Self Soothing

On Easter, I had two long Zoom calls with each side of my family.  It was just a bunch of people happy to see that a bunch of other people were relatively okay.  For my uncles to joke in the same way they have my entire life, that was nice.

I tried hard to amuse my nieces and nephews with my pirate puppet.  He and I reacted, whispered to each other, and eventually made out a little bit.  (It’s not serious.)

 

 

 

 

 

Then I put on this TV show that seemed stupid, and started coloring in my new mandalas 4 ever coloring book.

I listened to the show and colored or like 6 hours.  Not sure.  It was very hard to make myself stop and eat something.  So I didn’t stop til like 1 in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

Of the self-soothing strategies, coloring in my mandalas is a really good one.  I’m fine with using that as my obsessive/compulsive compulsion.  It’s the new organizing your house!

 

 

 

 

 

Possibly stranger than the coloring, the show I was watching is called “Fatal Attractions.”  Each episode features two or three stories about a particular kind of animal, and how its hubristic owner is mauled or eaten by it.

It’s so relaxing.

 

 

 

 

 

In every story, there is clearly no one to be blamed but the dumbass who thought his hyena/cobra/tiger/hippo was totally safe because he loved his hyena/cobra/tiger/hippo.  In every story, the narrator says things like, “His luck was about to run out,” or “as luck would have it.”  In most stories, a friend or relative of the person who loves his hyena/cobra/tiger/hippo says something like, “I couldn’t keep [dumbass] from being with his [hyena/cobra/tiger/hippo], because that was his whole life.  He wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t get to [care for/feed/sleep with/swim with/manage the Grindr account of] his [animal who ends up killing him].

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was praying for a show that would engage me so that time stood still.  This was that show.

Don’t judge.

The moral of every episode is, don’t keep dangerous animals, dude!

There were some women.  But mostly men.  From the U.S., Australia, Germany, South Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a perfect catharsis, according to the ancient Greeks:

–an important man (in his own eyes)

–flies too close to the leopard/rattlesnake/lion/crocodile

–CHOMP

–shake head and understand I am actually lucky, though it looks like I’m a person trapped in my home obsessively compulsively coloring in a coloring book

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I don’t want to mock the friends and family of the dumbasses (and certainly I have been a dumbass many a time).  I figured, though, getting interviewed about their loved one for a TV show might be cathartic for them, too.

The stories are reenacted.  That is probably amazing, too, in its own horrible way, but I was busy coloring mandalas, remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another thing that makes this okay is the animal is almost never punished.  Sometimes the animal is wounded or killed during the attack, but hey, them’s the breaks, predators.  No one blames the animals.  Every single person is like, crocs gonna croc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a time with no certainty and no clear path forward, storytelling that follows a template is welcome.  And we must thank the stars if our coping mechanisms are as harmless as sensational television and coloring books.

 

Runway

During this time, I read about people doing shopping for others, making deliveries, making meals.  And I get my groceries delivered.  It makes sense, right?  If just a few people go?

We have a whole new wave of ethical decisions to make.

Confession: I have ordered such non-necessities as candy, a book, rechargeable batteries for my “candles,” and glue for the mug I broke.  A coloring book.  Every time a package arrives, I have a minute of joy and break from monotony.  And I’ve been loving that candy, man.  A dozen boxes of Sprees.  I’m now down to three.

The ego wants to hang onto anything.  I see that I am subconsciously looking for some way to “win” or be proud of myself during this time.

A couple of days ago, I painted a ten-foot long phoenix.  I had a grand time.  I hadn’t felt like an artist in so long.  This grad school stuff takes almost all of me.  I knelt and leaned and crawled around the living room, with coffee can lid palettes, brushes, glue, glitter.  I was barefoot, and I got all sweaty and distracted.

Triumphant, I crawled out on my roof to duct tape it to the edge of the house, where it could fly.

The next morning I got up and ran downstairs to see it in the light.

