Monday, December 9, 2019

Notes From an Ill-Kept Journal

12.9.19   Winter Depression

It doesn’t take long to get grumpy when the days shorten, and the dark skies gather early in the afternoon, like crowds of unwanted guests. Trust me, I have raised “Getting Grumpy” to the top of my playlist for all-time memorable rock ballads. The nearest exit sign is three months away, and you’re wondering if you can make it through the next week. About two years ago I bought a small army of Runner Ducks to calm my soul, but it turns out they’re high maintenance in the best of times, and in the cold, damp Seattle Winter months, (the worst of times) it’s like work release on steroids. Sometimes small skirmishes expand into major wars, and letting this one slip, can be bewildering, if not perilous. Bur perhaps there’s one thing we can all agree on, that there’s got to be more to Winter, than winter depression. There is snow. There is home and hearth. Snowmen. The poetry of Robert Frost (and even others). But if poetry doesn’t work for you, try this: a little quiet observation, a little contemplation, a little gratitude. Observe the gentle fall of flakes or the torrents that restore the earth. Take some time to consider what it would be like to live on the equator. And be thankful you don’t. Getting more serious, perhaps this way of thinking can possibly lead one out from a frame of negativity into a world that mimics, if not actuates, the tension between surviving and surrendering.  If you’re like me, you’ll admit to needing both: a will to surmount difficulty, and the willingness to accept what doesn’t meet your narrow standard of tranquility. A starting place is to go into that room of despair, enter into that place you dread. See the shadowed silhouette of a leafless tree in the cold air, softened by moonlit and kindled in an unspoken beauty. See your squandering of time for what it might have been, not mourning its loss so much as providing you perspective and understanding.  Then, go out into the dark evening, renew it with light. See what happens.

Backyard in April

Praise for kingdoms in a spoonful of stagnant water,
universes hidden in the super-saturated air.

For this flooded grass, once a green cathedral 
of clover and bee, now flattened and brown.

For drowned slugs, beech leaves
floating over them, like unused life preservers.

Praise for the duck pool, brimming 
with brownish goo, I dip both hands into,

cupping palmfuls of water-bear and larvae,
unsung heroes, vacuuming the smothering algae.

Praise for disarray and transition, this familiar place 
run amuck, that doesn’t need me to succeed,

for ripples of hesitation waving through me,
as I embrace uncertainty and impermanence—

that my seasons in this place are limited,
accepting that struggles are sure to come.

Praise the gray hues, the granite and silica,
the unfiltered raw essence of newness,

and this dripping garden shed, gently slumping 
toward ruin, framed by a hemlock’s green lace.

  -In "Thin Places," forthcoming from Salmon Poetry


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