able to have shared physical custody of my kids, I had to follow court orders and DSS recommendations. I had to, first and foremost, get a job to prove that I was “emotionally stable” enough to have my kids in my life – and for me to be in their lives – on a regular, unsupervised basis, to live with me part-time and their dad part-time. 

In a swooning, numbed-out neuroleptic fog, wearing an old brown sweater and driving around on grey days, I applied for whatever job I thought I might be able to a) get, and b) actually show up for without falling apart. I had worked for nonprofits for a long time, but I had never done well working full time. Everytime I worked full time, I ended up in the hospital after about a year, unable to show up for work without crying, trying to commit suicide because I couldn’t figure out a way to be in the world without causing either myself or someone else pain and disappointment. After an adolescence of psychiatric drugs and hospitalization and social victimization, I was pretty fucked up, and lived with a lot of emotional agony and existential uncertainty for many years. I wasn’t kidding myself about being able to jump into some full time job where the long, same days under fluorescent lights and the empty tasks and small talk and forced smiles and everyday noises would slowly wear down my resilience, where I would begin to waver at the edges, cry in the bathroom, in front of customers or clients or students, say inappropriate things in an over-intense way, not be able to think straight, begin to forget how to do the simplest things, to make a phone call, to say hello. I would freeze and panic, try to bite back the deep, animal urge to leave the building, to walk out into the day, to go home and be alone. I wasn’t going to be getting any full time job. I couldn’t even go in the store and see a mother with her kids without crying, having to turn around and leave. I slept as much as I possibly could and when I couldn’t sleep anymore, I prayed to get some disease that would kill me in a way that would let my kids remember me graciously and with kindness. The medication gave me vertigo and I would lay in the bed and watch the tilt of the walls and ceiling, stunned and unable to move, imagining myself attending my son’s high school graduation in a wheelchair, catatonic. Whatever might be called my “mental health” – at that point – was absolutely decimated. I was absolutely decimated, a washed-out shell, the worst possible failure. A bad mother. 

That winter, it was only the kindness of a handful of people that kept me from slipping down into the void of speech and action that I could feel inside of me, a black hole. The first person I ever wrote a poem for, a boy whose heart I later broke, reached out to me, and gave me small jobs for a business that – now – I wonder if he had made up just to give me something to do. Talked to me about his life and his family, his work as an engineer, how hard it had been to go through his first divorce. Told me to keep going. Wrote back. 

Downtown playing banjo, I met an old man who sold tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market. His name was Peter and he was staunchly Catholic. He talked to me about saints and had me drive him all the way to the next county over to eat at a Bojangles one particularly cold and rainy night. He came over and let me record him talking about his life for a couple of hours, showed me the rows of chrysanthemums that were starting to come in. Talked about his bad leg. 

A 15 year old kid in Serbia who I met through an Illuminati forum on Yahoo wrote to me about his church and the weather and his parents and whether or not he wanted to join the Illuminati. Talked about New World Order like it might be a good thing. Told me about his girlfriend and going for walks in the snow. Told me to “get back on horse.” 

A scammer from somewhere who crafted beautifully composed stories of tragedy and funds that needed to be claimed didn’t seem to mind when I wrote back to them about how my life was falling apart. 

I started posting to the forums at The Icarus Project (now Fireweed Collective) about the egoic and philosophical outrage that had spurred my psychosis and created a disjuncture between my reality and my reality of self and the reality of my family and how they were seeing me, how they were understanding what I was going through, how they had understood what I went through, what they had put me through, what they were putting me through, with all that mental illness, chemical imbalance stuff. I mean, c’mon – I was an artist and a mother and a hard-worker museum educator that had been laid off during the dissolution of a marriage that had been really terrible and difficult for a long time, and I had just seen my beloved dog get hit by a car, and I was having to force my kids screaming to go to their dad’s new house, which was in line-of-sight with the house I’d shared with my husband and kids and which I now lived in alone with them. I mean, of course I was going to need some time alone to paint and draw and cry, figure out who the heck I even was after being told so many different things about myself and my motivations, my intent, my character, my mood disorder, etc. 

The irony of it all was that I wasn’t crazy at first. I was actually doing pretty well after the divorce, still working, keeping up a rhythm of activity in the home. I was stressed af, but I was okay-ish. It wasn’t until people started to ask me if I was okay that I became not-so-okay. To me, it made perfect sense to want to be alone and draw, to write and take pictures of clouds. I didn’t understand why people who said they loved me wouldn’t leave me alone and stop expecting me to be okay when I was clearly “going through some things” during a really intense transition year.

I had started a weblog on Blogger the year before, when I started my draw a picture every day for a year project. To be honest, my drawings were strange from the get-go. It was as though the artist part of me came out all in a jumble of image, figure, and myth-feels. 

[Draft email to employer, written last week…]

Hi you all – to get right to the point, I am not doing well. My brain is just totally blown-out as far as being able to formulate professional sentences in a consistent tone, or hold technical information in my head for more than three seconds, or to figure out what to say. I am isolating socially (which I am fine with), because I am so socially and politically fatigued by everything that goes on with people and relationships and collaborations. Emotionally, I feel numb and shut down, and am noticing that I am unable to care about or be inspired by things that I recognized I used to care about and be inspired by.

I am beyond burnt out.

Current:

It makes a lot of sense to me that – at this point in my so-called recovery, which really has been a process of exploring and experimenting with my personal wellness, which led me – necessarily – to consider all the factors which are at play in creating my experience of living and my participation in my life, what I do and don’t do and what happens to me and around me and what any of it and all of it means at any given moment, both in my own perspective and in relation to the larger world – that I would feel I may need to step back from the world of nonprofit services to vulnerable community members, the grassroots recovery complex, funded by HUD, FEMA, and SAMHSA, the US Department of Labor – which recognizes that an opioid addicted workforce that is committing suicide after beating their kids because of their own multigenerational PTSD is not good for business. 

Bounding, fractioned, prismatic 

illustrative early morning feels 

hue of rod and cone 

explosions in range

shifting, flashing 

the bright shine of rain 

caught in sun 

illuminating the simple intake breath 

of witnessing the morning 

slick plastic packaging 

the youth we remember 

Clorox mold smell, broke linoleum

scuffed out at the counter 

soft bills in hand 

light blaze through plate glass

hum of stubborn coolers

unwanted 

ice cream sandwiches 

stacked 

wax paper bricks

Clerk says nothing, 

doesn’t look up

Extends the hand, takes the bills

It is happening again. The forgetting. 

This morning I woke up and had some work to do for wages and to uphold commitments I’d made before my brain started to go all slippery with poetry and painting, before I got so tired for those few days. I had poetry – just a little feel of it, a taste prompted by the challenge of naming color (haha – autocorrect just changed naming to manic. Um, not hardly…) and then a flash of plastic yellow wrapped, and remembering the Swanee (sic) Swifty convenience store, the Mom and Pop’s. Candy of my youth, then cigarettes, fountain drinks in styrofoam cups that still linger in the soil, the smell of gasoline and Georgia asphalt. Blaze of sun, hot white glare, the sudden cold of the store, the blare of summer insects upon exit. 

…back into the living world. 

“Everything will be okay.” 

“Will it?”

“It was a difficult year.” 

Wild rose climbs the curly willow, fragile – almost unoticeable blooms up through the branches. Wind turns the leaves of the maple, showing the silvery undersides. The movement of trees in wind. May 5th. 

I was saying that, again, I am forgetting myself – who I am and what matters most during this brief time. 

Each day, I am awash in ideas. Small unfurlings of possible endeavors, art projects and banjo music, my collection of hats, a finished painting, a story written. Conversations with friends I haven’t seen in years. The potential for new friends, a peer group who actually knows me for what is most lasting of myself, and that actually sees me a little closer to the way I really am, to who I really am, and to what I’m really about. 

I don’t really care – anymore – about having friends. I have come to thoroughly accept – and even breathe a sigh of relief in – the risk I run of being alone for most of the rest of my life. 

Acknowledging that this is being stated during a time in which I have hardly been alone at all – meaning always someone else in the house – someone around at some point in the day, some time spent in relationship with people external to me – I can say that it is possible that I will experience great loneliness when my children move away and my mother dies, my father grows old and we walk around the yard together, quietly caught in a mourning all our own. It might be cavalier to say that I think I will be okay. That I think I can stand and even transcend and even love even savor whatever loneliness might come. 

It is sad that my relationships have been such that the only solution to the problem of me needing a lot of time alone is to not be in deep present relationship with another person external to me, to not have those sorts of sustained contact every day lives intertwined kind of arrangements with people. This doesn’t mean I will be alone. I will always have someone to connect with, so long as there are people, and then – in their absence – trees, and animals, and even the wind itself, my own memory and imagination, my sense of ghosts and ancestors, the quiet pulse of the earth itself and everything that has ever lived, that vast almost unimaginable that I can feel at the edges of everything. 

I am never alone. 

All of that is well and good, very stoic, etc. Let it be known though that I am in the final few days of a long process of uncoupling from my bound-to-be eternal love, or – rather – dramatically changing the system of relations that constitutes our knowing of one another. Un-girlfriending. 

The enormity of that reality – that yet another person is about to exit my life because I simply can’t deal with the constant social pressure of contemporary normative relationship assumptions – offers me a hint of the loneliness that I might feel in the coming seasons. 

My hope is that by positioning myself to experience a desperate revival of the faculties of so-called madness and an immersive inhabiting of my right sided brain and sensory self, by using my hands again and by creating space for my voice and expressions in inspired modes, I will be able to potentially find a few members of the unknown community of my peers – people who might be more like me as artists and in process, people who might appreciate who I am exactly as I am and not expect me – without even knowing they do – to contort and mitigate myself so as to be palatable and functional in popular settings of work and socializing. Even people who think I’m wonderful just the way I am don’t really know anything about the way I am, and only see me in small segments. 

Many people who know me do not know that I am into writing poetry, or that I am an artist.

They know me only because of my peer work or my mental health history. That makes me feel reduced and isolated in my experience, fragmented and confused in my Self. 

(Later) back to what I was saying at the beginning of this: I had some work to do despite having woken up with poetry, and I did the work – some of it – and the poetry left me, and my mindspace felt dull and clanging, digital font.) 

I think I only have some measure of attention for computer-based tasks and for the past couple of years I have used the vast majority of that capacity – or perhaps I have gone beyond capacity – for work tasks. It’s not surprising to me that I haven’t made a beautiful website. 

A person only has so much bandwidth in a day, and only the lucky few are able to pivot back and forth between the suspended and meandering consciousness of art and poems and the concrete linearity of certain work tasks? 

I keep going over made up FB posts in which I concisely and eloquent state that I am leaving peer support work for a undetermined period of time, and that I intend to throw myself wholly into art and formulating a niche for myself as a voice in the world of madness studies and creative nonfiction, experimental autoethnography and – perhaps – poetry? Maybe painting, maybe consciousness studies, maybe large-scale conceptual art actions, or portraiture of plants, bones? 

Writing can – itself – become problematic, because I use a lot of my time writing, and less time painting, and less time writing by hand, and less time playing music or moving the bricks around in the yard.

05/10/2021

What I need to be doing, rather than writing all this stuff about things that happened years ago, is write about what’s happening <right now> – during this small window of time in early May, leading up to the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s death and the day my mom called and told me she had cancer, the afternoon I yelled at the person who I was partnered with, the person who was supposed to be my so-called best friend, that I couldn’t be in a relationship with anyone who didn’t understand, recognize, and support my profound need to be quiet and be alone and to not have to have someone else around, interacting with me. 

In the oxytocin, dopamine, and adrenaline flushed early months of our relationship, I appreciated that we could walk alone together, that we did not have to always be speaking. 

I did not detect the silent pressure exerted when someone is restless with silence, the creep of anxiety and flee of ease that doesn’t let my mind wander and demands my attention.

The person who was my best friend – and who might still be my best friend, because sometimes best friends go through times when they rupture their friendship, then repair it – had begin asking me, as a conversation starter: 

“Have you had an interesting thoughts lately?” 

For me, this question was a terrible inquiry – full of value uncertainty about what constitutes interesting, how to express what I experience as interesting thoughts in a way that would be coherent, appealing, and consumable to someone external to me, and – more and more – the sneaking suspicion that the conversation or the interests in the my thoughts had very little to do with me at all – that I was a person doing people things, walking and having a conversation about interesting thoughts, that I was in the role of a person who was supposed to be interesting to the person I was walking with.

Anyway, that is not what I wanted or needed to be reflecting at the moment. My friend moved their stuff into storage today, returned the truck. Has a job in Maine later this month. 

I spent a lot of the time these past couple of years being sad and confused about the friendship, about the relationship. I am not sad and confused right now. Right now, I am doing pretty freaking well – despite the fact that I am smoking again, and that I seem to have found myself almost entirely unable to the work I do to earn wages. It’s like my mind just goes blank and my voice won’t work at all. Everything I do to earn wages feels separate from me, disconnected. It is not something I am doing for myself. It is something I am doing for someone else, so that they will pay me. 

“Yes, Faith. That is called working.” 

Is it though?

(“Yes. That is working.”)

I was lucky (privileged) to be able to earn wages doing work that somewhat mattered to me in a way that wasn’t entirely corrosive to my soul/humanity. However, for a long time, I have thought that maybe my work -the way I spent my time in interaction with the world around me to earn my way or fulfill my purpose or make my contribution has been changing, or – rather – I have conceived of more effective and efficient ways to do my work – which is to leverage my unique lived experience and atypical skills to create catalytic media that explores and destabilizes personal narratives through autoethnographic inquiry and shares the process of seeing the world differently.

Chromocytes know nothing.

Heart race red pigment,

low iron from the summer 

I started wearing a t-shirt

oversized to hide bones 

that aren’t bleached 

trying to be pale blond

reading: “Love Animals,

Don’t eat Them.” 

Doe-eyed cattle in brown and white,

ducks always like a nursery rhyme,

always in a row,

under lights that have no hue at all

flicker blanch and sickly sweat,

smell of cafeteria,

veins as ribbons of twilight sky under skin.

They say it’s different when you bleed.

They say it’s all the same.

Only my blood knew

the rush of capillary

standing to speak 

correctly at last 

under static lights 

with the day bright and thriving outside,

pulsing in shadow and sun,

spectrum of lifeways

pushing through single windows.

I did not know 

that not everybody 

considered the ethics 

of a rainbow

without questioning 

the simple fact 

of blurred lines 

bending waves, 

water caught in air

none of the trouble 

of human rights,

and human wrongs.

