Monday, 12.01:

Something to Hide My Face In

Got about halfway through the typeset of Something to Hide My Face In. The Robin Becker Series: what a great group of chapbooks! Doug is starting to contact artists about some of the photos he’s interested in, and I’m so happy to be publishing these poems in February.

Tuesday, 12.02:


Pulled ten covers for Mistakes with Strangers out of the book press–they look pretty good, I think, with the repurposed hanging file folders I used instead of cardstock. We’ll see what Jeff thinks.

Used the same file folders to cover two proof copies of Portraits. One goes out to the author tomorrow. This title is so late in coming out, but I am glad to be nearly caught up with the backlog. Most importantly, it’s a really fine collection.

Sunday, 12.07:

The other shoe

I drove home from work on Friday through heavy rain and a growing sense of dread: my longtime companion and partner hadn’t answered texts I’d sent from work and I knew, with that sense that only impending grief can instill, that it was going to be bad.

It was bad. I found him in his room, his phone alarm still ringing, the neighbor’s Yorkie, which we were caring for through their brief trip west, barking and running around beside him on the bed.

The weekend has been a blur. The neighbors are home now; the dog is, for all we can know that sort of thing, fine. A little confused, I think: on Wednesday afternoon, R and I had taken our dog, Sadie, to the vet to be euthanized. So little P is probably missing them both. I know I am.

I have friends. The neighbors are, in fact, good friends. I am surrounded by supportive, caring individuals, some I know well and some I have never met face-to-face (most of my Seven Kitchens family: the writers whose work I’ve published, the poets who’ve kindly served as judges). All I need to do is reach out to them. My laptop has pinged quietly all night and all morning as e-mails and FB posts resound this support and love to me and to R, whose spirit surely lifts at the outpouring. This I believe.

This is all I can write for now.


Pulled a card for the first time in days: Page of Wands. Not sure how to read it today. Four of us–P, S, R and I–have been fairly steady about texting each day which card we’ve pulled, and occasionally talking about how it seemed to play out (or not).

Opened the box containing R’s deck. The card facing up, on top, the last card he pulled sometime Thursday, is the Ten of Wands.

Overwhelming Burden.


Found his urn on the bookshelf–at first I didn’t see it–and dusted it off. I have a meeting at 3:00 to sign papers for his cremation. Contents: three expired driver licenses, the small headshots like nesting dolls of R moving backward in time. A metal pill canister, empty. A drawstring bag holding a few old Indian head pennies.

We bought the urn in Vermont, the week of my graduation. R had come up and we’d planned to drive to Maine and then down the coast, staying with friends in Boston. It was our first and only real vacation, complete with spectacular whale watching off the coast of Salem, Mass.

On a drive near the Vermont College campus, we saw a sign for handmade pottery and followed the driveway to a split-level house. The garage door was up, and a woman inside let us browse around while she answered a phone call in the house: lots of pieces unglazed and not-yet fired. A pottery wheel and buckets of water. Clay dust on the shelves. And some beautiful white clay pieces with cobalt blue decoration that R wanted.

“It’s a perfect urn!”

“Do you think it’s a good idea to mention that that’s why you want it?”

“Who cares!”

When she returned, we said we were interested in a platter and matching canister. “Oh, I don’t know if you’ll want that once I tell you. . . Well, see the extra lip beneath the lid? This is actually an urn, for–well–“

“Perfect!” we rather squealed. She recovered admirably.

And it’s waited for him since.


[So many e-mails are coming in. Here is my response to one I just received from M, who I hope won’t mind my reposting here, as it applies to all of you who have sent messages of care.]

I just walked back from the funeral home that will be handling R’s cremation. My friends P & J, who live in the other side of the house, came along for support.

I’ve been trying to remember, but haven’t actually searched yet, the Louise Gluck poem about thinking one is as close to death as possible–and then going closer. I think I would like to read it at the small solstice gathering we’re planning.

It’s all moving through me in waves. It’s been 20 years since my first partner, David, died of aids. R’s death was accidental, a horrible stupid error on his part, and so its suddenness compounded by my futile insistence that it did not have to happen on that day seem to be the keys that gouge me the most right now. The loss itself permeates everything, but feels oddly warm, laced through and through by the love I feel: his love for me which does not end, and mine for him, and the kindness and good regard of so many who are well-wishing right now. Thank you.

FM radio auguries

That thing where you punch the radio button and whatever song is playing serves as a kind of augury?

