You do not have to quit Facebook

You do not have to quit Facebook.
You do not have to turn off your computer and cell phone two hours before bed.
You do not have to fast from social media for a month,
read a Russian novel, meditate for an hour every day,
or wake up before dawn to go for a run.

All you have to do is close your eyes for a minute.
All you have to do is take a deep breath for a change, feel the oxygen flow to your
arms and feet and head.
All you have to do is step onto your porch and notice the sunset,
sleep in an extra ten minutes
or maybe put some real cream in your coffee for once.

Rilke wrote to his “neighbor God”
That the wall between them was very thin:
A cry from either of them would easily break it.

Why have you been doing nothing, out of fear that you cannot do everything?
Listen, all that stuff is lovely, good for you even,
But all that is required is a word.
One real word, spoken through the wall.
Or if you can’t think of anything to say,

Just take a moment to listen.
One moment. And maybe one the next day, too.
And even if you spend the rest of the evening binge-watching Netflix
I promise that moment will be enough to break down the wall.

~Jessica Faith Kantrowitz

***

Go to my Facebook page to read the original Mary Oliver poem and the Rainer Maria Rilke poem.

The world wants me to write about it today

“Pay attention. As a summation of all that I have had to say as a writer, I would settle for that.”
~ Frederick Buechner

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
~ Mary Oliver

The world wants me to write about it today. It’s been throwing itself at me, quite shamelessly. It will do anything, it seems, for a bit part in one of my stories. From the moment I left my house the water sparkled at me like some reverse paparazzi, wanting its flash bulbs to be the news on page six. At Starbucks I tried to write my blog post about finances, but an apologetic woman sat across from me, asking in a soft, Germanic accent if there was room for her and her friend, while the Chinese family at the other end of the table nodded and gestured to her, making the word “okay” seem like both a full sentence and a solemn ceremony.

A few minutes later I glanced up to see the Chinese man holding his hands in front of him, empty palms open like a book, staring silently and intently at their pages, and the man on my other side answered his phone with a click of his earpiece and earthy Russian syllables rolled out of his mouth. I paused to take a selfie for Facebook — the intrepid writer hard at work — and when I cropped it I saw I had also captured a woman behind me wearing a head covering, hard at work on her own laptop, a novel buried in the soft furrow of her brow.

“Slow down!” I cried, “Let me choose — I write slowly.” And I fled to the library, hiding in a study carrel with just enough room for me. Safe, I thought. But I glanced over and caught the eye of the man in the carrel next to me, just as he was glancing over at me, and his brown skin, shoes kicked off and tie slung over his shoulder called out to be described. What color tie? Purple, with green stripes, and the shoes looked like loafers–

“Wait! Stop!” I called again to the flamboyant world. “That’s not my job right now!” I glued my eyes to to my computer, trying to write the post, copying and pasting. But the library turned out to be a dangerous choice as a myriad of childhood memories ran up and demanded to play on my page. How many times had I ridden my bike the two miles to the local library and spent the afternoon exploring the worlds within that sacred world? What was the name of the street? What was that smell that drifted out of the Italian restaurant as I biked by? “Tell about it,” the memories insisted. “Tell our story.”

So I ran to the park, a pond surrounded by trees, benches, fields. I grabbed my notebook — there was work to be done! But just within the gates a Korean wedding party gathered for a picnic, laughing loudly as I scurried by, dodging inspiration. (How would I describe the smell of kimchi? Sour? Vinegary?) Then I ran straight into a group of women dressed head to toe in black hijabs, making me suddenly aware of my broad, naked face, my bare hair flowing in the breeze (chestnut, with shiny wisps of grey). But I was restored to modesty as I rounded the corner by a scene from the cover of a romance novel — a young Hispanic woman dressed in a sleeveless, backless, flowing pink gown, with two muscular men holding out swaths of the fabric as a crew of four photographed them. Coming closer I saw the plot twist — the woman was pregnant, and cradled her belly proudly, shaping the dress around it. “Now there is a story,” the world said, pulling out all the stops: “Write it!”

