Tuesday, May 19, 2020

C19: Lilac Season

One of my favorite times of year. When the smell of lilacs sifts through the air, I am instantly transported back in time to my Grandma and Grandpa McKinley's house, not too far from the house where I grew up. In fact, it doesn't so much feel 'back in time' as it does just 'to another part of the world.' It feels like a part of the world I can still visit because of how vividly I experience it when walking past a lilac bush.

They had a big one out front of their home, to the right side of the door. I remember running past it, playing on the picnic table nearby, and often stopping to smell and pick the flowers, which I'd deposit into little drinking glasses on the kitchen table for safe keeping (for however long they'd last). That little portion of the yard, as soon as you ran East of the house, would just pour open into a big hill that opened into a valley with woods behind it. I wish I could remember more about the valley and the woods. I suppose when we were little, we just didn't spend as much time that far out from the house.

I'm grateful for how lilacs place me into this spot in my life, despite the seasonal allergies I've developed in the last 7 years or so. Seven years. Putting that into writing makes it seem like I've been experiencing seasonal allergies for awhile now, yet every year I still forget I have them, and think I'm sick. In fact, this year, I thought perhaps it was Covid-19. Needless to say and in light of this, this season was really the first time I've been grateful for my allergies.

Back to lilacs. I can honestly say that I feel satisfied with how their smell can transport me to my grandparents: it doesn't make me feel sad or wish things were different. They are as they are, and I have the fortune to be able to recall aspects of my time with them so vividly.

In this, the smell of lilacs also reminds me to take deep breaths. As a pretty bodily-aware person, I never fail to be surprised by how fully I inhale and exhale when reminded to by something like the smell of lilacs, or the other Spring seasonal smells in my neighborhood, which is full of bright, beautiful flowering trees and plants. In turn, I'm also surprised by how shallow I tend to breathe regularly. In these past couple weeks and probably for a couple more, I have found and will find that I am continually reminding myself to 'enjoy this time while it lasts.' It's pretty finite, this period of blooming.

At risk of stating the obvious, I'll extend this beyond blooming spring. I suppose I should really also remind myself to enjoy this unexpected 'quarantine' time while it lasts, as I am fortunate enough to be comfortable at home, enjoying seeing my partner more, nesting a bit and cooking good food. Beyond this, I'll acknowledge that 'enjoy this time while it lasts' can apply, and could probably stand to be applied more often, to really any span of time. Any moment. Any trip. Any bonfire. Any good meal.

Any hug.

Any HUG.

Any 'get-your-face-right-up-in there,' full-bodied sniff of lilacs in bloom.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

C19: The Insides

The insides. We walk past the outside.

It takes some pause to see the insides.

Here's what's been inside lately: for starters, "Freedom." I am frustrated by how this concept is being molded by some during this time. Societies, by their nature, create minimum behavior agreements that allow large groups of people to live in close quarters and not only 'survive' one another, but thrive because of the relationships and support structures they build together.

I feel like I'm either reading or writing (or both) a sociology 101 text, which is funny to say, considering I don't think I ever really took a 'sociology class' per say. I picked these ideas up among other subjects. I recognize I'm not writing anything provocative that hasn't been thought before, it's just what's processing for me at the moment. I also realize that the folks within my world who could really stand to read and consider these ideas are very unlikely to do so. Long-form writing just feels like a much better way (and therein my blog a much better place) than social media to clarify some of my thoughts and feelings in a written, semi-public-facing way. More on that later.

Back to "Freedom." Freedom to what? Tell a woman how she should treat her own body according to one's own religious views? Freedom to shoot a black man out for a run because 'Martial Law'? Freedom to ignore the public good in order to uphold some sort of misguided, lone wolf image? Fear that being told to wear a mask will open the gate to an eventual spiral into totalitarian madness DOES feel pretty misguided to me. Despite the many challenges to American democracy made by the current president himself and their fall-outs, Americans still live in one of the best-functioning democracies in the world. A scary though, that? Yes. Still worth saying.

