Mask Task

•April 3, 2020 • Leave a Comment
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Mask Designs by Irina Blok… you know… for inspiration.

The order has come down from the Powers That Be that it is now necessary to wear a cloth mask whenever one goes out into public in Los Angeles. It’s not clear to me whether this includes such activities as running outside, but it seems like it’s probably time for me to finally get around to making some masks for personal and recreational use.

Aside from running or puttering in the garden, I haven’t gone out in almost two weeks, and frankly that has suited me just fine. I’m a homebody to begin with and I’ve actually found it extremely  liberating to be able to spend days on end at home without that creeping guilt that I Ought To Have More Of A Social Life or finding myself struggling with the Fear of Missing Out. There is no fear of missing out when nothing is going on. I’m experiencing a lightness of being, and I’m enjoying it a lot. My only apprehension now comes from trying to figure out how I can keep this feeling of freedom and satisfaction when there are other things going on in life that I may have to miss out on; either by circumstance or by choice.

Now seems like the kind of time for me to lay groundwork for that kind of growth. I’m in the eye of a storm right now, so the more I can shore up my foundations for the next storm surge, the better I’ll be able to weather it.

Really got my money’s worth out of that analogy, didn’t I?

Anyway, much of this work is likely to be rather philosophical and introspective, so in the meantime I can set myself to more concrete, mundane tasks: like making masks and cleaning house. The little things add up.

Stone Circle

•April 2, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Not long ago, I came across this series of photographs in which someone had constructed a series of stone circles on the sand of a beach. Some of these circles were made of smooth, round stones. Some were made of jagged, saw-toothed stones. Some were made of small stacks of stones.

All of them were profoundly soothing to the eye. I imagined they must have been very meditative to make: finding the stones, arranging them just so seemed like a work of patience and focus that I imagined to be very relaxing.

In our back yard, there was a scattering of smooth, gray river-rocks left over from some previous attempt at landscaping. For the most part, they had disappeared into various flower beds and crevasses beside the back sidewalk, but it occurred to me that if I collected enough of them I might be able t make a small stone circle of my own. Why not? It’s not like they were being used for anything else.

I didn’t have enough stones- or space- to make a large circle, so I figured I’d start with something small: a modest circle around one of my new rosemary planting. None of the stones actually matched: the largest was the length of my palm while the smallest was about the size of a lima bean, so I decided I would make the circle go from smallest to largest.

I had about enough stones for two-thirds of a circle.

Day by day, I managed to uncover more stones: both in the backyard as well as found along my running route. My goal became to bring home one new stone each time I ventured out, and last night, at last, I managed to complete my first circle.

It’s pretty humble, but I’m pleased with it.

I think maybe the most satisfying part of this project was the slowness of it: with life being so complicated these days it’s easy to feel like the world is standing still and nothing is getting Done. But at the same time, it was edifying to see that by making one small contribution towards this goal every day I was able to complete the circle.

There are so many Little Things that I often gloss over in my everyday life that I’m now beginning to realize are of utmost importance towards living well. In the bright light of Constant Urgency it was easy to overlook things like Going Outside Everyday or Spending Time Around Plants or Playing With Colors or Getting Horizontal for Fifteen Minutes In The Afternoon could make such a difference to my sense of satisfaction until life slowed down enough for their effects to accumulate.

Lavender Wand

•April 1, 2020 • 3 Comments

I have lately been preoccupied with lavender.

The flower, that is, not the color. By luck or by chance it turns out that I have four different varieties growing in my neighborhood: two varieties (Spanish “Anouk” and English “Hardcote”) are in my own back yard, and two (French, and “Grosso”) grow along the bike path where I run regularly.

In the beginning I would just pick a few sprigs here and there because I liked the smell and thought it might be nice to have some flowers in the house. Gradually, this evolved into a habit of gathering little bundles each time I went for a run to hang in the broom closet to dry: for what purpose? I didn’t know, but it seemed like the thing to do.

The longer this went on, the more I began noticing differences between the varieties: the flowers in my backyard were darker, smaller, redder, bolder than the ones that grew along the bike path. The ones along the bike path grew on longer stalks and in huge, round bushes- some even taller than me. With the help of Google, I looked up the different varieties, which is how I came to know their names, and how I came to learn about “lavender wands”.

“Grosso is best for lavender wands” one of the websites explained, “due to it’s long stems.”

