out in the HEAT

Yesterday I spent all day out in the heat at Planting Fields. I acknowledge the privilege I have: access to a friend w/car, a paid day off, NOT having to work and/or live outside…but I also think a lot about what it means to have to travel to see grass, trees, flowers – to have space to walk in nature and away from crowds. Ages ago I made a choice to move to NYC and then to the tiny apartment where I’ve been for many years. And there are many good things about NYC (and my tiny apartment) but all those photos friends post about yards and gardens and sunrises or sunsets, help to build a depth of regret and longing that I can’t quite reason or write myself out of. Now, this is, in theory, a blog about writing and reading, and my life is often spent immersed in editing, reading, writing while trying to balance a “day job” that has nothing to do with any of those things. And part of why I live in NYC is to have access to the world of writers and readers and publishers. But with the pandemic, my life has become one lived mostly inside: I have a disability and have been working from home since March of 2020. It’s a privilege but also can feel like punishment. In the hours I’m not working at the day job, I write book reviews (mostly for Publishers Weekly & The Brooklyn Rail), I read manuscripts (mostly for Black Lawrence Press), I curate and edit an indie publishing newsletter (Sapling – for BLP), and I recently completed a stint as guest editor for The Masters Review Novel Workshop. I read over 200 books a year (only some for pleasure), I read a few hundred manuscripts, and somewhere in there, I go to school (Starr King), I write, and I write, and I write. Even if I had access to sunrises and grass and flowers and trees on a daily basis, would I have time to savor them? To savor life? I’ve recently been reading (again) about “mindfulness” – that overused term that seems to be an attempt for many of us to fix those symptoms that cause us suffering: stress, anxiety, eating too much or too little, grief, aches, pains, and so many other parts of what it means to be human and alive in this time. Assuming you have a job and a place to live – which I know isn’t true for many Americans, not to mention many others across the planet – so many of us fail to acknowledge the privilege of our own lives: a relatively safe place to live, enough food and clean water, bodily autonomy (oops! lost that one), maybe even the opportunity to pursue our dreams. Perhaps, for me, mindfulness exists in those moments when I just stop and acknowledge the many good things in my life – not the ache for trees, not the anger at injustice, not the chronic pain, or even the little failures I see in books or manuscripts I read. It’s when I stop and take pleasure in a phrase or a sentence that works (!) or the drift of clouds above the brick building next door. It’s when I stop to breathe, stretch, or turn the page, maybe even appreciate my body’s ability to move with strength and power. Perhaps for me, mindfulness also exists in the call and response at a protest I recently attended while acknowledging my fear of crowds, other people, contagion, violence, noise, all the many reasons to be afraid. Perhaps for me, mindfulness exists in the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and shifting the chaos of sound and vision, of fear and anger, and of people and trees and sky into words.

1 thought on “out in the HEAT”

  1. sometimes it’s rather important to take a moment to appreciate all the good in your life that you do have and your specific privileges. It gives you perspective and strength against all the bad stuff and our struggles that each have. This was lovely to read! A great message.

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