Some writing from 2020, found on my computer and plopped in here, along with a random pretty picture of my summer 2022 garden.
As 2020 advances inexorably towards its inevitable end, to-do lists, ambitious, outright fantastical and quotidian alike, have gone the way of nine-to-five workdays, the kiddos reliably sequestered in literal classrooms, and lonesome dogs pining at the front door for master’s return.
Time once seemed more tangible, managed by such manmade notions as hours and weeks, contained by that wondrous invention—the weekend—made touchable by myriad day planners, phones and ironic calendars, all chockablock with appointments, each day chugging towards midnight in predetermined bites, a neat or squiggled line, a string of bold x’s to mark their doneness at day’s end. Time’s accustomed containers have gone squashy. Meetings, events, gatherings, experienced by the light of pixelated screens, large and small, portable and fixed. Each of us enacting our own self-important reality TV shows. Our days of the week now fuzzed, blended, their beginnings and endings smudged. No more bump of hump-day to climb and conquer, no more Friday on my mind, no more holding one’s breath for a day of rest to salve the soul, before girding one's proverbial loins or any other body parts for another round.
It isn’t time that’s changed, is it? It’s always been this never-ending trail, this river flowing, seeming to move too fast when you wish it would slow down for Pete or Paul's sake, or to creep when you need it to speed up for Paula's sake.
No, it isn’t time that’s changed. Only our belief that it can be dressed to suit, packaged and bent to our will. Absent the artifice of mile markers, trail signs, signposts, carefully planned vacations and mini breaks that can be relied on not to cancelled without notice, warnings about the degree of difficulty around the next bend. No weather report or tourist guide. It’s all switchbacks. A trail few would ever choose, one unlikely to lead to a destination in the book of 100 places to visit before you die.
Time’s infinite spool unfurls, or furls, or simply does what time does or doesn't do, as it ever has, never revealing enough of itself to peer around the next tight, bendy corner. No scouting ahead for a soda machine, rest stop, way station or point of historical interest. Predictive models, pundits and predictions hold little sway. Who are they to say? Who were they ever to say? Umpteen calendars tacked on umpteen kitchen walls and above Zoom work stations and classrooms illustrate the passing months.
What’s the fun, the satisfaction of to-do lists when tasks simply migrate from week to week, month to month, their importance and consequence siphoned away by the the dawning, yawning realization that none of it matters, that none of it ever really did matter.
Absent the usual anticipation, unrealistic expectations and subsequent let down of those “special days,” sprinkled throughout the year, the Hallmark ones and those more deeply rooted in culture and history, with the crescendo of the year’s final quarter. No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away, no wedding Saturdays within the month of June, no Halloween, December 31 still to come, will yet more lists of things that won't be accomplished in yet another new year that will likely be like the one before and the one before that. Just another day, another month, another year, another brick in the sodding wall.
Will New Year’s resolutions go the way of the beleaguered to-do list? Along with ten-step plans, notes to self stuck to the fridge with ironic magnets, messages in bottles, hatch marks on stones, drawings in smoky caves. Is there anybody out there? Are we really all alone, sequestered in our homes? Can you hear me in my tin can hurtling through my private space?
Markers of the done, the I-did-it, this, and that, and this too, a loaf of bread that's properly risen, a child's homework uploaded to the computer, presents wrapped to be left on doorsteps, dogs walked, these words written and released into the ether, hence the small comfort of the to-do list with check marks to prove to someone, anyone, that the to-do's have indeed been done, and that to-do list is now an I-did-it list, the pebble dropped in the stream as it flows ever onward, as it always has, only we pretended otherwise with our day planners, our fancy moleskin notebooks, meeting agendas, year-end reports, outlines, our who-zits and what-nots, and therefor I am because I did something, albeit a small thing, a pebble of a thing.
Looking ahead, projecting vs a glance over the shoulder at where we've been, lived, experienced, given, received, allowed to wound or nourish, scraped off or allowed our rents to heal, regret, reflect, be informed by, the done versus the anticipated, the we-did-it versus the it-remains-to-be-done, in a sea of unpredictability, when plans changing happens as often as the sun rises, there is perhaps more utility in glancing back from time to time, in finding comfort in markers of time's passing that you can touch, taste, or at least put your finger on, even if only in one's mind, a figurative finger if you will, yeah, that's the ticket, one of those figurative finger's, that's what I need. I wonder if that's something I can order and have delivered to my doorstep? Like dog food, bottled water, wipes and those nifty ready-to-cook meals.
And what of memories in a year that is more muddy aqueduct than free-flowing anything, suspended solids, chunks of unimaginable castoffs churning through the channel and deepening the canyon, eroding the banks of the known, pulling us all downstream, destination unknown, toward places we haven't chosen to go or ever planned to visit, because we can't picture or imagine what life is like in those worlds, those fourth or fifth world places.
What I mean to say is, this location where I find myself, this particular box, this mind set, this patch or square of hunkered down upon couch, this sinking mush pot, what I'm doing, what I'm feeling, and typing, this right here and now, was never on any to-do list of mine.
Seriously, is anybody out there?
Dorothy, author of GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK, blogs about the challenges and opportunities of being a woman and a writer of a certain age in a youth-centric universe.