The Unfolding of Forgiveness

the-prodigal-sonblog

“The Prodigal Son,” Max Slevogt

The air stuck to my skin, humid enough to hang suspended and thinly substantial. Like a veil. A torturous, hot, stifling veil. It was a typical late Spring day in the Midwest, and I found myself back in Milwaukee for work and for family. And for a friend. I hadn’t planned it that way, but it turned into the most important thing.

My friend was a former friend, and we had once been very close. I admired her still, though I had lost that thought for a time. I lost a lot of thoughts for a long time. Cracking at the seams after my dissertation, I struggled to stitch myself together. Every relationship in my life shifted under the strain, and I – a mess of threads – often forced the change. I withdrew, lashing out when threatened, and I felt very threatened indeed. So I hurt people, deliberately and accidentally. Always, always reacting to the stress as if I were scrabbling at rocks at the edge of a cliff. Desperate, shivering. Angry.

I endured some kind of subterranean implosion, an upsetting of the farthest reaches of me in a catastrophic  supernova. Everything scattered, no longer intelligible. I clutched together what fragments I could, collapsing inward like a neutron star.

One of the casualties of this event was my friendship with this woman. A fiercely warm and nurturing person, cleverly intelligent and intensely energetic. I pushed away her nurturing in particular. Raw on the cliff edge, fighting for autonomy by fighting to be left alone. And I did so viciously. The lick of flames over a collapsing bridge.

It wasn’t fair to her. It wasn’t at all. I understood that a little at the time, and better later.

In the present, we walked together down a serene sidewalk in an old Milwaukee neighborhood. Green grass and bright sun. Sticky air. I clasped my hands behind my back to hide their trembling. She was all lean edges of muscle and bone, striking and beautiful in a clever outfit – always clever – and I felt miserable by comparison. She resplendent and I a collection of scars.

I apologized. I tried to review what I had done, and tried to describe the ways I was sorry. Trauma and all that stuff explained my actions, sure, but it did not excuse them. I stumbled in the middle of my confession, needing to gather my thoughts as if they had scattered to the ground.

Her voice came strong at my side: “I forgive you.”

She proceeded to explain why. Incomprehensible things like how she loved me and missed me. How she could see my unbearable pain.

My invisible mental notecards dropped from my shaking hands again. I blinked, heart suddenly pierced by a strange hurt that bloomed warm. “I’m… I’m not done yet. I wanted to say more. You can’t just instantly forgive me.” I paused. “Goddamn Christians,” I added, acting grumpy to hide soft and vulnerable wonderment. Probably unsuccessfully. She’s not an idiot.

She laughed. I smiled.

Then I finished my confession, and she repeated her forgiveness, and we cried.

I do not know when she felt ready to forgive me. It took me a couple of years to grow into an existence that could bear to miss her. Two years to unfurl again, unsteady and different and the same. Long days spent learning how to mourn, how to forgive. How to live with the very, very sad things that had happened to me, and how I made it worse.

It arrives to me unevenly and in fragments.

My friend is this mystery to me. This frail human being is able to be broader than the fracture, arms poised outward to embrace the all of me: the one who hurt her and the one who loves her.

It hurt to be forgiven, and I barely understand why. And I don’t understand how the sting became comforting.

But I cherish these things I don’t understand. And I cherish the memory. And my friend.

 

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Mending Memories

korravenomredlotus

I know why I keep watching them. The handful of episodes from this one cartoon. Of all things. But I know: I know what it reminds me of, and I know that what I remember hooks its way through my brain and pulls – and then that broken part of me wakes up and steps automatically into the shadows. Tasting it, I turn around, reset the pulleys, and deliberately draw myself to the dark. Again and again. This is how torn memories live on; this is how we try to stitch them back together.

This kid, this young woman – Korra – has been captured. She’s important, this character named Korra, because she is something special and powerful called the “Avatar.” It matters to the plot, although not really to my memories. She’s a child, barely the age of my own students. This matters. She’s restrained, held in the air Christ-like in chains. This matters too.

