Now rather than heat hanging in greenest green trees, it’s fog rushing adrift overhead. It’s yellow grasses waving east, billowing and ragged like the ends of my hair after nine months without a haircut. Other plants are bulbous and Seussy. All of them make an alien impression no matter how many times I see them.
Cold breezes through the windows. Water rushing frigid over my toes washing the sand off.
The sand shining like flecks of gold, like motes of onyx. The beach strewn with endless kelp and weeds, as though the ocean herself had a nice haircut and strewed the leavings on the shore.
Birds soaring in grouped Vs, then bending their wings into a V to soar into the greygreen surf.
These days I write a lot. There are various journals for various purposes. This is sort of one of them. I often find myself in the middle of an entry writing: “I don’t know what else. I don’t know what there is to say.” But there’s always more, eventually.
And other times, there’s just the horizon and the teacup in my hands, and sitting rather too far away from the people you love best in the world.
You may be shocked to hear that in the middle of the month that is in the middle of the summer, in a neighborhood once noted for its swampiness in a city that it is often (technically inaccurately, but spiritually correctly) noted for being built on a swamp, in the middle of a coast known for stifling summers, during an unprecedentedly hot moment in the Holocene era, it is hot.
I ought to have adjusted by now, but I haven’t. People who have lived here their entire lives assure me that adjustment is physically impossible. It makes me wonder how people have lasted here for so many centuries, and also if this explains the constant attempts at vehicular homicide to which I am witness.
Today in between near crashes, I drove down a street named for a building that sits like a mountain in its center. The building is white. Its most megalithic part is made of cast iron designed to look like the white stone that supports it. I can only imagine how hot it would be to the touch. From a mile or so away, I saw the heat dancing in front of the building, or maybe it was the thick dampness of the atmosphere, dancing like candlelight.
It is natural for any living creature to grow languid in times like this.
We just came back from a short walk, a familiar figure-eight loop through the neighborhood on streets that have the biggest trees and the most little free libraries. (A frequent appraisal of little free libraries is a great way to psychoanalyze the area.) I saw my first cicada up close. It was making enough noise for the whole city block from a body no bigger than a flash drive, disguising itself as a spot of dark on a birch tree.
Later, a woman flagged us down from her porch. She needed Ian’s help moving a package inside. “I’m 99 years old and I live alone,” she said. We wondered how long she’s been in that house. Who she knew growing up. Her place did not appear to be air-conditioned, which is perhaps why she was on the front porch. I am not strong enough to live that way. I need frequent lie-downs even in the climate control. I am worrying about her and will probably continue to. I hope she has people to look in on her, but failing that, I hope she is able to flag down walkers when she needs something.
Walking outside on days like these, sweat can fall like tears streaming down the forehead, running rivulets of sunscreen moisturizer into the eyes. It is impossible not to become thoroughly bedraggled, which is at odds with how I always expect to look during summer (easy-breezy in a sundress).
Outside on the new patio, the plants (formerly houseplants, now potted outdoor plants; some of them are protesting this change more than others) sway in the hot breeze. Their leaves are both dancing and wilting at once until the shade falls on them. They seem to breathe a little sigh of relief.
It is a minor affliction compared to others, but recently I’ve been getting heat-related migraines frequently. Much like someone with a case of the vapors, I must treat myself gingerly, not ask too much of my body, not exert myself in any heat, water myself like a finicky houseplant. To my shock, though, I have been finding that I miss real exercise, which has become basically impossible due to the heat outdoors and the treachery of the virus inside any gym. So I decided to follow along to dancing videos on YouTube, inside in the air I am grateful I can keep cool. Yesterday while doing it I couldn’t stop laughing, waving my arms like a leaf blown by a chaotic breeze.
Yesterday I locked the door for the last time on my apartment. It was the place I’d lived the longest since I left my parents’ house at 17 to go to college (a relatively paltry 26 months).
The place was spotless, and it was no longer my home.
An anecdote: I moved to DC just about four years ago into an apartment in an L-shaped building. I lived at the tip of the short arm of the L. For various reasons, a year later, I moved into a unit near the crook of the L. For other various reasons, nine months later, I moved into a unit halfway down the long arm of the L. Now, I have moved to an apartment at the tip of the long arm of the L. How to extrapolate where I’ll go next? Will I be flung off the long arm? Whither?