I thought everybody knew. 

your “Nothingness” fills 

conversational spaces 

you blather your zen 

Warm day, gas shortage 

parking lot shimmers in waves

“…this is so stupid.”

Lebanon goes dark

bread cold in candlelight 

stars look on, brightly

Yesterday and the day before were tired, tired days. Tired like the moon waning and the Spring striving and the year near 1/2 gone. I slept a lot – a stuporous dreamless dozing, dog at my feet and not caring at all that I was sleeping all day. I felt no motivation to do anything at all. My mind was a sludgy list of all the reasons I would fail, how much of a fool I’d make of myself – blah, blah, blah. It’s such a stupid headtrip – the way I move a little closer to stepping into some more bold way of being who I am. Not necessarily stylistically, though maybe red lipstick will be involved on some days, just as maybe haggard af and 1/2 crazy looking with weird expressions and twitchy eyes, an ugly uncertain mouth wearing red lipstick. More honest is what I mean to say when I say bold – less masked and postured and trying to fit in. 

I read an article about avoidant personality disorder and how so little work has been done to learn about the internal experiences of people with APD. I don’t know if I have APD, but I was identified as having ‘traits’ – of the disorder in some psych eval where I was trying to make a good impression ‘cause of the accusations that I was crazy to the extent that my ability to parent was compromised. 

At some points, I probably was crazy in ways that compromised my ability to be a good parent. However, in the family structure I was in, it was not okay to say, “you know, I’m stressed the fuck out and have been through a lot and for some reason I can’t stop fucking crying and feel so upset sometimes that I want to literally punch myself in the fucking face, and – you know what – I am not able to deal today and I need to rest and be quiet and not be momming for just a little while.” 

I mean, a person could not say that. Anything remotely like that was responded to with derision and a stern imploring that one simply needed to get over themselves, stop acting like a baby, grow up, and deal because all the other people in the world deal. 

Why couldn’t I?

Of course, they then called you crazy anyway. 

So, it was a double cruelty of supreme invalidation and mental health stigma. 

I think a lot of families are like that. It’s not like my family was this terrible family. It was a normal family. In normal families, it’s not okay to not be normal – at least in some key ways involving emotion regulation, tolerance for small talk and pleasantries and appropriate conversation topics, not being too much or too little, being – as it were – neurotypical, or – at the very least – trying very hard to pretend you are neurotypical because it is a learned fact of American life that one will be socially punished and ostracized for not being neurotypical. Or something like that…?

Anyway, I didn’t set out to write about that stuff – family and normative neuronormalcy. I set out to make note of the fact that I felt extremely low for a couple of days, almost to the extent that I wondered if I was under some kind of psychic attack by a malevolent force or family curse or…deep learned socialization that permeates my conscious and subconscious mind-experience states with extremely stifling (silencing) self-doubt and social trepidation. 

(the next morning, cold like March in the mountains though it is May, serviceberries small beads of scarlet like a calendar leading to the end of the month, when it would be warmer and the berries would be full and dark, almondine seeds tucked inside. Last year, she had filled buckets and bowls and Tupperware tubs full of the perfectly free fruits that grew on the trees that seemed suddenly all over town, but had been there for years. “They have cyanide in them, and sugar, and the cancer cells eat the sugar and die from the cyanide.” She cites clumsy quasi-scientific explanations for her daily campaign to pick berries down by the river, over by the gas station across from the VA, in the park by the brewery, downtown near the courthouse, at the base of the bridge to the west side of town.

She found all the trees, spotting without looking the particular red green of a serviceberry tree in full fruit as she drove around town. Her eye had become quickly trained to spot them when she realized with a sort of childlike hope that maybe if her mom ate enough of the berries, that the cancer killing her via what she called her “lady parts” would begin to die. 

She was very good at finding serviceberry trees. Once she learned to see a form, she could recognize it without trying, see it everywhere. She doesn’t think much about her brain and her eyes constantly scanning around her, picking up patterns and breaks in the pattern, the almost imperceptible slowing without braking and without signal that meant a car was about to change lanes, a vulture flying in high loops up at the edge of the sky, barely a spec in the otherwise blue and white. She was constantly looking around without even trying, without even knowing she was doing it. 

She has meant to write down, these past couple of days, the experience of painting, and maybe she has written a few words, before the subject meandered into some wavery field of memory, perspective, idea and politic, all her internal voices clamoring for notice. 

It’s easy for her to forget that anyone external to the creation of this narrative has no idea at all what she is thinking about as she writes, no idea other than what makes it to the page. She has – in an effort to not allow herself the privilege of forgetting about hate crimes against Asian women, the severe and persistent white supremacy woven through America, the names and stories that are testament to how brutally dumb and fucked up this country is. Sometimes she writes in simple, almost adolescent statements, because the enormity of American atrocities and the larger context of globalized exploitative capitalism, the ongoing end-results of grievous errors made in the course of the past two thousand years by powerful men with weaponry and resources, oceans filled with plastic, internet filled with complete and utter shit, tons of frozen fish, petro by-product mistakes, hungry children, burning forests…sometimes, it’s overwhelming. 

As a person who was trained in social sciences, she cannot separate out the multitude of factors and realities that constitute the present moment of her sitting on the porch, trying to make her way around to writing about painting and reminding herself of the reality of people driving to work and workdays just beginning, the day rainy and cold like February now, workdays just ending, ugly apartments and bad relationships and all the grief behind closed doors, the comfort of her own children sleeping still, teenagers in their childhood rooms, the end of the school year. Maybe she would make pancakes this morning, before she makes herself sit down and file for unemployment, write some emails, remind herself of loose ends and potential new endeavors with the time she has now found in the wake of the past few weeks during which she has been calmly unable to perform the duties of her job because she can’t focus for shit on any of it and her brain just shuts down and her body freezes and she feels fuzzed out and anxious. Just thinking about the experience of trying to make her brain do the work, make her voice type messages in a professional, succinct and linear tone. 

It’s a blessing in disguise, this failure, because she has no choice but to do the things she is able to do, which seem to be writing on her phone, taking pictures, painting, doing yard work and making food, studying Norwegian on Duolingo, hanging out with her kids and her still-dying mom, her aging father, her dog, going for walks, and thinking about things she wants to think about, making plans for the future that she is on the edge of, and trying to savor the curiosity that notices behind the weakening fear – which is a double entendre because the fear is both getting weaker and has a weakening effect on her. 

Her son telling her, without cruelty, that he didn’t respect her, that in many ways her considered her to be a failure left a dim and unconvincing despair in her stomach, which she recognized as some egoic garbage left over from her socialization to care what her children think of her, when she has taught them not to care what she thinks of them, because their lives are their own and her opinion of their evolving choices, at this point, is null. 

It is freeing. There is a satisfying sense of economy in recognizing that in already being proclaimed a failure, already having lost respect, she is given license to fail further, which means that she can try. She no longer has to compromise her deep, intrinsic motivation towards the arts trying to be some kind of successful wage-earning professional. She failed at that. She can let it go. 

Without ceremony, the morning seeped toward full day, grass drying under sun and all the almost unnoticeable murmurings of the wild rose and clover rise to hover and drift in the also unoticeable breezes conjured by the Sunday walk down the hill, two men pausing under the weary limbs of spruce and sycamore pass a bag between them, such a small mercy on a warm day, the blue sky shaded and the street quiet like it is. 

Of note: it is incredibly important, if one is going to be an artist, to claim oneself as such and to keep close to you people who see you and appreciate you as an artist, just as you are. This doesn’t mean that your art has to be amazing and impressive to everyone – it means it has to be your art and you need people who appreciate your art for what it is. Not to say that you have potential if you just did this or just did that, or maybe if you…but, to just love it for what it is and to see value in the fact that you created something and that you love to create. 

Of note: the person who was my friend was a presence in my life that felt like both a gift and a test and – at times – a trick, a diversion, a detracting and confusing force. I guess love can be all those things. What I now know is that there is a peace in alone-ness that cannot consistently exist in being with another person. While it is true that in some friendships and in some loves, one can feel the peace of alone-ness in the company of sacred others, but eventually the logistics of daily living creep in. The meditation ends and someone has to pee. There is a tea pot to wash. Meals to be made. Budgets and transactions to agree on. There are egos and emotions, vestigial wounds. I suppose that maybe people living in a spiritually grounded communal or monastic structure might be able to – with practice – suspend all of these dithering distractions from our awareness of the miracle of existing at all and the wonder that nothing is the same moment to moment to moment, or they – again, with practice – find ways to integrate the state of deep everyday connection with going to the grocery store or talking with someone about the light bill. I guess maybe that’s the goal – to be able to feel that peace of alone-ness  regardless of whatever one might be doing, regardless of the presence of others and their communications, their demands, their troubles. 

The peace of aloneness is not the absence of human connection, but the presence of connection with everything and with oneself as a small phenomenal facet of aliveness in the midst of so much living and dying, breathe and wind. 

(Later)

Without ceremony, he left the house as she was laying in bed, awake in the mid-afternoon.

Sandblasting the Monument

Perhaps this will become

A petition to discharge debt 

incurred in the process of trying to prove myself in the form of academic accomplishments and the possibility of potential to create some great change 

that may save the world 

by quietly naming the fact 

that we don’t know how to see things

that our names are all wrong 

She is a woman sitting on the front steps of a house that is not immediately crumbling, but that shows – on closer inspection – paint peeling from the eaves in sheets like birch, worn by the air if nothing else for years and years

(a place impossible to reach) 

(can ladders rest on steps? Seems risky?)

She went to get her bag of pencils and wires and books – near blank journal and planner with the squares almost empty. Couldn’t find it, and felt – immediately crumbling – the vision of her drawing a picture of herself, knees up and glasses on. Hair a collapsing bun and wild tossed strands like marsh after a flood. 

(Who am I to name my despair a hurricane?)

A petition to discharge my debt, with a letter from my very first psychiatrist, and interviews with former employers. “She did a good job, but wasn’t quite well.” “She struggled to be consistent.” There is the image of a woman on a wall phone, a nondescript hall, short by the nurses desk.

The profundity of the fact that she remembers the phones in clear visual – every phone in every hospital she’d ever been in. Calling the plumber Tammy who worked at the hardware store. Listening. “I knew you’d cut yourself. That it wasn’t an accident.” 

“Can you bring my bear?” 

Slamming the phone down, the short breathless walk to her room, you have to go out the same way you came in. There is no other way. The windows do not open. 

8:24am

The woman gets up again. Realizing that she may have found a thread, the sense of a line she can run with, a fragile constellation comprised of the thoughts and images of the morning, a press of not wanting to work, the morning thoughts of absenteeism, of calling out, not showing up. The contemplations of disability that have been with her for years. 

I AM A DIFFERENTLY ABLED PERSON. 

All the hundreds of essays on that topic of ability and aptitude and tolerance or lack there of.

The twisted cord of solidarity with all the people who are differently abled and yet show up to work anyway because they have no choice and who die inside to feed their children and keep a roof of some sort over there heads and all the brightness in them dies under fluorescents and they can’t smell flowers for the oily scent of blood and sweat and chemical concrete dust recycled air and not a single shaft of sunlight the endless beeping beeping beep beep beeping clawing clanging, boring ass days that bring no joy but release the brief journey home…some sneering internal voice that tells me I need to get over myself and stop complaining, to go to work, to get my act together. 

Get. My Act. Together. 

And how much I hate that shaming voice, and how it has been spoken by people I love and who I want to love me, which means to see me, and to understand that I am trying my best, but cannot help who I am and what I am.

“You are not disabled.” 

“You are a bad mom.”

“You…”

The voices coalesce, become an amalgamated blur of scorn and dismissal, pity and disgust. 

Something about the Protestant Work Ethic and the leveraging of shame to compel participation in an economy that does not benefit you or your family or your community, an economy that uses our vital labor – our time and energies and talents, our lifeblood – to produce billions of dollars of profit for a very few people at the expense of global wellbeing on this planet. The terrible and withering shame that has been enacted to force us to compromise our instincts, to drag ourselves from bed with the noise from the day before still clanging in our heads, and our teeth worn down from grinding, keeping our mouths shut about how much we hate our fucking jobs…

I am lucky that I don’t hate my job. 

I am so endlessly compelled to name how lucky I am and to then explicitly say that luck has nothing to do with it, that I am privileged. That it is the privilege of my father’s people that have put me in a position to have a job that I don’t hate, but also my differences in ability, also handed down to me from my father’s people, and my mother’s people, good people who want a just world, good people with unblemished and determined hearts, hard working people who give up themselves to show up for their family.

My mother. It occurs to the woman, still sitting on the steps in the cold air of a late April morning, sun rising and world coming alive in bird song and green light through new leaves. 

[She takes a quick video. Noticing the way the cars go by, but that she can still hear the birds. Persistent birds. An entire history of a race called ornithological. The miracle of birds. The truck approaches and she imagines the smell of vinyl and carpet on metal floorboards, the dull stink of heat from the vents. The beginning of a workday.]

[imagined conversations with her children, now almost adults, about her smoking cigarettes again. ‘People use drugs and do dangerous things all the time.’ Considering the ways that her heart began to hurt when running, the shortness of breath and bounding pulse in the sweaty dark of early morning. 

(Later)

The reality of what she needs to do has been clear to her for a long time, and becomes clearer as she understands, with the beat of her heart, that she will not live forever, and that she will not be able to construct the artwork that is hers to construct – which is not one artwork, but many – all tumbling into one another over time and across subject – if she continues to give herself over to the needs of affairs that are not hers to tend to, the affairs of organizations, and of people who want to use her energies for their own gain and satisfaction. 

Her head hurts. She called out sick from work this morning after a wave of light-headed nausea hit her at the gym. She walked into the bathroom, thrusting her bag at her daughter as the girl complained to her to come on, come on. There were things to do, get over it. 

“No, really,” the woman said. “I feel sick.”

Her pulse had been up all morning, the machine telling her to slow down to reduce her heart rate, even though she was going slow. The machine had taught her to pay attention, and had given her a metric, a reading that – while it may be inaccurate – was consistently inaccurate. 

She would spend the day trying to hold onto the thread she had found, would weave enough to know that she could come back to it, continuing working and building, find the voice again, the language that is hers to speak, the words that are hers to say, the stories only she can tell about who she is and why she is the way she is. 