It feels impossible for me to square how the same folks suggesting that being asked to wear a mask by a private business when entering their establishment are often the same people who more or less suggest that "private citizens should be able to do whatever the hell they want." How can one suggest that businesses should have the freedom to operate (within the constructs of the law) however they choose, and then be livid enough to SHOOT ONE OF THEIR EMPLOYEES when they choose to require customers to wear masks when inside.

I'm fortunate that my own personal 'bubble,' if you will, during all this, has been pretty pleasant. I have an excellent relationship with my partner. I have a partner. We are fine financially. We are able to take walks in the sunshine in a neighborhood other than our own and feel safe. We can buy, prepare and eat good food. So it's things like the above happening that create the constant, low-grade anxiety within my insides. And I know I'm not alone.

Back to "whatever the hell the want." Within the constructs of the law, sure. I keep thinking that folks who feel their freedoms are being impinged upon do not fully appreciate the gravity of what that second part really means. As a side note, these are not folks I'm inventing, they are real-life examples of family and acquaintance whose opinions posted on Facebook uncover their positions. To choose to live in a society is to choose to respect the constructs of the law. Do some attempt to pervert those constructs? Yes. That is why it's crucially important that they be protected. I'd suggest that "protecting the freedom to own assault weapons" is an example of perversion, not protection, but I digress.

I keep thinking that if the 'constructs of the law' are too much for someone, they need to invest in the equipment, skills and property needed to live 'outside of society.' This feels like a ridiculous thing to think, as there is currently no land on earth not claimed by a country or nation, but it seems fitting, as it is a response to a ridiculous notion. The United States has come a long way since the 'Wild, Wild West,' and we are a great deal better for it.

I suppose the closest one could get would be where a lot of folks with such opinions already are: the mountains of Utah. That said, when folks who wish to live outside of society need to come back into it for supplies, they need to shelve their opinions to work within the pact of the law. BEYOND that - back to masks - wearing a mask is really an act of compassion for other people, as it supposedly protects others more than the wearer. It's disheartening to observe that "liberty" and "compassion" seem at odds for so many.

I write all this here. I phrase it as 'disheartening.' Because that's what it is for me. Skewering family and acquaintances over our ideological differences in short-form writing on social media will NOT tend to my disheartened state, nor do I believe it will make a seismic-enough shift in their thoughts to really make a difference. In contrast, I don't look poorly upon anyone who chooses to use their social media in that way. I just prefer to take to personal, one-on-one conversations and am privileged enough to make donations to effective activist groups like the ACLU.

I also do not look to social media as my outlet for news, and do think there are many misgivings for doing so. If I do not opt to collect my news there, then why would I opt to distribute my opinions there as well? I've chosen to 'take the risk' that I may be seen by some as 'not politically and socially engaged' if I do not do the former. I think it behooves to remember that our choices in the ways we behave have always helped determine to whom we become truly close. If a current acquaintance would choose to not hold me close because they equate my choice to not use social media as my main outlet for socio-political activism with not engaging in activism at all, it's likely we'd not have become close friends anyway, due to fundamental differences in how we operate as humans. This doesn't make me or that potential person a better or worse human, it just makes us more likely to be a long-term friendship-mismatch.

That said, this thought-stream HAS gotten me thinking about what I DO chose to post on social media, and how it might add to the perception that it 'skews people's senses of reality.' I do tend to post positively and optimistically. That said, I think I'm realizing this reflects how I (wish) to use it. I turn to social media when I need a pick-me-up generated by people I have chosen to have in my life. Not for news. Not to exchange opinions. Not to get angry.

I want to come back to that 'chosen to have in my life.' To what extent is 'connecting with someone on social media' choosing to have them in your life? Prior to social media, we really only got 'regular updates' from people we chose more carefully to engage with on a regular basis. The friends we sat with at lunch and spent time with outside of school. Now, we 'become friends' on social media with our estheticians and that one dude we talked to on that one plane ride that one time. The extent of our in-person, one-on-one encounters with such folks is often not enough to build a relationship based on trust that will translate in holding one another in kind regards on social media.