What was a lavender wand? I wondered. I Googled it. It turned out to be a bat shaped object in which a ribbon had been woven through the stems of a bundle of lavender in such a way that the flowers were touched inside. Très Martha Stewart. TrèsVictorian. What were they for? I wasn’t sure: even Google didn’t seem to be much help beyond “objet d’art” and “great for making your closet smell nice.”

Naturally, I decided I had to try to make one.

On my next run I gathered twenty-four stalks of lavender paying special attention to getting the longest stem possible. I brought them home and gathered them in a bundle and tied the stalks together right below the flowers with a piece of cotton twill tape. Then I began folding over the stalks one by one and weaving the twill tape in and out until it formed- mostly- the kind of woven bat object that I’d seen in pictures.

I discovered, after the fact, that I probably should have removed some of the lower blossoms that kept poking out the sides, but otherwise I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. It was a very relaxing project to work on: like knitting or crocheting- and is nice to now have something finished to show for my effort. It does smell nice. I don’t actually know what I plan to do with it besides maybe putting it in my closet, but it was something fun to try.

Journey Of The First Step

•March 31, 2020 • 2 Comments

Well, the good news is; I’ve taken the first step.

Yesterday morning I successfully sat down and began work on a new screenplay project. Strictly speaking, ‘new’ in this context means ‘new-to-me’ since this script is actually a collaboration with another writer who has already written a solid first pass. So, even though I’m starting from page one I don’t actually have to build this story out of whole cloth. You would think that knowing this would take some of the pressure off, but it turns out that my procrastination reflex is just as strong when it comes to re-writes as it is towards Original Works, and even though I intended to start work on Friday I found myself napping instead.

But yesterday, I successfully sat down and put words on paper for forty minutes.

Good.

The journey of the first step was complete. One step down, one-thousand miles to go.

The bad news is that my morning “writing hour” is now getting siphoned off into this new screenplay instead of going towards writing posts. Which is fine: really the screenwriting is a bigger priority, although I was hoping to get back into the habit of posting regularly again since I seemed to once again have time on my side. What I don’t seem to have much of, this week, is energy.

Partly, I’m sure, this is just the mental fatigue of living in These Times. My personal stress level continues to be at an apparent all-time low, but I do find myself snacking and napping a lot more often than I normally would; which is probably a physiological manifestation of stress that is too low-level to register as actual worry. My body’s way of saying “Maybe let’s rest up and, you know, store up a little extra padding… you know just in case.”

And partly I’m guessing this low energy has to do with the changing seasons and the changing weather, which; here in Southern California, has been unusually rainy. And probably changing hormones and changing routines. There’s a few variables in flux. And it might just be that I used up too much energy over the weekend digging up the backyard in order to plant my tomatoes. Turns out that I’m not used to bending and reaching and lifting and crouching for hours on end. Go figure.

So, I’m actually making a lot of good progress these days: the garden is planted, a new writing project is launched, I went running three days in a row, the house is (mostly) in some kind of order, and I’m still gainfully employed and, recognizing this as a privilege, I’m trying to remain diligent about staying attentive to production needs during Business Hours. But admittedly, yesterday, I was a bit useless. The day got off to a good start, but the longer it went on the more worn out I got. I had to lie down to rest three times throughout the day and finally just gave up on the notion of getting out for a run. Today, so far, has been better, but I’m definitely going to need to work on pacing myself.

Extraordinary Times

•March 27, 2020 • 1 Comment

Collecting, drawing and coloring botanical specimens of lavender definite would have counted as A Waste Of Time to the old me.

I think I’ve finally figured it out.

For the past couple weeks, as the quarantine measures have gotten increasingly strident and public worry has escalated accordingly, I’ve found myself to be… strangely calm. Sure, I’ve become very diligent about washing my hands and increasingly deliberate about cleaning the house, and I’ve been following social media just as much as anyone else (for better or worse), but none of it has come with the expected fear-based underpinnings that I would have expected.

Apparently, this kind of calm is pretty common right now among people who normally struggle with anxiety: the circumstances of the world at last match the worst-case-scenario contingency planning that runs in the back of our minds so this is familiar territory. we feel at home. As someone who has, truly, experienced sleep-disrupting, appetite-suppressing, hand-wringing, heart-pounding, chest-squeezing anxiety, I count myself among this group of People Who Struggle With Anxiety, thus the royal “we”.

And yet, somehow, this explanation still didn’t quite feel like it ‘fit’ to me, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Yes, in the past I have struggled with anxiety, but it hasn’t been troubling me for a goodly while now. Even my recent bout of depression- which probably has many of the same roots as my anxiety- has been in significant remission since the beginning of the year. So, if I wasn’t feeling anxious before the pandemic, why should I be feeling calm now? The unresolved thought kept gnawing at me.