Yesterday, she spend 4 hours on Zoom, an Alternatives to Suicide facilitators training. “What is the name for your despair in your own language?”

“What is the path you found back from your despair?”

The facilitator had show slides telling how indigenous youth who know their language are less likely to commit suicide.

The woman wondered if maybe there was a new way of seeing white, a way that erased white and gave people back the best of their ancestors – not the twisted teachings of the industrial western world about who we are and what we are, but the best of how people understood themselves and understood others, the languages that were spoken long before America existed as a warped concept, culture, and economy wrought upon a place and upon all people. 

“He was devastated,” my father spoke. “When the Consolidated Timber Company failed, he was just devastated. He had worked so hard to try to set things up so that my mother would be able to take care of herself.”

“When all that collapsed, he was just devastated.”

I do not know what that devastation meant to my my great-grandfather, a man I’ve never met and who is rarely spoken about. His name was Clarence, I believe. Clarence Moeckel, who everyone called Meck. His wife was my great-grandmother Rachel Beck, who wrote to her brother, Marcus Jr., that Meck was getting nervous again, after he ran away to something that was later called a circus. His letters named it otherwise, a swift retreat, a longing to be free, a turning from what was wanted of him by his father who – ten years after the death of his namesake son in the First World War, accepted – on behalf of the South – the monument to the Confederacy that was carved into the rock face at Stone Mountain, Georgia. 

My great-great Grandfather was Judge Marcus W. Beck. Georgia State Supreme Court. 

His sister was Leonora. 

(Later)

_______ came by, and I was glad to see them. I wrote them a note this morning explaining I was tired and resting, saying I’d check in with them later. I ended up being happy to see them at the gate, dapper in a tucked in blue plain twill and matching navy pants, a glowing white sweater and their No Hate In This State hat. The letters bright with the sweater.

I was happy to see them. My little dog, who I haven’t written about, because I have been busy and not well, disconnected from my voice, full of stresses and distractions, frontal lobe a cluttered mess of other people’s business.

She walked into the kitchen to find it dark and stinking of a hot oven. A plastic husk from a three pack of chocolate lay on the floor, dishes still in the sink. There he was in his mark-down sneakers, glaring white soles. “Hi,” he looked sideways at her. She set the brown bags from the grocery store down on the washer in the corner, head still pulsing a little, smell of something burning thick and acrid in the kitchen. As soon as she saw him she had felt herself clamp down inside, steel her face against his voice and plastered-on persistent ventriloquist smile. “Lurking,” the chorus of herself spit out, “lurking around in my house.”

“How are you?”

______ was friendly enough, blameless in his delivery.

“I’m well.” She felt her face dour and stern, unbecoming with her hair pulled back, the grey wires at her temples, the thin mouth set against anything that may be interpreted as a smile. Mustered a neutral assertive voice. “I am trying to keep my focus centered.”

______ looked at her. “So, if I seem rude, if I don’t say anything, it’s because I am trying to keep my focus, and that means not saying anything to anyone.”

(Ironically, he has just walked up the gate from the front steps where she is sitting in a white rocker carried down from the porch. She is not surprised to notice that she is unhappy to see him, but then he is carrying boxes for storage and 1/2 empty jars of Tibetan incense, a brass bell made of a fish.)

She was happy to see _______ She ended up being happy to see the person she had been in love with, and who she still loves, but who she no longer wants to be in a romantic relationship with and who she no longer wants to live with.

It’s a long story, like most love stories. In order to tell a love story, she’d have to name and describe all the small marriages and small divorces that shaped the time they’d spent as lovers. 

She doesn’t need to do that now. 

She would never have another lover – never be anyone’s girlfriend or wife. Never again. 

She felt completely at peace in that, excited even, to have finally put all that behind her, to have finally learned enough about love to know that it is marred by words like girlfriend, marred by words like wife. Words like mother. 

I only want to be people’s friends, and only in ways that do not ever preclude me from spending time with other friends, which include birds, trees, wind, my dog, and myself, and drawing, and reading. It is not that I don’t value my human walking-talking friends, the people I’ve met with whom I have shared some connection and who I have endeavored to maintain contact with and to continue to have experiences with. Let’s face it though, the wind is much simpler. Dogs are much more straight-forward in what they want and how they see you. There are the tricks of identity and learning, the ghosts a d shadows of people as they play out what they know of love, of friendship. 

Only people can break my heart in certain ways, and I am tired of having my heart broken. 

Let me clarify what I mean by my heart:

I. My physical heart, the organ that pumps my blood through my body, and which I rely upon to continue living as an animate being. My physical heart is structured in the ways of my ancestors hearts and has been further formed by the experiences that I have had which have either strengthened the fibers that – held together and moving in rhythm – keep me alive, or have damaged them in either acute or chronic ways due to exposure to certain biological chemicals and the processes that they catalyze (a constriction of blood vessels, a hardening of arteries, an accumulation of fat and cholesterol, a rush of fluttering beating, a pounding due to lack of oxygen, the lungs compressed, unable to hold air. 

As she writes this, she remembers – her heart beating fast – the exact feeling of laying on the couch in the dome, warm sun of Christmas Day and the creek glittering brightly through the plexiglass triangles that made up the walls of the room. Oak trees blew in wind from the ocean, from the swamp, east to west, from the south, the big warm ocean, the north, the big cold ocean. She lay their with her wrist on fire, the air still knocked out of her, still gasping and then breathing as deep as she could, breathing harder, trying to take in air, and not getting enough air, the sun hot and bright on her face as she tried to make a voice from the small push she had in her as her lungs were compressed from inside, some unseen force inside, the dull ache that had become her body, not even attached, where were her legs, where was her arm, there was only the pressing of her lungs and the tightness of her thin breathing trying to call her mother.

“Help…I can’t…I can’t breathe.”

She remembers trying to walk into the hospital, oddly dark, near night. Her father carrying her. She doesn’t remember anything else for a long time. Weeks maybe. 

Because it was Christmas Day, and a fog had rolled in somewhere beyond the glittering creek, they took her to the hospital in an ambulance, crossing the St Mary’s River to get to Jacksonville, where a child who can’t breathe after falling from a bag swing and flying across a pasture might be properly cared for. 

“I thought you would die. They told me you would die.”

This is what my mother tells me of that day, when I broke my spleen and filled up with blood.

I was too young – only 6 – to operate on, and perhaps there was no operation to fix a busted spleen, a spleen that had ruptured after the girl’s young body flew out into the open air and landed with a skidding thud onto the thin grass ground. 

They must have had to keep me still. Must have had to keep me sedated.

The only three memories I have of the hospital are waking up terrified and crying for my mother, laying flat and trying to be still, but crying, and somehow knowing my mother wasn’t there, and crying for that, a keen panic in me. 

A. Two years later when I was 8, a boy named Scott W. pushed me off a wood frame treehouse at the house near the corner of Osborne Rd and some street whose name I can’t remember but that Greys Gallery sits on the corner of, the place where

my mom’s friend Elizabeth taught me how to draw and paint a little, and where I later had my grandfather’s Lebanese hands cut off of a photo that I was having framed for my mother. Upon receiving this gift, she exclaimed, “His hands! Where are his hands?!” 

She loved the way they looked on the mirror glass table at the Florida Milk Co office, where her father worked. I do not know if the office where the photo him, sitting while white men in 1950s business suits flank him standing was taken in Jacksonville, where he suddenly died of a heart attack when my mother was 10, leaving my grandmother (who I am named for) to care for her and her two older sisters, all young adolescents who adored their father, alone. She died of complications relating to emphysema and dementia. Her dementia was probably caused by emphysema, at least in part. The brain needs oxygen and the heart works hard to supply it. 

My father has hypertension. 

When I fell after being pushed off the tree house, I landed at an angle on a pogo stick laying on the ground. The pogo stick held one part of my arm up while the other part of my arm kept falling an inch further. The angle of the impact drove the joint that holds the radius and ulna to the humerus part and lodged bones that were intended to stay in the low structure of my arm up into the space that was only moments before my left elbow. I stood up gasping, my breath knocked out of me again, but determined to cross the yard to the plasticky round patio table where my mom was doing mom talk and not paying attention at all. 

10:08

She crossed the yard dead-calm and not breathing, her broken elbow making her arm flop awkwardly and impossibly, her efforts to keep it from swinging, to hold it in place, to make it unbroken were mute flailing of muscle and bone that were all fucked up. “Mom,” she said. “I think I broke my arm,” holding up her arm from the shoulder, so that the limp sack of her unbound ulna and radius hung at 90 degrees from the arm that should have been outstretched. 

She does not remember anything after that, though has a mental image of the inside of a helicopter, the sound and smell of the small space, the man to her left. She does not remember being in the hospital. The reason they had to life flight her was because she went into medical shock, meaning that her heart could not keep up with the demands of her body for oxygen, that something had flooded her and she wasn’t getting enough oxygen, even though her heart was trying to beat. 

All of that is in my physical heart, as are all the times I got so upset, all the times I was scared and sad and angry. All those seering and tearing times. 

All of those are in my heart, too, in the form of tendencies and scar tissues, adaptations to less than ideal conditions and disrupted normative operations. 

(Memory: Visiting Dr. Buckingham, the brutalist orthopedic surgeon who removed the pins from my elbow with only local anesthesia, so that I could look down my arm and see the incision being made, see the pins being pulled from the bone, the dull pressure of my arm being held, the pulling of the pins, the way the skin poked and broke with the suturing needle. Dr. Buckingham gave me the pins and I later gave them to another art teacher who had been my mother’s student. Pam Johnson, who kept borzoi and horses.)

II. My emotional heart. See above re: ill-tendencies and scar tissues (literal in the physical heart, and also – here the in the figurative heart of feeling wounded in our heart due to the shock and grief of losing something or being very afraid to lose something that we feel like we need to survive, something we love.

(Note: there may be additional thoughts here, re the intertwining between dependency relationships, needs both real and perceived based on experiences within relationship and culture and economy, and the ways that people and places become things in our internal seeking to feel safe or to reconcile some deficit or disparity or dissonance. I do not like it when people love me for what I offer to them, and say that they love me – because if they loved me, they would leave me alone and not want me to be any way other than who I am when I am most myself, which is here, in writing and in art. The voice that I use to speak to the people in my life about who I am and all the daily trifles and arrangements, apportionments of energy and attention, the things and people external to oneself that need what they call love, but what might actually be closer to egoic demands for attention, validation, and connection. I have no problem loving people, and am happy to give love freely when my heart is nurtured and healthy, but if my heart is not nurtured and if a relationship actually causes damage to my heart in the form of stressful shenanigans of communication and things like food and going places and having conversations that are interesting and enjoyable to all parties…or wounded by people being dicks and actually not seeing me at all, and only seeing some mysogynist charicature of who I am based on some garbage that happened with their mother or their ex-girlfriend, and expecting me to just be what they want me to be, and scorning me when I can’t or won’t. Then, additionally shaming me because I get upset when someone is man-splaining me to myself and totally invalidating whatever it is I am telling him is my own motherfucking experience, and saying some bullshit like what I understand in that moment to be true of what I am experiencing – based in my own observation of what I am thinking and feeling and the images and sensations that are occuring in my body and conscious mind, which gets flooded with amplified trauma detritus files when dudes talk to me and look at me in certain ways that – let’s face it – are fucked up. 

Unlearn the way they taught you to hold your face, dude. Unlearn your face, if you’re so smart. At least respect what I’m saying when I say that your smug smirk and flinty eyes and set jaw freak me out, because you are already invalidating whatever I might say before I even say it, so why say anything other than Fuck You.

This is what I know of friendship:

A true to friend to me is someone who recognizes me for both my strengths and limitations and understands that I am a person for whom the normative experience of being a human being in America has typically eluded me, in that I have no fucking idea what it is like to not think the way I do or remember the way I do or speak the way I do in my most true voices, I have no idea what it is like to not have a visual memory and a visual processing style. 

Haha – autocorrect just changed style to “farts.” 

Anyway, the normative experience of being a female human in America has – unfortunately – not eluded me, in that I have basically been seriously fucked up by the way that my physical body has been made into this thing that has to be a certain way in order not to be scorned or ridiculed or shamed, and that the person I am is a being that should primarily exist for the satisfaction and service of others which while this may not be true philosophically, on the basis of how utterly fucked up and dehumanizing (somehow I kept saying de-hymenizing, which is funny because just today I was thinking about how completely disgusting it was that my young male psychiatrist shitbag that I had only just met during an extremely traumatic conversation with my parents who were leaving me at the fucking hospital after this asshole asks me all kinds of personal questions about smoking weed (which at 13 I had never done) and having sex (which I also had never done), but which he accused me of, and then proceeds to do a vaginal exam which my impression was solely for the purpose of determining that I was lying about not having lost my virginity yet, and then acting smugly surprised when he learned, by putting his fingers into my vagina, that my hymen was intact.

Despite all my compassion and understanding of the ways people get fucked up in this culture and this economy, I seriously want to punch that smug look off that motherfucker’s face.

The reason I was thinking about that guy, who I believe is still in practice, if he hasn’t died in the past couple of years, is cause I need to request that he write me a letter regarding my treatment with him throughout my adolescence, from ages 13-17, which includes two hospitalizations at the now defunct due to Medicaid fraud and other disgustingness involving the unlawful hospitalization of elderly people and kids with problems because they’d been through some awful shit in their families or towns, all to be diagnosed as having a mental illness, a chemical imbalance. 

I know my records do not exist, due to the dissolution of Charter Hospitals as an entity, and the fact that the receptionist at Dr. Martelli’s office told me they are no longer available. I have written about that conversation somewhere. 

I need to call him and ask him to write me a letter to try to flesh out my mental health history for the possibility that I may need to apply for disability, depending on what happens over the next year or so, and whether or not my perimenopausal process and the imminent death of my mother while my children are in the process of leaving the home we’ve shared, signalling the end of an era that has been extremely difficult and beautiful and fucked up, like most families. 

(Later)

I have had an amazing day. I called out sick to work and spent the whole day writing and thinking about ideas. I added some to a drawing I had done the day after Lisa Montgomery was executed and felt good about revisiting this image. I considered last words and the significance of them, and wanted to study all of the last words of people killed by the state, wondered what art exists of those utterances. 

Driving to pick up her daughter, little dog in the back seat and on time so far, she considered the conversation she’d had with her mother on speaker phone while she brushed her hair. “I feel better, had the nicest day. I just wrote all day and thought about ideas and spent time with the dog.”

