September 11, 2016
The sounds alone would be enough. I’d know just by the beeps and rumbles, helicopter ratatat, the nearly constant sirens, and a train whistle that sounds just as anxious/urgent as the police car, so that you can’t help but think they both must be chasing the same mad killer.
But you’ve got the colors too. You’ve got Puget Sound—how to describe the complex geometry of water? The ripples, wakes, and wavelets, all those intersections, all those patterns, the shifting gray/blue/silver, and oh how the sunlight spotlights every tiny peak of wave—and all of it in constant flux. I could get easily lost here, in this gaze to my immediate left. I’m a “pattern thinker,” if that’s a thing. I see it all—there’s buildings too, and boats and planes—as shapes and angles and delightful juxtapositions. The space needle I could see if I got off this couch (I pause as another seaplane passes), but I can see its reflection anytime in the glass of the corner window. So many helicopters here! Some miles distant, silver beads decorate a latticework overpass—sun glinting off car windows. Motorboats and sailboats, tugboats tugging barges just like in the movies. The V shape of migrating geese. The V shape of a cabin cruiser’s wake. The collision courses averted long before you can even hope for a catastrophe. All the coming and going. I could watch this glittering sea forever, I could hypnotize myself.
I pause to hypnotize myself. It works.
Always some emergency. Soft then loud the sirens. They Doppler in then out. You never hear them stop, they only fade away. They’re always going somewhere else. They all are, everybody out there, the ferries and the sailboats, that sun-dotted line of rush hour cars. They’re always going somewhere else. I saw a motorboat make two figure eights—two figures eight?—and it was all the more beautiful for having nothing at all to do with me. Life dazzles when you watch it from the 24th floor. So many people, and everyone going somewhere, but—what luxury!–nobody headed up here.
Still, there’s no sanctuary. Enough pain all around to fill the oceans. Mary [my friend and traveling companion] and I, on the 24th floor, we know too much, feel too much, even at this altitude. We know they’re all down there, afraid. And even if these walls were made of lead, Mary would still hear the crying, because she keeps her cell phone on.
Today I won’t ask myself all those rude questions I’m always asking myself, like “Just who do you think you are, anyway?” and “Don’t you have work to do?” No. No interviews today, please. Today I’ll mind my own business instead. Eventually I hope to understand that I’ve never actually had any business to mind.
Just this sunlight.
September 12, 2016
I know I’m not obsessed with fame, because I keep forgetting to check to see if that agent’s written back. Surely I’d be checking every hour, the way Mary checks on John [her son, who’s having trouble] when he’s feeling dire. Neither am I obsessed with—let me think of all the things I seldom think about: power, looking pretty, other people’s opinions, money, being loved, my own death, my own self.
I am obsessed—let me aggregate my hauntings—with the pain of the world. Merely that. I carry it with me in my chest—it’s the heavy stone on which my heart is founded, the crag on which it’s built its aerie, the reef on which my ship is wrecked. (Etc.) The pain of the world. Here on the 24th floor I merely hear it ebb and flow outside, as if from far away. Within the apartment, I feel Mary’s suffering more fully than I would ever choose to feel my own. Mary and John, both of them—in my mind they’re dancing, holding tight to each other, in a hurricane. I can only witness. It’s as deep a hurt as I’ve seen in years, and I’m honored to be let into it a little. Too, I feel my own helplessness as a familiar stab—another everyday reminder that I’ll know peace when I finally learn the simple, impossible trick of surrender, and not a micro-moment before.
Then too—how tedious I am!–I ache for Harley, the tiny, arthritic, heart-diseased dog who lives here too. (“A beautiful soul I’m glad to have near me”—that’s how we each would describe the other, I like to think.) No need for words. With Mary, too, no need for words. We nestle today in separate havens, me in the living room, her in the bedroom. We like to be alone together. This is all the outside world I need, I realize—someone to be alone together with—and even that only occasionally.
(I pause to watch a motorboat zig across the sound, its wake at first an S, then a snake, and then gone.)
The usual question: is this anything? If it isn’t, what is? Not fame, not power, not anything on that dull list. This much, by now, is absurdly obvious. But what about the pain of the world? It’s my deepest obsession–my only one, maybe, on my least self-burdened days. The one I can’t give up. I feel it en masse—inhale it like a dampness in the air.
But this generalized ache is old habit by now, and bearable enough. By now it’s only the particular that kills me. My brothers and sisters, my daughters, my husband, my dogs, my friends. A crumpled homeless man I dare to glance at.
If everyone would just be happy already, I sometimes think, then maybe I could finally relax.
Or maybe I keep myself obsessed with other people’s pain in order not to feel my own? Or maybe it’s just a substitute for ambition? What is my own pain, anyway? And what ought I be ambitious about? Sometimes I see how lazy my mind is, how it starts a question or a train of thought, but can’t seem to bother to finish it. I feel, so often, half-asleep. I stare out the window. I breathe in and out. Hours go by this way.
September 14, 2016
I was going to post that in my blog—the part about the pain of the world and all, but when I set it there, and read it again, all I could see was my own silly narcissism. I wonder if I’ll ever get past it. Or am I supposed to embrace that too? How about I give it all up, and just watch for a while? How about I don’t try so hard to know what I’m doing, and just do it, whatever it is?
Sitting here again, watching the boats on Puget Sound. Listening to the sirens, typing not because I have anything to say, but because I like the clickety clack of the keys. It’s a fabulous sound—the tip-tap-tip of success. So I make a resolution: just type to type, just fill the page with words because why not. If I could dance I would dance even when I didn’t move at all. Even standing still in an elevator, I’d be dancing, in my bones. Just as now I am always singing inside, and always writing. It’s like how Mary practices her Mendelssohn concerto inside her mouth, tapping each note on her teeth with her tongue. Such essences can’t be detached and put away, they’re integral to the body’s every molecule. So why do I insist on separating all my parts as if they’re separable? Always looking to put things in their proper bins—my marriage, say, or my writing, or my thoughts one day versus my thoughts the next. Let the contradictions blend together, I say now. I’m as tired of thinking my thoughts as I am of trying to dodge them.