It was awesome.  I was awesome.  People were going to be like, whoa, whoever made that is somebody!  She’s encouraged the whole town!  She was a really important artist, and we never knew before, but after her work during the pandemic… just wow.  What a good person.

There is still a part of me waiting to be recognized for my genius.

As there is in almost all humans, I think.  Maybe not the geniuses.  Because they know.  And they often seem pretty bummed out about it.

In the afternoon, I saw the phoenix flying up, out of the corner of my eye.  I looked out, and half the tape had pulled off.  It was very windy.  I crawled out the window and brought Phoenix in.  I added duct tape, cut holes and added twine, to secure him better.  I went back onto the roof.

The kids (college kids) next door were playing music and drinking.

I was trying to somehow secure the twine to nails I put in the roof, but the phoenix was flapping around so hard, he tore himself.

I took him in and repaired him.

I didn’t go back out.

Later I thought, those were cool kids having a good time, and I am a nerd stuck at home with no friends.  I don’t get to drink with my friends.  I never get to do fun things, or cool things, and they might not be thinking, that lady is awesome, they might be thinking, that lady is weird.  Crazy.

They had put a sign in their front yard that I figured said something about the party they were having.

Later I saw that it said, “Honk for 21st Birthday.”

Your 21st birthday in a college town with epic drinking opportunities (if you’re into that kind of thing).  But you are stuck at home.

I left my phoenix on the floor the next day.  I wasn’t ready to deal with him.

It’s a reasonable time to have old scripts like “I never get to do anything cool,” or “People never recognize me” brought out of storage, polished up, and employed with enthusiasm.

I chatted with a friend yesterday whose husband had a relapse.  Is back on the wagon now.

I know most of us are struggling right now.

Although “mercy” can mean “forgiveness,” I don’t think of it that way.  In a lot of our prayers, we say “Lord, have mercy.”  The definition “grace” makes more sense to me.  (I was raised Lutheran, can you tell?)  After each petition, we say, please, snuggle up to us and tell us it’s okay.  We are trying.

And saying we are trying is not necessary at all.  We don’t have to try.

For Maundy Thursday, I washed my cat’s feet, and my own.  I did the service at home, alone, with candles lit on my mantle.

And now it’s Good Friday.

When I woke up and saw how I had “stripped” my mantle, as we strip the altar, I was immediately like, oh, no.  I got my plants and put them right back.  As my priest said last night, we have already been stripped of so much.  There is no need to do more.

It felt right last night, but today I knew I needed my pretty mantle back.

Snuggle up to us, powers of goodness and show us grace.  Show us peace.  Show us the place where things are okay, even if they’re not okay.

We have lost many of the mourning rituals we used to have: the wearing of black, rules about what we do when there is death.  People who are Jewish have retained theirs better.  It’s a good day to mourn.

And what does it mean to mourn?  Not to lean into the a script of suffering…. “No one ever recognizes me,” “I would have published a book if I just tried harder,” “I don’t have the self-discipline to get anything done.” Not that.  If you pay close attention to those, they will settle down.

It helps me to go deeper than words.  Into pictures or emotions.  Chanting.  Quiet.  Feeling the sadness.  Feeling the loneliness. Feeling what is really there, the emotions, and not protectively detouring into pain scripts.  “No one understands me.”

People do understand.  Sometimes I am recognized, sometimes not.  I do not control the publishing industry.  Like all humans, I struggle sometimes to get things done, and other times, it’s easy.

Deeper than words may be just, “ouch, ouch, ouch.”  Or old-school wailing like a paid mourner in ancient Egypt.

It will be hard to manage Easter, without the coming together and the rituals I am used to.

But it isn’t Easter today.  Easter will take care of itself.  Today is set aside to just hurt, and affirm yourself, or perhaps let God or your idea of God whatever I don’t know, affirm you.  It does hurt.  This last month has hurt all over, up and down, sideways, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and for many people, physically.

If you stick with, and really hear your “ow!” and your moans and groans, you will move naturally closer to Easter.  You build speed, your emotions pushing you forward.

