Rain

I was holding my cat, looking in the mirror at her, and behind me I saw motion. A leak from the ceiling onto the middle of the living room rug. Very 2020 of you, ceiling, I said.

Though I should have castigated the roof and the attic.

I did my usual walk to coffee and loop of downtown. I get a mile and a half of walking out of it. I’ve been mostly keeping up with my training to walk a 10k. Mostly is enough.

I stopped a while in our Japanese garden. Those magenta fluffballs on trees were half water, half plant, little clouds, amazing. A flowering tree bore white blossoms, pine-cone shaped, but as relaxed as pine cones are armored. Fragrant.

I sketched the tree, the stone pagoda sculpture, the Victorian red brick elderly bank building behind.

Much of what I love in Lawrence, Kansas has been spared: there is the yarn barn ( I love their name so much), the awkward Minsky’s crouched on a ground floor, the spectacular long windows of our toy shop, filled with cheekily arranged delights. Enduring dive Louise’s, open before noon and offering drinkers a place. The two optical shops, where, I always assumed, someone rich went to buy rich glasses. The four or five barber shops, all long and narrow, all as old as time, walls covered with Jayhawks and championship banners. The used bookstore, where I visit the black cat who reminds me of my darling Miranda.

A lot has been spared.

Almost everything.

The eyes of people are different, though. For a long time, I didn’t see anyone’s eyes, I just saw whether their nose and mouth were out, or whether they were covered. I raged inwardly at anti-social behavior (no mask).

Today I saw a lot of eyes. Downtown, people are masked and unmasked, outdoors. Some restaurants are filled with people talking and laughing, dressed up for graduation festivities or from church.

Jefferson’s is full, serving beer and burgers; and the Roost serves tons of breakfasts, and the Eldridge turns out meals on the same spot Quantrill burned down.

Other places remain dark: Alchemy, where all we did was sit for hours and drink coffee and eat pastries off plates with pictures of rabbits and foxes, and Ladybird, where they have fed people for free the whole pandemic. They are taking a well-deserved break.

When I got my coffee, I asked the barista what was on his mask. Monsters and donuts, he explained. His sister made it for him. He has a big head.

My sister made me masks, too, I said.

I just started here. Before I worked at a grocery store. It was scary. People yelled at us.

My cousin worked at a grocery store. My heart goes out to you, I said. It sounded like a dumb and strange thing to say, but it was true.

I guess we’re all scared.

Yeah, I said.

We all kind of want to cry, but we keep going.

Yes, I said. Yes.

I also wanted to tell him thank you for saying you want to cry. I’ve done a couple of zoom classes where we talk about our feelings, and the people who talk about how good they are, I could strangle them with my bare hands.

I’ve been thinking about being motivated by love instead of fear. My aunt is seriously ill. We are worried. Sometimes I am worried so severely about that, I just want to stop feeling.

This morning I felt, God is with her, and has always been with her, and will always be with her. I don’t even know what I mean by that.

It doesn’t matter.

This morning I felt motivated by love.

It’s been hard for me during this middle aged time to even consider love. Well, love of my family and friends, yes. I have in many ways made that the center of my decisions, and that has been very healthy.

But love in general? I work from love of my family and friends because I know it’s there, even when I don’t feel it.

My quote in my high school yearbook was Van Gogh (yes, I was insufferable): something about being motivated more by love than anger.

The entire DT administration, yes, I was motivated by anger. It was exhausting. Now it’s more like a pilot light, knowing those Nazi lunatics can reemerge at any time.

This week I went to the theater for the first time in God knows how long…did I see any theater after leaving New York? Maybe not, I’ve been broke.

My niece and twenty other kids performed “Xanadu” (Junior!). I forgot how uncomfortable theater seats can be. And how wild it is, always, still, to have humans get up and do a thing for you, everyone watching.

I realized that I kind of have LIVED “Xanadu,” that is, I took an abandoned property and filled it with all the arts. However, I had no help from any Australians.

I love seeing kids with grey sprayed in their hair to play older characters. It just kills me. Like, we are all wearing our current age, but inside we have the baby, the twentysomething, the elderly.

The eyes of people downtown today were all accessible. Every face, all the eyes, I knew, this person has felt scared. A lot. In the last year, this person has been fearful. Every person.

So my heart went out to all of them. How afraid we have all been. How afraid we still are. How vulnerable. How aching for reassurance. I saw that in all the eyes, even the eyes I sometimes look away from, the blonde sorority girls, the guys who look like they might drive that pickup truck with the TRUMP flag flying.

Love Garden is still there. As a long-term Lawrence aficiando, I remember when Love Garden was upstairs, and I could show you the doorway, and the decoration that shows what is used to be. They’re down the street now, and more importantly, they are the latest recipients of the humane society kitten project!

Love Garden’s squid hangs in the window, so below the kittens are living in a sea scene. One blonde kitten sat in an oyster with a pearl. He got up and pushed the pearl out and started chasing it. A black kitten and a blonde kitten bit gently at each other and threw each other around.

As I stood there absorbing the kitten energy, two other women came up to see them.

I think I’ll stay here all day, I said.

I can’t bring home any more cats! one said.

I don’t have my own apartment yet, the other said.

But your dad is a nice person. You should ask him.

I don’t know.

You should ask.

The two of them went inside the shop, perhaps to try to finagle the right to adopt a kitten.

The rain slowed up as I walked home.

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