I've always rejected the notion that I should 'curate my social media,' for example, selectively 'Unfollowing' people on Facebook, but I am starting to rethink that decision. I'm starting to think that making these choices is kind of like a digital version of choosing with whom you sit at the lunch table. Perhaps those you choose to 'Friend' but not 'Follow' are like the however many hundreds of folks at my high school who I considered acquaintances but whose day-to-day thoughts I simply did not have the capacity to hold. I ended up with the lunch table companions I did after time engaging with them uncovered that I desired to hold with me their day-to-day thoughts. I wouldn't go out of my way to engage in person with purposefully-inflammatory people, so why would I do so on social media?


The above is a sampling of my insides right now. Alongside it are fears of how my career is and will continue to be impacted. About how movement toward having a child is and will be impacted. BIG SHIT. It's the stuff you don't see on social media, because for me, it's not the right outlet for it. Just because it's not THERE does NOT mean it's not happening.

That said, I will continue to post the piles of masks I make. I will continue to post small dances. I will continue to post small bits of joy, because that's what I go to social media for myself. It's also a way for me to keep sharing joy through my creative work, because that IS my work and I CAN'T do it the way I prefer to right now - live and in person.

The insides.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

C19: It Is What It Is, So How Can You Turn It Into What You Can Use?

Sounds like a faux-positive, personal-development-blogger title.

But it's what went through my head this morning.

I'd gotten thinking on my walk about what my day should include/ look like, including creating a video to send to Brian for his MFA final project. That got me thinking about how I cannot imagine this is what he would have planned for his project to be, i.e. a collage of people dancing on video versus a collage of people dancing in person. That said, I also got thinking about how he, of all people, feels to me like a model example of someone who can see a situation for what it is, even if it is different from what he'd want, and then embrace it to come out on the other side with something beautiful.

Not accept. Embrace.

I think 'Accept' has to come first. I feel like I'm discussing stages of grief here. I honestly couldn't say right now what they are, as looking them up and considering them hasn't felt helpful to me right now (and apparently not really before this, either). That said, the concept feels pertinent.

Perhaps there are people who can go right to 'Embrace.' I imagine Brian as one of those people. That said, he, just like anyone and everyone else, has lots of energy running through those brain circuits that does not get displayed publicly. There's 'always more than meets the eye,' with most things. Make lemonade out of lemons. That's basically what I'm trying to say here. Truisms.

I suppose they are 'true' because so many people experience them as truth, That said, there is something to be appreciated about arriving to such concepts on your own terms. Labelling them as they are, for YOU. How they are, in the moment they arrive, for YOU.

It is what it is. How can I turn it into what I can use? For starters, I'm really starting to crave routine again. I think I'll start by using my to-do app again.

Monday, April 27, 2020

C19: Swimming Pool/ Rain/ Zombies/ Frogs/ Rain

Last night (or was it the night before?), I had a dream (or more like a nightmare?) that I was in a swimming pool. Or maybe something more like a lazy river. Either way, I was peacefully floating until I noticed how many other people there were in the water with me. When I noticed that, I started freaking out inside and flailing outside, trying not to fall into the water where the virus might be floating around too.

No matter that my feet, bottom and hands had all been lazily dripping in and out of the water for however long I'd been in it, and that'd surely since touched my face: the idea of my head plunging into the water was unbearable. Needless to say, the flailing did not help, and I fell into the water anyway. That was the end of the dream. It seems flailing wasn't the right response. But how did I get there in the first place?

I've been having a lot of bad dreams, or perhaps nightmares, lately. I'd say every two to three nights or so, I have a night of sleep from which I do NOT wake up recalling a bad dream. Apparently I am not alone in this. I heard a sleep expert speak on one of the daily news podcasts I listen to, and she noted that research has been showing quite the uptick in nightmares.

Some of this may have to do with the poor habit I've tried not to develop, but have anyway, of reading a little news before I go to bed. I've been trying to contain my news intake to certain sources and certain times, but sometimes I'm just not successful with that. Perhaps some of what I read before going to sleep seeps into my subconscious and manifests in fucking weird shit in my head.

I suppose the pool example wouldn't so much qualify to me as "fucking weird," maybe just disturbing. There HAS been some "fucking weird shit," but I honestly cannot remember what it was. I think I've maybe blocked a lot of it out. I know a couple days ago I had one surrounding prom, from which I woke up and asked Kris to prom. He said yes.

