Masks Away!

The other day while walking into Fred Meyer, I noticed a blue facemask blown all up into the grocery store’s landscaping.  Perhaps it fell out of someone’s pocket I thought.

A few days later I saw a cotton child-sized facemask directly outside the Haggens Grocery entrance. About nine months ago this was a hot commodity!  Now it has been walked over, carts rolled over it, and well there it is.  Yes, there it is and here we are—THE END OF THE PANDEMIC.

Beginning July 1st in Washington State masks are optional. It appears many have already thrown them to the wind, literally.  Once again, as with every stage of the pandemic, I hear a variety of opinions.  A few friends have said they will wear a mask in the winter to protect against the flu, others have said they will begin to wear one to work if they feel a cold coming on.  When I walk around the neighborhood trails the maskless masses wave at each other passing by, friendly-like, smiling. No more dramatic 6-foot radius walk-arounds with the “stay the ‘eff away from me you diseased carrying mo-fo” side glance.  The defensive posturing is a thing of the past; I’m placing that back in my toolbox for when I need to walk to my car after 10 pm on Railroad Ave.  Another acquaintance of mine shared a foreboding prediction–the 2020-2021 pandemic was just a warm-up for what is coming next! I mean, in my social circles, people are all over the place!  How is it in your world?  Hope things are calming down a bit.  

RECONSTRUCTION

This is a graph I stumbled upon way back in our pandemic-innocence of June 2020. I shared it a few times on my platforms.

It illustrates the mental health of an emergency worker responding to a disaster over the course of a year and a half.  This is the “normal” curve of the ups and downs MENTALLY.  Although I am not a nurse on the front lines, I do have an essential job.  I work as a Family Housing Coordinator for shelter and transitional housing.  I worked every day from 2019 until about April of 2021.  Now I get Fridays off which I am very thankful for. 

I’m not embarrassed to say my pandemic journey followed this graph right to the letter.  The lowest point “Disillusionment” hit me about August 2020. My general communication weaknesses, spelling and pronunciation, were magnified.  It was hard to explain to people why I couldn’t type or speak a complete sentence or how I didn’t catch it before I sent the text/email.  I became lethargic at home, watching many movies, and lost myself in the joys of building in creative mode on Minecraft.  (I still like Minecraft) …It was foggy & frustrating.

Reconstruction is next.  Yep.  Right around the corner.  President Biden must have read my blogs because he was like, “What a great idea!  I like the sound of that Reconstruction…the strengthening of infrastructure across the NATION, for the nation…? hmmmm. …Someone get me a pen–”

What will the personal reconstruction and strengthening of YOUR infrastructure look like? I’m working on exercise and budgeting my money. Also, I met with the poetry discussion group IN PERSON last weekend and noticed I was talking like an email or as if I was giving a presentation on zoom. Something got lost over the last 15 months of social distancing. I think we’ll all find those skills again.

Sending you good thoughts today. You’re doing the best you can with what ya got. You got this!
Here is my current mood expressed in a meme. -Shannon

https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/24/politics/infrastructure-plan-explained/index.html

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/06/24/fact-sheet-president-biden-announces-support-for-the-bipartisan-infrastructure-framework/

Pinkie Crack

When the Lockdown began I tried writing on my website every day to…well, I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was trying to document the experience first hand or maybe connect with my neighbors or contribute something to the whole event. After about a month and a half I had to rest. We all did really, didn’t we? We rested another year! I am embarrassed to admit I really, genuinely thought the Lockdown would last 30 days and life would go back to normal. It was my mom and the more mature folks in my social circle who predicted it would be a year before folks returned to the office or to school, “a year if we’re lucky” they said.

Washington State went into Lockdown March 2020. Our state governor has declared beginning July 1st 2021, wearing masks in public will be optional, not mandatory. *Some folks have already stopped wearing masks after being fully vaccinated. It’s a little confusing right now isn’t?* I have personally decided to wear my mask until July 1st. However, last week I had an “Oh shit!” moment walking into Lowes Hardware store. About halfway down an isle I saw a person with a mask on, and realized I forgot to put my mask on. I just freakin’ walked into the store barefaced like I had no respect for all human life on the planet. What the hell? I touched my face to confirm and sure enough–NO MASK. However on that fine June day, I noticed fairly quickly that half of the patrons and clerks were NOT wearing masks. (?!?!) Was I safe from social condemnation? Yes, from HALF of the people apparently. “OK, so today I’ll be one of THOSE people.” I joked to myself. I went directly to the isles I needed, checked out at self-pay and hustled out of there.

Can I just say how exhausted I am of all this. One year and three months of all this. I’m using hand sanitizer throughout my day, so much so that occasionally my skin cracks. Has this happen to you? If you are fortunate enough to have access to an ample supply of hand sanitizer and/or you’ve been a front line worker the whole 15 months I imagine you’re skin has also cracked.