There was a walk-with to the corner and back. Training sits at the edges of streets, hurry-hurry at the crossing. When the little dog pulls, she stops. He is learning to sit patiently, and likes the pauses, the time to look around. 

“I want to talk to dad about Meck. I am curious about that, and want to hear more about him. That whole part of the family.”

I can tell I am getting tired because my writing is lagging and undetailed. The bigger sense around the subjects shown is muted. There is no mentioned of the internal questions that rise around my great-grandfather, who he was, why he was nervous, what that meant and what happened to him. 

“Also,” I mentioned, “I was trying to find information about Judge Beck’s role in the dedication of the Monument to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain, and I found in a newsletter archived by the Sons of Confederate Veterans that he – Judge Marcus Wayland Beck was a primary speaker at the event and that he – my great great-grandfather – accepted the monument to the confederacy at Stone Mountain, Georgia on behalf of the South, and that – well, that is interesting to me.”

She walked into her room, laid her brush down. “There is an organization called ——— that is working with communities to take down these monuments, and well…”

Her mother shifted into the detached conversational tone of politic-talk. I think they just just take down the signs and put a new sign that says “Never Again,” and just all keep working toward…”

She can’t remember the phrasing of her mother’s watery wish for equality, for unity.

“I cannot say anything about,” she found herself saying. “I have no idea how it feels to be a person who is the descendant of slaves, whose ancestors were brought here as enslaved people and to see a monument to the structures and systems that has harmed their families for generations right there in the middle of the town I am trying to call home. I don’t know how that feels and so I can only say that I can imagine that I wouldn’t much like it.”

“I mean,” she continued as she pulled a pair of socks with deer who had flowers in their antlers standing amongst trees, a bright blue background. Perfect socks for Earth Day and the day she’d had considering who she was and what she needed to do to take care of herself. 

“That monument is a blasphemy in stone,” she felt a thought rise as she left the house, and drove north to pick up her daughter. Her great-great Uncle Marcus, the Judge’s son would agree, and she felt something like his dark-eyed spirit flood quietly into her, smiled to feel him close, and understood that this idea was a part of what she needed to do to take care of herself, which was to make some acknowledgement that though her family, the blood that made her blood, were good people, wise people, they were a part of something treacherous and ugly, and that needs to be spoken and – more more importantly – that fucking monument must be returned to the stone that it was, though it will never be that stone again, because that stone took thousands – millions – of years to carve as it was and will never be again, carved in tribute to brutal lunacy of America and the lust for property, the lust for power, the lust for pride and a personhood above other persons, the idiocy of the trick that had been played on the poor men and sons who died in the Confederacy fighting for the rights of so-called white property holders to continue their supremacy not only above the African people and the indigenous masses on colonized lands, but their supremacy over the worker and the farmer, the poor sons and daughters of immigrants who themselves had fled. The masses, the masses, the masses. The insidious tricks and lies that had been told about the chance to rise above someone, to have your own place, a fence, a pantry, land to work, safety and belonging. The myth of the American Good Life, dangled like candy as an enticement to turn from injustice and support a system of economy that only works for a select few, and was designed as such, while the masses do the work, all the drudgery of production and consumption in a supply chain of enforced dependency and debt. 

God, America is a crying, bloody Shame. 

In some hearts, shame becomes hatred. 

Trygve Gulbrannson Beyond Sing the Woods

The original quote says that in some “mean hearts, shame becomes hatred.” 

There may be mean hearts. 

Some places make mean hearts. 

America makes mean hearts…and so many other sorts of hearts…brave hearts and wild hearts and sad hearts and broken hearts…and joyous hearts, too. 

It’s possible that joy is not made, but simply allowed for in the spaces between fear and anger and grief, the lifting awe of looking around at the world, of being alive. 

I want to write an email to ——— and share an idea to ———- by ———— a ———— (haha, don’t worry, surveil, it’s just a survey. 😂🤦🏻‍♀️

If it were up to me, I’d sandblast the motherfucker back to smooth stone, and do nothing else. Let it be an erasure, and then leave it alone, let the water flow down it in rains and the sun beat down all summer. Let tiny pools form between the latticework of stone, to freeze and refreeze, small particles lifted away like dust year after year, knowing that nobody alive today will see the stone face that once held a monument to the confederacy be anything other than a sanded smooth surface, with – perhaps – a small engraving at its base that simply reads NEVER AGAIN. 

If it were up to me, that’s what I would have done to the monument accepted on behalf of the South by my great-great grandfather, Judge Marcus W. Beck, father of his namesake son, the bright eyed boy who died trying to make his father proud in a grueling made-up world of races and wars.

I’d have the monument sand-blasted.

10:26

In between the bracken and the stream, under rocks and water-slick stones, there is a poem about what happened the year the willow tree fell and the cherry tree died and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. 

-/-/

In whispers it came, a hush and slow-spread

not wriggling or slithering, or crashing

just drifting, hanging in the air, caught in the pearls of breath 

sparkling over everything we sigh about 

replicating in the darkest creases 

deep in our heads and chests 

just a few days left in winter 

as the news turned to silent city streets 

ships made into hospitals

close down the schools,

we have to learn this now.

as rains poured down the runnel streams

the folding of the mountains, fog gathering

the ghosts of the girdled giants 

the echo of their fallings in the forest 

no more coffin wood, big bright spaces where once there was shade 

and the animals all scurried,

digging in the leaves 

forget the leaves, their hunger said,  

Now we are learning this

In the summer, grass grows

up through the pavement

empty school lot 

There is no going back 

To the world we knew 

though the spring will come 

again and again 

and the small shoots of new growth will push up through the soil 

made of the dust 

that was once a mighty American Chestnut, small trees 

not yet girdled by blight, 

growing, seeking the light

because that is all there is to do 

until you die.

Now we are learning this. 

Vernal

It’s notoriously hard to study – to measure and analyze – oneself or members of one’s own species, because our mechanisms of perception and understanding are inescapably biased/distorted in ways that we cannot even see, and which may vary wildly from person to person, culture to culture, moment to moment.

This means that the human study of almost anything is liable to be flawed.

Humans don’t see things clearly.

The ways that we even define what we are studying can be deeply flawed. [insert examples re: definitions of psychological wellness and illness that are based on Western norms and values/ drapetomania / and the science of forestry and natural resources. Note the estimate re: percentage of scientific literature that is bunk]

This is not an essay about that.

[I ended those thoughts and that writing – done while walking a familiar circuit down McDowell, the Choctaw Greenway, a short stretch of broad sidewalk along a street named Choctaw, beside a stream called Town Branch and Nasty Branch (recently featured in an article explaining that Town Branch was called Nasty Branch by the Black families who lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the stream, for the pollution by way of parking lots and streets sloping southward, the edge-of-downtown industries of oil changes and dry cleaners, all the garbage of the small city in the mountains running in streams that converge with the bigger river between the hills and rising lands that are East and West. The article advocated for the stream being called Nasty Branch because that is what the people in neighborhood – not the first people, who called the big river Tah-kee-os-tee and not the second people with names like McDowell and (insert interesting names of mid-era residents), who probably didn’t think much of the stream at all other than considering that it might be a convenient place to throw household wastes or to let loose the effluents of the fledgling industries surrounding the bigger river – which, as I mentioned, was called Tah-kee-os-tee by the first people, the Cherokee people.  There were, I believe, at some point large stockyards, organized by a Black man who has parts of his story printed onto a display down by the brewery that boasts a sign declaring ‘A Stream Renewed’ over a drainage channel bracketed by manufactured concrete composite blocks, planted with service berry and tall grasses.)

(I interrupted this writing to take a brief video of my black and white cat, whose name is Bandit. She was crouched and scratching, sharpening her claws on the rotting bench that sits over the yard-grave of my cat that died last summer, an event that I didn’t even write about much, because I have been stunned and silenced – at least outwardly – for a lot of days these past few seasons.)

(I interrupted my writing of this to notice I was cold and to look around. The thin shadows of thin branches – leafless maple and thin-leaved privet hedge grown all the way into the sinewy-smooth barked trees they are constantly striving to be – cover almost everything. There is no bright sunny place to be. At least not here. I am still interrupting my writing of whatever it was I was writing about by now thinking about going to the track and looking for a sunnier, warmer spot up there. I ran 7 miles in the mid-morning. There was a wind blowing hard from North to South and I kept my eyes closed on a lot of the stretches, opening one every few slow breathes, taking a scan of the lane rounding the bend before the branch of oak straggles out over the track because it’s hardly been used for a year because of the pandemic. It’s almost funny to me to mention so casually that schools have been closed because of a global pandemic that has killed well-over a half a million people in America alone. To almost forget that stunning reality. We just lived through – and are still living through – a historic event. A truly historic event that is still unfolding. Holy shit.)

What was saying, that I then interrupted, thinking about how sometime soon someone is going to unceremoniously cut back the branches of the young oak tree that is growing out over the Lane 8…

I just go around the branches. Step into Lane 7, then return to Lane 8…

I scroll up to see what I had been thinking about, and am aware that my posture is horrible right now. I am sitting on the steps in from of my house, and I am cold. I am hunched over, typing into my phone, wearing all black on the second day of spring, except for bright blue flip flops from last summer.

Ah, yes, the cat…

No. I was writing about psychology, and then I was writing about the river and the Branch.

I was walking yesterday along the stream that seems nameless, but that has several names, and is defined by me and understood by my family as ‘that little stream down by cat alley’. I walk along the stream on the Choctaw Greenway at least a few times a week. It is one of my circuits, one of the places that I go again and again, a path I travel repeatedly.

I used to take my kids down to the stream when they were little. It was one of those close-to-home adventure places that young mothers and fathers create for their very young children who don’t yet see that the world is big.

Lately a pair of ducks has been spotted in several locations within a quarter mile of where the mouth of the culvert emerges from beneath a field.

About six years ago, I was walking down the small hill that I lived on the north slope away from toward the even smaller hill that runs over the little stream down by cat alley. Ralph Street. If there were a street address for cat alley, it would be somewhere on Ralph Street, down by the Glen Rock Hotel that is now Section 8 apartments and the walkway with the bald cypress whose branches are all cut off on one side because they grew over the black walkway railing. The stream goes under a bridge there, and a sand, almost beach-like micro-delta is forming where sediment is left behind at the edge of the culvert. A couple of weeks ago a big piece of concrete painted a gloss red showed up on the sand. It looks a little like the shape of the continent called Africa.

I was walking down toward Ralph about 6 years ago, puzzling a little over how unenthused I’d been feeling – meaning that I had been depressed, because I experience depression and have since I was about 9. The word unenthused is a euphemism for terribly depressed, sometimes dangerously depressed.

On that unenthused walk, I saw a group of black and white kittens playing in the privet by the used-to-be-empty house at the bottom of the hill, and I felt something like happy for the first time in a while and realized that I wanted a kitten.

A few days later, I went out to the backporch and a little tiny black and white kitten run into the pile of wood that was stacked in the corner of the porch. We had to use a hav-a-hart trap to catch her, and caught a possum in the process. I named her Bandit. She is totally tame now, and is my cat.

Bandit showed up on the back porch right over a cat named Boober’s final resting place, under the porch beyond the reach of any implement, a dark form that the flashlight seemed to strain toward, but never quite reach.

Things I want to speak about.

There are many things I’d like to speak about, and they all run connected. I start speaking about one thing, and end up saying something about something else.

That’s okay.

I am going to speak today about what this project is and why I am speaking at all.*

The idea for this project emerged from thinking about – but, not saying anything about – suicide, about how I want to make a chapbook about staying alive, and how I think about plans all the time, but never do them, but that it feels really important to me to try to say something about suicide, to speak about suicide.

*note: not this project, but some other project that I haven’t actually worked on. A project in which I speak – about Suicide among other things.

She woke up sleepy

rain was falling in the dark

floor cold on bare feet

1-5

In a dream, lights out

electrical surge, flicker

no green numbers flash

Held, remembering 

how blankets become bodies 

when we are asleep 

Water is always 

Mud-slicked ground, pooling rivers

Always is a coast 

Room an inky seep

pocket of blurred boundaries 

liminal slipping

 

Pupils dilate, no

Constrict, aperture shifting 

seeking out the lines

 

6-12 

Clouds silently swell 

breathing up the fog between 

Valleys and rivers 

Constellations spin

mute points of light radiate 

reflect back to space 

[to complete later…]

Vernal equinox

Emergence, warm water scents

everything, Spring

1-5

Mountains shade new leaves

verdant, cooling sunburnt flesh

such a sweet relief

Piquant, sweet sap blood

taste of grass between the teeth

warmth of earth itself

Find chance balance

Rare moment, regular time

galloping daylight

night falls slowly, wait

I don’t want to go yet, no

I’ve just now begun

Stand like DaVinci

Fingertips touch dawn and dusk

Perfectly distant

6-12

Word like a rustle

Whisper, shifting grains of sand

old bone, ash displaced

Are the shoots green there,

underneath soil still warming?

Pushing up to sun

break ground, mountain rise

as the husk is shed to die

growth quickens, bounding

cotyledons rise

earnest leaves, like arms open

welcoming the world

in the dark below

lacework and lattice of ice

softening to steam

Wake robins stirring

bracken spirals unclenching

Sightless, determined

What joy, great lifting

thrust of all to the warm light

breath of plants, damp musk

13-17

Mycelium webs

tremble between roots, pulsing

Sending out signals

Highways sunny day

windows down, first time you sweat

since late last summer

Change out the displays

Fill the shelves with pastel eggs

grass chemical green

Drag out of bed, still dark

Body says to sleep, clock trained

lusty animals

Cleaning up the yard

a breeze that smells like semen

Bradford pears in bloom

It’s the day after the new moon, an astrological occurrence that would seem to suggest beginnings, but during this cycle is ‘more about endings.’ At least that what an article briefly skimmed on the internet suggested. I like that the moon phases are never really beginning or ending, that completion could be measured in darkness or light, and that – furthermore – the moon doesn’t care and strives for nothing.

Today is so-called Pi day, and circles don’t end or begin either unless they are drawn and the thing that is begun and ended is not the shape, but the line that makes it.

Somehow, the vernal equinox is a week from now and the clocks moved forward today. I stayed in bed this morning, in and out of lucid dreams between the alarm clock tone.

I needed rest, and so I rested.