Maybe it's just felt like I sense of control for me to try and interpret my dreams. I've been looking for metaphors everywhere these days, sometimes consciously. Yesterday, Kris and I went for our daily evening walk and got caught in a downpour. We'd been walking for maybe 45 minutes when it hit, quick and increasing in intensity, until it began to ramp down and then all-together disappeared. The rain lasted for about 20 minutes, and by the end of it, we had about another 15 minutes to walk to get to our house. That trajectory sure felt like the pacing of a novel: development and ramp-up for the first two-thirds or so, climax of conflict, the ramp down and conclusion.

When we were caught in the rain, I turned to Kris and said "Maybe this is a metaphor." It wasn't Pina Coladas and then getting caught in the rain, it was a downpour we didn't see coming (we meaning him and I, our federal government excluded), a rainstorm we had to weather in order for things to balance out on the other side. It feels worth mentioning that while continuing our walk to our story's conclusion - home - it took awhile to dry off.

Here's some weird shit: Zombies. I love zombie movies. I hate blood and guts and horror in general, but for some reason can suspend that for zombies. I love all the metaphor possibilities embedded within a zombie storyline. This morning, while out for my walk to start the day, I didn't see another person or a moving car for maybe 15 minutes, a highly unusual thing for my neighborhood at 7:30am on a Monday morning. There is usually a plethora of folks walking their dogs, kids waiting for the bus, cars driving by on their way to work. When I realized I hadn't seen another person yet, I was right in the middle of a usually busy street.

I stared up into the sky, and then up and down at the parked cars, starting to think that maybe there had been a warning to stay inside completely. Thinking maybe there had been a warning issued that neighborhoods were going to be sprayed, from helicopters, with some sort of agent that would knock out the virus on all surfaces outside.

What if I got caught in it? What if being caught in it meant turning into a zombie of some kind? What if people had already been caught in it, and the next person I encounter tries to eat my face?! Typing that last sentence made me laugh out loud, and the couple previous sentences kinda made me want to try my hand at writing some fiction . . . then I got my wits about me :)

As "fucking weird" as that little tangent might have sounded (or maybe it didn't - zombies are super pop-culture these days, and I admit I wasn't really exposed to the genre until relatively recently), there are things to be said - metaphors to be imagined - for the fact that my quiet street elicited thoughts of zombies for me this morning.

Another anecdote from a walk: yesterday, about 30 minutes into ours, Kris and I came through a wooded, swampy section of Roseville that was absolutely croaking with frogs. There must have been hundreds of them. It harked me back to falling asleep in my room at my parents house. I found the sound of frogs lulling me to sleep so comforting, and still do. I miss it. It was an utter joy to walk through that section of swampy woods, hearing so many frogs singing out. It made me want to pick up our house and drop it right there, just so I could fall asleep to the sound of frogs again regularly.

I'm not quite sure how frogs tie into this "dream-metaphor" post. Perhaps it's a bit of an opposite to the scenarios that have been scaring me in my sleep: it was a waking moment that felt dreamily happy. A reminder of sleep that was completely comfortable, that felt totally safe. Perhaps it was a reminder of how much I'm craving that right now, knowing that I'm likely to wake up feeling a little scared.

This morning, I woke to the sound of rain coming down the drains on the sides of our house. My house. I have started to develop a sense of comfort and security in that sound too. A sense of happy familiarity. I couldn't remember if I'd had any bad dreams, and I didn't try to hard to do so. Hearing the rain made me want to get up and get out, letting the rain drop down onto me and wash away anything that might not need to cling onto to my skin.

That's a metaphor.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

C19: The Conditions Have to Be Right

I think a big part of why I like kites so much is because there is a lot that can be learned from using them. From the get-go, the conditions have to be right. I can't keep track of the amount of times I've left the house with my kite in my hand, thinking I'll be able to go fly it successfully because I FEEL like it, only to trudge back home with no flight because there's no wind.

I used to think that I should start keeping my eye on the weather, so I could plan to go take advantage of the weather when it was right for kite-flying. Sometimes, best laid plans don't pan out. This is true with the weather, and really, everything else.