On Friday, driving home in the heavy rain and carrying a growing sense of unease, I turned on the radio: it was John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”: Oh, babe, I hate to go-oh-oh-oh-oh.

Tonight, first time I’ve used the car since, I’m on my way home from the grocery and turned on the radio. It was set on NPR, the Tom and Ray show, so I punched another button because, you know, one more dead voice, and it was R.E.M.: This one goes out to the one I love/ This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind . . .

If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’.

Monday, 12.08:


Sleeping a little more deeply, or else so exhausted that I’m having lucid dreams: fragments of R as if in a black-and-white movie montage, Jimmy Stewart in the spinning scene from Vertigo or some Ray Milland flick, nothing that specific but his face flashing, stylized that way, spinning past–

Anxious breathing–not rapid, just–it feels the way it feels when you’re hurtling along in an airplane and you nap and forget you’re on a plane–the air not quite right, and the sense of being carried

And the aching hard-ons that wake me, so strong and straining that it’s almost as if someone were about to touch me there— I who’ve felt so ambivalent this past year about sex, which was surely a source of his pain.

FM (L)

I went with P to the gym this morning at nine. I normally go two or three times a week, after work, because it’s convenient to stop on my way home. But I hadn’t been since Thursday, and since she goes most mornings, it was easy to say yes, let’s do this healthy thing together to start the week.

It was okay. J, the manager, a sweet bear, was of course shocked and genuinely saddened when I told him about R; I had brought along his gym contract to be canceled. I don’t know why I wrote genuinely; it’s not like I have some Grief-o-Meter I’m whipping out in these situations. I can say that it’s hard work, the telling, even if it’s “just” to your gym manager. Regarding R’s membership, J said “I’ll take care of it” and I said “And I’ll go work out”–and though I had trouble breathing through the more intense parts on the ArcBeast, I held on, held out, and kept my pace.

Then it was off to tell our friend A, which meant I had to go to her place of work, which I hated to do, but P had said the obit was already out in the online version of the local paper, and I did not want A to find out that way. On the drive over, I thought to risk FM augury once more–the station was playing Miss Kelly Clarkson’s monster hit, and I’m happy she’s such a success and all, but: Something something last laugh/ Something something other something/ What doesn’t kill you makes you STRONGER–

Well, fuck that.

I felt like Death himself waiting for A to come out from the back of the store. I wanted some way to warn her. I had turned away from the counter and could feel my face beginning to rupture. Her cheery greeting didn’t help. I tried to put everything into my face as I turned to look at her: this is bad, oh honey this is going to hurt, please prepare yourself now because this is going to really fucking hurt. 

I can’t imagine being one of those military officers who show up with the telegram. As much as it hurt to recount what I had to, all I wanted to do was absorb her wracking pain. How do people do this? How had I forgotten that, in the middle of traffic (such as it is in our town), in the grocery store, on my very block, there are people in agony over their private losses?

A couple of weeks ago, I was telling my friend Amber about an NPR interview with Carlos Santana–part of it, anyway, that I’d caught on my way to work. The phrase that stood out was when he said he approaches people with the same greeting–internal or externally voiced, I don’t know; I imagined it was something he just set in his mind as he encountered each individual: I am a reflection of your light. 

Holding A’s hand, steadying ourselves, I said: It’s all about love.

We’ll get through.


P helped me start to tackle the closet today: the sorting of R’s clothes, which I know from last time I did this–twenty years ago–is not to be put off. It’s not so much easier to do it now; it’s just that I know enough to focus these Task Mode spurts into something that will show at the end of the fragmented day. So: first: the pillows. Into the trash bag. I have a sinus condition that severely inhibits my sense of smell, but even if I could smell R in these pillows, he died on them. Out, out.

Next, the clothes rack/bar inside his closet: everything on hangers. Old jeans, slacks I can’t remember him wearing, shirts. But wait, the shirts. Rather than donate the ones I can’t wear, maybe some of his friends would like a shirt? I don’t know, but I can’t toss them until I know.

And the jeans, some so worn and soft that I can’t help burying my face in them and inhaling, even though I can’t smell them: their softness is so comforting. And it occurs to me that the thrift store that receives these clothes will be a place where I may no longer be able to shop, because how strange to be drawn to a shirt only to recognize it was his, and then I realize we don’t wear the same size except for maybe a sweatshirt or two. Which I will keep.

