I. blooming flowers and a friend, reminding me: you have to start somewhere. not all things are beautiful when they first begin.
II. a morning walk on a summer day in northern california which means I am wearing two jackets and a hat but you can hear the rising sun saying to the world “watch out for me today.”
III. collage (n): an assemblage of different forms…thus creating a whole. when I pick up these camellias (that have fallen onto the sidewalk – once beautiful on their bushes, now browning and alone) and press them underneath a heavy book, I like the idea that I am giving them a second life.
IV. I look at the clock and see an hour has passed since I sat down on the couch to read my book. I am thankful for artists who conjure up these other worlds that can so readily relieve me from my own.
V. I see a whale! – no, it’s a wave and then – a spout! I am sitting near the edge of the cliff and my sister is on the phone and I start crying.
I first read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry in AP Literature my senior year of high school. I can’t remember which of his poems we read (was it “Sometime During Eternity“? “Constantly Risking Absurdity“?); since then I’ve read his poems so many times that most of the words seem familiar.
When I moved to San Francisco I started seeing a therapist whose office was in North Beach. Every week after our session I would walk from her office to City Lights Bookstore and spend as long as I could among its shelves before walking the next few blocks to my office downtown. That was always a jarring transition: from the quiet of therapy and a bookstore to the noisy, crowded office.
For Christmas two years ago my mom got me a copy of Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems. I didn’t remember telling her about any of his poems that I loved, or all the hours I’d spent kneeling by the shelves in the cramped basement of City Lights.
I took the book with me down to Ocean Beach one day and read my favorite of his poems, “The world is a beautiful place,” by the water. It begins:
And then, later:
I read of Ferlinghetti’s death in between meetings yesterday afternoon, during a five minute break in which I was scrolling through Twitter.
In the evening, after work, I took the book of his poems and went out for a walk. I looked at everything and smelled the flowers.
I like to think of me and Thomas’ brain cell count as a zero sum game: if he’s gaining brain cells, I have to be losing them at the same rate. For example: it’s 8pm on a Saturday evening and he is doing readings for his policy classes. Therefore, in order to balance out his brain cell gains, I must lose the same amount by binge-watching “Love Island.” I don’t make the rules.
(Look: it’s not my favorite show, but I’ve already rewatched “New Girl” twice during the pandemic and I read an entire book today so I’m not sure what else to do with my time.)
I’m feeling lighter-hearted now because it’s 6am and I’m always more optimistic in the morning, but a lot has been weighing on me the past few days. My excuse for watching “Love Island,” therefore, is the same one most would give: it’s escapist. If I can’t be outside or with friends due to a pandemic and wildfire smoke, I might as well live vicariously through the dramas of 20-something-year-olds in Las Vegas.
Most of the weight I’m experiencing is feelings of helplessness; I see my friends (not to mention the world) struggling and I feel powerless to help them. Maybe it’s the pandemic or maybe it’s just life (probably the latter) but so many of my friends are going through tough times and I want nothing more than to make their pain and anxiety and hurt go away. Maybe I feel more helpless than usual because it’s hard to physically be there for others and therefore I’m relegated to sending texts, cards, and small gifts to let them know I’m thinking of them. I sit on my couch and read (or watch “Love Island”) but no matter how hard I try to concentrate on some alternate reality my thoughts inevitably return to my friends and family.
I don’t know what to do with this pent-up energy, this frustration that I can’t flip a switch and make the problems of those I care about go away. It’s not like I had that power before – though I can probably attribute a lot of my anxiety to the fact I can’t accept that as truth – but something about being physically still and confined aggravates it. That’s probably why my most effective form of escapism (or coping mechanism, whatever you want to call it) is being outdoors and exercising. (Jury’s still out on the fine line between helpful and harmful there.)
The sun is finally rising (I think? It’s impossible to tell through the smoke) and I want to end this post with a poem I read yesterday:
I, like most others in California right now, have been dreaming of rain…
My intention for today is to keep the spirit of the rain within me: “to fall, to be fellow, to feel to the root, to sink in…”