LOST AND FOUND

 

 

I saw this little shoe on a walk this past month, presumably set on a step near where it was lost, to catch the eye of a parent who might have circled back to look, or who perhaps passes naturally in the course of regular strolls through the neighborhood. Given the year I’ve had, and the challenges I still face, gratitude hasn’t come readily to me, but I’m grateful for this shoe as a simple object with symbolic potential. It reminds me of the people who love and believe in me, who have sustained me through 2019—including my father, who has proudly worn a scarf I knit, on every cold day for the last decade, telling admirers that his daughter made it for him, as if it were a treasure among treasures. A decade, and still to this day. That detail—in the arc of life, a scarf is a detail—is meaningful in ways I can’t explain here. Families can be complicated, and mine has been since I can remember—painfully so, for me, with ramifications in every direction. I’ve always envied those I know whose families are close and warm. But the scarf stands out as in a painting, jaunty red, each stitch knit with care. Bright as a kite or a flag, and warming his neck so he can sing. He’s never lost hold of its meaning to him. I’m grateful for that.

BIOMIMICRY

 

 

A recent study in Britain found that the average prisoner spends more time outside than the average child. I read that sometime within the past year or so and had the predictable reaction of concern for contemporary Western culture. All those yards and flowers and trees, all that sun, the rain puddles, the snow, the creatures—what a sad waste to miss out on play and learning in the physical world. Lost, in many cases, to the tyranny of screens. Then back-to-back, one client reported a SWAT team breaking in across the street, another mentioned gang threats in her mobile home neighborhood, and I remembered that there are many kids for whom the outdoors isn’t an option. A different kind of cultural problem, but also resulting in distance from nature, a lose-lose proposition. In cartoons and commercials and movies and memes, animals are consistently objectified. Plants are, too, in many cases. The leaf in the photo above, I saw on a walk this past weekend. It had fallen from one of the trees that clean and cool the air in my town—its veins, and the beads of rain on its surface, exemplars of beauty and biology, tutorials in physics. As a child, I heard about the death of languages, and how each dead or dying language represents a unique resource of wisdom, gone. Species death is similar. And what of clean water, clean air? An issue with incalculable loss is that we can’t conceive of it—but it happens anyway. It happens in estuaries and in living rooms alike. As within, so without, and vice versa. Contact is invaluable; attention matters.

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Out of respect for client privacy, names on this blog are always changed or omitted, and details may be altered in fact while relevant in spirit. Text and image copyrights held by me. In the midst of personal difficulty, I’m grateful for your reading. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it with anyone you feel might like it, too.

CATHEDRAL

 

 

I knew when I was very small that I wanted to go to college. This wasn’t common in the neighborhood where I spent my early life. Kids in my neighborhood would, in fact, sometimes taunt me by calling me “College Girl.” I knew that I wanted to learn a foreign language and travel. I wanted to write. I wanted love. I wanted, as we all do, many things. The first plane I ever took carried me from New York City to Paris for a study abroad. I had no money, but the itinerary was covered by my tuition. I stored memories from France among others, much humbler, that had come before. Mont St. Michel approached at night, shimmering within an inky dark. Vineyards in the Vosges. Aubergine autumn skies. I saw chapels and churches, the Bayeux Tapestry and Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece. Heaps of crutches from supposed miracle healings. Historical sites have their difficult stories, of course—complications and tragedies, lead in the roofing. The theme of the program was pilgrimage. I never saw Notre Dame, but as it burned this year, a sacred space within my life was burning, too. It was burning, and it burns still. It’s difficult to write about work right now, which had been my original mission. So the question is how to end this short post. I wish you health and, where applicable, the chance to safely rebuild.