Full to bursting I rushed up the hillside to sit in the crook of a fallen tree that would take me half an hour to describe. But I can’t, I don’t have time, because even as I write this a man has kicked a soccer ball near the pond and his shoe is flying into the air with it — he is hopping on one foot, laughing and shouting in Arabic. He is hopping right now, I tell you — he is bending down in the wet grass to retrieve his shoe. Did I mention the color of the grass? Did I tell you about the ragged feel of the trees after a long winter and a blustery early spring? Did I describe the slow perambulation of an elderly couple, leaning on each others’ arms for support? Did I write about the woman sitting in the crook of a fallen tree, writing furiously in a notebook as if the world were tugging at her sleeves? Did I get it all?

Tell about it

IMG_0369“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
~Mary Oliver

I’ve been having a little bit of vulnerability fatigue lately. I’ve shared a lot of personal stuff in this space, and I have more I want to share, but I think I need to take a break for a little while. I want to keep blogging, though, and keep writing, definitely. I love that Mary Oliver poem, above. It is the same writing advice that Frederick Buechner gives many times: Pay attention; write what you see. So I am going to spend some time doing just that. The next few posts might not be that deep or insightful, and they might be kind of short. But I think I need to get out of myself, out of my own head, for a while. And maybe my readers could use a break from the inside of my head, as well. Let’s look around, a little, and see what we may see. Here are a couple of my recent Facebook posts, in which I tried to do just that.

***

I swam, hard, for an hour today in a cool, dappled lake. Take that, inner voice that tells me I’m lazy, out of shape, and wasting the summer.

At one end of my laps, on the buoy that held the rope marking the swimming area, a bronze dragonfly sat every time I came back there. Near the end of my swim I paused and looked at him more closely. He looked back at me, flew up a foot or two then circled back to land in the same place. “That’s your spot, huh?” I said to him. He fluttered his wings and gazed back at me. I swear, he did. We had a moment.

Tomorrow and Friday will be ten hour work days, so I won’t have time, probably, to finish a blog post for this week. But I wanted the little bronze dragonfly to be written down. If my job as a writer is to pay attention and write about what I see, then I would be remiss in not mentioning the dragonfly. And the fact that, walking through the woods to the pond, looking around at the young trees that framed the path, I thought to myself: I should change the camera setting — this is too green, it doesn’t look real.

***

I just woke up to thunderstorms, a typical enough occurrence in the summer but somehow, at 6:30 in the morning, it seemed so strange. Dark, dark as a winter morning, with a tinge of pale yellow to the darkness and the rumbling of thunder like the portent of a not-so-distant war. The air was wetter than I’d ever experienced, too — the clothes that I left out on my chair, were damp. And now, as I sit by the window, flashes of lightning crackle as if the audience were ignoring the request of the actors for no flash photography, please, during the performance.

***

An Introvert Complains

People
Are so annoying
And they’re everywhere.

At least, all the places I can get to
before I start feeling ill at ease
too far from home.

People talk to me when I’m
lost in thought, talk
to each other, laugh
in that high-pitched, irritating
way that they have.

People smell, let’s
face it, and their
arm hair accidentally
tickling my own
arm hair is like nails on a
chalkboard or like
the neighbor’s car idling
in the driveway outside my
window, filling the room
with fumes.

Even here, home alone
as I listen to a podcast on
poetry (which you can blame
for the form of this post)
while I watch a video of
ocean waves and
scurrying sandpipers
to keep my mind from
wandering;

Even here,
as I’m lulled by the poetry
and the waves, and the
birds, people intrude — Surfers
splashing into the frame,
bobbing and calling to each
other, scaring away the
sandpipers and wearing
neon green.

And the mood is broken
so much so that I can’t even
focus when the poet, Elizabeth
Alexander, reads her words,

“Poetry
is the human voice,
and are we not of
interest to each other?”