At Easter you can fly.  At least that’s what has happened before.  It could happen again.

Image: “Shiphol,” Andreas Gursky, 1994, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Lamentable

If I say I waiver between a stiff upper lip and fuck it, you probably can relate.

I envy the people with little kids.  They have a deep, thorough distraction.

Hard to know when l am being easy on myself, and when pushing myself might result in feeling better.

A balance.

Reporting here from day 20, or as I like to say, 23, counting from when I last had contact with the public, rather than just my family.

I know.  Fuck it.

Being forced to do things you don’t feel like doing is one of the first steps in dealing with your mental/emotional cuckoo.  I had my worst breakup over Christmas, and it was actually good (well, I mean, not good, but softened) by having a lot of stuff I had to do, people I had to see.

Last night a friend asked, “How are you doing with the isolation?”  I didn’t know how to answer.  I’m so much in my head.  Fine?  Keeping it together because it doesn’t seem like a choice not to?  Keeping it together because if I fall apart, I’ll endanger someone, and further stress people who are already stressed.

Which is probably good.

Last night I couldn’t sleep again.  Listened to podcast after podcast, got up and colored some mandalas from a postcard book I never thought I would get around to doing anything with.  I do find that coloring in extremely satisfying and engaging.

Friend suggested I read a piece about Christianity and corona, and she was definitely right.  I wish I had written it myself.  N.T. Wright takes us to the place where Judaism and Christianity know what to do, lament.  Complain, and freak out, and scream, and cry, and stare, and it doesn’t change anything, but we live in our feelings, let them inhabit us, not knowing when they will move on.

I guess I am angry because I was doing okay in grad school, which isn’t easy for me, and now I feel too scattered, messed up, depressed to return to finish the work.  One of my primary tactics is to be deep down secretly mad at myself, and then shift to being mad at [insert outside target here].  We should just end the semester.  What do I have to do to catch a break?  I am always letting my career get screwed, by bad bosses, loyalty to abusive places…. That’s as true as anything, and also it doesn’t matter.

It’s me rehashing different painful patterns to reassure myself that pain will come in the same packages, over and over.

Wright’s piece focuses on lamenting in Psalms.  We also have an entire section of our text dedicated to lamenting, titled (spoiler alert) Lamentations.

How deserted lies the city,
    once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
    who once was great among the nations!

The roads to Zion mourn,
    for no one comes to her appointed festivals.

All her people groan
    as they search for bread;
they barter their treasures for food
    to keep themselves alive.

No one is near to comfort me,
    no one to restore my spirit.

My groans are many
    and my heart is faint.

Lamentations includes a logic behind the suffering, though.  As usual the people have done bad stuff, and they deserve this.

That doesn’t help me.

It’s old Job who’s up to bat, and he does what he always does: pisses everyone off.  There are no answers, everything is bullshit, and God is like, “Back off, asshole!”  And then things calm down.  And they’re okay again.

I have always loved the argument of Job.  The inclusion of that story in a religious text is a mark of great courage.  Reading it, no one has the answers.  People just yell and go around in circles until they’re worn out, and then things get better.

This describes pretty much all of the family altercations I’ve participated in.

Sometimes the pain and yelling takes us a very small step forward, into considering someone a person, rather than a parent.  Sometimes nothing changes except in some bizarre way, we are soothed by replaying the conflicts we’ve always had, and probably always will.

Nothing gets solved.

Some people think Christianity (or Judaism) solve the problems of life in some comprehensive way.  And others of us see the Job story pointing straight at the Buddha’s answer, or psychological directives about feeling your feelings and letting them go.

At this point in my bullshit corona virus sucks-to-your-ass-mar journey, I’m feeling more numb than anything.  I know your mind, your heart, just get overwhelmed.  Circuit overload.

I can hear the quiet echo of lament, though.  Rocking itself to sleep.

Quotes from Lamentations chapter 1, various verses in order.  I went with NIV because I was lazy.

The great article by N.T. Wright.