Sometimes, flexing to the direction of the wind is the best thing that can be done. But that is easier said than done. As a person who tends toward planning, it's taken me a long time to even recognize that being able to 'flex to the wind,' as it were, is a valuable skill. Yes, skill. Something that has to be practiced to put into practice.

This all comes back around to my centering spiritual belief in cultivating a lively sense of consciousness, and putting it into action in every day life. Sometimes lively consciousness calls for planning. Other times, it calls for flexing to the wind, taking cues from and responding to the surrounding environment. A kite can take a nose-dive if it is not consciously being paying attention - and sometimes even if it is!

Try as we may, it's not possible to change the direction of the wind, or how hard it gusts. What we can do is change how we respond to it.

I think it worth calling in again that if there is no wind, there is no kite flying. Sometimes, if an element at the very DNA of a practice is missing, that practice is not possible. In the same way, if there is no gathering together in person, there is no live performance. Some would argue this and say that "digital live" is live too, and to a certain extent, I agree. That said, it still requires a qualifier - live online, live streaming, live tv. LIVE, at it's heart, means in the flesh, in person.

Sarah and I got talking last night about how the energy toward adaptation and innovation of theater and dance performance and education has been both amazing and quite concerning. My feeling of the later is fueled by worry that too many people will come to think how performance artists have adapted is a good enough permanent way forward or even replacement for being together, in person to witness people dancing, acting, playing music.

Note I specify witnessing. People who dance or act or play music together in person, be it for recreation or as a profession, know on a cellular level that live tv, live streaming, live online will NEVER deliver the magic of witnessing and practicing together, in the flesh, in person. Sweating on the same floor. Making eye contact. Brushing skin. Picking one another up and rolling on one another. Giving hugs when things conclude. Even just thinking of these things makes the hair on my arms stand on end and my heart race and my mouth water a bit.

The conditions have to be right.

I am here for adaptation. I am here for innovation. I am also here for limitation when it feels important. I'm here for being willing to stand up and say, in the face of an innovation that just won't do my art form the justice of being able to deliver the live magic it does, that "my craft just isn't at it's best that way."

I want to pledge to myself, during this time and beyond, that I will be honest about this with myself and with others. I know it's going to take practice to build my muscle for this, and it's practice that feels worth pursuing.

I also wish to pledge to myself to assess the wind when I head out the door for my (better than having a porch to drink my coffee on anyway!) morning walks during this time that is becoming even more flexible for me. If the conditions are right, I'm gonna grab my kite and let it fly.

Friday, April 17, 2020

C19: See It To Believe It

Got thinking this morning about the idea that "you have to see it to believe it." Shortly thereafter, my mind wandered to the opposite: belief in things we cannot see. I got there via two - now related via Covid-19 - topics: medical care and meat "processing."

I try pretty hard to not be a militant (mostly) vegetarian-vegan. There's no way you can be when you occasionally eat meat for a special occasion or because there's really not much else and you didn't plan well that day, and eggs and cheese rotate into your diet here and there. That said, I do care quite a bit about keeping my consumption of animal products, particularly meat, super-low - I'd say I eat meat once every month or two - amidst concerns about my own health, the health of the environment and the health/ treatment of animals.

It's that last point that got me going today, and connecting my thoughts in this arena to what's presently happening at hospitals. What I'm getting at is that it's pretty easy for humans to not have to face what they do not have to see. I recognize that I am far from the first person to think such a thing, it just seems particularly pertinent consideration to me at the moment. While I do keep up on the news day to day in a way that allows me to continue feeling healthy mentally, it's not often that through that, I am asked to really grapple with what's really happening in hospitals.

When I do have to grapple with that, it makes things real in a way that nothing else can. From radio segments with EMTs in New Jersey (NPR's "Up First" program this morning) to vlogs by health care workers (the likes of which I saw last week on the New York Times website and this week on the Rachel Maddow show), seeing what's happening in hospitals makes this thing real in a different way.

While I definitely believe this kind of journalism should be used in responsible doses, as too much of it can cause unnecessary fear that would be counterproductive, I do think offering an amount of it is the responsible thing to do. How can we grapple with something we KNOW is happening but can never see? While I consider myself an atheist when it comes to religious beliefs (while having strong spiritual beliefs with the principle of 'consciousness' as my guide), I CAN understand why belief in something/ someone that cannot be seen is a central tenant to the faiths of many. That said, there is a difference between our present pandemic situation and faith practices.