With the one year anniversary of the declaration of a global pandemic having recently passed, I have almost met my goal – or, rather, completed my experiment – to walk/run 10 miles a day for a year. It was not an actual experiment, as there was no way of controlling for all the tangled variables that constitute a life, and – furthermore – the results are not measurable beyond my slightly improved cardiovascular health and running endurance. Some days I have chest pain and am exhausted and wonder if it’s possible that I might have damaged my cardiovascular health or if – like my Lebanese grandfather who dropped dead of a massive heart attack 15 years before I was born – I have a secret weakness in my heart, or if perhaps the duress of severe mental health challenges and chronic states of stress have worn out my heart.

The pain is on the right side of my heart, a tight ache, not enough to make me wince, almost more of a sensation than a pain. The pain is in the part of my heart that sends oxygen depleted blood to my lungs.

When I run and notice the pain, I draw deep breaths toward the place where I feel it, and try to slow my pulse down, open my capillaries up.

I don’t know what to say about the past few months. I have faltered badly in writing practice – but, have maintained a 63 day streak on Duolingo, where I am re-learning Arabic and learning Norwegian.

I don’t want my writing to be reduced to lists of the things I have done and things that have happened.

It might be that way for a while as I find my way back to practice.

I consider the possibility that my writing mind has been colonized by my employer for the sake of grant proposals and securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in program funds that have little to do with poetry other than the wrecked lives the funds are intended to assist and the folly of the ways that money is spent to clean up the messes made by the poverty and trauma of capitalism.

The winter is almost over. I wonder sometimes if I am 1/2 dissociated, the way I lose time and slip through days. It is seemingly a part of the adult experience that  time seems to move more quickly, that the passage of time itself accelerates as we age. This is not true, of course. Time can neither speed up nor slow down. Time doesn’t even exist beyond our temporal sense of existing.

I can still remember, from being young, how long a year can seem. Now, here a whole season has passed and I feel like I’ve barely found my footing in the new year, a quarter over already.

I have noticed that time slows when I am doing work with my hands, when I am engaged in raking or pruning. Sweeping or scrubbing. Sewing and baking. I think it is because it is possible to get a great deal done during small segments of time that it seems time slows. I know there have been episodes during which time, in my sense of experience, slowed to almost a stop – to the extent that I might comment or exclaim, “how is it possible that only a half hour has gone by?! I did way more than is possible within a half hour!”

Experience is such a layered and complex phenomenon – external actions reflexively dancing with the internal states of sense and reflection, analysis and memory.

She sleeps in her own room again, having left the bed she shared with a man at the end of the hall. The bed is small, a twin bed that was once used by her daughter. It is tucked perpendicular under a double-sized loft that nobody sleeps on, save for the cat.

The children would find the spots along the bank where the tide had eroded the sandy earth out from under the trees, making damp ledges that held pockets of cool air, roots washed clean and dangling from the walls. These eroded spaces were like tunnels, like burrows they could crawl through. The brightness and heat of the above-ground day seemed far away.

Maybe the universe is hurling itself toward destruction with every counterclockwise turn, the whirling spring wound tight

I have not written at all recently.

Let us define recent: I am referring to the better part of the past several weeks. Which isn’t really so long, but for a person who generally spends time writing fairly regularly, to have not written at all is fairly significant. For the past several years, my writing has been limited to the strained utterance and lament of the busy and distracted. I am conspicuously aware that there is a state of consciousness that my writing is born of, and that I have not been inhabiting it. A small slough in a wide beach with waves that stretch along the coast and all the blocks of business and home crowded close to the shore. If there was a place in me where poetry is born, it is in that slough left by tides, where water still flows from the push of the biggest waves in a runnel that is carved like a river, like a canyon.

I feel as though I have been trapped in other states of mind for a long time, the busy-ness brain with its lists of things to do and the press of deadlines, the social mind blathering and fretting about what to say and what will people think, my anxious preoccupation with the condition of the cells in my body, the meaning of the small streaks of blood on bright white paper.

She heard the footsteps in the dark outside, heavy and clomping. She recognized the sound of men’s boots, too big, and the definitive footsteps of the sore-footed. It was _____ Parker. _______ was actually a __________, but the woman had mis-learned her name two years prior and couldn’t unlearn it. She didn’t know who _____ Parker is, but she called ______ __________ by that name. “You know me?” The older ________, would ask, head cocked in question, the woman with braids down to her hipbones, the woman who wore loose cotton dresses to her knees and still thought of herself as a girl despite being in her mid-40s. “Yes!” The younger woman would exclaim, pleased at acing this pop quiz of familiarity that was given almost every time they met for the first 7 seasons of running into one another near the bus stop at the bottom of Murray Hill, on the sidewalk down by the Greens market where the city’s last remaining payphone leaned incapacitated at the edge of the parking lot. “Hey, you got a couple dollars I’m tryna get a pizza down here at the Green’s. They four dollars for two pieces, and my friend – man – my friend, see she was supposed to lend me 10 dollars til I get my disability and so I rode the bus all the way over here from Tunnel Road, and now she ain’t even gon’ answer the door.” _____ dressed like a man, and walked like a man. Kept her hair cut close to her scalp like a man, but still called herself ______.  ______ was almost 60, and despite her feet being sore with bone spurs, she walked quick and with a gait of driven purpose. She didn’t amble or stumble or drag. She walked like she was going somewhere, getting to the bus stop, going uptown, trying to go by and see a friend of hers, trying to get her 10 dollars to get something to eat. ______ was always busy.

Sometimes, Faith would walk down the big hill on S French Broad, cut over by cat alley to avoid having to run into ______, cause she knew that she’d get hustled before she even knew what happened, she’d be running – literally running – down to the Greens and getting a box of pizza from the little glass display crammed on the counter by the shiny goldtone pot leaf pendant jewelry and the plexiglass display of lottery tickets. She’d be buying an extra soda and a pack of cigarettes and paying 2.00 to get a 10 out of the rinky-dink atm to give to _____ to go over to the pharmacy, get _____ prescription. She didn’t like saying no to _______, couldn’t ever quite justify not helping her, and so sometimes she avoid the stretch of sidewalk leading down to Depot.

The elder woman rocked her head back in a question, “You know me?” Faith smiled cause ______ never remembered knowing her, and said, “Yes. Your name is ______ Parker.”

“My name ain’t _____ Parker! My name is _______. ________. I’m a ________.” She dropped her voice and Faith knew what was coming. “Listen,” ______ said, “I’m trying to get…”

The forecast was for rain and snow and ice accumulations of up to an inch – but there was only cold rain and the sky is blue now, the last winter storm of the season having passed with little incident. Over the past couple months, I’ve been delegated three grants to write – my headspace and energies and faculties used for the purpose and gain of an entity external to me. Not that getting funds for nonprofits is not an alright thing to do, but the nonprofit industrial complex and the systems of HUD and SAMHSA are pretty disgusting to me and I don’t really give a shit about impressing the city officials or the governing agencies charged with the care of the suffering.

I am not impressed.

Every day I want to quit and make art, allow myself immersion into the poetic consciousness and the time to work on painting a picture all damn day if I want to. I have an irrational fear of walking away from the structure of wage earning, the security of a paycheck – albeit relatively meager  (less than 2,000 a month and no benefits, no paid time off even).

I could probably make enough by other means…

It comes down to faith, to believing that God will have my back, will help me if I am brave enough to step into being what I am and doing what I am led – by a sense of numinous vocation – to do.

There are sharks and whales

that live in the sky above

Cloud strewn wonder loft

Mind rape of television

Feeding wild foxes

walk barefoot in snow to know

how living stings, burns

I don’t need you to send me

pictures of the sky you see

I see my own sky

A Haiku Set is a construction of 18 individual haiku. One anchor haiku, placed at the top of the page, and 17 expanding haiku in vertical columns of 5, 7, and 5.

Each of the syllables of the anchor haiku are represented in the expanding haiku, inviting consideration of the power of singular sounds and compact words to conjure vast associations.

Snow slumps into slush

robins gather in maple

hinting at new leaves.

Crystalline water

reflecting all in convex

white is illusion

I was doing my morning medicine run at the track and even though it was time for me to go home and get ready for workday, I decided to walk a circuit through downtown – just for the sake of keeping moving and to see what I might see. Sometimes, I stay out a little longer on these very cold mornings to remind me to remember I am blessed, and I make sure to see the people who are moving slowly out of the doorways as the sun comes up, and to give them a warm good morning. I refuse to allow myself the comfortable privilege of forgetting that there are people sleeping outside every night, regardless of how bitterly cold it might be, regardless of whether it’s raining or snowing.

This morning, right at the edge of downtown, I ran into my friend – a kid I knew from Brevard, who was homeless there and then became homeless here. My friend has mental health issues that make it hard to keep up with them, and isn’t very interested in jumping through a lot of hoops or filling out a bunch of forms. They have had a bunch of case managers and have been enrolled in a lot of different programs to try to get them housing, but they are still homeless.

I don’t think that it’s their mental health issues that give them a keen sense of right and wrong, and help them to maintain a gracious se la vie attitude toward the hard times they encounter. Usually, they are smiling and optimistic and seemingly without a care in the world. They have a benevolent and happy soul, it seems.

Trance Running

There is the push of wind, that seems to tell me go, keep going, and finds my back as I whisper and then speak “the way that God whispers to us” and I hope and then pray that my message is picked up by the branches that are black on indigo in early morning, waving and scraping small tones, small tines, a phonograph and a seismograph, play the measure and report, report, report – whisper in distant ears…

She resumed her sleeping alone in a narrow bed, the bed her daughter slept in as a child, once a loft and now with legs leveled to nestled perpendicular under another loft, the one that she once slept in and then became her daughter’s, a loft the cat now rests on and which she throws her pajamas in the early morning. She likes sleeping in this small space, a bunk above her just like when she was small and her bed was under her brothers and the wood was heavy and rough, unsanded, built by her father.

Alternate clocks

How can we not see

Rivers in our very own

branching, beating heart?

I’m trying to not know what time it is. To forget the hour, forget minute measures, these hard line technical segments that feel like the legs of centipedes and the countdowns to explosions, the ancient beauty of numbers turned to a business tool, the start of school. I get tired in the afternoon, in the hour before the bell rings. Even though I dropped out almost 30 years ago, I still feel thirteen when I walk alone in the late afternoon, wanting a cigarette and a set of railroad tracks to sit on, casting eyes to left and right waiting to be caught and loving the smell of creosote and the slant of gold light through pine trees after school telling the time of day by the shadows of their trunks and the glow of the needle. I am trying to forget the calendar and the schedules that are made for me, to feel my life unfolding, unfolding, unblocked, untimed.

Feeding Wild Foxes

Today is Christmas and the ground is covered with an icy snow. It is night time, and I will go to sleep soon. 

Yesterday, I ran in the heavy rain at dawn and felt solemn. In the mid-morning, I drove to my folks’ house with the winter mountains grey and dour, foggy clouds caught in valleys as the rain kept falling. All the creeks were running high and muddy. All the animals – deer and squirrels, foxes down in dens – were surely all curled and huddled as close as they could be, trying to keep dry and warm, haunches trembling, eyes slow blinking as the water dripped constant and loud from the leaves.

My mother made little effort to hide her petulant mood, admitted that she was trying not to feel bitter.

We made gingerbread cookies and cheese wafers cut into the shapes of hearts. There was a comfort in the process of mixing and rolling and cutting, rotating hot pans in and out of the oven, the smell of molasses and cinnamon, butter baking. I would sleep the rest of the afternoon, and be able to feel good about resting, having gone out to say Merry Christmas to my mom.

The rain finally turned to snow in the early evening, swirls in strong wind lit by street lights, pooled water freezing in the gutters. 

This morning, I ran in the snow before the sun rose and watched my tracks form a braided perfect path around the track. It was 18 degrees. I took pictures of the marks made by my footfalls, the tapering made by a slightly dragging heel, a bird-like pronation in the even-space prints made by my feet. 

“This is what practice looks like,” I thought, pausing to take a picture of the path stitched in the smooth snow after I’d run a mile. 

I do not listen to anything or watch anything when I run at the track or walk through downtown at sunrise. I only move and breathe and look around. 

It is the best part of my day, even on days when it is exceptionally rainy and cold. Sometimes even especially on days when it is exceptionally rainy and cold. 

I appreciate the direct sensory experience of extreme weather – the biting sweetness of cold and push of wind helps me to remember that I am a creature and reminds me to consider the people who live outside, and the animals in their nests and in their dens, huddled and waiting for storms to pass, accepting freezing rain for what it is. 

There were fox tracks crossing the path from the break in the fence behind the utility shed at the edge of the field. 

All of this feels very theoretical as I make this effort to describe my daily practice of running in the pre-dawn dark regardless of the weather. I have run in the still-spinning remnants of every hurricane that moved through these mountains this year. Yesterday and today, a timespan that held what was undoubtedly some of the worst winter weather we’ve had in several years, I met and exceeded my daily 10-mile practice benchmark. 

There is something very much like poetry in the way I feel and the quality of my not-quite-thoughts when I am out alone moving as the day breaks. 

This afternoon, an hour before sunrise, I packed my backpack with 9 cans of cat food grade tuna fish, three old biscuits, and an expired jar of sunflower seeds. I put on a second pair of socks and a second hat, a merino wool base layer, two scarves. Gloves and liners. I walked down to where the stray cats live by the small creek that feeds into the river and left tuna in the snow under the tree where I had seen them eat. I left a biscuit broke into pieces for the raccoons. I saw a swollen-bellied black cat hiding under a car by a bank of dead kudzu snarls encrusted with snow and ice, upended a can of tuna onto the frozen ground at the edge of the wild, tangled slope down to the railroad tracks. Walked up the gravel road to near under the bridge, left more tuna for the cats who are hiding. On the way back toward the house, we saw fox footprints cutting up through small paths. I left canned fish dumped in the snow near their tracks.

Libidinal hoax

Limbic synapses fire

Oxytocin drunk

Under holy skies

Talented flashing

Toothless mouth, toothless

words with no bite, no cutting

pablum dribbles out

Slow, vapid, lagging

pulse is missing around here

mind glutted with junk

Email inbox trash

landfill of commerce and work

Buy this – do this…now!

Constant Black Friday

Can I unsubscribe from all

Nagging me to spend

Don’t these places know

I hate capitalism

I don’t want any

Look, the mall is here

dying slowly, fast enough

Walkers plod along, numb

My poetry is dying

mind dull and lifeless today

lilting and lurching

This potato is an anomalous heart.
This heart is an anomalous potato.