The fantasy reminds me just enough and not too much. A threatening ghost. I do have specific memories of trauma, though most are confused and fragmentary. Still, some crinkle in my hands like something wrapped up and brand new. I remember being held down at my wrists and ankles. More than once, though there’s one time in particular that refuses to fade. To see something like it on the screen is to somehow to experience it without experiencing it.

korra poisoned

So I watch as the bad guys poison the child. I never know if it’s the poison sinking into her skin or the way she jolts in pain, limbs taut, unable to fold in on herself. Whatever it is, I jolt, too, and I never seem able to look away. Watching attentively, remembering… Something. Many things. They’re never clear to me, the rush of memories, but the feeling is exquisite: hurting badly while stretched out, fighting not to flinch.  Ex-quaerere – exquisite – comes from a word that means “to seek,” refers to the perfectly sought and found. Exquisite pain. Instantly, I know the feeling again. That strangely thin terror, frail and tremulous, unable to comprehend surviving. The feeling is the memory.

But here is where Korra changes and I do not.

korra zaheer

The young woman awakens in her most powerful form and breaks free, snapping the links of titanium chains. She fights, furious, wielding devastated revenge. It is not quite enough, and that not quite is something I know. She still almost dies. The poison eats away at her, and her enemy literally tries to steal her breath away. That flickers like something in the back of my brain – I don’t know what. The heroes capture the bad guy, and poor Korra is freed of the poison (mostly).

I don’t know what it would have been to escape. I watch her fight and lose and win, and this is to experience it somehow. To somehow dream of what it might be like to live outside a tragedy. She fights, and I see in her reckless anger my own. She colors in the details, and so do I: to have wanted so badly to claw free, the rage that kind of feeling requires, the rage that still sits there deep in my chest. Hot anger that conceals trembling fear.

She lives, but she’s still hurt – she’s not the same – and that’s a feeling I know too. Or rather, I know what it feels like to be broken until feeling itself seems to have gone away. It matters that she doesn’t make it out whole. It makes a difference, draws me close. I watch it again, that past and that sorrow living on in me and on the moving screen. I’ve done things like this before. Gotten caught in a mimetic loop. It’s something that the traumatized do. I sit almost helpless, obsessed, aching to watch again and again – and again. Trying somehow to safely touch the memories, searching for a way to escape them.

Mourning what did happen through something that didn’t.

red lotus end

The birth of memory.

Study of a figure for Hell, John Singer Sergeant

Only last year, my mother was telling me a few details about when I was born. The myth itself sits heavy on my shoulders, and has rested there my whole life. We spoke of it so many times: how I came three months early, I almost died, my mother almost died, and I was baptized immediately. I’ve seen the photos. My mother, rail-thin and pale, dark hair and glasses just like me these days. My two-pound self lying there in a clear plastic box, tubes and needles everywhere. The red of my skin, which didn’t soothe into the soft pale of a newborn. Unnatural. I’ve looked at the images my whole life.

My therapist says I need to remember that child. The little baby alone in the incubator. For the first few months of my life, I only rarely received affectionate touch. My parents had to scrub themselves perfectly and wear gowns. The other touches: they were needles and pain. There wasn’t the snuggling regular newborns receive. The constant soft assurance. Babies are shaped by their early months. Science shows us this.

Me: I was primed by a brutal world.

I hate the science. I hate the goddamn facts that point like daggers to my painful shyness, the tearful anxieties that haunted me through school. Struggling to feel attached, which worsened as the doctors did. I hated the doctors, hated them more and more as I saw them more and more. Sometimes I think: I just couldn’t seem to live or die. I feel so angry at that child, can’t seem to avoid hating myself at any age, and I blame myself. Sometimes for just not freaking dying. The anger conceals terrible loss, terrible disappointment.

In a world that will send no one to rescue me.

My mother told me that when I first came home from the hospital – in Cabbage Patch Doll clothes, because they didn’t make clothes for premies then – she sat with me and held me all day. Just held me. I try to picture it, and I’ve made it a memory of my own, though of course I don’t actually remember anything. I treat it as if I do. A memory of how much my mother suffered and cared. And simply that she held me. I don’t have a memory of her holding me, not ever. I know that she did. But I don’t remember, and I don’t know why.

Flesh hardened for an unkind world doesn’t remember touch, I suppose.

My sister doesn’t like it when I say these things online. She says I never remember the happy things. I do – and I don’t. And I don’t like it when she suggests I’m not remembering it right. I’m worried it’s true – and I know it’s not.

Once she spoke of my life like it came to me easily, my success, like an unrolling carpet. I saw something then: that certain things are very, very easy for me. That this was painful for her to see. School was never so simple for her. That I forget. I also understood that she didn’t, she can’t, know what it felt like inside. And both are true: school was really goddamn easy even when I missed half of it sick; also, I missed half of school sick.