Socks and underwear into the trash bag. Except the matched, balled socks, which someone may need, so into the donation bag which has grown so heavy that P says we might have to drag it.

The salwar kameez we bought in Houston for our handfasting. The black vest. The sash I made from scarlet raw silk we purchased at High Fashion Fabrics. What outfits, what cutie bears we were that day.

A leather vest, two, that I’ll never wear. The only leather friends I can think of are from fifteen years ago, maybe longer, back in Houston.

A bag to donate, and a bag to throw away: enough for now. The bare bed just a bed. The room beginning to hollow.

Tonight, lugging the throw-away bag to the trash, I opened the lid to find Sadie’s dog bed still folded in half, taking up most of the bin. Only Wednesday, but it feels a planet ago that we lost her. Grief’s cogs turn differently, separate from and oblivious to the wheels of standard time, trash pickup schedules.

Tuesday, 12.09:

The boy who could not heal himself

healed others instead.

Tuesday’s card

I pulled the Two of Cups today, a lovely card, a cup of love. P texted that she’d pulled the Three. We waited for S, and I texted that if she pulled the Ace I would cry. Instead, she drew Death. I howled. I laughed so hard it echoed through the house, I walked and laughed and threw back my head, how eager we are for signs,  well here’s one, kids, my god, I laughed until I sobbed and sobbed and then I laughed some more, and I could feel him laughing all inside me.

:: He is dead upstairs.

:: He is dead upstairs and the neighbor’s dog starts barking as I open the door.

:: He is dead and I don’t want to go upstairs because I know he is dead.

:: How do I know he is dead? I do not know. I feel it. I hear the dog barking, a tiny dog, a big bark for such a tiny dog, and I know the dog is with him and I know something is terribly wrong.

:: It is days later and I am sitting downstairs and I know he is dead.

:: It is hours before I find him and I am working late and he is already dead upstairs.

:: He is walking through the snow across the railroad trestle. Our dead dog is happily following, nosing the snow.

:: He is coaxing me into a hot tub at the baths in Houston. It’s late and no one else is around. The room opens onto a patio and the night sky and tall buildings are visible and I wonder if anyone watches us from their office window.

:: He is coaxing me.

:: He is telling me how alone he feels. We are in the kitchen. I don’t know what to say after 19 years.

:: He is at his computer and a dead boy comes to stand beside him and says he is sorry he was going so fast but there was a deer and he could not hit the deer.

:: He is at the farmer’s market the week his mother dies and suddenly he notices the crates beneath the counter are all emblazoned Hazel. Hazel. Hazel.

:: I climb the stairs. I do not expect to see what is not there.

Wednesday, 12.10:

It casts you down

So just when you sense that the thing you’ve been focused intently on achieving has in fact been achieved, there’s a space afterward, a gap: what lifts you up can cast you down again. So much energy directed at helping R cross over–and to know R was to know that he was a shaman, capable of seeing on the other side, of parting that veil enough to help others sometimes from a great distance–and at helping me, I know this, I feel this, I thank you all. So when that goal is achieved, when signs and messages and your own heart, not to mention his shamanic friends who have been dedicating their energies to help him cross–when all of this tells you that yes, it’s done, it’s fine, he’s there (wherever “there” is, that realm that he could see but you cannot)–after all this (the candle that should have lasted four more days disintegrating overnight and pooling on the plate; his voice in the house, sunny and loving, beckoning the dog) then what’s left is the after. The house no longer buzzing and brimming over with his presence. What’s left is the imperfect partner,  bobbing in the trough left by that stupendous wave. And the niggling doubts and small regrets that bubble to the surface all around. Eyes up, chin up. Hang on to what floats. From here, the next one looks like a mountain.

And then–

Not to anything that floats. Some of it is junk; some is poison. Standing in the living room at the cabinet of drawers that belonged to my father, where now I keep my tarot deck, I did not clear my mind. I did not ask a question. As I was shuffling the deck, I thought of all the friends who’ve sent well-wishes, and a jagged thought came by, and I selfishly grabbed it: *you wouldn’t feel that way if you knew what a poor husband I’d been*.
And the card I turned was a gentle but firm reminder of what we did indeed have: the Lovers.

And I let the bad thought go.

