A white house with a square window next to an open field of yellow dry grass, and a blue sky in the distance behind leafless tree branches.

I’m struggling with how to write about falling, recovery, renewal, spring. About mindfulness, creativity, gratitude, rage about the dire situation in Gaza.

The quick backstory is that on Feb. 5 I took a sliding spill by stepping on my cat’s plastic-disc- bottomed scratch pad and careening across the room until I landed on my side with a thump. Fast forward 12 hours and I am exiting the Emergency Room with a pair of crutches, an x-ray report that says I have a non-displaced tibial plateau fracture of the left knee and admonitions not to be weight bearing AT ALL on my left leg. The days and weeks to come will reveal that I don’t need surgery but must indeed learn to hop around the house on one leg and let my fracture heal. Estimated complete recovery time is 4-6 months. Yikes. I cancel summer travel plans and look on the bright side. An excuse to sit in bed and read! (Or watch reruns of Monk.)

Piling up beside me, copies of Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, as I fight alternating feelings of despair (this is the beginning of a downward spiral) and elation (No surgery! Friends who bring flowers!). I dutifully finish the two library books I had on hand, borrowed from other branches and on loan to my amazing local one.

I froth at the mouth over a review of a new Carson McCullers biography that apparently minimizes her genius and health challenges and seems to portray her as a spoiled brat. (This is one biography I am NOT going to read.)

Then to my delight, I go down a rabbit hole one afternoon reading what novelist Allan Gurganus said about moving back from New York City to the town of his birth in Rocky Mount, North Carolina in an April 23, 2023 interview with Megan Mayhew Bergman:

 

“But, for a writer, there’s no greater gift than being born into a benign, gossipy village, where      you’re somewhere between the top and bottom, and endlessly re-evaluating your status day to day.”

 

This feels so much like my situation in my chosen small town here in Maine…endless material for me to sift and ponder and try to understand. Definitely I’m immersed in that classic plot, “fish out of water.”  As Monk would say, “It’s a blessing…and a curse.”

Authors I’m reading or have read about this month: Dwight Garner, Paul Murray, Pema Chodron, Allan Gurganus, Carson McCullers, Rick Rubin, Patrick deWitt. If you are craving a novel that will keep you enraptured from the first moment, I highly recommend deWitt’s The Librarianist. Gentle, literate balm for the soul during chaotic and troubled times when you dread checking the news (but feel compelled to keep up).

Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act had me underlining sentences and passages for the first time since college. In a hard back copy, no less! Unpretentious, simple, elegant, inspiring, practical advice and insights on connecting with your own creative impulses.

“We share our filter, our way of seeing, in order to spark an echo in others. Art is a reverberation of an impermanent life.” And  “Works that attempt to overtly preach a message often don’t connect as hoped, while a piece not intended to address a societal ill may become an anthem for a revolutionary cause. Art is far more powerful than our plans for it.”

I think I’m going to re-read his book this week.

Yes, you rightly detect a thread: while healing and hopping on one leg, I’ve needed to expose my self to positive, thoughtful voices these past two months. It might actually become a habit!

 

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The poem below is from a collection I’m slowly putting together, called Mainesongs. (By pure coincidence, it fits right in with Pema Chodron’s reminder in Welcoming the Unwelcome, that for every one of us, “In each new moment, one lifetime ends, and another begins. This means you always have another chance.”) Perhaps another title of my collection could be A Buddhist in Maine?

“Red Curtains in February”

For three years, I’ve gazed at my neighbor’s gloomy window shades.
Octobers, I caught whiffs of apples softly rotting on the ground.
Is there something I ought to do?

Then the signs appeared: FOR SALE
and soon after, PRICE REDUCED.
Finally, SALE PENDING.

Something’s always ending.

These days, across the driveway, the sound of children’s voices,
or a snowblower,
or a truck with cold engine warming up.

Something’s always starting.

Just now, spotted from my bedroom window, red curtains bloomed!
More heart-stopping than spring tulips,
this sign of life.

Be Mine:
I’ll take the square of bold crimson
for an unintended valentine.

New neighbors, I love you too.