Listen. Breathe.

On Tuesday, I check into the hospital for knee replacement surgery and my stress levels are rising as I try to finish up at work, get my house and life prepped, go to myriad medical appointments, shop, see friends. Ah…I’m getting breathless just typing all that. Life these days is all about doing and distracting.

I haven’t been spending enough time simply listening to the world around me.

Sunday afternoon. I’m on the back porch, ceiling fan spinning, grackles noisily doing what grackles do, adult voices and kid voices from next door, breeze in the trees.

Silence. Listening. On Twitter earlier this week, a quote from Wendell Berry arrived like a small gift: “Make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came.”

I imagine words dropping into a pool, sending out ripples, sinking, disappearing.

IMG_0413A couple of weeks ago, Robert Macfarlane asked: “What is the place or landscape to which you most love listening?”

I immediately thought of Maine, the cottage on Back Cove where my sister and I went for a couple of years, early morning light, distant boat motors, bird call, occasional plop and ripple of water as acorns fell or birds dived for fish.

Or Pemaquid Point, with waves crashing against rocks and gulls calling.

Or here, now, the porch, the trees, the kids, the birds, the cat crying from inside the house, the dog in the distance, sounds of a summer afternoon.

Listen to the small sounds, I tell myself, the here sounds, now sounds, inner and outer sounds.

Be silent, listen, breathe.

Be. Listen. Breathe.

A little fiction for the weekend

I was sorting through online files and found this fictional snippet. Enjoy.


Shayla imagined disasters, although if anyone asked, she would have said she was an optimist. That was certainly the front she presented to the world. She was the one who would say, “Oh those blood tests will be fine, you’re just a bit low on iron,” or “He’s not cheating on you. Why would you think that? He loves you. Just look at the bouquet he sent–it has love written all over it.”

She said these uplifting things to herself as well. “You’ll get that raise, you’ll see,” she’d say to pep herself up, “then you’ll pay off all those credit cards and be able to go on that vacation. Where was it you thought about going?”

But in the back of her mind there was a little voice saying, “but maybe…” Yes, things would turn out well, the world was more good than not good, people meant well even if they didn’t always show those good intentions, but maybe, just maybe she was wrong.

She’d shy away from this thought and retreat into her rosy world but at night when she was drifting off to sleep, or sometimes on weekend mornings when she could linger in bed, her unruly mind would drift towards disaster.

She’d begin thinking about a trip she and her friend Glenn were planning. A quick jaunt to Rhode Island, a walk on the beach–and before she knew it, their car would be crashing in flames or Glenn would collapse on the beach from a heart attack or maybe both–the chest pains ignored, back in the car, then the heart attack leading to the fiery crash. And she’d lie there with tears streaming down her face, wondering if Glenn had ever finished making his will and would his children honor his desire to be cremated.

Then she’d wake up a bit more and mentally shake herself, get up, look out at the cloudy day and say, out loud, well there’s an edge of blue sky over there–I bet the sun will be out before long.

Shayla never told anyone about these bouts with doom. But sometimes she wondered, which was the real Shayla, the bright, peppy cheerleader or the doom monger? What would happen if she switched roles, began spouting all the dire predictions and then let her daydreams swim towards happier shores? “Wow, they took how many tubes of blood? Hmmm…what are they looking for do you think?” or “Flowers. Well, they’re pretty, you can take consolation in those bright colors. But I don’t know, flowers always say guilty conscience to me.”

No, she couldn’t do that. The world was dark and scary enough these days without her adding to the angst.  Maybe this was her job–to keep the brightness turned up high, keep spirits soaring, even if it meant plunging towards death every night.