[reckoning w/ scarcity]

If I were a character in a myth, I’d be a woman with long braids who made herself wake each morning before dawn to circumambulate on a track atop a hill, going around and around in the effort to make her mind clear and to somehow keep in motion some movement toward the future.

There is something in her like a black hole, a sucking whirlpool –

(a vortex of bad metaphors! 😂)

– that she feels right at the edge of her life some days, a field of inspecific orbiting dread.

It is inside of her and outside of her.

[She is probably just hungry.]

I won’t name the era

small sliver of June

knotweed in bloom

by the river that swirled brown

sometimes a blue mirror,

showing shades of grey

that have nothing to do with black and white

simple haze of water gathered

small spheres we cannot see

Holding us in convex arc

Two days past the day

back in May

when they killed George Floyd in the street

for the whole world to see

the feet of millions stomping back

current of outrage rising to flood

again, and again, and again

into the sequence of news

(How many have died since then? How many names have we already forgotten?)

(Why can I not forgive myself for not doing enough?)

(Am I a fool for even trying?)

This era of my walking

for three laps, less than an hour –

fog gathered, Day of Mourning,

two seasons held

bright white, black text

the names of my mother’s pathology

jumbled with the grief of the world

a causeway of flesh and blood and bone

sweat of stories held back by masks

the details of us merging in singular voice

demanding justice

again,

and again,

and again…

How long has it been,

since I said anything here?

At least a few minutes…

Three years ago, I ran in the dark of the early morning on the streets that were paved over that woods I grew up and I tried (very hard) to focus (not quite my mind) on raising the spirits of the land, which are the spirits of the people (Utina) and the spirit of the animals (panther and possum and boar and Luna moth and ringneck) and the spirit of the trees (oak and hickory, bay and gall, and pine – my God, planted in rows by the remnants of the barbed wire fence, planted to rise to the sky and be felled for paper, lumber, whatever…)

I feel in my lungs, not quite my lungs, my heart not quite my heart, some interstitial passageway between my cells, the water of me in small vibrations, tremors that make my small hairs stand, small wind that finds the pine, the oak, as I walk around the track (orbiting body, moving clockwise) and look at the branches all beloved all beloved and feel a sense of weeping rise, a need to fall to my knees for the beauty of these simple trees in the early morning…

She moves in and out of feeling safe. This is something she has known about herself for a long time. It makes sense to her that she would easily shift into a flat guarded numbness. Her earliest immersive experiences of humans outside of her family – the preschool play yard, the elementary classroom – had taught her that people were confusing and unpredictable and that, furthermore, they would laugh at her if she opened her mouth to say anything much more than hello, looking at her strangely as the r sounds slurred and tumbled, soft and without growling.  She was a peculiar child that did not know that she was peculiar, and this led to her being the subject of many baffling cruelties over matters ranging from the voracious chomping of her celery sticks at the school cafeteria lunch table, to her insistence that she carry her bear to school well into the third grade, to her polite excusing herself when she passed gas.

“Excuse me. I passed gas.”

This is what her great-grandmother had told her to say if she passed gas, and yet when she said it, the kids in the desks around her just about rolled into the aisle laughing. She had no idea why. It was confusing to her. Hadn’t she said the right thing, the polite thing?

She learned not to talk about things she liked, and especially not to talk about things that she loved.

Cradling the translucent husk of a cicada’s exoskeleton as if it were a fragile treasure at the edge of the recess yard there was a sudden crowding around her, the sour musk smell of children after lunch on a warm day, a damp forearm crowding against her in the jostle of inquiring voices, “what you got? What is it?” And then a grabbing of her hand, small perfect shell of insect falling weightless to the ground like nothing.

In the morning, she considers the way that the sky always looks like a bowl above the ledge of flat land that the track is set on.

There is a curvature to the dark; The stars seem to hang at angles from one another and the night itself seems convex.

Through the winter trees, she is able to see the bridges lit and largely empty spanning the river. Cars are only occasional. She wonders where people are going with Orion still so visible. It is always quiet at the track even if she can hear the sirens drifting through the spaces between the streets moving toward the hospital.

It’s the last day of fall and the sun has gone down. I ended the day by sweeping the floor and putting on a Dirty Three record from the late 1990s, trying to move the air in the house around. I haven’t written in days, other than proposals for work. Emergency Solutions Grant, Phase 2. Street Outreach.

I drafted a conflict resolution process for a fledgling nonprofit that nobody will read and posted replies to a couple threads on a forum that I joined. The forum is hosted by a musician that I used to listen to, but that I don’t listen to much anymore.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, and the shortest day of the year, which means that the days will already be getting longer again.

winter solstice dusk

slow pulse of lengthening days

orbiting heartbeats 

She opens a new email, no addressee and no subject. Walking around the track, she tries to hold the phone at chest level because the back of her neck hurts from looking down so much these days. When she remembers to, she told s her chin toward the sky and tries to type without looking, <~ it amaZes her, when she looks down, that there are as few errors as there are. She would expect more.

Even cold, her fingers know where to go, where to land their  littletapping pulses to make letters. She can see the QWERTY keys on the screen in her mind. This is something she has learned.

The sun will rise in 28 minutes; when it does, she will be at the house, passing by the hot air exhalation of the pellet stove in the entryway room, glass black with smoke,  the burnpot meek and hunkering, stubbornly combusting the pelletized pine that falls into the fire.

It is an old stove.

Now, however, she is walking around the track as the sky slow lightens and fog settles on the river down the hillside, frost feathering on fallen leaves and cold-dried grasses.

It is the first day of winter. The shortest day of the year.

There is a quiet as she looks around, still moving.

She doesn’t have to watch where she is going here on the track.

For the past several days, she has been reflecting on the events of the year – as many people do during the in-between days of one calendar drawing to a close and the new year not yet starting its slow movement toward spring. The year has gone by fast, but she has a poor sense of temporal orientation. Small amounts of time can seem very long to her and months can pass by quickly.

The family of crows that lives in the neighborhood are fussing about something. Yesterday, a hawk was sitting in the tall oaks in the yard two doors down. It wasn’t quite full light, but she could see that it was a hawk by the shape of it on an uppermost branch, and by the way the crows flew toward the tree sounding their single caw alarm cries, bring more crows to hassle the hawk.

She writes as she runs. Rarely do words make it to the page, but the telling of experience rises and circulates as she moves around the track in the dark. Circumambulating. This going around in circles? It is a theme. She laughs a little internally, silently pleased at how she is able to make fun of herself, the ways she has become humble.

The sun rise is making fleshy raw pink in the eastern sky. Not delicate at all. Light like torn flesh or blood in water.

She reminds herself that only the things that get to the page exist outside of her. Nobody knows what she is thinking, save for maybe the theoretical wisdom of wind and small birds. When she realizes this, that she has said so little of what she would like to say, she is overwhelmed, a feeling of wanting to fall down like the man she talked to on the phone last week. “I just started thinking all of these negative thoughts and I got so miserable I just laid down o

“You vocalize everything,” my 16 year old daughter says, annoyed in the passenger seat beside me after I sighed and declared that I was tired. “You don’t have to say everything you think.”

She continues, “Nobody cares if you’re tired. Stop complaining.”

My daughter is a wonderful young person.

This is the way of writing for her. She begins somewhere and wanders, sometimes going in circles.

Three years ago, she was on the verge of finally putting together a writing project that would help her to find mentors or at the very least someone who would tell her – honestly – that she needs to give up. She traveled back to her first home by the river and slept in the abandoned house that she grew up in, watching the lizards crawl in and out of the walls and listening to the raccoons thump and shuffle across the roof. The house would be torn down within six months, after the final sale of the land that raised her.

There was something different about that time of declaring that – finally – she would put together her book.

Perhaps it was the sprig of cedar that he had walked over at the edge of the dock, tied carefully to the outside of the parcel that she buried in the sandy soil on the spit of land where the river split into three branches. Maybe that was what brought him so devotedly and consumingly into her life.

Maybe it was her own psychology of barriers and sabotage that manifested a perfect lover to take all her time and energy in those fragile few months of beginning?

Maybe it was some trickster force that undermines a certain willing light to come into the world, tangles the feet of the determined?

Maybe it was just love, oxytocin and old attachments and a sense of storied romance?

Whatever the case, she did not write a book.

It is Christmas Eve and dull cold, drizzly. There is something pouting in her. “This should be snow.” She should be merry, and there ought to be an excited warmth here at the edge of dawn on Christmas Day. The rain is blown by a wind from indeterminate direction, sometimes seeming from the east and sometimes from the north. She pictures it swirling like hurricanes do, like an eddy in the river. It pushes at her back when she is on the south straightaway of the track and blows against her face as she completes the clockwise orbit, backwards here – against the directions of the lanes.

In her mind, she rehearses what she might say. Amicable. Respectful. Apologetic, but not tearful.

It’s the end of a day that began with the setting of the last full moon of the year, a big orange sphere low in the west like a setting sun.

Yesterday, I ran 10 miles without really trying, and this morning I considered stopping at 6.5 miles – which is my usual morning run distance.

I had more running in me, and so I sprinted to the bridge to try to see the full moon set, and only caught a half-globe on the horizon behind the shopping center across the river.

The morning has been an amazing time lately, full of gifts and wonders. It is easy to wake up early, because I don’t want to miss the dawn. I am excited to walk out into the dark and begin running, not knowing how the morning will end up feeling.

I used to wake up with horrible anxiety and perseverative thoughts about things I didn’t want to think about. I still do some mornings, but running for at least an hour every morning before the sun comes up has somewhat transformed my early-day chemistry.

Also, I’m sure that getting back on medication after ten years of not being on medication is a major factor in the phenomenon of me feeling better.

I have been doing an inventory of the year, as many people probably are. I have walked and run well over 3,000 miles this year and maintained a daily practice of at least 10 miles of movement the vast majority of days. I quit smoking, again and at last and for good.

I successfully wrote about 500,000.00 worth of grants to fund non-profit recovery organizations. I began to learn to listen to my gut about what I needed to spend time doing.

I showed up for my mom during her months of cancer treatment and took a nap with her in the little hospital bed after she had her surgery.

I ran circles around the track and pictured white-blue light suffusing my mom’s epithelial cells, light burrowing into the tumors.

I fell in love with my daughter again and helped her to get her first job. I made myself a room.

I talked with my son about college applications and stayed out of his way when he said he wanted to handle his own applications. So far, he has been accepted at every school he applied too.

I stopped eating animal products and realized that I am not able to digest some sugars.

Right now, I am walking around the track after running 6 miles. I can move faster than I have ever been able to move before without even trying much or thinking about it at all. After five years of practice, my body has begun to learn how to run again, how to pick my legs up and move from my hips, how to breathe and keep my chest open, how to forget that I am moving and simply move.

When I go out in the morning, sometimes as early as 5:00am, regardless of the weather, I realize that I am an eccentric person – running in the rain for the sake of feeling hurricane winds and tasting the water lifted from the ocean hundreds of miles away. The day after Christmas it was 10 degrees and felt like 1. I wasn’t cold at all, despite only wearing my usual layers. For the last mile of the walk, I took off my gloves and breathed deep to keep my fingers warm. When I got home, I found my friend sitting in front of the fire, just waking up. “See,” I extended my hand, “not cold at all.”

I don’t listen to music or podcasts or anything at all. I keep my phone in my pocket, carrying it only because I don’t have a running watch and I like to track my miles. At this point, I can tell how far I’ve gone by the feel of my legs. I know that at three miles, I will naturally increase my pace. At five miles, I will forget that I am running at all.

It’s the full moon and I didn’t sleep well last night. It wasn’t a fitful or frustrated lack of sleep. I was just wakeful. I still share a bed with my friend and he holds onto me through the night, pressing his warm body against mine, scooting closer until I have only the edge of the bed to lay on.

When my children were little, they would do the same thing.

It’s a very human thing to do, a very animal thing to do – to seek a warm body to hold onto in the night.

My friend and I are approaching our three year anniversary. It is, in fact, tomorrow. New Year’s Eve. Incidentally, that is also the three year anniversary of the last night that I ever spent in the house I grew up in. The house my father built. The house that no longer exists.

Before the relationship with my friend, I had been celibate for five years. I think a lot about how much I am drawn to a lifestyle in which I devote myself to spirit and work, how much celibacy and quiet contemplation feels congruent with my values. How right that feels to me.

I have spent the past 18 years raising my children and working in the nonprofit world with people who are suffering and struggling in ways that most everyday middle class white Americans probably can’t comprehend. I’ve never earned more than $19.00/hour.

At the end of the day, I mostly want to be alone.

The kid moved toward her across the parking lot, and she recognized his eyes and stature despite the mask covering the lower half of his face. He raised his hand and asked how she had been doing. She told him that she didn’t remember his name.

Her name, he showed her, had just been tattooed across the back of his left hand, with a blocky cross as a center piece and the letters curling like somebody’s girlfriend’s name.

She understood, as he continued to stand there, that he was going to ask her for something. That he wanted something from her. “I’m trying to get a ride to pick up my guitar.”  She knew she couldn’t give him a ride. Positive tests were on the rise, doubling and then tripling. Thousands of people a day are dying.

She remembered him and his girlfriend riding around with a kitten they’d adopted. He came to groups at the center to fulfill program requirements, go to 1/2 a group, get the paper signed.

He was a nice enough kid, interesting. His own sort of style. Into parkour and art. Played guitar with an edge of charming narcissism that made the missed notes not seem matter.

She saw herself talking to him, woman in the parking lot. Car and groceries. Mask. Saw herself saying, “I don’t know…” and feeling the fawning as he pressed just a little. “It’s not far.”

“I can give you gas money.”

She was immediately aware of how small the interior of the car was, how his arm was close, his mask bunched and a little dirty, one of the reusables from the big grocery store out on Tunnel, lined up by the end caps of the aisles. 

It is the first calendar day of a new year. I woke up and rain 6 miles in the rain, being sure to hold my hands palm up in front of me for small stretches to feel the washing of the rainfall and imagine that – somehow – it was cleansing me, blessing me. It is the first day of a new year, and I couldn’t see the waning moon because of the clouds, but stopped to take 10 seconds of video of the flashing fluorescents in the empty 6th grade classroom as I walked by the school, briefly appreciated the seeming pulse of the building, the patterns that show up in movement and light.

I intended to write yesterday. Probably a lot of people intended to write yesterday. It was one of those days, the end of a long, strange year. The last day is an obvious opportunity for reflection and commemoration.