Thursday, 12.11:

Wrong Side of the River

I watched you on the wrong side
of the river, waving. You were trying
to tell me something. You used both hands
and sort of ran back and forth,
as if to say look behind you, look out
behind you. I wanted to wave back.
But you began shouting and I didn’t
want you to think I understood.
So I did nothing but stand still,
thinking that’s what to do on the wrong side
of the river. After a while you did too.
We stood like that for a long time. Then
I raised a hand, as if to be called on,
and you raised a hand, as if to the same question.

:: Stanley Plumly,
Out-of-the-Body Travel

Has Far to Go

It must have snowed all night. The groaning plows woke me before dawn.
: :
D hatched a plan to raise funds for your expenses. It’s been less than a day, we’re more than halfway to goal, and I am shaken, again, by the generosity of friends.
: :
I cooked breakfast. Had to throw out the salsa you made last week. Used the toaster oven but the tray was too big. Improvised with foil, just like on Cutthroat Kitchen. Could feel you laughing.
: :
Your Scruff account held no surprises. I’m glad we were open that way.
: :
I can’t seem to keep the dishes washed.
: :
The cable goes today. They couldn’t say when but said they’d call. I don’t miss television.
: :
Some people say the worst things.
: :
Your shoes huddle where you left them, open-mouthed, like dogs, waiting to serve.
: :
I’m making a forgiveness list, but I told a driver to fuck off as he tried to go around me in the crosswalk yesterday. I know, I know.
: :
You got a heartbreaking e-mail from a married guy who can’t believe what he saw in the paper.
: :
It’s an Eva Cassidy kind of morning.

for Randy:

Friday, 12.12:

Walking Over to Retrieve His Urn and Walking Slowly Back

I am so glad you were specific about the contents, what to do with them. Who knows otherwise

what I might have done? I could have left you on the mantel, as some do, but we
don’t have a mantel. I could have dribbled a bit of you into each dibbled hole this November as I–
as we–planted bulbs. (Aren’t you glad you waited a month?) I could have kept some
in my pocket to sprinkle upon hand-patters who reassure me you are in a better place,
then smiled and said Well, now he is. I could have mixed you into the bone-grey paint
and finished the upstairs hall with an enigmatic texture. I could have sifted you
into baked goods and trotted the rounds with baskets laden–Eat & remember–or parsed you
sparingly to the goldfish, Molly & Ivan, as an extra treat, if we had goldfish. If I were
a sculptor, surely I could come up with something: a hand-cast concrete lantern for the garden?
Or, if money were no object, I could ship you off to one of those companies that crush
you into a precious stone. I’ve always hated ostentatious jewelry.

Saturday, 12.13:

A knocking

woke me at seven: several quick raps on my bedroom door or perhaps on the window. I was asleep, so I wasn’t exactly analyzing the sound, though my instinct was to call out something in response.

Yesterday I made a list of tasks and loaded them to my Google calendar, with reminders set to go off through the day. This because I’d spent probably five hours on Thursday sitting and staring blankly. So I tried a regimented approach: Go to the gym. Make some breakfast. Call the funeral home. Check, check, check. Take a shower. Decide which of his shirts to send to Mom. Finish all the dishes. Boil water, make tea. Fold and stow the Reiki table. Pick up his urn. Buy thank you cards. Make grocery list. Pay p.o. box rental. Water plants. Bake a cake for lunch tomorrow at D & B’s. Finish typesetting Doug’s chapbook. Answer Jan’s email.

Somewhere between dishes and urn, it all started to get away from me. Still, I told myself I was doing fine, managing well, moving forward through the day with purpose. Hadn’t cried. Stopped at the foot of the stairs and said, firmly, I love you. I forgive you. I have to keep going.

The cards cut through this stoic front and unlocked whatever mechanism I’d set against tears: a sweet, direct note from our friends down the block; a thank you from the delivery driver I’d forgotten to tip the other day (so I walked to Stein’s and left him some cash in an envelope); a poignant note from an old friend and colleague at Bucknell. I wept, I shuddered, I let it out.

And then I went back to my list.

Half a pomegranate

left over from Thanksgiving. Drying, shrinking on the back of the counter. I should throw it out or into the compost bin. As an editor, I reject its too-easy symbolism. Yet here I am, mentioning it.


And it came to me in a sudden lift, followed immediately by guilt at the hopeful thought: Now I can do whatever I want.

And tonight, on the phone for two hours with Mother, she said she’d had the same feeling when her father died. In her case, it meant being free to walk away from the mess of her screwed-up family after the intensity of having cared for her father’s needs. I’ve never known anyone who loved a parent more deeply and intensely than she loved my grandfather. So the lifting weight has something to do with duty, with–at least in part–having had to do what one feels obligated to do.