God damn high school. I have dim memories. It all runs together, the shapeless days and me half-dead inside. Deeply withdrawn, deeply religious, hyper-intellectual. I still get that way in the summer, because summers are still the most like back then. (And the world is brutal.) Most of the real remembering is impossible. So when I seek to reference high school in class, I ask students for their memories. I can’t offer any of my own.

And I still can’t fully remember what happened to me. The really bad things. They are purely concentrated conjectures, perhaps, that try to provide answers for feelings I have. Their reality is more in the shape of my pain than their flickering, tenuous concreteness. My body remembers something. The confusing flashbacks to hospitals, the sudden crawling spider-waves of fears – these are memories of a kind. Recollections of a body already long primed by a brutal world, shaped to perceive what hurts.

No one will come and rescue me from all that. From the memories and suffering and confusion. I’m sorry, but it’s true. No one will glide in and carry me away. No one ever has. No one at all. They can’t. Lift me from the waters all you want: I cannot be made to breathe. Sure, there are machines; medicines. But don’t mistake those for breathing.

This is the impossible conundrum of freedom: that to be had, it must be used. Even when the free one in question desperately is not.

Because there isn’t some moment of titanic willpower into being better. Not from things like this. Sometimes I think mental illness terrifies people because it exposes the limits of our willing. My suffering isn’t actually explained by any of the memories, you see. Not quite. Yes, in part – and yet not. My sister remembers our childhood, and she makes an effort sometimes to set her memories against mine. But the suffering isn’t in the memories themselves. Not quite. I could take control if it were true, if everything came to remembering – or not remembering. If it came to “moving on.” Time doesn’t work like that, though, and neither do memories – we can’t will them away.

Remembering is a strange sacrament. These words and symbols that somehow more than they are – even pain. The fragility of a memory isn’t the problem so much as the strength of what they impart. A brief half-trace can burn all over.

Even if everything were reducible to the trauma of my birth – which it isn’t – and the rest is just a self rather helpless before experiences that would never hurt anyone else, it would mean so very little. The answer. If it were all that one thing. Like it always was, growing up: “She’s a premie, so…” God dammit, I’ll never escape the shadow of being born. And neither will you. Part of what being born means is that you will never be able to summarize yourself.

Being unable to recount high school doesn’t leave me unmarked by it. The lack of memory shows me how the past is more than what I am able to see in it. Even in the presence of memories – like the time a teacher asked me what happens to us when we suffer, and I felt the whole world of a suffering adult settle on my shoulders – I do not fully understand.

Trauma is a particularly painful and broken way to remember. This doesn’t make it unreal or more real than the rest. (As if suffering could summarize me instead.) But it does hurt, far too much, and we at least must say that memories ought not do this. Something must somehow break the hold. Yet what would it be, that thing, if you cannot offer it and I cannot either? We don’t like to ask that question. This one than mental illness lays to bear.

The obvious implication is that my spiritual powers are not enough. We think we see guilt on the faces of the mentally ill, some kind of failure on their part. No: they are signs of a frightening impossible. The uncomfortable proposition that we are not enough for ourselves. Nor even for each other.

There is a word in Latin: conveniens. Thomas Aquinas uses it to discuss when something is “fitting.” It isn’t necessary; it isn’t arbitrary. It fits, makes sense in the strange way only beauty makes sense: inexplicably reasonable. Of course, of course – that just suits you. It just does. Conveniens.

There is a doorway somewhere in our imaginations and wills, there where memories and dreams live. A door that can’t be made – not with human hands – nor opened. But by some fitting measure there is a way the heart (which dreams and remembers) can be soothed into the perfect shape to open it. The measure of a different willing, a will that is not the heart’s yet not without the heart. So suitable it goes on unnoticed in the beating dark. There may be no memory of it, none at all. Or the recollection may rise up sudden from the past in some future far from now.

A grace that doesn’t rescue so much as it breathes within, and the dead gasp awake.

Paradoxes and Double-Vision. (There is more than one reality in a single life.)

“The Drowned Cathedral,” M.C. Escher

By the time I was twenty-eight, I had defended my dissertation, earned my doctorate, and agreed to a tenure-track faculty position across the country from where I grew up. I am very, very proud of these facts. They mean that I did something quite hard at a younger age than most. They mean that I am very, very good at what I do. These are facts that even at my darkest I’ll be able to call up and hold onto as real. I have also suffered immensely under the cross of mental illness. My life has threatened to splinter apart from it. This is also real, also true, and I don’t care who knows this about me. My colleagues have been nothing but supportive, for which I am both lucky and blessed, and if I know one thing about suffering, it is this: keeping it a secret makes it worse.