She purchased a pork loin and 12 ounces of applewood smoked bacon. Smoked trout. Brussels sprouts. Almonds covered in dark chocolate. A small bag of pecans. That morning, she had cried by the fire as she looked at her friend. Real tears, a substance thicker than just salt and water. Dull clenching and unclenching in her actual, physical heart – somewhere around the crossing of the left and right ventricles. “It hurts,” she said, a small whining lift in the statement. “I don’t know what else to do.” Tears, hot and viscous, mixed with mucus from her sad running nose, and she realized that she would not be able to write in the morning. That she had spent her writing time talking with her friend and crying about the necessity of ending their relationship.

It’s the second day of the new year and she is certain that she made the right decision. Her intuition had been nagging her, strongly every morning and through the day, telling her that something was not right, something was not working. She noticed the way her jaw would set at the sound of her friend’s voice.

It’s not that she didn’t like her friend, love her friend. It was more a matter of simply wanting to be left alone, to be alone. To have long stretches of time during which she was not beholden to orient her attention to a person external to her, to listen to what they are saying, to smile and nod, to laugh. She is a person who needs enormous amounts of time alone, and she thought she’d been clear about that when she agreed to enter into partnership with her friend. She knows she told him clearly at least a hundred times. Sometimes she yelled at him, frustrated and tearful. “Please,” she would say, “I just want to be left alone. I just want to be alone.”

She came to believe that he was not really her friend because he seemed to disregard her need to be alone.

It is the third day of the new year, a Sunday, and the fog obscures the lights down in the river arts district, but somehow amplifies the sound of traffic going over the bridges coming into town, an anonymous rush and sigh to the west. Water falls from thin branches, arrhythmic and sparse.

She put on new shoes this morning, figuring she must have run 500 miles in her old ones, and noticing they felt flat and hard when her feet hit the ground. She had found a clearance deal in the fall –  $40 a pair for good running shoes. She bought 3 pairs, figuring that some single pairs of shoes cost 130.00, which she could never afford. Her feet slap the ground, awkwardly loud in the near-silence of early morning.

She breathes as she runs, starting off too fast, slowing down and breathing through her nose. Transcendental meditation calls for a person to say a phrase again and again, a mantra. She considers this as she runs, thinking about the email she needs to write, the request for her help writing a grant with just two days notice, the way she’d felt anxious about saying no, not right about saying yes. She had been avoiding being in touch with the people who’d asked for her help, because she did not want to say no and she did not want to say yes.

There is an anxiety, a tightening in her sense of attention that she doesn’t like. (Even writing about it now, she feels anxious – and that is good information for her to have. At least several times a week she quietly considers the possibility that she could go on a sabbatical from working in nonprofit human services. She could get a job at the grocery store down the street – independently owned and operated, specializing in re-sale lots of an ever-changing assortment of near-expiration health foods. She goes there almost everyday anyway. It’s only a 1/2 mile away, her neighborhood store.

She has almost entirely stopped going to ‘the big store,’ a regional chain supermarket that has too much of everything and is too bright and loud for her to navigate with any sort of ease. Two days prior, on the first day of the year, she had met her mother and father at one of the remaining unimproved small stores in the big chain’s list of locations, out on the highway alternate heading toward the east end of the county.  She had forgotten to both get and to soak black eyed peas for the new year, and so she was meeting her parents in the parking lot halfway between her house and their house to pick up peas her mother had soaked. A water-filled Tupperware and a small plastic bag of collard leaves from her mother’s garden. They had died and then grown-back, as some things do. 

Her mother was waiting for her in the car when she got there, sitting in the backseat like a kid. “I got out of the car and then I got cold,” she explained, putting her raincoat on over her other jacket to go into the store. Inside, they looked for her father, but didn’t see him anywhere. Not in the produce section, or among the old-fashioned energy-wasting open cooler bins that run down the center of the store. “We’ll find him,” her mother said, as if losing her father in a relatively small grocery store were a regular occurrence. 

In the cereal aisle, they spotted him moving in the direction against the flow indicated by the arrows on the floor, looking stunned and even weaving a little. He was the wearing purplish reading glasses that he’d gotten after his recent Lasix surgery that corrected his vision to the extent that he no longer needed glasses. He had worn glasses for so long that he immediately took to wearing a low prescription pair of readers that he got at the drugstore. “Are those purple,” she had asked, carefully and casually as he cleaned them on a recent day before driving her and her daughter back into town.  “No,” he glanced briefly at the glasses before putting them on. “They are brown.”

It was in the cereal aisle that they found her father, staggering a little, seeming bewildered, list crumpled in his hand. “I couldn’t find anything, but I got bananas and pears, and then I went to find ____, and she wasn’t in the car and so I came back.” The list was assembled less as a list and more an erratic constellation of items penned in her mother’s scrawled hand. Her mother had made her lists like this for years, on yellow legal paper with tomatoes and kitty litter and ketchup written at angles, defying all of the lines and columns pre-printed on the page. Some unimportant items appeared to be written in bold. Paper towels. The letters gone over and over again, probably while her mother was on the phone with one of her sisters.

Anyway, when she thinks about the fact that there is a world in which people aren’t constantly obsessing about getting grant funds for nonprofit human services work, not constantly considering homelessness and suicide, the delicate relationships with ‘community partners,’ the politics of doing good work, the allowable activities and funding restrictions and…any of it…there is a world where people are talking about art and ideas, and savoring the sound and feel of poetry and – my God – they are laughing…and she wants that. She wants to be in that world. 

She wants to take a sabbatical from the work she has done for 25 years.

Note: She wants to remember the question of why someone else’s need to talk about themselves and their ideas would supersede her need to sit quietly and think, to allow her thoughts to focus, to consider her own ideas.

Note re: need to research external processing and internal processing, possible intersection with socialized gender roles.

I decided to draw again, and in the absence of inspiration, opted to sharpen my technical skill and practice by drawing whatever was on the page of a book of clipart that I have had since 1999. Axes and hammers. Breaking and building.

Entelechy

She was born into a world at the edge. A hospital beside a river, a house beside the marsh, outskirts of town at the end of a dirt road. Ocean stretched out beyond the line of horizon, led to the slow-crumbling coasts of lands on the other side of the world, places that were only ideas to her, colored splotches on the curve of a globe, flat shapes on a page, the enormity of the world reduced to glancing scale. “Oh, here is the United States,” smaller than her own hand, “and here,” tracing a journey in a few seconds with the tip of her finger, “here is Lebanon.” She found Germany, and England. Norway. Pivoted her pointer finger from the anchor of her thumb like a compass, connecting the places that had become bound in the chromosomal twining of her DNA – her brown eyes from her mother, her strong jaw and the silky fineness of her hair from her father.

There were no edges – really – though she did not know this when she was young. 

When she woke up in the morning, after going to sleep as a strategy to avoid the fact that she did not feel belonging anywhere in her life, with anyone, not for more than a moment, went to sleep to avoid this knowing and dreamt of a huge mountain house left behind and full of lamps, woke up to the same knowing that she felt belonging only with herself and only when alone, she noticed that there were spider webs strung between the power lines, strung with droplets of water and thus visible.

entelechy

From Late Latin entelechia, from Ancient Greek ἐντελέχεια (entelékheia), coined by Aristotle from:

ἐντελής

(entelés, “complete, finished, perfect”)

(from τέλος (télos, “end, fruition, accomplishment”)) + ἔχω (ékho, “to have”)

   IPA: /ɛnˈtɛləki/

Noun

entelechy (plural entelechies)

   (Aristotelian philosophy)

The complete actualization and final form of a potency or potentiality, or of a conception.

A particular type of motivation, need for self-determination, and inner strength directing life and growth to become all one is capable of being. It is the need to actualize one’s beliefs. It is having a personal vision and being able to actualize that vision from within.

Something complex that emerges when you put a large number of simple objects together.

The other morning, I saw one of the stragglers from the Leonid meteor shower burn across the western sky at 6:10am. It was the biggest shooting star I’ve ever seen, with a broad comet-like tail that glowed greenish in its incineration and stayed in the sky as a dimly haze – like a faint contrail – for a few moments after the bright burning path of the meteor had disappeared. At that moment, running in the dark on the eastern straightaway of the track at the middle school, I’d been thinking about entelechy and the process of potential, of disparate parts making a coherent whole, and also about why it is important to me to be a good steward of my headspace and to use my time wisely.

It is not important for me to be a part of some conversations.

Hulking flat land beasts

never move from where they sit

watching sun lit plains

 

Columns, brick, steel blades

spray down the floors twice a day

still blood-streaked, sticky

 

Damn thing never sleeps

all day long it eats and eats

belches, hisses, grinds

 

mouths open toothless

for the rolling-eyed to roll

scared when they smell death

 

there is no stampede

tight funneling corridors

green glowing lights swing

 

men who were children

stand for hours, legs aching

disposable clad

 

hands into machines

no talking over the din

You are there to work

 

Smell seeping into skin

wife doesn’t cringe anymore

She is used to it

 

Do you remember

how beloved the cows were

cattle fields back home

 

heavy bodies, slow

gentle eyes gaze ahead

calves rest in the grass

 

grandmother tends them

swatting haunches, gathering

a procession home

 

She taught you respect,

reverence for what feeds you

kindness, dignity

 

don’t know different

Born onto feed lot acres 

living in our filth

 

cannot imagine

fresh air, sweet grass, open space

don’t know to miss it

 

I read an article today about how Waterloo meat bosses made bets on how many workers would get COVID and forced them to work, killing at least five people.

The meat industry is disgusting.

Processing plants are giant machines, do the dirty work of eating animals for us. Turn people into teeth, cutting up the meat.

Let us not forget

Modern American normal

a middle class dream

 

We live in limbic

Autonomic responses

That we call true love

 

Wring your hands, asking

Will things go back to normal?

Subjectivity

 

cement mixer spins

Highways, capillaries pulse

Shuffling papers

 

Curl up your bangs, girl

Fix ‘em so they look like waves

tease the locks, ratting

 

mascara lashes

leaning in close and focused

Breathe in, mouth open

 

anti-rebellion

enter the card numbers, pin

Fashion a rebel

 

Sit by the bookcase

Near the plate glass windows, watch,

be watched watching

 

explaining everything

(Coffeeshop philosopher)

to everyone

 

Convenience store

familiarity, smiles

go everyday

 

social code: no eye contact

The wind in the mountains has been carrying water from the ocean for weeks. A vague salt at the edges of scent, a humid round warmth despite November. These winds, stirred up by storms that form in the tropics, hundreds of nautical miles away, make the coast feel close, and the dry rattle of oak leaves gone scarlet for the season is the same here as it is on the edge of Georgia.

Isn’t it such a human tendency to think of home in certain breezes?

Her mother ordered the tulips last spring, selected them from one of the catalogs that comes to the mailbox down at the end of the road. Thin paged and dense with small rectangles of blooms, the made-up names in bold. Comet Tail. Jeffers’ Blue. Occasionally there is a 1/2 page photo of the fields at the flower farm. Rows upon rows of blazing color under unwaveringly blue skies, a row of trees on the horizon suggesting that this is a place adjacent to a regular place, a place with trees and perhaps a road, a road that somehow connects to these fields of flowers.

> Sitting at the kitchen table, other catalogs piled on the left, a dogs’ tennis ball in the bowl of fruit, a legal pad to the right of the frill-edged placemat where she would write down things she found interesting in the paper or in the catalogs. Book talk at library, 6/26, 4:30. Lion’s Mane. Reishi mushrooms. Hummingbird Migration.

> The legal pad was an extension of the bulletin board in the laundry room, where articles or photographs were clipped from the paper and pinned to the cork. A brief list of trails from the Travel section. The Trail of Tears and the Oregon Trail. The Iditarod. Two pictures of owls cut from a magazine. An article about chipmunks preparing for hibernation. The phrase Or Better handwritten in bold, thick Sharpie, partially layered over by an out of date piece about the blue moon, the hunters moon. A ballpoint pin map of the 7 apple trees planted behind the house, circles for each tree, their names and variety written inside. Jonathan. Fuji.

> The legal pad on the table accumulated these small notes written in diagonals across the pages until it was full and fat-seeming from having its pages folded back over each other, edges curled and a little dip at the top of the pages where they’d been flipped back and held down by the weight of the pad to expose a new page. There was a cardboard mailbox under her mother’s desk that held several legal pads and folders with more legal pads in them. Some of them were barely full. This was her mother’s way of keeping a record.

> Somewhere in the legal pad of last spring, there are probably the words “——“ and “—-“ These are the names of the bulbs she ordered from the tulip farm. 

“Put them in the place by where we tried to grow vegetables.” She stands in the kitchen by the window, directing my father and I to look at the small rectangle on the back slope of the yard, where young collard greens are coming up in a row still.

“You mean the garden?”

“Yes, I want to be able to see them from this window. There are two kinds of purple. Just mix them. I don’t care how they are planted, but I want to be able to see them from this window.”

The soil is loose and sandy. Grass is easy to pull up and the dirt falls from its roots without resistance. Beside her is a pile of plucked grass, pale capillaries exposed to the drying air. Tulips don’t like their feet wet, her mother has told her, and she hopes that this far up the slope, in the plot beside the young collards, the soil will be dry, will drain well.

The land here seeps with underground springs that sometimes push up through the lawn to burble into streams that run under the house. 

The day was warm, and despite the leaves having fallen from the trees already there was a slight benevolence in the slant of sunlight as the afternoon slipped toward evening. It felt to _______ like a different time, a different decade, one of those days that reminds you of the feeling of youth somehow, of how it felt to be young. The mountains get cold quickly, and then warm again for several days at a time depending on what sort of weather is happening in the surrounding regions. Last month, there had been humid storms one after another, the remnants of hurricanes that had moved up through the Gulf Coast in a ragged swirling mass dumping water from the ocean onto all the land-bound fields of Alabama. Sometimes there is snow from Canada. Rarely it seems does weather form in the mountains to go elsewhere. In valleys and coves and up on the balds scraped clean by fire or the wanton grazing of yesteryear there are pockets of aberrant and interesting weather that form depending local conditions, moisture trapped in the shaded folds of a river’s path, exposed fields of wind-flattened grass and low growing scrub in the high elevations. Small storms spring up, and then dissipate, never going far. It may rain on one side of a mountain, socked in with a roiling primordial fog that gathers as heavy droplets on the leaves of rhododendron and mountain ash, held in the brackets of spruce branches to drip and fall like rain onto ground that is never quite dry and spongy soft with needle duff and moss. On the other side of the mountain, the sun may be beating down to ripen berries and warm the rock faces for canebrake and copperhead to rest on.