With faith practices, it is not expected that one would be able to see their theistic figure. With our present pandemic, it is known that acute care is happening all over the world, most of us just cannot see it unless media outlets can and choose to share it with us. I'll come back to the idea that I really do think a responsible amount of "seeing it to believe it" is important here for folks to really grapple with what's going on, from as small of decision-making as how often to go get groceries to as big of decision-making as when to begin holding baseball games again. My own performance work falls somewhere in the middle there, as my decision-making has to do with the gathering of large groups of people.

Back to the topic at hand: seeing it to believe it. How exactly do I link the pandemic with meat production and consumption? Well, the Smithfield meat processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota provided a pretty clear picture this week, one that I'll use to arrive to the crux of my thought process. In a state that STILL has no "stay at home" orders, this meat-packing plant went from detecting 80 cases of Covid-19 one day to over 500 the next. In making an allegory between the pandemic and meat processing plants, there's a concerning connection point in the topic of human welfare.

From hours to compensation to how tightly folks are packed in to do their grueling work, human welfare often seems a scant consideration in the way many of these plants seem to function. In fact, I don't believe it's a stretch to compare how these human workers are often treated to the way the animals they "process" are often treated in these scenarios. Beyond the "tightly packed humans" aspect, I've been thinking about how meat processing and the pandemic are related insofar as, to a certain extend, they have to be "seen to be believed."

We humans who live in countries with highly-developed economies are often spared having to really look at the core of both "meat processing" and acute health care. These things have developed to the point where they are cordoned into specific areas and handled by specific people. I am not saying any of this to suggest that I think we'd be better off if we reverted back to times in which both slaughtering of meat and emergency medical care had to be handled on an individual scale. I am suggesting that by not handling either of these on an individual scale any longer, we've become pretty disconnected from what their realities really look like.

In the case of acute health care and health care in general, the increase in safety and effectiveness due to professionals handling the field has certainly been incredible. I think I just mean to say that the rest of us who do not work in acute medical care could stand to benefit from having to look in on it here and there. Doing so helps us remember why we need to prioritize our health and safety in the first place. And right now, looking in at it here and there serves as a sobering reminder as to why we are continuing to stay at home.

As for "meat processing," also known as the mass slaughtering of animals kept in facilities meeting the bare minimum of what is considered "humane" for the majority of their short existence, there is a correlation here too. Again, we humans who live in countries with highly-developed economies are often spared having to really look at the core of "meat processing," much like how we often don't have to see the core of acute health care. By being spared from actually having to see increasingly massive amounts animals raised quickly just to be pulled apart for us to eat, we don't really have to grapple with what has to happen in order for us to enjoy that chicken breast on the plate.

These animal welfare issues, paired with the extremely detrimental health and environmental issues ignited by high levels of meat consumption are to me excellent reasons for anyone and everyone to keep the amount of meat they eat to a minimum. It's beneficial on an individual and societal scale. Nutritionally, there are many ways to take in protein and the other nutrients that can be gained from meat, so that isn't a great counter to my arguments.

There are also arguments about cultural reasons for eating meat that involve preservation of tradition. I think those arguments definitely hold some weight, and preservation of cultural traditions is important. That said, I'll return to the point that we have become quite divorced from the actual processing of the meat we eat. Most cultural traditions surrounding meat consumption began during times in which meat was not "produced" on an industrial scale like it is today. Meat used for such purposes often had to be hunted for and prepared by those who ate it, and therein it was consumed far less because of how much effort had to be put into actually procuring it.

I'm not suggesting that cultural traditions involving meat should not longer be practiced because the vast majority of us do not hunt and prepare the meat we consume for these purposes. I am suggesting that observation of such cultural traditions is often tied to holidays or particular times of the year meant to be special, significant, different from the everyday. By their nature, they are not daily custom. Nor should be eating meat.

