Txt to Lauren on her 36th bday

SUPER sorry to miss calling on your 36th (impossible, btw) bday! I thought about it from 7am until 10pm, and Lucy and I discussed it multiple times! We just got derailed in this weird space that my shoulder rehab is creating. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I love you and am so proud of you. I’m glad we’re friends. I treasure your perspective, your lion’s heart, your tenacity. I treasure your self-doubt, your failings, your humanity. You make the world a better place every day in so many ways that you probably don’t even notice. And you’re a dedicated champ mom, even though in your dark places, you deeply doubt that. You believe in yourself in ways that you probably don’t even realize. You’re your own worst critic — a classic family trait. (stop that) 

I love you so much.

Day before surgery

Pretty emotional this morning, as I find myself saying “see you later, for a while…” and seemingly tying up loose ends with more people and jobs and situations, in preparation for tomorrow’s surgery and the weeks/months of recovery that spool out seemingly so far beyond.

It’s upsetting to think that I’m walking away from a variety of regular activities for a kind of unknown period of time and that I may not see regularly- seen people or do regularly-done things for… I don’t know how long. It’s upsetting to me.

And yet, I say “walking away” which suggests that I’m doing this on purpose or somehow being irresponsible. My biggest fear right now seems to be “you have not prepared enough. You are dropping so many balls.”

By taking care of myself?

Surely that’s an incorrect understanding of the situation. But I have been taught my whole life to be independent and self-sufficient. I cannot think of anything harder than being “taken care of” in such a complete and far-reaching way as I fear I am about to be. Even worse: to NEED to be. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being taken care of. In fact, it sounds great. For somebody ELSE. Maybe by me. Other people taking care of me? It’s just not the attitude or expectation that I was raised with in terms of “being an adult.” But it’s something where my attitudes and experience could use some changing.

Doesn’t matter. Here we go, regardless of what I think.

RIP Neil Peart, My First Philosopher.

Neil Peart died, and I’ve been reflecting on his enormous impact on my life.

NPR said:

Peart’s erudition earned him the nickname “The Professor.” It was apt: Carrying himself with an air of well-spoken authority, he possessed knowledge about a variety of topics, owing to his extensive global travels — on Rush tours, he was known for taking off on bicycle rides and, later, would hop on his motorcycle to travel between gigs — and a voracious curiosity about the world around him. In his 2002 book, Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, he described going to art museums in the afternoons before Rush concerts “to feed my growing interest in paintings, art history, and African carvings.”

Their album Signals is the first record I can think of having bought the very day it came out. The video above is the last track, a soaring tribute to the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia, April 12, 1981, which RUSH came to Florida to personally witness.

Hollow Kingdom

So great is Kira Jane Buxton’s Hollow Kingdom, a “zombie apocalypse” story as told by domestic pets, that I needed to share some passages, something I never think to do. What starts out hilarious, becomes both elegiac and profoundly optimistic. Highly recommended.

Butterflies live short lives because they have mastered the art of living. They serve to pass it on with bursts of joy, bright flickers from the other side… The paper-winged ones are truth-tellers, postage-stamp sized messengers who paint the air into a watercolor of magic and taste with their feet. We are best advised not to blast them with Roundup.

— S.T.

Your magnificent eyes have been down. Do you know how many years I am? Did you know that there are more lives in a palmful of soil than of your kind on this big beautiful blue?

My gift to you is to know that we are here, all around you, talking to one another and dreaming of your success. Sorcery is everywhere, in the silver stroll of a slug and lighting up the very veins of you. Open those beautiful eyes to a world who is a mosaic of magic. She is just waiting for you to notice.

— Just above the root structure of a 200-year-old Spruce Tree (translation by a Steller’s Jay)

… when you are close to an elephant, you feel so deeply. If they choose, they have the ability to hold your sadness, so that you may safely sit in the lonely seat of loss, still hopeful and full of love. Their great secret is that they know everything is a tide — not a black tide, but the natural breath of life — in and out, in and out, and to be with them is to know this too.
Howl out old pain. It is a soft and sonorous magic. …we will fall in love with each moment, singing to a moon that has loved us since we were stars.

— sho’ lee ‘tsah, female wolf of nomadic blended wolf pack

…my big journey … is how I know what I’ve told you is true. About how Mother Nature is not kind, but she is balanced. Every single one of us, from amoeba to blue whale to the tenacious bloom that dares to dream of tomorrow, have their own destiny-fulfilling journey as long as their minds and hearts are open.

—S.T.

On the Blinding, Sometimes Terrifying Literary Magic of Roald Dahl

When have I not loved Roald Dahl? Pretty much never, is the answer. And yet, this is the most clobbering collection of stories of his I’ve ever heard. Deeply, sometimes darkly, compelling stories, read with nearly supernatural prowess by Andrew Scott.

One takeaway for me: this modern multimedia world we live in is smeared full of manufactured stories about brand-name characters: Luke, Leia, Harry, Hermione, etc.

Dahl doesn’t need these constructs. In fact, I can’t think of a single Roald Dahl story that has a sequel. Maybe you can.

He grabs you with seemingly run-of-the-mill humans (only not), placed in extraordinary, unforgettable situations. Truly engaging for any age, these stories are intense, to be sure. “The Swan” in particular, is hella dark; almost more than one can stand (and I’d be lying if I said Lucy and I didn’t both privately wring our hands over the abject cruelty of the antagonists, furtively glancing to the dark back seat of our car, only to see our eight year old daughter utterly rapt, as we zoomed along a nighttime highway.

As my concern rose, I reassured myself with one thing I felt like I know about Roald Dahl, having read so many of his stories over many years: when it comes to protagonists — I don’t care if it’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or The Witches, or James and the Giant Peach or Matilda, he may heap shocking cruelty and misery on his protagonists, but they always win. Just when you are certain they will not.

And that is why Roald Dahl is likely my favorite storyteller ever. I cannot recommend The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More highly enough for car listening, for a family. But be warned: It will challenge you, and maybe even shock you. You will become invested in his characters — the good ones and the bad ones. And the bad ones can be very bad. But right after the dizzying crescendo of each, you will probably think what we did: Damn, that was an incredible story.