Here are the blog posts that you read most in 2020
As I click through the links I am surprised to find how thematically consistent they are. I can’t say I planned it that way. (Did any of us plan anything in 2020?) I remain grateful for your readership and hope to see more of you in 2021. Wishing you joy and peace, wherever you are.
I know what’s coming. At the same time, I have no idea at all. It will be terrible, it will be beautiful, it will not be what I expected. It will live with me every day. It is already living in me.
Right now is a still silent evening on the longest day of the year. (I resist the thought of the darkness rushing up to meet me.) Back then we were still getting knocked around by February. How we laughed into that wind, that downpour. There were rumours of a virus, but not here, surely, we said.
Not remembering anything about the poem except its first line, I took down Mark’s New and Selected (Horse Burning is in my office at work…) yesterday and spent a very happy hour revisiting some (very old) favourites as well as making some startling new acquaintances. His tone, subject matter and political concerns are amazingly consistent.
When I had cancer? People used to say it to me nearly every day. About being brave. How we all had so much courage. Well, no. I didn’t feel it, didn’t have it, still don’t think I did. All we did was follow what we were told. And show up. We kept showing up. But, no. It wasn’t there.
I increasingly experience this lockdown with a feeling of restlessness and impatience. Not for the holiday I had planned: I said goodbye to that a long time ago. It is more a kind of grief for the loss of doing pretty much what I liked without having to worry whether I was following government advice. A coffee with a friend. A meal in the house of friends. A drive to see my mother who is now very frail and near the end of her life…
No one warned me that grief would be like this, its lonely lack of focus. Its unmemory. I think ‘How can a body withstand this?’ I cup her face between my hands. Her laughter. Her smile. I will love again.
I pause to be still, I remind myself that I am not alone, I breathe, I practice self-care and notice again that the tiredness I feel is what my South African activist friend Roger calls ‘part of the plan.’ ‘It’s what they want. The trick is to experience it but not give into it.’
The old battered thing, my diary (it isn’t a diary, really, I just call it that) makes a guest appearance and suddenly becomes a necessity. The poetry of James Schuyler, as if he ever went away. I have never taken such pleasure over hanging out the washing.
I tell them the story of being driven round Suffolk by Michael Laskey and enjoying him insisting ‘We should be going out there and praising everything, Anthony, praising! That’s our job as poets, to praise!’ I say, let’s not start with what Anne Lamott calls the big ticket items, cancer, Alzheimer’s, cot death, incontinence. Start with bad coffee. Start with Monday mornings. Start with rain.
For a variety of reasons I finished last year in a state of great tiredness, fatigue almost. I am not pretending that this has gone away, but I have been able to recharge my batteries via an array of tiny practices largely gleaned from the advice of others.