Here is a picture of a recent crack on a fold of my skin. (BTW, a very difficult angle for a photo) Under my right pinkie is a new “line”. A couple of years ago I studied palmistry for a story. I knew this area of the hand is about marriage. As a middle-aged divorced woman I giggled a bit. Was a new marriage being forged into my future or perhaps another being wiped out? Either way it required hydrogen peroxide to heal. My mind traveled down that thought a bit, farther than necessary as I often do… How wonderful it would be if troubled couples could simply dip themselves in a healing solution to fix their relationships. Many arguments stem from past hurts, hurts and calluses that were formed before the marriage began. We sometimes bring those unresolved events into our new relationships. As I date a little these last few years I find the most attractive dates are those who are actively working on self improvement. In your 40’s and 50’s it’s time for a “refresh” I think, whether you are single or in-couple. You are no longer who were at 22, or even 32. What do you think?

Here is a meme for my mood today. I’ll try not to take myself too seriously. Hope you have a super day. -Shannon


*Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html

Day 350: Absorption

Ferlinghetti, seen in 1982 in San Francisco, rejects the term ‘memoir’ for his new book. Photograph: Chris Felver/Getty Images

“…and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead…”

-“I am Waiting” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, (b. 1919- d. 2021) 

Something funny happened to me the other day.  First off I had a bad day.  Nothing too extreme, just your normal run-of-the-mill bummer of a day.  I was feeling inadequate at work and falling behind in some personal goals.  My little apartment is my sanctuary.  Pulling into my parking space, sitting in the car for a moment to collect myself, the weight of the day became known.  Dang, what a day!

Walked in to set my stuff in the house. Got the mail key. Went out to grabbed the day’s mail. Went back inside. Looked through it at my desk.  It’s Tuesday so grocery flyer day. A bunch of recycling from one box to another. One letter caught my attention immediately—no mistaking it, it was a check.  Inside was a letter from the local book store along with a check for the sale of ten of my poetry books, approximately $65.  The letter explained the 4th quarter payments are late due to accounting circumstances. I was bummed thinking nothing sold last quarter, but, apparently, somethings sold. So, this is good news.  But…I stared at the check and the letter with no exclamation or acknowledgment.  I was still processing my crappy day.  I needed to process my crappy day. I wanted to turn the key from sad to glad right away but instead, I said, “I’ll celebrate tomorrow, or Saturday.”  A voice replied, “Did you just schedule HAPPINESS?” 



Words Under My Skin

Can the lines of a book or poem hug you?  Yes.  Comfort comes in many forms and during this freakin’ pandemic I would guess many of us are seeking comfort in any form we can get it.  I sure am.

A shift that has started in my writing is absorption.  For the previous decade, poems came to me, loudly, processing through my mind and body and shooting out my fingertips to the page.  I appreciated the clarity of the thought.  What’s happening now is I hear the poem and just friggin’ savor it.  I’m keeping the words within me. Like a dissolving lozenge, the flavor slowly works its way through my soul, feeding my very essence.  Sounds dramatic?  It is.  A bit of a mini-drama.  My knee jerks to hurry up and capture the thought on paper, my throat wanting to continue the precious perception, says gently, simply, NO.

Writers have a natural progression, you get an idea you write, or you need to form an idea so you write.  Writers write.  The stanzas coming to me throughout my day and dream time should be placed onto the page. Perhaps the moments are attempts of my psyche to heal the mind and body, acknowledge and absorb the beauty around me, helping me to recover from a bad day.  Maybe I’m just being lazy.  Fresh words and stories come by for a visit and I talk with them and keep them in my heart.

Perhaps we can force another Age of Enlightenment onto the planet? Let’s keep creating and loving each other and see what happens. Have a good day wherever you are. -Shannon

P.S. I was looking forward to perhaps some aliens landing, or a break down of society completely but it looks like the vaccine is coming out and masks are coming off in September (my guess for Bellingham, WA.) *sigh* no fun.

Dreamin’ is Free

Today was one of those days while driving down the I-5 freeway, my tired brain thought I left my car keys at the last appointment. For two long seconds, I had a panic patting my pockets–“Where are my keys?!” moment. Effin’ ridiculous. I wonder if I’m getting enough sleep. I’m not sure about sleep, but I’m getting waaaaay too much rest.

The other day I read that many people are continuing to have strange dreams, “Pandemic Dreams”. Dreams about being unable to get the simplest thing completed; walking through a maze-like existence, experiencing some sort of repetitive behavior that increases anxiety. In October of 2020, the magazine Scientific American explains we are having more dreams because we are resting more which equals more REM sleep.

