What do I write about right now? How there’s a knot in my stomach and the trees outside the apartment are finally decked out in leaves and there is one spectacularly feisty robin with a nest nearby that viciously harasses the squirrel that my landlord feeds?
I saw a Northern flicker yesterday on my way to work. It hid behind a boulder when it saw me, but I was still able to see the flash of rust red and the distinctive black speckles on it’s chest. I’m still working, in an old basement with hexagonal tile floors and a bathroom straight out of the apocalypse, with a ceiling that leaks questionable, smelly liquid. We’re working a little too close together to be considered truly safe, but we’re all in it, and we’ve been doing this for long enough that the motto has quietly become, more or less, a version of fuck it, we’re in too deep now. We have all joined in an unofficial agreement to not do anything remotely sketchy outside of work. I’m going to a park tomorrow with a friend to talk from a distance and it is the closest thing to a transgression I can imagine.
We’re all writing deep things and have profound thoughts right now and I wonder how much of our own content is read by others or even considered. Are we collectively burrowing deeper into ourselves more than ever right now? Things feel creepily close to normal for me, because I still get up every day, make coffee, and trek to work, past the shuttered businesses I miss patronizing, especially the really lovely couple who run the Sushi Express in the arcade near my workplace. I force myself to dress decently for work, even though I’m in an ancient basement working in a shipping department that stays remarkably freezing.
On Friday morning I got up at 6 am because I knew my soul needed it. That was the point of moving here, right? For the mornings, early and isolated, by the ocean to soak in the salty air and the ocean breeze and look at the enormous cargo ships far off shore in front of the Olympic mountain range. This Friday, bobbing in the tide, was the headless and tailless corpse of a harbor seal, with multiple holes from being eaten. I couldn’t tell how it died. The tailbone jutted out from one end of it. Seagulls lined the rocks nearby waiting for the body to beach itself. I hadn’t ever been this close to a live seal. It didn’t feel disrespectful or sacrilegious to get close to the body, to photograph it, to notice what was there and what wasn’t, even though humans are really weird about death and dead things and I’m sure people will feel negative things about my photographing it and sharing a photo here. It was a dead body of an animal that hopefully had a long and vital life, and it was being recycled every step of the way, as we were all meant to be, and I just happened upon it. I felt like a child finding a dead bird in the yard, with all the why and how questions, wondering if it felt pain as it died, how lonely it would be to die in the ocean (though isn’t death ultimately a solo experience no matter where it occurs?).
I walked to another enclosed beach area, warning a man with a dog about the seal, imagining our long-dead dog Cooper getting ahead of me and finding it before I could stop him, and how he’d found deer legs and other animal parts at my parent’s home all the time, and got so, so sick. Then I picked up sea glass, hundreds of tiny pieces, finding blue and green and brown pieces, some old and extremely pitted, others still clear and young, relative babies. A precious, rare, purple piece presented itself to me after my legs and back started to ache from crouching over the sand and it felt like a reward. I had found purple glass only once before, at an old hot spring resort in Montana.
I realized my thoughts were running together on the beach, turning into a fast-moving creek, too fast to see the shapes of the rocks and snags under its surface, and I was so glad that I’d left my own head. We’re all a bit in our heads right now, obviously, and it’s been hard to take leave from my hyper anxious brain. Books have been a good escape but nothing beats doing things I have done for years: collect sea glass, go on walks, feel the needed perspective of smallness: my existence is insignificant, in the grand scheme of most things, and this brings me some comfort. It doesn’t feel as shitty to go to a job that makes me feel like crap, and to feel worried and sad all the time, because when I go look at the ocean, I realize that most of these fears I have, largely linked to late capitalism and exacerbated by a pandemic, are not noticed by the tides and the moon hanging in the sky and the great blue heron wading for breakfast.
Until next time. I hope you are all safe and loved and have access to what you need right now.