I was feeling very Anne Shirley-ish when I took this photo, in my puffed sleeves and my apron, but like the elder harried Anne, the one with all the children. (As a child, I felt deeply uneasy about those later books. I wanted Anne to have adventures besides motherhood. Ironic, how my own life resembles hers more than I ever thought it would, with chickens and children and a garden and a never-ending host of small domestic disasters.)
Anyway, hello hello hello from another busy evening in the kitchen!
This particular evening we had salad, mashed potatoes, and a pork roast with apple cider to celebrate the coming of autumn. It was delicious. It was cozy. It’s also long gone, and now I need to come up with another dinner. Then another. And then– just– another? Forever? If we’re lucky, I suppose.
Anyway, what was I saying? Are you feeling scattered?
Rushed? The tiniest bit frazzled?
There is so much to do, so much on our minds, so many random nudges throughout the day: that book looks interesting, I should text that old friend, we’re almost out of cereal, time to plan for fourth quarter, maybe I’ll learn to paint, pickup is at 6, here’s a piece of mail with bad news in it, here’s a catalog with something beautiful in it– and meanwhile, while you had those brief disjointed thoughts, you got 47 text and 200 emails.
How are we to think about anything important, like what our legacy might be or what dreams might be tugging at us? How do we bow in deep reverence to the miracle of life when someone is watching a TikTok video in the same room? And does anyone know which pants won’t embarrass the teenagers this season?
My friend Kristen Kalp said to me yesterday, “It all feels very existential right now,” and that rang a gong of recognition in me. Everyone I know is wandering around feeling uncertain as to what they’re meant to be doing at the moment.
On the one hand, life keeps dinging its frantic and mesmerizing minutiae at us. Meanwhile, flooding, wildfires, record heat, hurricanes– it’s clear that our planet is crying out, and we freeze in total agonized paralysis for a minute– this is surely more important than anything else, what are we even DOING– and then something pings again, we’re late for that meeting, it’s time to go pick up so and so, this email needs an urgent reply.
There’s a sense of limbo too as people get Covid again, and we pour toward another winter wondering how it’s going to go: is it business as usual? Will everyone keep going into the office? Will the kids stay in school? Should we commit to travel? Even as we forge ahead, there is a deep sense of unease that we can’t seem to shake. We know now that everything can change in an instant.
How do we go forward with that kind of existential uncertainty?
And of course the question itself is absurd, because that’s always been the case, it’s just that some of had the luxury of forgetting, sometimes for years at a time. We lived in the illusion that we had control over our own lives, that we were in charge, that we could reasonably expect how things would go.
The wisest among us, the seasoned and weathered, whispered that it wasn’t true– that it can all change in an instant, pay attention, be here now–
but it was easy to forget.
I think it’s harder now. And most of us don’t have much practice holding the mundane details of life AND a profound mortal awe in both hands at the same time.
So how do we live?
My loves, I have no idea.
And what’s more, I don’t believe anyone who’s sure they do.
But here we are, my beloved humans, and this weird time is the one we’re in.
So we can walk around with a sense of dread– temperatures are rising, fresh water is drying up, the heat will kill us first, our collective humanity feels unbearably fragile– or we can stay in a constant dissociated state of busyness, lurching from one crisis to the next, driven by the dinging distraction of a life that dings at us 47 times a minute–
and I do some of both most days–
but what I am trying to do, what I hope for, is that even now, maybe especially now, I can also stay with and aware of and unbearably near the miracle that we are here.
Here on this planet, in these soft doughy human bodies that are so delicate, so soft and crumbly.
And it is all kind of a mess.
And it is unspeakably beautiful.
Here we are. We don’t know for how long. But here we are. The very least we can do, I think, is try to pay attention.
Keep turning our faces toward the unfathomable brightness of it.
And try to remember both pants and dinner.