In search of story


April 6.20: Coping

This morning I feel Pliocene,

and maybe you know what I mean:

the sleep that preceded

was not what I needed

and instead of standing I lean.



The coffee has not been invented that will open my eyes this morning.

So, dear reader, any thudding you hear from the American Midwest today

will be me bumping into walls.



January 8.18

This conflagration, dear reader, was my birthday cake last night. Today is the actual date (yes, me and Elvis), but last night was the family do. What makes this flaming cake blog-worthy is the arrangement along the far arc of it. If you look closely and use just a little imagination for the emoji candles, you will see (I’ve no doubt) that the 1001011 is my birthday in binary. My family, ladies and gentlemen! Undeterred by the lack of a 7 and a 5, they devised a binary 75! I seemed to be the only one at the table to be slow on the pick-up. Yes, yes, I know what “binary” means, but it is hardly where my brain goes when I don’t have the right candles!

You may note the second cake. My daughter-in-law, in all other ways an exemplary person, does not like frosting. So there is always an angel food cake for her. Full disclosure: no one objects to having a piece with her.

Now to real life: I lay me down last night after a full day which followed one of those rotten sleepless nights. Of course I couldn’t fall asleep. This is partly age, partly my lifelong struggle with insomnia, partly too much binary cake. After about an hour, I drifted off. At 1:20 I was awakened by chirping. Yes, chirping! One of these wretched alarms was chirping! Which one, and what would I do about it in this new house?

You may know, dear reader, that any venture in the wee hours starts with a trip to the bathroom, and that’s where I saw all the blood in my mouth. How long had that been going on? I rinsed and spit and spit and rinsed. It’s this blasted HHT, as you may know if you’ve read my blog for long. It took a few shaky minutes to stop it.

The bleeding stopped but not the chirping. There I was, at 1:30 in the morning, atop a ladder at the top of the stairs, feeling woozy and not at all patient. I couldn’t figure out anything about the rotten thing. So it continued its own happy-birthday song to me. And it continues now with its soothing beepathon.

And so begins my 75th birthday. I have broken my rule of the 300-word blog post limit, which I have abided by almost unfailingly. But it’s my birthday and I’ll write if I want to.




Vagaries in Gestation: On Being Linear, Part V, April 5.17

The pillow of an insomniac

cleaved by her back

tells of her vigil

sitting upright

in the black cold syrup

of slow minutes

the hour of the wolf

they call it

because it stalks the weak

because it devours

nothing changes in her grey room

but behind her eyes

the pageant of life

and death

rehearsing every misspoken line

rebreathing every choked breath

rewalking every unknowable path

sitting up

but wandering


amid the masks and powdered wigs



and mimes.

Vagaries in Gestation



My Uncle George was the dearest man in the world. His first wife, my pretty Aunt Mary, died of breast cancer in 1953. Forty-five years later, dying, he lay still and unaware for days. Except for one day when he was restless and agitated. It was the anniversary of Mary’s death.

My incorrigible Grandma Mauck, 90, was in the hospital apparently comatose. She was unresponsive, removed from time and place. She died on the same date Grandpa Mauck had died 36 years earlier.

How did they know?

Some years ago, I told my wise friend Mary Jo that I felt bad but I didn’t know why. “Don’t you have some anniversaries right now?” she asked. I was astounded. I was the one comatose! I’d been unaware of the time, the late winter months. Same time it is right now.

I’ve been struggling with insomnia for weeks now. It is horrible. I have inventoried several reasons for it, including heredity, but only yesterday did I remember Mary Jo’s words. This is a time of anniversary. Dad’s last months. The memories are insistent, grueling. It isn’t the death; it’s multiple deaths; it’s the dying. The anger, the aloneness, the exhaustion. The rising tide of losses.

Does trauma imbed itself in time so that it comes again and again, revolving with the earth? Are our souls aware when our minds are not?

“This too shall pass” is cruel platitude.

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The balloon

Yesterday I wrote about my history with dogs. My fear of dogs bubbles up when any dog is unleashed and near me; that is true. However, writing about my fear of dogs yesterday was a way of keeping a lid on all the other fears that are bubbling up.

I try to control the power of those fears by writing about part of it, like letting the air out of the balloon a little at a time instead of letting it go and watching it tear through the air in mad random loops until it falls, limp and useless. I hold tight to that opening. I will not let that balloon — me — fly off in mad random loops.

My stomach and head join with stomachs and heads everywhere today. Nausea, insomnia, gut pain, jagged breathing, weariness of body and soul — they are etched in faces and sculpted in postures. Grieving and bleeding bend us. Fear swaddles the globe.

Then there are our private fears, yours and mine. Some are constant, some change with living. They wrap us in our own personal swaddling.

And fears beget anger. God knows it is a time for anger. Anger, not violence. Constructive, articulate anger. Where will it come from and who will shape it?

I find myself on the verge of tears. I am shaken by what I read and see, and I’m shaking with a sense of helplessness. So I write about my fear of dogs. I keep the tight grip on that balloon. Still, little by little, I’m letting the air out.