Filling the days.
It’s spring here in Los Angeles. Alongside my favorite walking trails in Griffith Park, the mustard is near shoulder high, the pink flowering trees on Virgil Avenue are decked out in their frilly best, and, when the mow and blow guys pipe down for a few moments, the air is blossom scented, and still the tiniest bit cool around the edges. There are two Coopers hawks nesting in a Magnolia near my house and a bevy of finches at the feeder. From my desk, I watch a couple fat squirrels spiral up and down the trunk of a yard tree. The dogs go nuts. The squirrels climb higher, disappearing into the leaves. The dogs return to their patch of sun. A little while later, the whole process repeats.
Inside, we grind the coffee and drink the coffee. We fill the dishwasher and empty the dishwasher. I keep reading that we are getting back to “normal,” but every day the definition of that word shifts. Thank heavens the trees and flowers and hawks and squirrels and dogs are so reliable.
I read a piece by Tim Urban in the New York Times a few weeks ago and it has really stuck with me. “Once you visualize the human life span,” he writes, “it becomes clear that so many parts of life we think of as “countless” are in fact quite countable.” Using something he calls “depressing math,” he calculates (based on his own current averages) how many times during the remaining years of his life he will see his parents or visit the Natural History Museum. He emphasizes that while the past is pretty much in cement, the future is ours to decide. Moving forward, we have the power to change our averages. More visits to the museum? Yes! More lunch with friends and parents? Sure! What do I want to add to my life? How might I begin?
I’ve been walking a lot, painting a little and reading, (always reading.)
A few titles I’d recommend are: Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So, How High We Go in The Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu, Aurelia, Aurelia by Kathryn Davis, and The Electricity of Everything by Katherine May. Also, because it’s National Poetry Month, read a little poetry! Check out Marie Howe, Alison Luterman, Terry Lucas, Gayle Brandeis, and Elizabeth Cohen. And this short beauty by the late astronomer and poet, Rebecca Elson (recently brought to my attention by the marvelous Michelle Memran.)
We are survivors of immeasurable events,
Flung upon some reach of land,
Small, wet miracles without instructions,
Only the imperative of change.
I spent the last several months working on a few different short-term writing projects. For Variable West, I interviewed artist, Susan Feldman. For The Washington Post, I wrote about volunteering, small museums and attractions, and how art and literature can provide support for caregivers.
Each time I begin to research a piece, I’m struck by the six-degrees (or less) that separates me from so many others, but also by the way these strands of connection multiply, overlap and crisscross, weaving together all the encounters and experiences of my life. It’s an answer to the question of how I filled my days.