I know I need to ponder this. Of course we loved them: I loved R; she loved her father. But the real contrast shone through when she spoke of how she felt when my father died: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? The exact thought that came to me after R’s death. The difference is that my looking forward is with hope, and hers, despair. I think that I will never love as she has.

Sunday, 12.14:


Off to a slow start this morning. I woke at 3, then 5, then 7:30 but lay back to try to follow a lost thread of dreaming. All gone now.

Finally ready to empty and wash the dog bowls, actually two mixing bowls. Sadie’s been gone ten days and I don’t foresee another dog for a while. I realize that dogs came into my home with R, and left the same way: we adopted the original Sadie on a rainy September day in Houston. I’d taken R to the SPCA shelter by surprise, hoping he might meet a dog to replace his lost Emily. And the second Sadie, Sadie 2.0, came to us here in Lewisburg from a family that couldn’t keep her any longer, came to us with problems and health issues we battled from nearly day one, but we gave her the best life we could.

I’d never been a dog person before our first Sadie, always considering them either too yippy or too loud, too unpredictably so, which shows how unobservant I had been of others’ interactions with their dogs. I’m thinking of my friend Ben and his sweet little Tam-Tam, whose soft white fuzz always reminded me of late portraits of May Sarton. Or of Charlie, who delightedly posted snapshots of Arden on FB. My parents had problematic but devoted dogs. My sister J’s interactions with Angus and Sascha, her work with the local humane society, and her very good portraits of dogs helped me to realize how lucky I was to gain entrance to this fellowship, to have the opportunity to build a relationship with a good dog. And my sister S, whose heart is larger than any house, has given homes to some of the most loving dogs (and many cats) I’ve ever met.

With so much uncertainty about what’s next for me–with everything suddenly wide open, which induces no small amount of middle-aged terror–I don’t see how a dog could fit into my life right now. Though I’m warming to the notion of Molly and Ivan, my imaginary goldfish.

Cooking  for One: First Attempt

Thanks to a 25-year-old copy of The Moosewood Cookbook, I managed to cook a wholesome dinner: lentil soup. Not half bad.

Wednesday, 12.17:


Back to work this week. It’s exhausting. Trying to focus on much-needed tasks when I get home: exhausting. Trying not to feel angry at R for leaving me behind is impossible today. I know anger is supposed to a healthy, or at least acceptable, component of the grief process, but I think I might seriously cut the first person who tells me this. So don’t.  I’m just going to rattle through this particular tunnel and try to get to the other end as best I can.

Be nice to your retail associates out there. Someone called a coworker “stupid” yesterday though he did everything correctly, and I am very glad I didn’t witness it firsthand. That shopper gets to live to see another day.

Thursday, 12.18:

No Molly, No Ivan

Okay, so I thought I’d go ahead and buy the goldfish. One seems wrong — too lonely — so after work, as I browsed the Petsmart aisle looking at fish tanks and things I do not need and don’t really want, I worked my way back to the actual fish, where two pimply, impossibly thin youngsters were carrying on their private conversation loudly enough for any stranger to overhear. To his credit, one youngster did say Good afternoon, and then resumed his chitchat with the other. I put goldfish pellets in my basket. I added a package of water treatment packets. I scrutinized the pretty little fantail goldfish. I asked for help when none seemed forthcoming. It went something like this:

Me: I’d like to purchase two of these small goldfish, please.
Associate 1: What size tank do you have?
Me: About two gallons.
A1: I wouldn’t recommend goldfish. What you want instead is a betta.
Me: What I want are two goldfish.
A1: They grow too big for that size bowl.
Me: At which point I would get them a larger one.
A1: I wouldn’t recommend that.
Me: So I am trying to make a purchase in your store, and twice now you’ve told me no and recommended I buy something I don’t want?
Associate 2: She’s not saying no. We just recommend that you get the betta not the goldfish.
Me: .
A2: The goldish can live a really long time,  like twenty years.
Me: . (What, I look like I won’t last twenty fucking years?)
A2: They produce a lot of waste.
Me: .
A2: They keep growing. They get too big. They’ll outgrow their bowl and then people–
Me: –and then I would put them into a bigger tank. Why are you making this so hard?
A1 and A2: We’re not saying you can’t–
Me: Yes. You are.
A1 and A2: We’re just recommending–
Me: I didn’t ask for your recommendation. I asked for two of these (fucking) goldfish (you fucking nitwits). Have you ever heard of something called customer service? It does not consist of arguing with the customer over what he or she wants.
A1/A2: We’re  not–
Me: Have yourselves a really nice (fucking) day.

