Maybe it’s the unseasonably dry, summery Seattle weather, but for some reason, I woke up this morning really missing swimming. I don’t know when my local pool is going to open up again. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve swam, and when I think about it, it’s probably been well over a year. Despite my time at the gym, I’m not getting much work done on my calves and they’ve gotten a little mushy since I haven’t had access to the pool. There is a calf machine at the gym, but I can’t use it because it has a very awkward seat and it strains my lower back. When I was swimming regularly, I had very strong calves. I don’t feel like doing the calf raises one of my trainers taught me because something about doing them creates a feeling of existential angst in me. I don’t know why. It seems very silly to just stand there and go up and down on my toes repeatedly. I don’t know why I even care about my calves. I don’t wear shorts and it’s not like I’m trying to break into the fitness modeling industry. I just miss the feeling of having strong, rounded calves. But I also miss my ritual of walking the two miles to the pool, getting into my swimsuit, swimming until I’m too hungry and exhausted to go any longer, and stopping for fish tacos on the way home. I’d usually only go once a week or so, but it meant a lot to me and I’m feeling a little down about it today.
This weekend I spent some time reading poetry—some for a literary magazine I judge submissions for, and some from books that have been lying around that I haven’t cracked open for a while, namely by Wallace Stevens, who is my favorite poet, and Kahil Gibran. I needed to read both of those poets because somewhere in all of the chaos and heaviness of working at a hospital during the pandemic, I have lost my sense of passion and wonder. I feel ground-down and machine-like. I’ve been in survival mode for a long time, devoid of a sense of beauty and boundlessness, afraid to take any time to notice the natural world around me, afraid to slow down, afraid to allow for any sense of space and openness in my life. I shut everything out except the work that is front of me day-to-day, and I’ve been driven by dread—dread of the massive responsibility that has been handed to me at my place of work and at the same time, dread of being laid off, dread of loss both real and anticipated, and dread of what may come in the future for our country and for the world. I needed to read about love and astonishment and the miracle of pineapples and the cat forgotten in the moon and how the trees are there for me. I needed good language, the language of noticing, the language of elevation of the spirit and the essential divinity of human life:
“The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges.”
--Wallace Stevens, A Rabbit as the King of Ghosts
We’re coming out of it now, and I’m ready. Ready to breathe without a mask muffling my nose and mouth, ready for traffic and shopping malls and movies and night parties, ready for patients to flow into our facilities again, ready for the world to open its petals like a rose and for humanity to return to human-ing. For better or for worse, I don’t have a particular religion to hang my spiritual beliefs on, but I believe that we are children of God, and we need to remember our origins.