simple things

October 23. Drizzle today, despite a brilliant morning, warm with incredible blue skies. I had swung out of the Zen Center driveway and down the street on my bike toward campus, wandered around after my Chinese midterm, gotten a hot cider to celebrate being finished. I sipped the cider outside my second class, enjoying the fine weather. But when I stepped out of class about an hour later, it was overcast and clearly going to rain. I rode home for lunch in the first spatter of drops.

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October 24, morning. Woke with a headache and a stiff neck to the sound of rain. Dreamed near dawn of going to a suburb that looked like a soot-smudged, dystopian version of my neighborhood growing up. I was traveling there to meet up with my family. A cousin found me in a department store bathroom as foul and gross as any I’d seen in the neglected stations of India; he had a mohawk and my backpack and I was glad to leave as soon as he handed it over to me. I then found a puppy wandering the streets, a small warm brown thing who snuggled up under my chin when I held her. I took her home; my sister arrived; I said, “Mol, look! I found a puppy!” And Molly gave me a look that said everything in dream-speak: I have my own dog, a new baby, and a husband. That puppy is your problem. Meanwhile, my mother arrived. The atmosphere was leaden, as if the sky itself were lowering, like one of those rigged set-pieces at the theater. It began to rain in fat, globular drops.

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Went out to brunch with a friend. Walking to the restaurant, we admired the sidewalk, mottled with scarlet leaves plastered down and shined by rain. Walking home, we stopped across from a tree that had turned completely to fiery ochre but hadn’t yet lost its foliage. The constant rain had blackened its trunk and branches, giving them a charred look. Then the wind picked up for a moment, and the leaves flew.

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Afternoon. Came out to a coffee shop to work: I work well in coffee shops, always have. My literary Chinese professor showed up, laughing: he and I have run into one another nearly every week at the coffee shop, usually when I’m working on his homework. Today, however, I’m working on answering emails and the footnotes for an academic paper translation I am very late finishing. The rain drives people indoors, not so much physically as emotionally. People have a more settled, furred feeling about them on rainy days. It’s as if I can feel them becoming warmer, more inward and yet also more welcoming to friends, in this weather; conversations seem more intense, people’s energy seems more directed toward the domestic, indoor world on days like this. It’s just an impression. Maybe I like coffee shops because I get to participate in the thickened weave of affection and attention that loops and twines through the atmosphere.

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I keep not wanting to quite admit it, but this has been an emotionally taxing fall. The job I came out here to do didn’t work out, and while I believe it was for the best, nonetheless, there have been repercussions. Another of this situation’s shoes fell yesterday, one shoe of what is turning out to be a multi-legged creature. I hope that it likes going barefoot, and will soon be done treading noisily on the borders of my life; I’m nearly overwhelmed as it is, and have to work to release the clenched knot that appears in my gut. A process, not a quick one nor one that holds any guarantees against vicissitude. So I just get on with what I can deal with, trying to let go of anticipation of either good or bad results, and breathe. I’ve booked train tickets to Providence to sit a weekend retreat at the Zen Center there, and can look forward to the arrival of dear friends in Colorado in a few weeks. “The simplest thing,” my friend said to me this morning, “Is the answer. How do we deal with things? By simply being present in the world.”

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