Relaxed schedules may also have caused dreaming to occur later than usual in the morning, when REM sleep is more prevalent and intense and, thus, dreams are more bizarre. Dream-tweets reflect these qualities: “I was taking care of a newborn girl that had COVID … it was so vivid and real.” Increased dreaming during late-morning REM intervals results from the convergence of several processes. Sleep itself cycles through deep and light stages about every 90 minutes, but pressure for REM sleep gradually increases as the need for deep, recuperative sleep is progressively satisfied. Meanwhile, a circadian process that is tightly linked to our 24-hour core body temperature rhythm gives an abrupt boost to REM sleep propensity late in the sleep period and stays elevated through the morning.

As a single woman, working two essential jobs, living in a small apartment…my dreams are a bit different. I’m not dreaming about bugs attacking me or social distancing faux pas in the soup aisle. I’m dreaming about celebrities sliding into my bed and hugging me, saying witty things. Last week Jimmi Simpson (left) kept me laughing and calm with some stories in bed. This week Mr. Jason Sudeikis (right) joined me for a coffee & conversation while sitting on my bed. He was so laid back and kind. Nice, warm conversation–with another person–in the same room; this is something I’m lacking during the pandemic. As I have mentioned before, according to my dream dictionary dreaming of celebrities can mean that you seek more excitement in your life. That may be true. I think dreaming of people coming to my house for food and conversation during a time of social distancing is a different type of excitement.

I look forward to the gym reopening and, like, being able to hug people again, and standing next to people. Touching surfaces like exercise bikes, armrests in the movie theater, shake a hand “hello”, hug a friend goodbye, but–I will never go bowling again.


CREDITS
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-covid-19-pandemic-is-changing-our-dreams/

cover photo from Unsplash, São Paulo, Brazil

Drafts and Thoughts

Mary Oliver writes in her poem “Angels”,

“The whole business of what’s reality and what isn’t has never been solved and probably never will be. So I don’t care to be too definite about anything. I have a lot of edges called Perhaps and almost nothing you can call Certainty.”

Blue Horses: Poems, by Mary Oliver, Penguin Books, 2016.

With that being said, perhaps…

when gods make love, they create nebulas

that’s a lot of LOVE! Photo credit: https://www.skyimagelab.com/

Below are two poem drafts to share today. I’d love some feedback if you’re up for it.
I was in Village Books the other day and saw my book “Fallen” on the shelf. It came out in 2017, four years ago. Hmmmmm… If I were to guess, I think I have one more poetry book in me, possibly by 2022. I hope it is picked up and published traditionally, and I return to the open mic circuit to launch the book properly. My first two books were self-published, “Fallen” was my first traditionally published. Thank you Independent Writers Studio, of Bellingham, WA.
Self-publishing has its rewards, but I cannot emphasize enough the power of traveling the area with your book in hand, meeting your readers/followers, in person. I wonder, and am hesitant to declare, that a self-published book not advertised, given away to your family and friends only, is, generally speaking, a waste of paper. The written word has power. Why hide that potential under your bed? Share your work. Try it. You’ll like it.

1/16/21
It is a new year. I write the number and it feels the same as 2020
The new-yearness will not appear until the end of February
after a late Northwest snow
The old year, the previous skin, will hang on a bit and fog my eyes
My hand refused to write a “1”
IT IS TIME
pun intended to tell me
it is time
The styles do not change, technology crawls
very few items in my home could tell me what decade I’m in
if I had the gift to slip about time

If you take a person from 1880 and place them in 1980
The 1980s would appear to be a different world entirely
But take a person from 1998 to 2021…not too many changes
All the advancements and we simply have smaller, thinner phones
Did anyone ask for a smaller phone?
We die of cancer, disease, starvation, and war
To answer the call, our technicians and scientists
developed a Fitbit and placed TV in our pockets
to track our racing heartbeats while watching the news

WARM WINTER
The leaves scratch the air
as the frozen drops of winter tap my window
in the middle of the night
they want in
to take over my home
return it back to soil
I am sure of it
The potted plants by the glass
seduce the storm
arms beg it to set them free
while a drizzle of rooftop runoff
piddles down a leaking drain pipe
Even a worm comes out to comment
on the weather war
High and humble
worn and cold
the snow shovel
stands at attention
in a dark corner
ready to fight

#

Memes of my feels today. Thank you for your visit.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Keep writing. -Shannon

##

Day 305: Tattoo

On March 24th the governor of Washington State declared the “Stay Home. Stay Healthy” mandate. Here we are over 300 days later, fatigued, depressed, foggy, frustrated…and now hopeful. Hopeful that the pandemic will end this year, and America can get back to work. The second half of 2020 I began to read the daily “briefings” of American Historian Heather Cox Richardson. Her writings have helped me to place events into a perspective I would not have been able to do so on my own. It’s helped me, might help you, the link is at the bottom of the page.

