Be Brave., Breath, Fearless, Midsummer, Travel


I am counting/gasping under my breath and refuse to look up the impossibly steep bank of stairs: at step forty-five there might be stars in my peripheral vision. On fifty-five I hear birdsong. I bend my head, inhale deep into my boggy lungs and keep trudging up the cement behemoth that runs parallel to the elevators to Terminal A. I am alone on this mission, a few others sensibly gliding up into the terminal, hips cocked, phones out, on the soundless escalator. It is 5:30AM and for a brief moment I wonder with wry amusement if the birds are me losing consciousness. It dawns on me at number sixty-seven that I am hearing my daily programmed wake-up alarm on my phone. Wouldn’t it be nice to still be in bed.

I do not have the energy to stop, reach and search my bag to turn off the alert. The priority is to push myself after weeks prone, so muscles liquid I exhale — seventy five, seventy-six, done — and look around at the top, grateful I am not an EMT statistic and pleased I never once grasped the railing. I plod to the Starbucks line. This is the new normal, suffering the extremes.

After almost two years of wearing a mask I might have all my covid vaccinations but not one ounce of resistance to everything else floating around that humans are breathing on me. My cold was all the worst of the worsts — infected everything from the neck up. Yeah, me. I lost all sense of taste and smell immedietly, and slippered around my midsummer garden unable to smell the first peonies or the explosion of June roses.

Gone are the days of a simple cold or simple travel. Here are the days of determination, chaotic security lines and not a hope of curating my life in a straight line. I head to Seattle when there are barely tolerable airfares and I am in good enough shape. I pack hankies of the cotton embroidered variety. I mask every minute in the airports. People are over being happy to be together and do everything rudely this summer; stand too close, talk too loudly, sneeze into the open air. I drop my bag, wipe my brow and order a shaken espresso. Steps, alarms, travel, writing. Coping, breathing, breathless. It’s good to be back.

After two years of fear I find I am fearless.

My ticket and health are hard won. The peonies and roses await me in the Pacific Northwest, though I have still not regained smell or taste there is still hope. I have not fainted, just the opposite — just hurrying to get ahead of these decent days, straight up if need be.

Catch me if you can.

Wren Cottage, June 2022

The Breath between the Breath.

Today at noon I was stalled at my computer, the book proposal and the submissions going nowhere. Frankly, I felt overwhelmed by the news — the virus, inconceivable despair in Afghanistan, the state of emergency in hospitals AGAIN –and everything felt heartbreaking and confidence breaking. Writing prose seemed a waste of time, or rather time spent on the wrong things. By the middle of the morning, hump day was proving to be a very steep climb. I got up and went to the carwash.

While the car dripped I impulsively looked online for a time slot to access the Bloedel Reserve. I was on the trail ten minutes later, swinging my arms, skirting meandering visitors, craning my neck up at the trees, easing down past the rhododendron groves. Not until the moss woods and past the water lilies did I feel the air filling my chest. Back at the car forty-five minutes later, I peeled off socks, unlaced boots and headed back to my desk; drove bare foot back to Wren Cottage with the windows wide open.

One of my covid take-a-ways: there is really so. much. more. time. in the day than I allowed pre-quarantine; that there is breath between the breath if I relax; that the minutia, the small encounters, count more than I ever realized.

A little story about time and shifting perspective. I am privileged to have the freedom and the means to do this in a beautiful woodland, a roof over my head. How can I change helplessness?

I sat back down recalibrated — donated to an organization working amidst the crisis in Afghanistan, ordered more masks. Filed the essay away for a day. I brought up the news I dislike to listen to both sides of the story. This is what I could do.

Headed to anger and panic this morning, losing ground on making a difference, I took that space between and changed it up. I took that extra breath. I refocused.

And lo and behold, right under my feet, this was happening.

With you, friends.

Autumn Cyclamen, The Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA