Note: this post is NOT intended to elicit sympathy toward the author. If you notice any indications to the contrary, please feel free to slap her, remotely (there must be an emoji for that)–or just close the page.
These past couple of weeks I’ve been forced to think quite a bit about positions. Not political ones; I mean physical: lying down, sitting, and standing. Injuries acquired in the service of democracy* have me no longer taking these simple options for granted.
*turns out when you spend hours and hours and hours writing letters and making phone calls to voters, sitting at a table which is just SLIGHTLY the wrong height, your back takes its revenge.
Before my back started hurting, I was all about sitting. Like many jobs, working as a baker is about 98% bipedal, but I took every 2% chance I got to set my butt down, between rounds of butterhorns. (That doesn’t sound quite right, but you know what I mean.)
Now? Sitting is the enemy. Even perching makes me pay a price. So what the heck. Let’s celebrate some of the gifts of the other positions, shall we?
LYING DOWN. Good for:
Sleeping–duh. And sex. And reading–like my latest recommendation,Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. If you’re looking for short, lyrical pieces that fill you with the desire to go sit (or lie) in your favorite woods, and bring those woods to you if you’re stuck somewhere un-woodsy–this is your book. Get two copies, one for yourself and one for someone you care about.
Zoom. I really, really dislike seeing my future, double-chinned self staring back at me when I Zoom horizontally.
STANDING. Good for:
When someone hands you a puppy.
Locomoting–which brings you to places where people might hand you a puppy, or to places of extra beauty. (It’s not impossible to locomote from a horizontal or sitting position–just harder.)
Knees. Also dizziness induced by drugs taken for back pain.
Which brings us back to…
SITTING. Good for:
Knees. (At least mine.)
All social situations where lying down isn’t quite appropriate (even if you wish it were).
Me, right now. Which is why I’ve written this all on my back (not literally; now THAT would take some dexterity).
But–that fact, above? It’s actually a “good for,” because…well, look. What better time than a global pandemic to start appreciating things as basic as Sitting, Standing, and Lying Down?
Like probably most people in the world right now, my sense of the calendar has gone all wonky. I’m frequently not sure what month it is, let alone the date. Day of the week? Forget it.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I know all too well what year it is.
The arrival of fresh cherries and strawberries at a fruit stand took me by surprise. Wait–it’s Solstice already? Since then, I’ve been trying to pay more attention. Salmonberries have helped.
Salmonberries are a huge thing around western Washington. Whether battling them as ferociously scratchy pests around our yards or admiring their bright pink flowers in Spring, we probably spend more time thinking about them than we even realize. And then they make berries!
If looks could taste…
I used to make fun of salmonberries for being so un-delicious: The only reason anyone even thinks about eating you is because blackberries aren’t ripe yet.
But (again, like a lot of folks) I’ve been walking even more than I usually do, and trying to pay even more attention to things besides the global pandemics of COVID and racism. So I’ve been nibbling salmonberries again, as part of my noticing–and guess what? Turns out if you wait to eat them till they’re so ripe they’re juuuuust about to fall off their thorny ol’ bushes, they’re actually pretty tasty.
So what else merits my noticing, and my thanks?
The tide. Twice a day. EVERY day. Talk about essential work!
I know this isn’t exactly a glam shot, Tide–but this is you your work attire.
And some of the humblest of flowers–look at these ones here, engaging in a socially-distanced Easter bouquet!
C’mon, guys, it’s June, not April. Shouldn’t you be decorating for wedding season?
That’s more like it.
What basic, REGULAR things are you feeling grateful for right now? Postal carriers? Baby birds? Marshmallows on display shelves? Let’s celebrate the regular where we can find it!
On Thanksgiving morning I found myself walking through a cemetery, thinking about aging and mortality.
Not, initially, because of the tombs. No, I was feeling old because this cemetery, huge and scenic, used to be a favorite run of mine when visiting my Bay Area cousins. And lately I’ve been struggling with a knee injury and have pretty much given up running while I let my meniscus heal. And I slipped on a steep driveway and whammed the hell out of my tailbone. And I turned 56 and found a bunch of grey hairs nesting in the under-layer at my temples.
OK, that last one doesn’t count as an injury. Or even an insult. I don’t MIND the idea of aging…as long as it stays an idea. The reality, I’m discovering, is not quite as easy-peasy.
And that’s what I was thinking about on Thanksgiving as I walked through the cemetery. Which is why these fallen leaves brought me so much joy. “Look!” I could imagine the leaves saying. “Color! Let’s celebrate our impending demise!”
So much was I appreciating my own personal discovery of the “when I am old I will wear purple” approach, that I nearly walked by this startling tombstone:
Well, hello there!
Wing, you see, is not a common last name. In fact it’s quite rare. And it’s certainly not Jewish! So seeing this stone with its Hebrew letters in the Jewish section of the cemetery (anyone else find denominational cemeteries ridiculous?), well…it gave me pause.
And then, like the colored leaves and petals, it gave me joy.
Because I’m mortal, I appreciate the beauty and the time and the health that still remains for me. If I weren’t, I’d take it all for granted. I’d walk right by those leaves and petals. I would forget to cherish the non-splendid, ordinary moments that are the equivalent of leaves in a sidewalk.
You know what I mean: those thanksgiving moments—with a small “t.” The ones that count the most.
Getting sick sucks. Getting sick on vacation in Estes Park, Colorado, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park? That’s a bit harder to sound-byte.
Pretty sweet spot for a town, right?
On the one hand, I couldn’t do my usual racing-around-seeing-things stuff. Hiking? Noooo. Biking? Also a no, thanks. Shopping–nope. And it’s hard to get excited about discovering restaurants when you’ve lost your appetite.
But on the other: I’m on VACATION. I get to lie around and not feel pressured about all the work I’m not getting done! What could be more fitting?
Even better, attitude-wise: getting sick when you’re vacationing with a friend with a scary heart condition.
The one hike I did manage, at 9,000-ft. altitude, had me gasping for breath and walking in slo-mo. Which is exactly what our friend does ANY day he hikes at altitude.
Pretending I don’t feel like curling up for a nap
So, Gretchen’s pity-party was swiftly cancelled. I spent the rest of the weekend soaking up scenery from the car or the window of our rented cabin, and soaking up friendship.
Long’s Peak–a LONG way away, thanks to the miracle of telephoto