Image: Mourning handkerchief, 1880-99, American, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Gentle Rain

I’ve been chanting with the brothers in Taize pretty much every day, at 1:30.  (It’s their evening prayer in France.)  What I love about Taize is that only small portions of it are in English.  There’s Latin, French, Spanish, and German.  I sorta kinda understand the Latin, and I sorta understand the French.  This doesn’t matter.  Not being able to engage my thinking mind means I focus on the music, and singing.

And the fact that there are thousands of people also praying these prayers at the same time.

I love the music of Taize, and I love that it offers almost nothing for my monkey mind to play with.  “The kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Come Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.”  I mean, what, is it not justice and peace?  Definitely good things.  Do I not want justice and peace opened?  Let’s do it!  I’ll get the corkscrew!

Another one that is poignant now is “Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray.”  That’s it.  Just that, over and over and over maybe twenty or thirty times.  Nothing to argue with there.  Just the naked sentiment of wanting connection, presence, through fear and pain.

I don’t have a problem with “Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, those who seek God shall never go wanting, God alone fills us.”  And that’s mysterious, because I know I have been wanting, and I know I’ve been full of shit.

Taize doesn’t ever drag me into questions about what evil is, or if there is a heaven, or how the church treats [fill in social injustice here].  For now, it’s definitely what I need.

It’s Palm Sunday.  I bet I have missed a Palm Sunday here or there.  It’s a weird holiday, a weird service.  You’re supposed to be happy Jesus is in town, but then hate the people who were happy he was in town, because they were full of shit.  Jesus has come to town to get tortured and executed.  Yay?

The palm branches are okay.  I guess.  I like free gifts.

What I am dreading is the coming week.  Maundy Thursday, when we wash feet, and strip the altar.  Good Friday, when we kiss the cross, and mourn together.  I save up all my anger and grief from the whole year and bring it to Good Friday.

And then Easter vigil.  I don’t go to Easter morning church anymore.  Easter Vigil is the whole megilla, to mix religious traditions.  You start outside, burn the palm leaves, sometimes burn other stuff (you know I love burning things), then go inside, in the dark.  Pick up a candle for later.

Sit and listen to Bible stories.  This part I like to go on almost forever, until I am like, dude, seriously.

Our candles are lit by the Christ candle.  The glow is incredible.  It’s sentimental-pretty at Christmas.  At Easter, it shows the faces of people who will die, but who also, all other things aside, have hope, and love, and joy while they are still alive.

They turn on the overhead lights, people cheer.  Then we do the whole service, which also takes forever, including baptizing some people, usually.

We get sprinkled with holy water.

We go to communion at the altar, with all of its fanciest fancytown decor, in contrast with the bare altar of Thursday and Friday.

I’m going to miss all of this a lot.

I did remote church this morning, with my church in Lawrence, and maybe I will join them for Holy Week services, too.

It won’t be the same.

What does our annual celebration of death and rebirth mean in this moment, this context?  I don’t know.  We are stuck in a long Lent for a while.

About 541 CE, a plague killed at least 25 million people.

In 1347, a plague killed around 50 million.

Bulbonic plague killed 15 million people, starting in1855 and going on for about a hundred years.

So it’s not like people haven’t done this before.  We have.

“A plague on both your houses,” used to sound odd, coming from Mercutio.  It now sounds like the angry, vengeful threat it was.

The other piece of Shakespeare that seems to address me right now is Portia in Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

Part of this is carved into monument at a hospital near here.  I loved seeing it every day when I worked near there.

Good Protestant that he is,  he has Portia go on to say, “in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation.”

In the course of justice.  That used to really bother me.  Like, a month ago.  Justice.  The election of this president, and the way he and his enablers insulted and attacked everything I love about my country… like many of us, I am different now.  I have much less faith in the goodness of people.

Now everything is so royally fucked up, I don’t even get upset about the president telling people he won’t wear a mask, or people telling us our tax money belongs to the federal government, as if there is some special program that is supported by The Federal Government, rather than, you know, the citizens of the United States.  Ah, insanity.