But I think I’ve finally figured it out: the reason why I’m feeling so calm right now- in fact, even good, is because the external world has become so extraordinary that I’m no longer worrying about living an ordinary life. Does that sound vain? Maybe, but it has preoccupied me for the past several years: the intense, chest-crushing fear that my life was slipping past me in a thousand mundane moments that would never amount to anything meaningful.

Call it an identity crisis, or a mid-life crisis, or a whatever other kind of ‘crisis’ feels appropriate: it was certainly a crisis-level event. The constant, overhanging thought of is this really how you want to spend your life?! Is this really all there is? Sucked the joy out of life. I couldn’t enjoy my job. I couldn’t enjoy my artwork. I couldn’t enjoy my home. The constant fear that nothing I did would ever be extraordinary meant I couldn’t enjoy anything ordinary.

And now, that fear is gone. Now, cleaning the house feels… pleasant. Even satisfying. Doing my taxes was a satisfying accomplishment. I’ve learned I like the act of washing my hands: I like that they smell nice- the suds are silky and pleasant, and warm water is a joy. Cold water is a joy to drink: I’ve become much more aware of my body and it’s enjoyment of creature comfort. I have time to just sit with the cat. I can read a book without feeling like I have to time myself to Stay On Task. I can just enjoy eating, moving, resting, drawing, coloring, writing, tidying… ordinary things are now supremely satisfying because it’s enough just to experience them.

I don’t yet know what this will mean for down the line when Things Go Back To Normal- if that is even possible. I hope that I can maintain some of this enjoyment of the qualia of life. I’m sorry that it should take a world-wide pandemic for me to learn to enjoy the little things, but now that I’m experiencing it, I hope I can find ways to keep the habit going.

New Roof

•March 26, 2020 • 3 Comments

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The roofers came by yesterday to re-build the roof over our carport. Virus or no virus, it turns out that construction still continues apace. I suppose that being outdoor work makes it easy enough to maintain the requisite six-foot distance necessary for Social Distancing. I keep joking that the sound of a quarantine is the sound of a weed-whacker: someone has been out weed-whacking every. single. day. But, again, I suppose yard work is one of the few remaining activities that people feel comfortable leaving the house to do while still staying true to the recommendations of viral pathologists, so I can’t really blame them.

I love being at home: in truth I’m quite enjoying the new pace of life, but even I have to acknowledge that the days feel like weeks and I’m having trouble keeping track of what day it is. (Thursday? I’m pretty sure?) I’ve done my taxes. I’ve archived my bills. I’ve disinfected the kitchen to within an inch of it’s life… while I still have PLENTY of small “housekeeping” tasks (including, but not limited to actual housekeeping) I’m burning through my to do lists at a rate I haven’t been able to accomplish in years. Depending on how long this lasts, I might actually get… dare I say it?… bored.

But it hasn’t happened yet.

New Me

•March 25, 2020 • 5 Comments

In an attempt to prevent myself from touching my face, I’ve started wearing makeup.

I mean, I’ve always worn a *little* bit of makeup: eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencil. Maybe a little lip color if I was feeling especially motivated. But I always subscribed to the philosophy of less-is-more: I would wear a little bit of makeup to look made up rather than a lot of makeup to look “natural”.

With the onset of This Whole Corona Thing, I’ve recently learned that I’m terrible about touching my face. I rest my chin on my hand. I rub my eyes. I scratch my nose. I press my fingers to my cheeks to try to open up my sinuses. I bite my cuticles when they get rough. And so on. And I do it without even thinking about it.

“Don’t touch your face!” They say. Well, easier said than done. But you know who’s good at not touching their faces? Women who wear a lot of makeup. Women who have put time and effort into their Look and don’t want to mess it up. I’ve always been pretty scornful of this kind of behavior because I thought it was vain and pretentious. WELL, LOOK AT ME NOW.

Le sigh.

At any rate, I now Put On A Face each morning. And it’s actually helping: I’m still pretty bad about how much I touch my face, but I’m a lot more aware that I’m doing it. And a surprising advantage to This Whole Quarantine Thing has been the freedom from public scrutiny, so I feel free to play with colors and styles that I’d normally be too self-conscious to wear out of the house. It’s extraordinarily freeing: I’m having a good time experimenting, and maybe when this is all over I’ll have settled into a look I particularly like and feel comfortable in.

One can hope.

 
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