The Ache of It All

I started writing this post yesterday, after seeing photos of dry river beds in many parts of the world: the Loire, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Yangtze, all rivers I once saw in person in a time that now seems long ago. My heart was frayed by these images, especially since I’m preparing work to be part of an exhibition about the climate emergency that will be on display in Chongqing, China (where the Yangtze barely flows now). With all the work I do to try and stay present to everyday joys, I found that my normal filters for this level of grief are now as cracked and dry as a river bed, and my typically reliable resilience has just vanished. As did the paragraphs that I labored over yesterday, in what seemed to be a flick of the trackpad or some other quirk, every word was gone and I was left with that sour feeling that often comes when realize that you didn’t click the “save draft” button.

Non-attachment is the way of the day. Non-attachment to daily routines because they will be upended by something unseen. Non-attachment to the moods of our son. Non-attachment to being able to see the future of my husband’s cancer journey or our son’s next chapter in Oregon. Being able to hold uncertainty in this particular life and in this particular moment in history seems to be the most desirable skill, and being able to remind oneself that nothing is permanent, whether it’s the abundance in our backyard food forest or the feelings of being stuck or root-bound, being involuntarily leashed to a place that often does not feel like home due to the obligation of family care. I do love my family and my neighbors, but I have such a yearning for touching the landscapes of my past, even things that repelled me as a child, like the smelly streets of NYC. I have to stop myself when I get too thick with that sort of nostalgia and remind myself that NYC is not what it was, that everyone with few exceptions has dispersed or died, and that my desire for home won’t be satisfied there. My desire for home needs to be satisfied now with the soil, the water, and the air, and when that seems too abstract, the flavor of a fresh tomato just picked.

And in that vein, what brings me back to a joyful present moment is the harvesting of golden cherry tomatoes, the ground cherries with their delicate outer shell like a Japanese lantern, and the plump scarlet runner beans that were happily pollinated by hummers and bees. The ache of this time doesn’t go away, but it becomes just another flavor in the mix, one that I can write through or breathe into. I might not have what one considers a glamorous life filled with adventures and travels at this moment, but it is a rich one, with textures and colors that I will continue to report on here, even as those previously mentioned filters become more cracked with the news of the day.

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