For whatever reason, this virus and the tragedy of it make sense to me.  It fits into my understanding of what humans can suffer from, and how we all have to go through, process, and hold that suffering.

For some reason, I do believe that “The quality of mercy is not strained.”  And that “It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”  I don’t know why I believe.  Mercy just stands out more now, I guess.  The same way when we dim the lights, the candles show their power.

This is the Taize page.

This is a great piece on Shakespeare and the plague.

Image: detail of “Scene with Misericordia and Veritas in a Circle at Center,” Theodor de Bry, 1580-1600, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Distance

Today I woke up feeling pretty good.  Either I got better sleep or my other meds are kicking in, who knows?

Like I wanted to sing “The Circle of Life” in the shower.

Perhaps I am just moody.

Yesterday my dad and stepmom came out to see me.  They are both over 70, and have underlying health issues.  “Hey!” I said, and waved.  Super weird.  As I’ve gotten older, and also having known people with dementia, touch has become more important to me.  Family members with dementia may not be able to operate in the verbal world, but in my experience, they always like hugs and kisses, and having lotion rubbed into their hands.

They had brought folding chairs because they are always prepared.  Our haunted porch appears to be held up by the paint that is left on it.  The poor house needs painting so badly.  But I only think of improvements to the place I live as ways the rent will go up.

So we sat at least six feet apart, and we chatted.  I heard about my dad’s business, which is pretty quiet, but he doesn’t seem terribly concerned.  People will need lawyers again.  He told me a story about confronting a dude who was spouting racial epithets at a bar in Baldwin City, Kansas.

My dad’s brother is half Japanese.

It’s a long story.

My dad pulls out a photo of my uncle, and shows it to the guy, who’s like, what?  How?

Reminding me of all the times I have been nearby when someone said something nasty about black people, or Catholics, or Jews.  There’s always that initial moment of, did that just happen?  And then the trying to figure out how to address it.  With my students, it was much easier.  I was like, you’re not going to talk like that in front of me.

My stepmom brought me banana bread.  This is one of her primary caretaking behavior, the making and delivering of banana bread.  It works for me.  Yum.  She also brought some flowers cut from their yard, and TOILET PAPER.  I will say no more.

Sometimes I was closer than six feet, when we held things out to each other, just for half a second.  This will make you crazy.  It’s why I kind of don’t mind being here alone.  I don’t have to negotiate any of these scary unknowns: six feet is safe.  Six feet is not safe.

My dad touched his face, and my stepmom told him not to.

My dad is mixing and pouring concrete with his newfound time.  This is very reassuring to me.  Hard labor makes him feel good.

When we said goodbye, we did another round of weird things.  I put my hands together and bowed.  I don’t know.

I try to think it will not end for a long, long time, but then, these days are long.  Time now moves so slow you can’t see it at all.

We are still in the transformation process.  Not knowing how this is changing us.  Before this began, I was starting to think about what my next phase in life will be.  I do not know.

Living in not knowing is honest.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I want to fill in blanks, to settle.  But that’s not where I am, that’s not where we are.  Not yet.

Image: “The Palace of Donn’Anna,” Jules Coignet, 1843, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Murmur

I’m now living the life I imagined I should.  I get up, spray the plants, feed the cats, make the coffee, and write.  It used to be harder to get out of bed.  It isn’t, now.

I have two horseflies in the house.  They are horse-sized, but as you may not know, I live in part of a very large house.  So they fit.

One set up shop in my bathroom.  I searched for a New Yorker.  Magazines are the best.  I followed him with my eyes, my head.  Took a swipe.  No.  Another.  No.

Now he might be wounded, and he was flying a little crooked.  Or do they always?

I covered my ears.  Suddenly I was afraid he was going to fly into my ear.  Is that a thing that happens?

He landed on the wall near, but not on, a painting.  Bam.  Got him.  The memory of stalking and killing flies in our New York City kitchen came back to me.  I got much better at swatting flies.  I became, for short periods, obsessive.