 

 

 

FIVE YEARS


 

I started writing posts five years ago this month. It’s been a humble venture, but I would’ve liked to celebrate the anniversary with a vignette or reflection nonetheless. I’m not able to do so, for personal reasons. Thank you as always for reading. There are many words in the world. I’ve tried to choose mine well here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LITTLE PLANET

 

 

I was walking home from the farmers’ market one sunny Saturday morning when I happened upon this little moss orb, brightening first the sidewalk and then my palm, where it rolled in soft perfection. It made me feel unaccountably happy, and boy, did I need that joy. I sat on the stoop, admiring it for a while. Fast forward a couple weeks: a teen client wanted a crafty project and settled on teaching me how to make pom-poms. The yarn in the staff closet was a yellow-flecked green. After assiduously wrapping it around the tines of a fork, binding it off, sliding it free, and snipping loops all around, I held a fabricated replica, not stunning, but in the moment exciting enough that I reached for my phone to share this photo. Said teen appeared unimpressed. Even with the plants on my sill and the trees across the road, nature often feels a world away when I’m in my office. Its fluorescing brightness; its glowing grace. My endless need for those qualities. The silence in me that wants to exclaim.

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Out of respect for client privacy, names here are always changed or omitted, and details may be altered in fact while relevant in spirit. Text and image copyrights held by me. To subscribe and receive future posts, please look to the upper right on your computer screen, or scroll to the bottom of the page on your mobile device. I’m deeply grateful for my readers, and as always, I’d love to reach more. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it with anyone you feel might like it, too, by linking to it in whatever way works for you. I typically post once a month, so no barrage.

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

 

I noticed right away the whiff of chemicals on his coat, but I didn’t want to embarrass or offend him, so I didn’t ask him to hang it up in the waiting room. I thought of him as shy and inward, in ways that might have had to do with poverty and tumult, and I didn’t want to drive him further down into any of that. I did mention lightly that I noticed something, and he told me it was diesel that had spilled on him. I opened the window, giving the excuse that I was warm, while keeping my sweater on. Did he catch that discrepancy of logic? If so, it wasn’t apparent. I liked him but didn’t know if I was reaching him in any helpful way. We sat in long silences together while he sorted out the tactile puzzles next to him. I asked him to name his feeling when he solved one, and encouraged him to notice sources of pride in his life. I told him he deserved to feel pride, and his eyebrows went up—his strongest reaction ever in session, I think. Not because of him, but for the sake of my breath that day, I was relieved when he left. He’d been sitting on a pillow that I knew would never air out; I would have to remove it. The day proceeded. I saw two more clients, then transferred my plants from the windowsill, where the morning sun through the glass is always too intense, to the little table where I sit with kids, and left for my evening job. The next morning when I unlocked my office, the diesel was still eye-burningly thick in the air, and my fluorescent pothos, formerly a glowing green, thick and exuberant with leaves, was at least half-dead—the wilted leaves brown and sickly slick. Pothos rate high among potted plants both for ease of growth and for their ability to clean indoor air; I felt as though this one had taken the hit for the other two plants in my office, and for me. I picked the dead parts off and discarded them, realizing only later that I should’ve photographed the whole plant first, to capture the devastation that had been wreaked, that evidence of ecosystem in action. Then I did what I had to do: I opened my window and sat at my desk to start notes. Absentmindedly I reached for my mug, forgetting that the water had sat overnight, and realized I was tasting diesel fumes that had settled there. I spit into the garbage, rinsed my mouth, washed the cup multiple times in the staff kitchen, rinsed my mouth again, drank filtered water. Every day for over a week, I came in to more dead leaves. At first dark like overripe bananas, then dwindling to jaundiced leaves with darker spots, like burn marks. The foliage sparser and sparser as I pruned and hoped for recovery. An acquaintance who heard about all this, after the fact, said, “Never sacrifice yourself that way again. Ask for the coat to come off.” Well, the boy didn’t wear the coat next time I saw him, which, given patterns of attendance in such an agency, wasn’t a mere seven days later. It got warmer. But meanwhile—just imagine—he’d been walking around like that, breathing that in.

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Out of respect for client privacy, names here are always changed or omitted, and details may be altered in fact while relevant in spirit. Text and image copyrights held by me. To subscribe and receive future posts, please look to the upper right on your computer screen, or scroll to the bottom of the page on your mobile device. I’m deeply grateful for my readers, and as always, I’d love to reach more. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it with anyone you feel might like it, too, by linking to it in whatever way works for you. I typically post once a month, so no barrage.