When I lived in the apartment at the crook, I had a commanding view down over the interior courtyard and over the city blocks beyond. There is an apartment with an oversized patio at the top of the long end of the L. While I looked down from the crook, I sometimes saw the woman who lived in the apartment with the patio sunning herself. She was pregnant. She would lie on her outdoor couch and rotate herself, her belly gleaming with sunlight.
The next time I looked down on them, from the place I stayed for 26 eventful months, she was holding her baby.
That’s my patio now.
I can be a little philosophical about it now, because I’m sitting in a room that has been unpacked. I feel calm and in control of my life. This is very unlike the state of mind I have been in for the last four days, and which I will continue to be in as boxes and furnitures need moving. As the floor becomes inexplicably dirty (do I exude these particles from my feet? How else to account for it?) As I find, at the base of bag after bag, bizarre little trinkets I need to meditate over for ten minutes before I can convince myself to be rid of them:
Take, for example, a keyring I found. I don’t know when I acquired it. It must have been a gift. It is a gleaming hematite finish, and it has the Cal logo on it. It’s a nice-looking keyring.
I have a keyring already. I do not need another. I do not need to add weight to my keyring by adding this one. I do not know anyone who needs a Cal keyring (although if you do, fair reader, please let me know very soon). I should get rid of it.
I could put it in the bottom of a different bag, with different random items, and surely someday in the future I will find a use for them.
Surely I will not, next time I move, curse myself for doing this time after time. No, this keyring is unlike all the other knickknacks and old papers and broken pencils and unclaimed spare keys that I’ve hated lugging around in the past. This keyring is something different: a potentially useful object. There is no worse sin than to purge a potentially useful object.
Look at this scarcity mentality that demands I shove these potentially useful objects into the backs of bags in drawers. It bears no resemblance to the reality of actual abundance around me. There are keyrings aplenty if I need them. And next time I need a keyring, am I really going to go searching through all of the bags full of potentially useful objects? Do I even remember that such bags exist, when it isn’t currently time to miserably move them place to place? Sadly not.
So hold me accountable to this next time: I’m changing my ways. I’m saying goodbye to items that once served me and no longer do. I’m going to haul less out of this place than we just hauled in, or else I’m coming out feet-first.
And to you, empty room, I say: thank you for the last two years. Good luck with your new folks.
There are less than six months left in 2020. (Aside: I want to be able to write “There is less than six months left in 2020,” because I’m less interested in the countable number of months than in the uncountable amount of time, but it just looks so completely wrong that I can’t bring myself to do it. (Other aside: remember this pedantry later.)) I have yet again set goals for these next six months, which I plan to share for accountability!
But also! As I said last time, it seems crazy to be setting goals right now, what with all the trust in the future that that requires. If the first half of 2020 has taught us anything, it might be that we really can’t count on life looking any particular way at any particular time. Sometimes things just change. Sometimes there are murder hornets and maybe also flying snakes and they’re not even that big of a deal because there is so much else going on.
I’m not one for sports analogies. I needed help understanding the problem when Pete Buttigieg, way back many years ago in January, referred to Kobe Bryant’s achievements on the “field.” But even I understand the inherent drama about entering the second half of a sport thing. Are we up? Are we down? Do we have everything to lose or everything to gain? Etc.
And I think if I understood sports, I’d know that you can’t plan the second half until you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Here’s the thing: I always expect future-me to be an absolute superhero, a champion of efficiency who may also be able to time-travel, who squeezes 24 hours of productivity into an 8-hour day. She bears no relation to present-me, but I applaud present-me for this optimism.
So my work recently has been to accept that present-me, who needs a lie-down between tasks and who sometimes comes to covered in chip dust at the bottom of a Wikipedia k-hole, is the one I’m asking to do all of this. I’ve tried to give her a reasonable ask.
After that scale-back, I’m feeling pretty okay about my ability to do what I set out to do in the second half of 2020. Here’s what I’m aiming for:
Take an online course on intuitive eating (half done)
Play the piano at least three days per week, and be able to play one specific song fluently by the end of the year.
Write a SFD (shitty first draft) of Book Three. (Note: this one I’m not at all sure will happen. “Not with that attitude!” you may object. But…seriously.)
Perfect my query letter and send 60 queries for Book One.
Check back in 6 months to see how it went, assuming the internet still exists and I have not been murdered by hornets.
(Now, a final note on pedantry and the efficiency of present-me: I got waylaid for literally 24 hours by whether to say there “are” or “is” less than six months left in 2020. This is not the behavior that future-me expects from present-me! As a team, we will have to work on this.)