Scrubbing one’s things, one’s objects, and one’s floor, an act of claiming, and care.

And now when I get on the floor to do yoga, I see the littlest bit of schmutz, and I run for the broom and dustpan.  Usually I’m more of a clean-enough person.  It may not look perfect, but if it’s clean enough, I’m good.

Nothing really ever made sense, but we were better at pretending it did.

I had a giant pile of boxes and plastics, recycling that I told myself I might use for some art project that, once Mardi Gras passed, was definitely not happening.  I got out trash bags and loaded… several.  Like, a lot.  It takes a party or a pandemic to make me take recycling out.  Especially because our one lone, tiny recycling bin is often full.

The fly fell onto the heating vent in the bathroom.  A horse fly has the heft that some insects have, which carries additional grossness and horror.

I don’t remember removing its corpse for proper disposal, but maybe I did.  Or maybe the cat ate it?

Doing what you can.  That was always the case, but sometimes we pretended it wasn’t.

I wonder about the ethics of getting deliveries.  Some Amazon order were my big things to look forward to this week: popcorn, contact solution, Michelle Obama’s book.  It gave me a reason to go downstairs.  I’ve been careful to have plenty of food, including things I wouldn’t normally buy (brownie mix, pop tarts, Rice Krispie supplies), to keep my spirits up.

When I was in maybe third grade, I made a dracula out of construction paper.  I ended up using him as a puppet, like a ventriloquist dummy, sort of.  I put on shows for my classmates.  I made props for him.  It’s a time in my life I have connected forward to seeking attention, and getting laughs, in a very healthy way. People liked my work.

I have on my desk now one of those props.  It is “Blood Basics,” by Count C. Dracula.  I assume the “C” stands for “Chocula.”

It’s made of the art teacher construction paper, thicker than the kind you use at home.

Though I set out to win a Pulitzer prize (seriously), knowing that I can contribute some distraction, some laugh, some consolation, as people read, is good.  I can easily spend time fretting about how I should have, or should, get my writing “out there,” and how I will finally get a book published.  This makes the blog seem less important.

I’m not sure it is.

Just getting to make something of my day, and use words, rhythmic, fussy, slippery words, to show what’s happened to me, and in me, that is a lot.

It’s a strange time to mention it, but one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quotes is, “I urge you to notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

Writing here is nice.  Seeing people have read it is nice.  It makes me happy.

Up the Hill

I hadn’t been outside my house in… seven days.  When I’ve been sick, I probably stayed home that long.  I might have stayed home that long.

I poured oatmeal into boiling water, and then said to myself, could you get the trash out before the oatmeal burns?

I ran the trash out.

This is a hard job for me to do.  I don’t know why.

When I stepped outside, I was shocked that it was 75 degrees, the exact temperature I felt like a fish being let out of my pet store bag into the appropriately equalized temperature of my new tank.

Taking out the trash was the same.  It’s not like I take out the trash to the discord of Times Square or anything.

I resolved to go for a walk later.

It was hard to make myself go.  Staying at home is one of the few things I can control.  But I also know that with my anxiety issues, I have agoraphobia as a possible pitfall, and I want to train my brain to know it’s okay to leave the apartment.

Usually I would do a neighborhood walk, not up the hill to campus.  This time, walking to campus sounded reassuringly normal.  My usual walk to campus is a mile, and then I walk a mile home, and I have a reasonable amount of exercise for the day.  (Especially including the enormous hill I have to climb.)

(Yes, I know.  There are hills in Kansas.  In this part.)

I turned down my street to walk a block parallel to the hill.  The first other humans I saw were four boys sitting on their roof, drinking beer out of cans.  I waved.

“We’re social distancing!”

“That’s a good distance!” I said.

Unhappily, even apocalypse now does not mean everyone will look at you and wave or nod hi.  It’s hard to break this WASP crust, I tell ya.

