And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
For a while today, I thought I was going to have to skip this week. I was thinking about this blog as I went to bed last night and still thinking about it when I got up this morning. I wasn’t coming up with any moments. None.
Part of the point of this blog has always been to watch for the moments. To look for them. And to be aware that they might not be big. There have been many times I’ve really had to search. I honestly don’t know how I did it as Today’s Moment, every day for a year. Now I have a whole week to sift through, and sometimes, it’s really difficult.
Especially in times of pandemic. And especially in horrific moments in our collective history.
Every year, I have two big events that I really look forward to. One is the AllWriters’ Annual Retreat, which I’ve often described as my favorite weekend of the year. And the other is my own retreat, usually two weeks, and usually on the Oregon coast. I have often said it’s the only place where I feel fully like myself. I don’t know what it is about the little house I go to, in the little town by the great big ocean. But when I go, I don’t say I’m going on vacation or I’m going away. I say I’m going home.
And this year, both of these events are now canceled. In my Facebook feed, under the everyday reminder of Memories, I am being inundated with photos of previous AllWriters’ retreats. There are also reminders of posts, where I counted down the days to Oregon. My next book, a full-length poetry collection called No Matter Which Way You Look, There Is More To See, features a cover filled with the photograph I took the first time Olivia came to Oregon with me. She was seven years old and she was dancing with the ocean.
I am surrounded with reminders of what I’m missing.
We’re all missing something, of course. One by one, we’ve seen vestiges of summer set aside for at least a year. Summer festivals and fairs. Fourth of July parades and fireworks. We’re also adjusting to special hours and special methods for things and activities we’ve always counted on – the library, the mall, flea markets.
But the absence of these two things, the AllWriters’ Retreat and my own personal retreat, have laid me pretty low. They encapsulate, animate, really, the two great passions in my life. My own writing. And teaching.
So when I set out for a walk today, it was in a sad mood. The malicious red-wing blackbirds kept me away from the Fox Riverwalk, and so I wandered up and down the streets of our downtown area, through one park, down more streets, into another park, and then home. The first park holds my town’s bandshell. As I approached, I saw a man sitting there, facing the empty stage. His image struck me as poignant – we’re all looking at what we’re missing, and we’re all waiting.
As I continued, I took deep breaths and I was grateful for them. It was a bad asthma day yesterday, requiring me to take two doses of my emergency inhaler. As someone with asthma, I am always deeply grateful for being able to take in the air I breathe. Something most people don’t hear about is that asthmatics often have trouble with the exhale as well. We feel like we can’t empty our lungs, which causes us to breathe in again, just so we can try once more to exhale. On my walk today, my breathing was easy.
My breathing was easy. And I thought about that as I walked up a hill, then up the slope of a picturesque bridge over another section of the Fox River, and over and down.
It wasn’t the first time I contemplated the irony of our two big issues right now. COVID-19 steals its victims’ breath, sometimes requiring ventilators. The victims can’t breathe.
And George Floyd, as he lay dying under a police officer’s knee, said repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”
George Floyd said it. Victims in ERs and hospitals said it. Protestors chanted it.
And walking up and over a bridge today, and all the way home, I began to chant with each footfall, “I can breathe I can breathe I can breathe.”
I am so grateful.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.