These days I’m collecting moments, spots of time. An afternoon grocery shopping trip, my headphones in as I scour the produce section for the finest avocadoes. A walk along the lakeshore. The rush when I discover the young adult section at the local library. A successful conversation with a coworker – he gets my joke on the first try! Skype conversations with friends; rarer, but more treasured, letters. The day I start to write again.
I read. I watch Netflix. I talk with my coworkers and the two or three friends I have made in this tranquil little town. The people are, by and large, kind; my job is consistent. I sporadically attend a local church. I stroll outside on the warm days – the days when the heat of the sun offsets the cool wind. I renew my library books unread, and it takes me awhile to realize that I am sad.
Autumn is my favorite season – when those of us with roots grow deeper still – but summer is easy to love, air humming and sunlight beaming energy into every green thing, vitamin D pouring into skin cells, the sky a kaleidoscope of blue.
I have no right to be sad, I know. I have an apartment and a steady income, enough to balance my student loan payments. I have opportunities for creativity at the newspaper – I do not know much about graphic design, but I am learning. I have a speedy library system and a local thrift shop. I have wifi. I grumble about the flatness of the town – no character, no variety! – but my heart’s not really in it. I have nothing to complain about.
I press snooze on my alarm Sunday mornings and wake up a few hours later, having turned it off instead and missed church services yet again. It happens so consistently that I test my alarm – well-worn, like the rest of my possessions – to see if the snooze feature is broken. It’s fine. I am the one switching off my alarm, so frequently that I know my sleep-sluggish fingers are choosing this. I do not always know where God and I are living, or if we still share the apartment.
Evenings, during lulls at work, I sometimes meander down the trail wrapping around the lake, stopping to stare across the water. The sky is puffy with that shade of pink only found in sunsets and Nike shoes, silhouetting the wind turbines that spin just out of synch. It is beautiful, and I care, but it doesn’t feel like anything. I remember when silhouettes and sunsets made a dent in me. I head back to the office when I’ve stared for an appropriate length of time.
On the day I realize I am sad – I am mixing paints and notice that all the colors I have chosen are dark, angry hues – I have been choosing outfits, then rejecting them when I see they are entirely black – I look round my living room at the newspapers and ripped envelopes strewn across the carpet and know some of them have lain there for more than a week – that day I pick up a book of poetry for the first time, almost, since Oxford.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
One of my Bethel professors gave me a speech when I graduated.
“For the first year or two or five after graduation, you’re going to be depressed,” he said, more or less. “You won’t have any idea what you’re doing with your life – even if you think you know, you won’t – and you will feel purposeless and vaguely suicidal.
“You never really get out of it,” he grinned. “But it’s all worth it.”
Even then I liked the speech, though I can see how it looks on paper. People wince when I try to explain it. But some people nod, make eye contact. That speech was the fog warning. Knowing I’m not alone in it honestly helps.
This is it, I say, the day I wake up to a sink filled with dishes and notice the layer of dust settling over the stove, the day I realize I haven’t written in weeks. Or maybe it, the enormous gray wave, is not quite here yet, because I still have bright days. Days when the vitamin D powers up my skin, when I bake perfectly crispy scones and smile as the bird above my apartment door hops and settles into her nest. Days when I remember to pray. I am still gathering these moments, storing them up for the next foggy day, or week, or month. A body can use a few bright days, I think.
Days when I find a pen and write.