John Oliver also makes me smile. I like his analogy of last week feeling like a person finishing a marathon, after breaking the ribbon and about to celebrate an official comes up, shakes your hand, and says, “Did you know that one million dogs are euthanized in shelters every day?” Just give us ONE DAY to feel the relief. PLEASE, just one day for those that survived the four year attack on America by Americans, can we have ONE day of hope?

Outside of politics I’ve been thinking about an old friend that passed away a few years ago. Jim joked about being a curmudgeon, but he really was a good-tempered easy-going old guy who had a divine level of dad jokes at the ready. There was an absence of family men in my upbringing. Mostly appeared as unreachable, or two dimensional. Grandpas lived in other states, my father had sleeping fits, and my uncles were loud, swearing, sons of bitches that belched loudly and with great showmanship at the Thanksgiving table upsetting the aunties.
Life has a beautiful way of balancing itself. If you are missing a family relationship, say a sister, parent, or, heck, a whole family, somehow life brings you a family. I do not know how it does it, but it is so welcomed. Jim was welcomed into my life as an adopted grandpa. We met at a poetry open mic. Here is the one photo I have of us, taken at his first book launch.

2015, at Village Books, Fairhaven

He supported my work, greeted me with a smile, asked me what I was up to in my writing world, shared with me what he was marveling at that day. A wonderful gentleman. I believe it would be egotistical of me to think I was special to him because he treated everyone this way. All people and everything about this world were special to him. He passed “into the cosmos” in October 2019. I do not know how much support I gave him, but he helped me more than I was able to ever share or express to him.

My poem “Leaf Tattoo” was one of his favorites. Often when I see a leaf tattoo or now, the little buds of a new leaf on the branches, I am reminded of his kindness. I’m thankful for people like Jim. I’m glad he appeared in my life, and for other “adopted” family that visited, albeit, only for a short time. They are true treasures.

Leaf Tattoo
You can you feel it
In my city
The change of air
as wind folds in
fall’s weather.

Orange leaves appear on
the sidewalks of Holly Street.
No worms to dance them back to soil.

Cement laden, laid on
the roadside in random patterns leave
a tattoo, imprinted on the stone.
Five pointed stars
a tree hand
pressed by feet and rain
bleed orange ink for all to see.

By winter the marks wash away
By spring, bright green babies wave
at us from their mother’s arm
borne back into our memory.

Photo by Sarah Mae, Seattle, WA, on Unsplash

_______________________________________

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

To The Right

In America, we drive on the right side of the road.  Also, people here generally walk on the right side of the sidewalk, busy hiking trails, even grocery store isles. When I walk along the trails around a nearby lake, I keep to the right side of the path.  If I have the trail to myself, I walk right down the middle as if I owned the place.

What is your neighborhood like during the pandemic? Where I am I have noticed giving another pedestrian 6 feet is seen as a courtesy; in the grocery store, offices, parks, etc., keeping your distance is a sign of good manners. It is awkward or rude if a person stands too close to another. Feathers get ruffled.

Earlier this year, before the snowpack in the mountains could build and the rains of the Northwest La Nina winter began, Padden Gorge Trail was dry and quiet. The creek was all but dried up. The cold air chased away many birds and I experienced the eerie sensation of standing in a silent forest.

To The Right
second draft

The woods are quiet today
I do not hear the rustle of a bird
no wind playing at the leaves
no foraging of a rodent
or the panting of a dog
Padden Creek is down to its
late summer trickle
Everything is off

My ears reach for the sound of people
at the lake trail on end with mine
I hear no one
I haven’t been sleeping lately
For a moment I am dream walking
zombified in this quiet wood
with no direction, no purpose
No others to use as a reference
or provide a sense of direction
No validation of movement
or placement

I walk down the canyon trail in silence.
surrounded by silence

Then–they find me
The crunching roar of off-road bike tires
approach me from behind
I move to the right
The joggers with focused steps
and controlled pants
I move to the right
Two dogs and two owners
come at me head-on
I move to the right
Facedown each time to make sure
my breath does not mix with theirs
Behind me I hear the steps of another walker
I move to the right
I’m a slow walker compared to others
I know this walker will pass me
I wait
no walker
Then turn to look
No one

There are two places on these trails
where the sound tricks the ear
My own steps sound like another
getting ready to pass
but it is just me
and my steps
echoing off the walls
of the thick forest

How nice of me to give the same
courtesy I give others
unknowingly
yet, still as sweet

A Noisey Padden Creek

Feature Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash