It’s 6:40 a.m. and I’m in my writing spot with a giant cup of coffee that reads: COFFEE PAIRS NICELY WITH SILENCE. (Who got me this mug? It’s so me.) I’ve sent two emails and looked at a ceiling fan I might buy even though summer seems to be finally, finally over. I read a FB post from my local newspaper and skimmed through the comments and steeled myself to not say anything. It took incredible willpower, and my husband would be proud.
This is today, and I am here for it.
Or, I am mostly here for it.
Put another way, I am not altogether here.
Right now, it feels like a very hard time to be alive in the world.
I’m not trying to be dramatic—I wasn’t the one who wrote the plot about pandemics and fires and smoke plumes and hurricanes and forced hysterectomies and whatever else is happening. (Are murder hornets still a thing?) And it’s mostly quiet in my little world—I didn’t have to flee my home or batten down the hatches. We did put our beloved beagle to rest last week, something that would have happened with or without fire and pandemic, but has left us nevertheless with a barren landscape.
Since March, I’ve been teaching and writing from home. There was an immediate contraction of my social circle when the pandemic hit—no bumping into acquaintances in line for a mojito at the State Theatre; no squeezing into the last two seats at the Prospect; no nodding hello to the sweet older couples at church. I miss all of them. I miss passing my colleagues in the hallway and bitching about an email so-and-so sent. I miss the woman who made my skinny vanilla lattes twice a week and talked to me like we were old friends. (And I’m such a shit, I can’t even remember her name.)
I miss little things seeming like big things.
Now it’s only big things, and there are so many that they have started to feel like little things.
How do we do it? How do we put one foot in front of another when it seems like nothing good will come of that path?
(I’m using we, but maybe it should just be I. Whatever this is, it’s experienced as a collective, but it’s also deeply personal.)
I’ve been writing, but mostly blog posts that go nowhere, rather than the carefully crafted story waiting for me in a Word doc. That story is about a deep grudge that festers for fifteen years. In a way it seems too simple for right now, a revenge story for easier times.
How do you write when the world is on fire?
I mean that metaphorically, because the air right now is in the green (good) category—the best it’s been in weeks. (Fires are still burning, and people and animals and livelihoods are still being destroyed, but the wind, for now, for my corner of the world, has shifted.) I know this because I consulted first my weather app and then what I call the doomsday app, which always predicts higher temps and a higher AQI. I’ve begun to average the two together, suspecting one is too optimistic and the other too pessimistic, and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
That’s where I am, stuck between extremes.
I have the French doors open; my eyes and nostrils aren’t tingling from smoke, and little flakes of ash aren’t falling like snow.
I can breathe. I’m alive.
I can try this again tomorrow.
Paula Treick DeBoard