It's about time I come full-circle on all this, so I'll return to the centering idea of "seeing to believe." Much like we need to see meat being processed on an industrial scale to believe the animal welfare aspect of how detrimental it can be to eat a lot of it, we also might need to see what's going on in hospitals right now to believe in the gravity of the pandemic situation we find ourselves in. In the right amounts, seeing to believe can be a powerful thing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

C19: High of 35 Today

And the weather's lookin' fine.

Really though, how strange that the highest the temperature could get today is 35 degrees. My age arrived there today too. The beginning of my 36th rotation around the sun. Actually doesn't seem like a lot, when put that way. Perhaps putting it into days would feel different . . . 12,775 . . . definitely seems like more. How do you quantify 'a lot'?

A different kind of 'a lot' is the amount of gratitude I feel today. The thanks I'm giving. Last year (yeah, it took me way too long, I think), it occurred to me that one's birthday really is about giving thanks for the time you've had on this earth so far. Even in a pandemic-induced quarantine and with snow on the ground (usually a rarity on my birthday, besides last year . . . and the year before, when there was a fucking blizzard!), I feel so fortunate for my lease on life.

Beyond the big things - a pretty sweet earth, beautiful family and friends, and a partner and work I'm really in love with - the small things are a HUGE part of what make up this feeling today, and always. For example, I love how my neighborhood always smells like hashbrowns in the morning. Even when I get as far away from Key's Cafe as Como Lake. Makes me wonder if it's really just Key's, or if one of my corner's of the universe is just kind enough to me to help me always feel at home.

This morning, the smell of hashbrowns in the air, I gazed out over the lake from the dock, my breath frosting into the air and drifting over the reflection of the sun. I felt so content, which sent me pondering the continuum between that and . . . not discontent. I think the other end of that spectrum, for me, is curiosity. I love the oscillation between contentment and curiosity, between feeling happy and comfortable within what is and feeling propelled to uncover something different, beyond.

I feel very grateful that I'm privileged enough and have worked hard enough to find methods that help me uncover my own differents and beyonds, in hopes that doing so will help me connect to other humans just trying to do the same in this life. I've got words. The things that begin to form in my mind while out on my morning walks, by the end of them nearly desperate to be poured onto a page (or screen, as it were). I love and turn to words when my brain is turning ideas inside-out.

Sometimes I worry my love for stringing together words to illuminate my mind's insides eclipses my love of movement. Clearly, I'm skilled at inventing things that don't actually need to be worried about! This morning, I got thinking a little more clearly about it. I think stringing together words is one of my brain's best mechanisms for sifting through all that's happening up there. Their immediacy, I believe, is actually what propels me toward movement.

It's so default for me to turn things around in my brain so much that it drives me into my body. I think I love dance SO MUCH because it's my escape from my brain. Don't get me wrong: I love my brain too. And I don't believe in that Cartesian split bullshit, like my body is just a vessel for carrying my brain around. But I DO think it's very easy for our human brains to take over the navigation of our whole being in steering us through our lives, and the rest of the body deserves some time in the driver's seat.

Those lungs, that draw in precious air, stingingly cold and sultrily humid. Those legs, that flex and extend to travel us through the beautiful spaces we traverse. That heart, pumping the life-blood that allows feeling into the rest of us. That nose, detecting olfactory delights (and less pleasant wiffs - they are a part of our experiences too). I could go on. I think I just mean to say that I feel so fortunate to have forged such a close relationship with the whole of my body, as it reaps such great benefits in a more complex and holistic experience of being a human on this complicated and beautiful world.

Within my words to movements continuum, I think words are the concrete to movements abstract. In this, I find great joy in realizing that this though process just solidifies what I already know innately - that I have little to no interest in trying to get my movements to really mean anything concrete. If I wanted to offer the world more concrete thoughts with my work, I probably would have tried to be a writer by profession. I've come to find that I think I serve the world better by offering movement to do and to view that inspires feeling. Presence in the body. Joy in the moment, connecting to self, music, others. That's my kind of abstract.

Wrapping up this post of gratitude, I'll say that I set out from my home this morning in hopes of flying my kite. While I'd say it's ironic that the last couple days have been windy and today still, I don't think it's irony. I think it was just another chance to shift my plan to respond to the moment, stoking my curiosity about contentment.

Alright sun. I'm runnin' around you again!