However, no big storms form in the mountains to move along to other places. Any weather that is birthed here stays here, doesn’t go far at all. _______ wondered if it would snow much this year, and considered the broken branches of the hedge trees that still hung dangling in the side yard. The snow from a few years back broke them, and they’d not yet fallen. They looked painful, the straight-down angle of the branches and the wood at the break split like a bone.

The question of snow lingered in the humid air. Though it was too warm to snow, the clouds were stolid and dark.

I put together a book of poems and realized that I had the layout all wrong, but that it didn’t matter because the whole point of my putting together the book of poems was to learn more about what I am doing wrong – or, rather, what I could stand to strengthen, what I need to learn to pay attention to.

A lot of my language is flat these past few months, but I am trying to be patient with myself here now 8 months, almost 9 months, into the pandemic, 6 months since my mother’s diagnosis, 6 weeks since her surgery, 2 months since her last chemo treatment, 6 weeks since the old orange cat died in the living room, stretching and grimacing and cry out a ragged meow as his body systems shut down finally after weeks of not being able to eat, staring at the water in his dish as if divining a glimpse of what might come next. He had cancer, too. My daughter has been working for 6 weeks, and Thanksgiving/Day of Mourning is on Thursday.

I am focusing a lot on the concrete, the material, the things I need to show up for. However, I am also still very much trying to keep one foot in the liminal, to not forget the mystery and the enormity, the phenomenon of so many lives and movements sprawling out from wherever I might be standing.

The goal of running/walking 10 miles a day has continued to be met most days. On days that I do not meet the goal, I come close, and I make up the difference over the days that follow.

The deer was a streak of movement in the dark, almost silent moving at the perimeter of the track. I knew it was a deer because of the soundlessness, the way the form moved in the pre-dawn absence of light. It is easy to recognize some things, especially if you’ve seen them hundreds of times. The smooth line of a running deer is familiar, even when there is no light. As I round the curve of the track the deer cut right, bounding and leaping across the football field to the other side of the track near where I had first seen it.

We repeated this five or six times. I ran toward the dark end of the track and the deer skirted the edge, a stealthy blurred form near the fence, then ran across the field to the pocket of the shadow by the ditch and a small oak only to break into a cruising run as I approached again.

As I write this a day later my eyes are heavy and the mind-space is fuzzy, a little blank. There is no sharp sense of inspiration or vision, though I have thought determinedly about poetry every morning as I run in the dark at the middle school. I remember several laps in that thinking never got me much of anywhere and that poetry is far more likely to find me if I am not thinking of anything at all, if I am just breathing and watching the silhouettes of trees slide by against the inky sky, noticing the fog settling over the lights by the bridge across the river down the slope, the way the world disappears right before dawn.

My mom is supposed to get out of the hospital today, pending some business with her bowel. My father was vacuuming when I called him this morning. My son left the house early to run with the cross country team as part of the effort to prepare themselves for the possibility of a state championship despite the pandemic. My daughter will be going to work this afternoon.

I have to clock in to work in three minutes. I don’t remember whether I mentioned here that my cat had died.

What a fucking week it has been…

Somehow, I am still okay.

They live in marshes

make intricate homes of reeds

arches like tunnels

 

Floors always sinking

Watery perimeter

flocks of birds visit

 

Those who live without

states and tariffs, taxes

useless by design

 

antagonism

sneering kings with no power

drain the wetlands dry

 

reeds dry in the sun

slowly crack and turn to dust

civilization

 

dinosaur sludge blood

grand machinery digs deep

fires catch, the earth weeps

 

innovation sold

leveraged for the profit

of the immoral

 

huge opulent rooms

islands built where there were none

shaped like the palm tree

 

sand is cold at night

the only sound is grinding

hungry metal groans

 

we are never clean

oil and dirt under the nails

skin lined, dark rivers

 

we all want the world

to be as we believe it

ought to be, by God

 

noble, to be brave

close the cockpit, brace yourself

ground tilting, rushing

 

impact nullifies

any past, future, bravery

you become ashes

 

names forgotten quick

not even spoken in news

never said aloud

 

at home, mothers cry

mourning the death of brave sons

wear black forever

 

there is no noble

wasteful acts of explosions

in a world on fire

 

You were lied to, kid

by someone playing a God

they still sleep at night

 

take the road straight north

following fence lines in pines

gates are on the right

 

guard from Ohio

nineteen years old, just last month

signed on with no choice

 

No good options there

Fast food, gas stations, drunk mom

land grey, flat, endless

 

Sit in the booth, wait

Headlights approach, slow down some

a window opens

 

soft arm extended

plastic badge held for passage

proof of belonging

 

nobody knows where

bombs are asleep under ground

under surveillance

 

24 hours

7 days a week, all year

never rest easy

 

the local paper

claimed great opportunity

put the place on maps

 

there was no report

on the nuclear weapons

sleeping by rivers

 

submarines are fish

floating in the docking bays

men in their bellies

 

fathers and brothers

soft skin under uniforms

beige, identical

 

out to sea for months

cruising oceans far away

gathering data

 

degaussed, signal stripped

invisible hull cutting

under the big blue

 

the officers sleep

safely in big houses

bricks under oak shade

 

there was no war news

no warnings issued to us

bombs ready, waiting

 

We rode the buses

sat still to learn history

laughing, no knowledge

 

invisible place

studied by men all over

war men, generals

 

 

Tone like a tiny stammering heart

a bird or a shrew, something much smaller

hidden or flying, always fleeing

the cadence officially wakes you

though the ocean falling

had you tossed, turned

rolled over like a shell in the dark underneath

waiting for the sound that forces a move

one direction or another

get up or stay down

and you listen to the water

hitting the ground

and consider the fact

that the hurricane rain

is a special event,

fast moving and not to be missed

this chance to smell the ocean

carried to the mountains

by winds that were born

thousands of miles away

the rain is heavy on your face

and you call it cleansing

even though you’re not sure

if you believe in anything anymore

and you think about the trees felled

yards flooded

babies crying

dogs swimming

waves swelling and lines falling

notice the rough shine on the streets

ragged in the gusts

and you run

like you used to run across the sand

fearlessly crashing into the water

At the curve by the shed

you consider your mother saying

that she was glad

she didn’t have to get the pelvic exams

anymore

and you wonder why she didn’t

is this something that happens

between doctors and old women

the abandoning of the ‘girl parts’

as your mother calls them

‘lady parts,’

not spoken about or examined,

until the stomachache

the changes in bowel and bladder

“I can’t eat the tomato sauce anymore,”

she explains last fall, telling you

she has heartburn,

that you don’t ask about,

until you notice

that she’s rounder than she has been

doesn’t eat hardly a thing

looks like she’s gonna have a baby,

but she’s old,

too old to be having the pelvic exam,

much less a baby,

still you say,

“You should maybe go to the doctor?”

and on the curve by the shed you wonder if that man who raped your mother years ago, when you were 12, when she was buying presents for you and your brother at the mall that doesn’t exist anymore just down the road from where the Black man running was beaten and shot, where your mother was pulled into her own car and raped, if that man made her erase her girl parts, her lady parts, if he – in way – is responsible for her dying of cancer.

concepts of half register as a plinking

dull pulse of meaning, relevance without substance, no real spelling out of quantity or quality, only an amount that you recognize as a portion of another amount which you equally cannot picture when they talk about half gone half destroyed half burnt half cut and, also, half-hearted the way you want to know the fullness of this thing they say, that half of them are gone, the totality of where the half went, this half that is gone, this half destroyed, and you are only half certain that you want to know the whole truth of what has happened and what will happen.

Inside, there is a constant shuffling, a rearranging, constellating of factors

too numerous and small to even imagine

the respiration of cells ,

 the minuscule tremor of cytoplasm

dilation of vessels and gas exchange

in the alveoli, cilia wave like grass stirred by wind while deep in the tissue the nuclei release the signal to die, or to grow, to divide and to divide and to divide…and so it goes a billion times over all day and every day,

the interchanges of evolution writing out new possible futures in the space between heartbeats, the pause between breaths…

All day long, my future is re-written.

As soon as the sun rises, I don’t want to write. This is, of course, because it is time to write. I’m sure that if I aimed to write a 5:00am, I wouldn’t want to write then either. The sequence of my mornings from mid-summer and on into the fall has been to be at the middle school track early, running around and around, studying the line of trees that marks the perimeter of what remains of the Clingman Woods, now a small strip of oak and hickory on a slope too steep to build on, home to the screech owl I hear only occasionally and a number of other creatures.

Here is the problem with writing: There is too much to say. I have 34 minutes before I have to clock in for work and here I am thinking about the deer that was at the track with me last week, maybe late the week before. All the early mornings blur together. The deer must have entered the track at the break in the fence behind the storage shed on the southwest corner of the baseball field that is adjacent. There is a door-sized section of chainlink missing there where one fence ends and another begins. The deer must have gotten in there, at the break in the fence, not realizing where it was going or how to get back to the small line of forest the separates the middle school perched on its hill from Clingman Avenue down by the River Arts District. I might have written about the deer, or tried to for a few minutes at least, or maybe I only thought about writing down the way I recognized the running form of the deer.  Even though it was dark I could see the pale of its haunches and the lightness of its running-with-small-trotting-leaps. I saw the movement at the edge of the track and despite it being dark and me being alone and the school being on a street where there are sometimes sketchy people because there are poor people who have been through a lot and poor people who have been through a lot can sometimes be sketchy because they are trying to survive and sometimes under the influence of drugs or bad ideas or trying to get some power over something or somebody because they ain’t never had power or all there power got took and so they might be wanting to take power from someone else just for the feeling of having a little control over something, despite all that and the fact that sometimes the track is eerie at 5:30 in the morning, with just the wind in the trees or the stillness of no wind and the smell of someone’s campfire out behind a building somewhere down closer to the street or tucked up into the woods trying to stay warm, it wasn’t scary to see the deer. Not even for a second. It wasn’t scary. As soon as I saw the movement I knew it was a deer without even trying to know.

My boss just texted me about some grant I am supposed to start working on at 9:00am, in 22 minutes.

I forget about the deer, about how I felt grateful for seeing it, and for knowing without trying that it was a deer, and for the way it leapt when it ran across the football field to be further from me.

So, as I was saying, the problem with writing is that there is just too much, and all of it strings together, is connected en masse and thank god for poetry because that might really be the only way to say anything about what it is to be running around in circles before dawn every day and to watch the sky be doing whatever it is that it is doing without knowing it is doing anything at all, existing with Orion clear and to the south covered or not covered, clouds moving or still, the moon in its phases and the winds moving in currents over the bowl of the field, warm moving up from the flat river sides, the paved streets and rock-heap rail bed, the flat lands way down yonder baking under the sun yesterday and warming up the air to be carried by the storm all the way here in these mountains, that storm that came all the way up through the Gulf of Mexico, pulling up water from the ocean to rain down on me in the morning before the sun even rises.

This morning, I was thinking about anticipatory grief, and how I haven’t said anything for a while, about how my mom had her surgery and has been home a week and a 1/2 now, staples out and abdomen deflated from the volleyball-sized mass of her fused ovaries, uterus, and segment of bowel, the high-grade serous carcinoma that originated in the epithelial cells of her Fallopian tubes as a result of a few strands of damaged DNA. She is much diminished, my mother.

I can hold my hands in a circle-shape, a dilation-shape made with just the tips of my pointer fingers and the tips of my thumbs, and still not even have to try to encircle her thigh.

Her arms are showing their bones.

This morning, after reading the pathology report given to her yesterday by her doctor at the post-operative appointment that I did not attend due to having a racial equity committee meeting scheduled and needing to give my daughter a ride to work in the mid-afternoon, I thought about anticipatory grief and about how I am watching my mother die, just like I watched my great-grandmother get old and die, just like I watched the land I grew up on and loved get torn up and paved, just like I watched the marshes begin to die, and the wild places on the sides of roads get cut down for some drab square shaped place, and how I am not watching the whole world struggle with this complex sickness and the country I live in slowly collapse under the weight of its own dysfunction and ugliness…and how there is not much I can do about any of it…

And so like I was saying, there is too much to say…

I have to go to work in 3 minutes now, and I haven’t even begun to spell out the feeling of grief that lives in me lately and has lived in me for almost as long as I can remember.

it is easy to name the thing that kill us

we can call it by one syllable, by two,

three if we’re being technical

summarizing in simple terms

the ways that cells refuse to die

or die all too quickly,

the details don’t matter

in the way we speak about these things

these things that kill us

A young working man

To walk like a whisper

imagine air as body

and watch where you step

you can be soundless

almost anyway – quiet

quieter than most

body as air, rise

don’t try to beat gravity

it doesn’t exist

Today is Halloween or Samhain or the evening before the Day of the Dead. Saturday the 31st and I missed the sunrise for the first time in weeks, but that’s okay. It is a hazard of sleeping in a dark room. You are not quite sure when the daylight comes.

Today, I drew a 6 of spades, and a Queen of Clubs, then an ace of spades, which ignored as a sign I was being willful. I put them all back in the deck and drew an 8 of hearts encouraging me to be mindful in keeping a positive attitude. It’s another all or nothing card – the eight of hearts, like the 8 of diamonds. The eight of hearts also signifies poor returns on investments and deals falling through at the last minute. It’s not an especially favorable card.

I am going to start writing down the cards I pull, because there are definite patterns and tendencies. Earlier this week, I pulled the 5 and the 8 of diamonds two days in a row despite significantly shuffling. Similar occurrences have taken place with the 8 of clubs – my birth card.

Right now, I am supposed to be writing poetry for a contest I intend to enter. Recently, however, I have been reminded that it is important to be taking notes and that I need to resume and sharpen that practice. Taking notes is the precursor of poetry, because it limbers my mind for writing and also creates a space for noticing.

I am learning about the formalities of poetry from the 3rd edition of Babette Deutsch’s Poetry Handbook, which is a dictionary and guide to poetic terminology and forms, with explanations and examples. I found the book in a free box somewhere. It has library binding and once belonged to the Jackson County Comprehensive High School. It is in alphabetical order, but contains cross referenced entries. The book is full of words I’ve never heard of and I understand that if I actually want to learn what the book might have to teach me, I need to take notes. That is how I best learn, by taking notes – writing things down.