Here are some excerpts from my first-light-of-dawn meanderings, a practice that keeps me lucid in troubling times.
Birds – September 3, 2020
Sometimes my life flaps on ahead like a turkey taking flight, clumsily erratic, yet out of reach. Some days I soar like a deft hawk, lord of it all, shining and aloft. I strike through every line on my list, make every call, walk, write, and ace my kitchen-counter list, leaving no crumbs behind.
Today I hope to at least peck along, dulling my beak on stones and dirt, pounding a steady all-day beat. I hope to clean and process two pounds of mushrooms, make salsa, pepper sauce, pimento cheese, and Tuno salad, mow that damned ditch, and push out a solid first draft for my next blog post.
Today I will peck until I soar.
Off the Rails – October 20, 2020
I’ve lost my center, fallen off my horse in this gallop to the polls. Maybe this is what true madness feels like: jangled nerves, indecision, confusion, apathy, lethargy, and angst.
This is not a house of cards built of sand, this is a writhing mass of snakes masquerading as walls atop broken glass.
Two Days – November 1, 2020
Two days until Election Day and we are suspended. These past four years have torn open the dark underbelly of my country. We are more than fractured; we are oozing bile, bleeding from old, old wounds. The United States of America was never great.
We are a muscle of greed and violence, taking what we can, stepping on those below us. My anger is guilt, exposed. My pretty life is bound in generations of inequality.
When I ask my mother if she listens to the news, she says that she hears it but understands little. Today I will take her lead, ignore the headlines, and harvest peanuts.
The Wait – November 5, 2020
The world is watching us, clicking their tongues, nervous about the implications of our once-great democracy crumbling into third-world tyranny.
I drove into Pittsboro on Election Day and was tailgated by an enraged driver, pounding her steering wheel and firing spastic hand gestures. I left her at the circle and joined an unusual amount of traffic, all hurrying with furious urgency. I breathed in relief when I made it to the post office — heart beating with real fear — and took the back way home.
Blood and Birdsong – Thanksgiving, 2020
You get up to pee and decide to stay up even though it’s only 5:22. After picking out the big dipper from behind murky clouds, you turn on the porch party lights and roll back in your rocker. Fred and Reda’s heat pump shuts off, a car whooshes down the Moncure Pittsboro Road, and you hear the desultory plop of last night’s rain leaving your metal roof.
This is as empty-headed as you get – this listening in the dark, pen in hand, coffee thick in your mouth, straining to hear the next word, ignoring the day’s directives jangling at the edge, light creeping towards your hammock, splashing a little white tear in the grey cotton sky.
You hear gunshots in the woods and wonder if Hal will get his deer, fill his tag, drag a gutted carcass home to hang outside the house. Seven shots, ten, fifteen — it sounds more like duck hunting but there is no pond back there. You wait for the sound of sirens. A rabbit sprints out from underneath your plywood porch and disappears around the pole barn.
Finally, the barking guns stop. I hear the roosters roar, then an angry squirrel and the first wren. This is a holiday in rural North Carolina. They start with blood and birdsong.
Lucky Me – November 30, 2020
Wearing my new mask, the black triple-ply with the sable-soft ear loops, I open the Post Office door with the index finger of my left hand. My mailbox key is in my right — my clean hand, just like in Africa — and I am pleased with myself for adapting to the pandemic so easily.
I find a yellow slip and have to stand in line and when the manager steps up to the second window and says, “Picking up?” I leave the line, making sure my eyes convey the proper blend of elation and humility at my good fortune.
While I wait, I look at stamp posters — so many colorful images! — and think about how, now that Papa Biden is in charge, we probably won’t lose our right to stand in line at the Post Office, smizing (eyes-only smiling) with the locals.
I’ve been filling notebooks since I learned to write in grade school, the activity itself a dear and trusted friend. I don’t know if I would have survived the existential threats to our health care system and our democracy without someplace to jot down my fears and observations.