It’s clear I haven’t posted here every day as was my stated intention on August 3, when I thought about how to end this project, looking back at how we’d begun.
I liked trying to post every day at first, for a while in the middle of August. It drew out the days, marked them, protecting them from simply flying away. I don’t share the feeling that I’ve heard from so many around me that the summer flew by. For those of us lucky enough to live in a land of abundance, it always tries to fly. If we want to hold onto it, we have to be intentional about slowing down, not just intentional about reading articles about it, dreamily gazing at photographs about it. We have to really think—What makes the weeks feel like they are fully lived, not racing by, not getting away from us?
Yoga and writing, and within those practices, deep breathing, music, meditation, those are the best ways I know how to accomplish that pacing that feels closer to what I remember from childhood. Practices that help us returning again and again to the moment we are in.
I think looking past and forward can help too, though a Buddhist would likely disagree.
Throughout the summer I would stop and think about how many weeks had gone by, what we had done during them, what plans still lay ahead. During bouts of insomnia, I would sometimes think down to the day and the hour since summer began, trying to remember everything. It’s not that I’ll be able to, but even the attempt made me feel more deeply rooted in the season.
It is finally cold enough in NYC that some of the leaves started changing. I was going to write “the leaves” with no qualifier, but then I looked out my window and saw almost entirely green.
I saw a lovely yellow Beech tree as I walked over to the river from my children’s school downtown this morning. I turned to take a picture. Right before I snapped it, I noticed that a group of cops along with a memorials—bouquets of bright blue flowers—to the people killed last Tuesday were included in the shot. First I moved to get only the yellow tree. Then I moved back thinking I should get the whole scene. Shouldn’t I? Then I decided not to take the picture at all.
What is one’s responsibility as an observer, a chronicler? Capture beauty? Capture horror? Show how they cannot be separated? Yin/Yang? And yet we have to separate them. If not, we’d have nothing to ground us, nothing to hold onto. Do we say—this is the place where less than a week ago 8 people were killed, and 12 more injured, some horrifyingly, drastically injured but it’s also a lovely spot along the river with the changing trees? Do I say, “You should not even have been thinking about trees changing color walking through that spot”? Where does normalizing become callous? There is the normalization that makes us less human. The news of the attack in Texas yesterday hits with less intensity than hearing about Vegas. Not merely because of numbers—it’s still a ghastly number—and yet that numbing, that new normal and new normal and new normal. In 2012, twelve people dying in the movie theater sounded beyond ghastly. Incomprehensibly ghastly. The mind keeps adjusting. It’s not that I would be any more likely to be at a country music festival than church. It’s that there is only so much one can process, I suppose.
We must force ourselves to stay as open as we can, while still doing the work we need to do. My yoga routine, brief as it is, my writing, rushed as it so often is—both these continually force me, if I do them correctly, with patience, to stay open. Not so vigilant that we can’t move forward, though. Not so aware that we are unable to keep fighting for a different normal. Perhaps that midpoint is related to the elusive balance Kajal wrote about last week.
After I put my phone away and started to jog earlier today, I was stopped by two tourists further up the path asking me with worried faces why there were so many cops around. Had something happened? I said I assumed the city had put in extra security because of the attack. The couple looked panicked for a moment. “Another one?” The woman gasped. “Last week,” I clarified. “Oh!” She smiled, looking relieved. Last week. Last Tuesday. Nearly a week ago now. She joined her husband and they continued along happily along the path, chatting to themselves in a language I did not recognize.