My mind is good and my mind is wounded. I can be both. One does not invalidate the other. There is a part of me that loves the apparent contradiction of a trustworthy and untrustworthy mind. Take that, Gnosticism and René Descartes.

There is more than one truth of mine that gathers in a complexity like this.

One of the symptoms of depression and anxiety is a kind of hyper-attention to a single truth. The truth of knowing that a thing can be hurtful or unstable, or that life is profoundly sad. We all know things like this. The one who suffers knows only this. It’s not that people with mental illness believe lies, though some do. It is much more that someone is unable to receive any other truth.

There is no “bright side.” There is no “safety.” Not for the person whose world has narrowed to darkness or danger. And they (we) cannot be argued out of it. What others say has very little purchase. Because the person who does knows nothing but danger does not think that safety exists at all. They’re not living in an alternate reality; they’re living in a single aspect of the truth. The world is very unsafe. Especially in a panic, the one truth is literally all they can think of.

I remember being able to think of nothing else but my own death. I remember this terrible repetition, this single fixation. And it made sense. It felt entirely logical, appeared intellectually and emotionally coherent. I was abused, and I never said anything, and no one knew. That is terribly sad. That is a harsh reality that makes living hard. It was easier, in a way, to think of death. It meant I could concentrate on my loss instead of a life lived through loss.The mind tries to preserve itself.

The more I focus on how to live these days, the more challenging it becomes to come to terms with my losses. It is a kind of mourning. A grief over what gave out and gave in. All those many things.

I love my parents. I have never once doubted that they love me. They said so, and they tried to show me so. And still they didn’t notice this dark secret. They struggled to assist a terribly shy and emotional child. They didn’t know about mental illness. Even so, it means everything to me that they were at my dissertation defense, that they saw me do what I am very good at doing. They wanted to be there. My sister was there too. Because they love me. They still dragged me to hospitals, struggled to notice year after year of trauma. They watched much of it. It hurts. Their care and my horror can both be true even if none of us understand.

My mother sometimes held me. Eventually I didn’t want hugs at all.

It’s not like I never assisted in my collapse. I have always have a hard time receiving affection, and being nudged to go hug and kiss my relatives felt like torture. Encouraging me to go do the thing I hated made me more afraid of it. I found what praise I received intolerable. It’s an unfortunate mix: parents who were not quite aware of certain hurts, and my own inability to feel comforted. Each assists the pain of the other. Even recently, my dad said he’s proud of every little thing his children do. I grumbled at the phone and felt the weight of two truths: that he is and always has been proud, and that he never expressed it in a way I understood. In a further prism, he didn’t know that I didn’t understand and I never said so.

Could my mother predict how alienated I felt from her, from women, when she wanted me in a dress so badly? No. Why was it so very important to her? Why did I intuit from this that I’d never be pretty? I don’t freaking know.

And I love them. So fucking much. My mother helped school me into the talented learner that I am. She was almost always at my side. Or there was being able to talk religion with my dad. The times he assured me it’s okay to ask questions about faith. And my mother’s simple faith, so much wiser. The closeness we once had. I never felt close to either, though I know they felt close to me. I complicate the good things.

I care that they baptized me when I was born and dying. I care that they cared about that. What better gift to give a child but faith, even if only briefly? I lived, but no one forgot. The twelve weeks I wasn’t in the womb, the two-pound weight. The incredible survival. The uncertainty over what kind of life that would leave me.

My siblings helped me. Especially my sister. When I became very, very sick. She was there (except when she wasn’t, some part of me hisses), and she has carried me down staircases. Still I withdrew from everyone, including her, even in high school. I loved them and I love them and didn’t – and don’t – know how to love them. Not at all.

Yet I can be incredible at supporting others, listening. I can be very, very soft. Very nurturing and attentive to life. And I can vanish too. I tried to kill myself, after all.

I have known God, I have lost God. I don’t really understand my relationship with God right now. I have asked why we suffer, and refused to ask at all. I flourished in school and was still very lonely. I taught myself nearly half of high school, which is cool to say but was the worst. I have never trusted anyone with my body, and the one man I did repeated all the old hurts. Which is sad. There are memories I can’t stand. There are those I can’t live without. I didn’t really understand that I was smart until much later, and I never figured a kid as shy as me could grow up to be a great speaker.