I was happy for them being in fresh air, having each other, drinking beer.  I wonder how much of our town is drunk, just drunk all the time.

Some girls on a porch.  “Boys” and “girls” meaning they are college kids.  How is this different for them?  Are they more resilient because they are younger?  Or more bitter?  I’m doing apocalypse as part of my mid-life crisis.  Does that intensify it?

Who knows.

I turned to climb the hill.  Once I set down my phone to measure the steepness.  I can’t remember the number.  It satisfied me.

It’s steep enough that I don’t think I know anyone who could walk up it quickly without being winded.

At the top, I turned the way I usually do, past the school of religion, the student union.  They were empty, of course.  I thought the eeriest thing might be empty parking lots.  Parking on campus is at a premium.  Now you can go wherever you want, but why would you want to.

There were quite a few other people walking on campus in the beautiful weather.  Far more than six feet away from each other.  We have a lot of space here.  Joggers.  Walkers.  People a la bike.

I opened up my Harry Potter game.  Am I still addicted to this stupid game?  Maybe.  I was thisclose to giving it up, but it does reward me for leaving the house, so I really shouldn’t.

I “dined” at some “inns” and “vanquished” some “evil” things.  And kept walking.  The flower beds have not been replanted the way I think they would have been.  But forsythia are going.  I had already pointed that out to my niece.  “Forsythia,” I said more than once.  I never knew the names of plants, growing up, so now I heal that confusion by trying to force kids to learn about plants.

I turned to walk behind, instead of in front, of the tallest building on campus, the one with the flags on top.  There was so little other noise, the flapping of the flags was eerie.  There’s an old house with pillars that seems to now be a dorm of some sort.  I got close enough to see that there were flyers on the doors that said, “Please ring, and a staff member will help you.”

I’m interested in the signs.  What exactly they say.  Do they explain, do they have frowny faces, do they promise to return, or not?

I sat on some steps and defeated some more evil… somethings.  Don’t know, don’t care.

I could hear, because I sat so long, my ears adjusted and I could hear that there were people in the building, saying something like, “Do you want me to leave it like this?”

A crow perched on top of the building and yelled several times.

“That’s enough,” I said.

I would rarely take the time to listen this long and hard, or be so undistracted as to look hard for where a bird was.

The carillon rang out, the same song.

The sound bounced differently, hollowly, without many soft bodies to mute it.

What is it like?  Chernobyl?  Walking Dead?  The Twilight Zone?  It wasn’t as bad at that.  It was kind of like Chernobyl, nature taking over, and Walking Dead, people staying away from each other, and Twilight Zone, events that we are all, still, struggling to accept as real.  Events that don’t compute, don’t fit with all our previous knowledge of the world.

I walked a little further and saw a huge batch of forsythia just on the other side of a fence.   This was another part of the steep hill, the edge of it.  I reached over and twisted and yanked off some blossoms.  I love their color.  I love that they are early.  That they show up in spring and are like, “Let’s go.”

I carried the two branches home.  Things were paused, rather than finished.

There were a few cars here and there.  Maybe people left them there.  If there are only four people in a big building, I guess it’s no problem.

I wondered about experiments in progress, everyone’s research.

Right before I went back down the hill, I stopped at the hotel at the top.  It looked to be closed, but I wasn’t sure.

That sign said something about how when we were allowed to be in groups of more than 10 again, they would reopen.

I have complained and hated on this hotel because it replaced a charming, raggedy sub shop, and because they flew only a Kansas flag and a KU flag.

Now they have only an American flag up.

It did feel good.  Really good.  Fresh air was good.  The forsythia in my hand, I hoped people saw the color, and knew I would have pretty flowers at home, and that made them happy.

Walking down the hill, I heard someone blasting “Under Pressure.”  Apropos.

It’s nice to be in a college town.  I thought pretty much all of the kids would be gone.  But I saw plenty out, on a nice day.  How is it to be so young now?

I put my forsythia in a blue vase.  I thought they would hardly last a minute.

This morning, though, they still looked fresh.