Coming through

A few weeks ago I had a Zoom session with a medium, a woman recommended to me by a Norwegian friend. She had known nothing about me. She started by saying that my (dead) grandfather was “coming through”–and he was a minister? (Yes.) Then she said that my (dead) father was coming through, and there was a lot of light behind him, he was a stocky guy with a great smile and sweet energy, he helped a lot of people, he had a problem with his teeth.

All of these things were true about my father. (Did he, um, always have a lot of light behind him? No. But the sense of the image is true.) I suppose they could be true about a lot of guys from my dad’s era. But they felt pointed and specific to me because they were parts of my father that I had chosen to forget.

I usually remember my father as a failure: a guy who went bankrupt twice, was divorced twice, was often in bad health, was frequently estranged from his only child. I needed a medium in the tri-state area to remind me that he was, at the same time, light-giving, generous, ebullient. Thanks, medium! I want to choose the complicated memory, the tangled history, which is, after all, rooted in the thicket of life this morning.

How it feels

You know how sometimes you have to do something but you don’t totally feel like doing it, so you don’t do it, and then you feel guilty about not doing it because it’s not, like, a hard thing to do, but then a few weeks go by and you’re like “I still haven’t done this thing,” and you wonder what’s wrong with you, and you feel like when you do the thing (because you will do it, of course you will, you can’t live with this guilt for the rest of your life) it’ll have to be exceptionally good in order to justify the length of time it’s taken you to do it, and so now you feel pressure that you weren’t feeling ten weeks ago or whenever you were supposed to have done the thing, and the pressure makes you sluggish and resentful, you didn’t want this pressure, this task wasn’t meant to have so much weight attached to it, but who added the weight? You. You added the weight by adding the time and avoiding the thing, and now it’s in your peripheral vision all day, you’re always faintly aware that you’re not doing this VERY SIMPLE THING that you could have done in like five minutes eight months ago, but no, you were “busy,” you had “things to do,” and at this point the thought of doing it feels as momentous as getting married, you have to do it perfectly, this one act must redeem you, your negligence, your lassitude, your indecision, and what’s weird is that you like doing it, it’s not something you have to do, it’s something you want to do, but for some perverse reason you’ve denied yourself the simple pleasure of doing it for more than a year, and then all at once you’re doing it, rashly, recklessly, whatever, no one cares, you’re telling yourself that you don’t care but you do, you want it to feel as sudden and wayward as a drunken apology, though it’s noon and you’re sober and in five minutes you have “something else to do,” so you have to stop, it will be what it will be, which is all you really wanted it to be?

That’s how it feels to write this post.

The DJ’s monologue

I was watching a one-act play performed by kids in the local high school (my daughter had a minor role as a monster-under-the-bed and a faceless dancing spirit), and one kid was playing a late-night radio DJ, and he was delivering a short monologue in which he made a wry reference to the “imminent apocalypse,” but either he slurred it or I misheard it, and I thought he said “intimate apocalypse,” which is much better.

The Tempest

My 16-year-old daughter was hosting a local trivia night (on Zoom, using Kahoot, if you must know), and one of the questions was about The Tempest, and while she waited for participants to answer, she said, “That’s a play with the line ‘Hell is empty, and all the devils are here,’ which is how I feel at morning assembly.”

I was on mute, but I laughed OL.

And I love hiking!

The kids were reading a manga and laughing at a panel in which a character says, “My navel laser is both strong and cool!” This will now be my profile on dating apps.

The form is not the content

Jem had to write an essay answering the question: What is the best form of government? Most of his classmates picked one and argued for its merits. Jem said something different: No form of government is good or bad. Its goodness or badness depends on the people within it. Please discuss.

The snowman on the sign

The other adults in the family unit took the kids to a cabin up north over the recent school break. The cabin was decorated with seasonal and state-related geegaws and notions and faux-stamped signs–about bears and moose and lobsters and skiing and so on. Willa made a list of the signs; there were around 20. Her favorite sign portrayed a snowman complaining about the amount of snow: “Even I can’t take the snow anymore!” But when she first saw it, part of the sign was obscured by a lamp, so she misread it as an existential cry: “Even I can’t take it anymore!”

Muffin the Clown

My kids were recalling a sign they once saw at a birthday party, or perhaps a country fair. The sign was a list of events happening at the party/fair that day. At 1:30, the event was: “Muffin the Clown begins to roam.” Which they have never forgotten.

About a boy

At dinner one night I was talking with my 10-year-old son, we must have been talking about myths, he’s been in a myth phase for a couple of years, Greek and Roman and Norse and Egyptian, and this must have led us to compare myths to contemporary religion, and then to science, and he said “science is like a logical myth,” which, I mean, come on, that’s pretty impressive, but then he said something so subtle and sophisticated that it almost made me gasp, it was like witnessing a comet. Oh! We were talking about how people throughout history have tried to make sense of the natural world, that’s what it was, and when he came to the Greeks and their myths, he was saying that the Greeks were trying to explain something they hadn’t yet found language for, and he said “It was like they knew without knowing.”

They knew without knowing.


That. Is. Profound.

The interwebs tell me that that line may have first been used in Plato, but I’m pretty sure that J. hasn’t been reading Plato. Maybe he came across it in a more obvious source–Adventure Time or Rick Riordan’s novels. Maybe it’s part of our collective unconscious, and at dinner one night it arose from the world’s reservoir of unspoken wisdom and arrived on his lips. I don’t know. But to hear him say it, this sweet, goofy boy who still needs a little assistance brushing his teeth . . . I don’t know. I don’t know.

How were the trails?

I was talking with a friend who lives on a lovely plot of land way outside of town, her driveway is a dirt road at least a mile long, halfway into it you’re sure you’ve taken the wrong road, but the point is that she and her husband can wake up in the morning and go cross-country skiing on trails they made on their land.

Which they did the other day, after a storm, a storm strong enough to cancel schools and close businesses. They expected to be skiing in deep, clean powder, but in fact there had been only a little accumulation, the storm had been blinding winds and eccentric drifts, the land was hard and the roots of trees showed through a dusting of new snow. So the outing was underwhelming.

We were talking in a cafe, talking about other things, and a neighbor of hers came in, and they waved at each other, and he asked how the trails were, and she said eh, they were bony. Bony! She’s a secret poet, my friend is.