Weirdly, I didn’t know I was funny. Dammit. I could’ve killed it in school.

On and on and on. My childhood was good; my childhood was awful. My family was wonderful; my family failed a lot. (They have always been good people.) It seems to me to be very difficult to hold these things together, and that each truth lives in me and I live in them – or I’m learning. I’m not sure I can be expected to put the fragments together. I’m not the one who holds the whole of me. That I know.

I am aware that I focus on the dark things as I struggle to trace the cracks in my heart. All are true and all are not everything.

I trust that there is time for mourning, always time. And time to live on.

Who Can Think of It?

“Who Can Think of It?” Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya has a series of horrific and leering political portraits of Spain falling apart before his eyes. Called “The Disasters of War,” they were only published after his death. The court painter – going deaf – revealed himself as a sensitive observer of violence, able somehow to paint with it – to make it real. Famous for his rich colors and smooth lines, everything went black and sharp and stark. As if violence itself skittered through his fingers, spidery and knowing.

They are fascinating. They are brilliant. They are awful. It is possible to see them glaring in a chronological list of his works, right next to portraits of the Duke of Wellington. The contrast cuts as much as the paintings do.

I love them. I love their brokenness. The thick, horrible lines. They say something that I cannot.

They announce something about memories that I have, and for which I have very few words. Very few, even as the memories themselves, firing through my nervous system, return with strangely specific vengeance.

Memory is a complicated thing. Every time we surface a memory – actively recall one, that is – scientists say that we seem able to edit them before tucking them away again. In fact, we frequently modify our memories. The science seems to imply that memory is nothing if not unreliable.

Memory is alive. I don’t know if that means it’s unreliable.

“I don’t remember anything happening to you,” someone in my family once said. I cried. Memory against memory. It’s a bad fight from the start.

I don’t know what Goya did and didn’t see. I know that his paintings are real. I mean that they know something real. They know about it. He knew. It’s on the canvas. He knew something without words. It’s there, remembered, in the paintings.

It is as if the art testifies to the moment that God vanishes from everything all in one horrible, violent instant. There is something very real about atheism, at least this kind. It never sounds like the atheism argued in the academy, so I’m not sure they’re the same. The kind I mean is to have seen God nowhere.

I have experienced that nowhere, that awful blank page. It is its own kind of negation, whatever it is, and different than the logic that would claim there is no God. This other place is simply, violently, nowhere. Apart and alone. Every theology disappears, even the theology that there is no God.

This place, where God is nowhere, I felt it again just yesterday. As a needle carefully punctured my skin, and I felt the sharp burst of pain as it entered and the dull ache as it remained. I watched dark blood, my blood, fill vials. I feel sick and scared just writing the spare words. The vials were for a whole series of blood panels. For my doctor. So I can feel better. But in the moment, I couldn’t remember why I was there.

All was nothing but me and that needle. Nothing at all.

I cried, later, in my therapist’s office, curled into a tiny ball on the chair. “Jesus wasn’t even there,” I whimpered.

You and I could both argue to me that He was, but you and I both know that’s not what I meant.

I was absolutely unable to be anything but alone. (Hell is being alone in C.S. Lewis’s Great Divorce.) Nothing was anywhere, is what I think I meant. Something like that. Because of my own memories, everything went away. Like it has hundreds of times before. That strange nowhere, where nothing is. Not even God.

I hate that nowhere.

And I wonder if Goya knew it. That place that cannot be thought. Where there is no thought.

Did Jesus know it?

And does God remember me, think of me, when I remember and I cannot think? He must, but that’s not what I mean.

The ending of things.

Donnie Darko 2

Donnie Darko is a strange movie, twisted with the dark threads of a troubled young man’s struggle with mental illness, a struggle further knotted by the thin silver of science fiction. It is a plot whose hold on its sense of reality is as tenuous as its central character’s. That is what I like about it.

The movie opens with teenaged Donnie Darko waking huddled on a mountain street, and follows him as his experiences intensify in increasingly surreal leaps. He sleepwalks. A large bunny, its face distorted, speaks to him. He is told the world will end. A turbine unhinges from a phantom plane and crashes through Donnie’s bedroom, where he would have been had he not greeted the gray-eared figure with the broken voice.

Is what Donnie Darko sees real? We are never told, and we with Donnie are allowed to wonder. Will the world end, or is it Donnie’s world that is collapsing? He’s in therapy, after all. He takes medicine. He tells his therapist that the monstrous bunny’s name is Frank.

