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There are things I wish I did not have to know about this country. Is blindness a sin?


Does writing–or any expressive art–grow more challenging with age? It seems to me that the older one gets, the heavier the weight of experience that saddles each word, each brushstroke, each note. How can any sentence avoid the force of the existence that gave it birth? How is this not overwhelming?

All I want to offer the world is beauty, and yet I feel so incapable. Beauty is a terrible and cruel force, and I am too timid, and uncertain.

(I wish I did not so abhor the tangible; I wish I did not so love it.)

I lost track of the miles I walked today, and what I saw. Today was sunny, but in a minor chord–a sunshine tempered through cloud–and this among more made me want to cry. I walked along the Sound–that strange body of water that is both ocean and not ocean,  somehow partialled from the Pacific, and of it–until my soles blistered and my shins stabbed, and until, in the lowing light, I stumbled home.

These words are weighted, and these words will never be heavy enough.


At the end of today’s walk I stopped in at wineshop a mile or two from home. I’d never noticed it before. The sign out front offered tastings on Saturdays, and who am I to decline a gift of fate?

The bespectacled old man behind the counter–the owner, as it turned out–was a wizened caricature of Frenchness; his heavy accent was accented not only by a beret, but a black and white striped shirt. He poured as generously as he talked.

I left with two bottles, both old and storied. Walking back, the bag balanced precariously on my hip, I wondered into whose bellies–or cellars–the rest of each Italian barrel had been tipped. (I wondered this at yesterday’s dinner, too, over a plate of veal: who had the rest of the calf fed? Who else had it become?) It is strange what connects us.


What does one do with wonder?

I walked for miles today through a city misted over by ocean and fall, past girls running in high black boots and bearded men singing in riddles, and all beneath a low and smoke-grey sky. The leaves were dying in auburns and golds, and the air pulled my breath from me, and I walked. The dark and the coming cold shoved me stubbornly home; I did not want to go.

How does one translate beauty? What does one do with something so perfect that description is ruinous and cruel?

October has fled so quickly.


On the flight back from California I sat next to a grey and corpulent man, the same man whose distracted bulk had slowly preceded me down the aisle to our seats, with me containing a quiet sigh at our assignments. I squeezed in next to him; he ignored my apologetic smile. I made myself small against the window and retrieved my book. I read.

After we took off, my seatmate pulled from his bag–instead of the usual laptop or iProduct–an ungainly sheaf of scribbled-upon and heavily marked musical notations. I slid my gaze and read these too, or tried; the lyrics beneath the bars were in Italian, and although I could cohere in my mind the melody, the meaning was opaque. The man retrieved a pencil, added a few notes, and then proceeded to sing, beneath his breath, from the beginning of the manuscript.

I feigned absorption in my book, but spent the next two hours listening, entranced, to the newness of a whispered opera.


I have a hard time trusting people who don’t evidence some sort of tendency toward self-destruction, if only because it is a flaw so deeply knitted in my own being that I have a hard time understanding what it would mean to exist without the drive. And this is a problem, because I know full-well that self-destructive sorts are impossible to fully trust; if anyone would–either willfully or helplessly–commit injury after unnecessary injury upon themselves, it seems foolish to expect they could be trusted to care and protect another. And yet.

It’s been nearly a year since the last time I was CPRed out of an unwitting suicide (only a year, and already) and that episode was certainly not the first. I do not know whether the number of times I’ve slipped into the welcoming purgatory between my life and something else, and then returned, is evidence of a snarling attachment to this world, or a carelessness about it; I seem prone to a clumsy and sweet unwariness toward fatality, and yet… I am still here.

In any case, I find more comfortable the presence of others who hold themselves warily, and those who know what it’s like to carry inside oneself an easily-triggered grenade–be it one of depression or starvation or addiction or abuse–and who are used to the inner extremes of kid-glove and cruelty. Sometimes I think this is everybody, though. I find it easy, inevitably, to trust.

. . .

Tonight it rained here, sleeting and thick. Tonight, on the way home from a distressed post-midnight walk, I had to traverse the tarp-covered bodies of dozens of sleeping homeless; on the sidewalks outside a nearby foundation, hundreds of people had huddled to protest, with the warmth and weight of their breathing selves, the closure of a dozen local shelters. The night was cold but the heat from their staggered stillness warmed the air, and I breathed it with an open mouth as the rain fell hard and I picked my way around them. Tonight I am warm, and I cannot sleep; tonight on the sidewalk others dream. Is suffering so comfortable? Is comfort not? I will never understand the world.


Some people–perhaps most–join a group and then graciously proceed to conform even more to it. I have an irritating and opposite pattern; I’ll ingratiate myself to some crowd or another–be it a writer’s group, a women-in-business consortium, some volunteer / activist project or another, even (and sometimes worst of all) an academic department–and instead of taking notes and learning how to be a good version of the demographic in question, I’ll find myself acting as the local contrarian, questioning not only the surface decisions, but the very values around which the group purports to organize.

This is frustrating. It makes me not a good belonger. It makes me skittish about joining anything, because I’ll invariably end up condemning it. I over-empathize with opposition.

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” Groucho famously said, but it’s not quite that. I think I am just against groups in principle. I can’t even wholeheartedly align myself with humanity, for god’s sakes, or even life writ large. I wish I could be happier being in-between, or perhaps more whole-heartedly give myself to distance; I am not proud of this form of participation.