(Parenthetical comments were amazingly kept inside my head and did not pass through my mouth.)

I asked at the register for a manager. What I asked was, Is there a manager around? I asked nicely. The cashier nodded and said, Uh-huh.

I gave her the look that said Would you like to kindly jump out of the way of this train wreck barreling down upon us or shall I shove you to safety for your own good even though you do not deserve it? She pointed.

The manager, when I started explaining the nature of my attempted purchase, interrupted with How big is your tank? Two gallons, I said. We don’t recommend two goldfish for that size tank, she said. Do you want one goldfish?

I took a breath. Shouldn’t the question–the question you should be asking, the question they should have asked–should not the question be, Would you like a bigger tank to better accommodate the two goldfish you are purchasing today?

We really don’t recommend–

I walked out. I retrieved the small hatchet I keep under my passenger seat. I went back inside and smashed, one after the other, sixteen fish tanks. Goldfish, guppies, neons, angelfish–so lucky to already be angels–and then swept a good half-dozen betta bowls from their shelf, dazed, morose betta barely flicking their beady eyes. I pointed into the slapping writhe and asked A2 to please fetch me two fantails from the puddle.

Actually, I only walked out.

Sunday, 12.21:

Turn, Turn

Today we opened the house from 12 – 2 so friends and neighbors could drop by, eat a little something, and remember R. I should have done a better job of notifying everyone. As Jarrell famously writes in “Skunk Hour,” My mind’s not right.

Good to see friends. Hard to embrace some for the first time since they heard the news. Glad I managed to clean and de-clutter the downstairs: though such things are unimportant to me, they mattered to R.

I baked my applesauce cake again. S, P and J prepared everything else. The time went quickly. It was good to see neighbors catching up. We dumped coats in my apartment and had food set up on P & J’s side of the house–more room–but it was good to duck back home a few times for quieter conversations.

Then it was over, and we four shifted gear to head out and finish the last task: releasing his remains in the forest while the daylight was good.

The snow lay only in patches here and there, which relieved me because I hadn’t known what to expect. It’s always so much colder in the higher ground. A few slippery spots, a hurried trek through deep woods that seemed at times completely unfamiliar, and then I knew where I was again and we turned off to gather at R’s tree.

Emptying the urn was harder than I’d expected. It’s only been two weeks since he died. When I lost David, just coming up on twenty years ago, I kept his remains for two years before finally letting them go into the garden, as he’d requested. But today is the solstice, and tonight the new moon, and as hard as it was to follow through when the moment finally came, I knew the timing was right and that waiting would serve no good purpose.

His favorite tree. Clumps of moss bright green through the snow. Bright, frigid water flashing in the creek. The silent woods surrounding us. We four friends, honoring his wish to be released in this beautiful, tranquil spot.

And then it was done. I climbed down to the creek and filled the urn with icy water, splashed it on the gray-dusted snow.

And now a part of him becomes the tree.

Back home, the quiet after everything. The feeling that none of this is real, that I’ve only somehow gone through a wrong door, that it’s all a mistake. But such kindnesses from friends and neighbors, their labor to speak words that will matter, tell me it’s real, it happened. I somehow hold myself above the current of grief, believing I have to, as if sheer will enacts a kind of levitation. Only in unguarded moments now do I slip, tumble into it, such bright and piercing grief.

Tuesday, 12.23:

River fog.

Thursday, 12.25:

Up early this morning to lean into the day with some sense of purpose, hopefully to gain a small feeling of accomplishment but mainly to prevent the inertia of wallowing. I started a fresh to-do list, jotting down the immediate with the long-term, the deeper ponderings with more mundane household tasks, in no particular order except as they came to me.

Do laundry. Check. Easy enough, though a two-hour task stretched to four because I kept forgetting about it. I’m still tugged off course by innumerable distractions, not the least of which has been FB, though in my defense, I do try to pop in and back out quickly. Without television, I gave in and reactivated my Netflix account–just one dvd at a time–so if I don’t work up the stamina to go out to the movies just yet (I know some of my friends are watching Into the Woods even as I type this, but I just don’t want to be the sobbing blubberer that drowns out the dialogue during all the death scenes), at least I can catch up on a few from last year.