Is time travel possible? Again we are never told, since the whole plot may have disintegrated into a schizophrenic’s hallucination. Is he a broken hero, or a broken teenager? He saves his girlfriend’s life, after all – but at an immense and perplexing cost.

I’ve left out most of the plot, which is impossible to describe in any sensible way without giving in to the weight of ordering all of the pieces into artificial closure. The director himself tried to do this. There is a “director’s cut” of the movie that insists on a convoluted and rigorous theory of freedom and time travel that rather ruins the melancholy fun. What I like about the movie is the opposite: the plot flexes delicately in the mind of each viewer, impossible to hammer into a straight line. Time itself, in the movie, does not run in a straight line.

There is a way in which the movie refuses to end. It loops back upon itself in the lazy curves of the musical waltz that suffuses its soundtrack.

Most great stories have a certain way of not ending. They live on with those who experience them; they open themselves to avenues much wider than an artist’s intent; they invite us to encounter them again. It is not simple obsession or speculation that makes a story great, nor the number of devotees. It is instead a sort of freedom borne by the story that makes it great, a freedom that is integral to it, a freedom complicated by its reception. It is hard to describe great stories except to say they do not end. They have a way of not ending. They suggest that there are stories other than their own.

It is the broken story that cannot help but collapse without a further breath. It is the broken story that can accept no narrative but its own, and so inevitably suffocates itself to death. Broken stories invite nothing but the firing of distracted neurons. They suggest nothing. Perhaps a sequel – much the same, only worse.

Sometimes I like to remember that in Christianity the story has a way of not ending. There is an ending, and the ending is already enclosed in the story. But anyone who claims to grasp that ending, whole and entire, has not grasped it at all. The story has a way of not ending, borne aloft by the peerless force of divine freedom, a freedom that is integral to Christianity and that invites us receive it. It is ended – and it is not ended.

I am not suggesting that Donnie Darko is a Christian story. One can only claim so much about a movie featuring a young man wandering about dream-like with an axe. I am not even suggesting that Donnie Darko is a great movie, though I like it a whole lot.What I am claiming is that the movie’s puzzle – its very puzzling-ness, its complex request that we sit with it again – is suggestive of something in all great stories. And I am claiming that Christianity has an analogous greatness about it. Analogous because it is not identical. It is a story that is also about the world ending; it is a story that bends time back upon itself; it is a story with room for response. But it is also a story that ceases being only a story; it is a story that refuses to be merely a fiction. And here, most of all, it is important to remember that the ending – even the very end – has a certain way of not ending. Not at all. Not at all like a story.

Of course, it also has a distressing lack of giant nightmare bunnies.

Donnie Darko 1

The Fog Rolls In

Fog at the Golden Gate #1 - San Francisco

The strangest creature that I have met in Northern California is the fog. For every soul here who relishes standing outside any kept narrative – any tended garden (quick now! here now! always!) – there is yet the fog. The fog resounding most with that quiet cry against the understood. It rolls in from the wide ocean and covers San Francisco entirely, along with Oakland and Berkeley. Everything west of the hills is its possession. Temperatures dip low, and a haze settles over the landscape.

It is possible to see it crawling in like a white-gray wall. A supplanting horizon. Look west, and there it creeps over us with settled determination. And in the morning, just as blanked and resolute, it fades backward. The sun shines fierce. As if the hills had never known a cold, obscure evening.

I wonder often at the fog. That strange, masking calm and cool. I feel as if the fog has become my first friend here. It is dependable if odd; informative if silent. It embodies everything about what it means to move: every former comfort is covered now by a gauze of newness and unfamiliarity. Everything is difficult to interpret, resting as it does beneath the hazed glass of a different context. Everything cries against the understood.

And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers

– T.S. Eliot, “Dry Salvages,” Four Quartets

Time stretches in strange ways, embraced and encumbered by the fog. I am at once too busy and not enough, struggling to comprehend each passing moment. Comprehension requires a moment. It requires context. Both time and place. These are torn apart and wrapped up in the fog. Rolling in and rolling out, perceived but ill understood.

Time presses onward and these faces I do not know pass by, equally as set and opaque as the fog. Who are they, and where do they go? What do they think, and do they glance once at my face? There is no time to know. No time to pause. And too many lonely hours. The faces pass by; time presses them onward over the landscape.

Time and the bell have buried the day,
The black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?

Chill
Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.