Go through his computer files for anything that might help. Check. Lots of pictures deleted (if you’re reading this, you know who you are) and some others saved because they’re good, and a few others I should delete but haven’t yet (if you’re reading this, I’d like to know who you are). A copy of his will from 2006, but, alas, I have found no printed (and witnessed) copy. I did find many photos that I would have included in the slide show I put together for Yule. No journal. No letters to me. Not much writing at all. This makes me very sad, because R had some wonderful stories (and some harrowing ones about his at-best negligent parents).

Finish emptying the fridge. Check. Out with the yellowed kale and wan scallions in the bottom crisper. Out with the last of the gravy he made for Thanksgiving dinner (do not judge me, bitches; it is hard work to throw away food made by a man whose cooking will be terribly missed). Out with the–what is that?–well, out with it. Make room. Breathe.

Think about making a new will and legal documents. Okay, I’m thinking. I would like to get this out of the way because, well, because my job is stressful beyond belief right now and I spent half of Tuesday at work thinking I might be having a heart attack. Which I didn’t. As far as I know. But still, it would suck for my siblings to have to come out to Pennsylvania and try to go through all my stuff with no legal access to my estate. Ha. What a word, estate, conjuring wealth. Because the opposite.

Stop checking Growlr every 15 minutes. Check. Because if anyone wanted to message me, they’d message me, and if anyone wanted anything more, well that’s not very likely right now, is it?

Figure out how to cook the pork roast. Okay, I’m not sure I have it figured out, but the damn thing is in the damn crock pot, the potatoes and carrots are nearly tender enough to take out (so they don’t go to mush), and though the meat feels nowhere near tender and fork-flaky (if that’s a word), I don’t think it’s supposed to just yet, so points to me for chopping veggies and mincing garlic and searing the meat and figuring out how to cover the rickety, too-small lid with a folded dish towel to keep the steam from completely escaping. Side note on crock pots: You gets what you pays for.

Be kind to anyone who checks in today. Harder than it seems, because some people don’t seem to get that Have a great Christmas! is so not the thing to say right now, which means I have to be the better friend, dittoing the sentiment, instead of calling said friends on their insensitivity, which at least in one case has been, for years, a classic pattern of shallow and evading platitudes whenever difficult emotional matters arise in conversation. Said friend has not been dumped because–well, I need to ponder this more deeply, but I think it’s because (a) there’s history, which means friend knows things about both R and me, and could possibly help me sort out some of those events, and (b) I may be a mess, but I know that not everyone is as strong (or tactful, or reliable) as I want/need them to be.

Repot some of the basket plants. Check. Six plants from one gift basket became eight (the palm, which is really a mass of about thirty seedling palms, got teased apart into three smaller clumps). Most are now on R’s window sill, where I hope I will remember to water them. The other gift basket will have to wait, because its huge amaryllis, having opened four blossoms, is now set to open more flowers on a second spike. I don’t want to mess that up.

Throw out his shoes. Check.

Sort the papers in his room. Check: most into the recycle bin, some into the shredder.

Decide about the press. So much to decide here: do I suspend the press for another year to new submissions while I figure out how and where I will live? Or jump into it, inviting the universe to buoy me along into a regained footing and, hopefully, the kind of growth and recognition I think Seven Kitchens deserves? I’ve made a separate list, a huge list, of items to consider, and all of it needs to be decided by the end of this year. (Yeah, no pressure.)

Write thank you notes. I was saving this for nightfall, which slows me down to a near-standstill. I’ve managed I think three cards this week and have probably thirty or more to go. I wish I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow; a four-day weekend would have been a balm right now. Plus I need to leave the car with my mechanic and can’t do that because I’ve no other way to get to work. Maybe next week somehow. Meanwhile, I’m using an old towel to drape across the opening where my driver’s-side window won’t close. Keeps the rain mostly out. Cold, cold on the morning drive, though.

Be kind to myself. Working on this. We all have demons. Mine are lately taking the form of various regrets, though I try to dismiss these gently but firmly. What good is looking backward? What’s done is so very done. Looking ahead, though, can be terrifying: my new scary mantra, I can do anything, a blade to cut through doubt and my usual fear of the unknown, points keenly at the next moment, and the next after that: Now choose. 

Saturday, 12.27:

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

:: C.S. Lewis

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