This morning when I stepped outside to water my plants at 6 AM, the air felt like fall. The light was dim, whereas for months it had been full and bright at this time of day. During the night, a spider had spun its web over the leaves of my tomato plant. Summer Lauren had no qualms reaching through the fragrant stems and demolishing those threads, but today I couldn’t bring myself to destroy someone else’s home.

The breeze was chilly and damp. I slithered my bare arms through the tomato leaves to pluck the small bounty of fruit. I was relieved to stand in mist and coolness. I love fall, though its coming sometimes makes me exquisitely sad.

It’s been a strange summer. Without school, I feel anchorless. My writer friend Kate, who whizzed through Seattle to share a meal with me on her way further north to visit her sister, says I’m right on track with the post-grad blues. She’s two years out, about to publish a book, and finally starting to feel grounded.

I’m also unsettled because of our nation’s climate of hate. I know there are well-made arguments about staying and fighting, or even just staying and witnessing, but I am heartsick over what we know is going on and has gone on in this current administration, and I imagine we actually know very little about the whole of it. Just call me a conspiracy theorist. I am, not in jest, trying to think of any viable strategies of getting out of this country and into one where I feel safer, where I feel like my fellow citizens are safer. Maybe not permanently, but for a while. Canada is so close.

As is probably apparent at this point, it turns out I have very little to write about today. But I did want to sweep the cobwebs out of this corner of the Internet and say hello to you, and that I’m alive, and that I’m glad you are, too.

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I often picture a reservoir of joy in my body. Joy that could drown all who I love in its effervescence, infect us all with energy and empathy and depth. I can almost feel it as a physical thing zinging around inside me and making me want to dance ecstatically. Sometimes I feel as though I can’t reach the joy, though. It’s locked up, afraid to be uncorked. Or, I can’t get to it because it’s stuck behind a bunch of other crap: sadness, the difficulty of navigating every day life, the crush of financial trial.

What if this joy in my body is something everyone feels but, like me, struggles to access? What if we could all access this joy, if barriers were demolished so that we could feel the depths of our happiness and love? It’s undoubtedly pretty woo-woo, but it’s what I dream of. What if we all could feel it?

An ex-partner of mine told me once that I had “infectious joy.” As the years go by, it seems harder for me to reach. It’s still there, it must be. I feel it when I hear a resolved chord, when my dog leans her body into my side, when I feed people, when people feed me, when I am invited into a web of connection and misfit community, when I am welcomed into a family, however briefly. During those times, I feel open, vulnerable in a way that is not terrifying, able to give and love with all my defenses down. I am empowered to be soft. These times have been way too brief in my adult life. I want my infectious joy to be more accessible, more ready and willing to come out.

My favorite Lucinda Williams song is called “Joy.” The song’s protagonist says she’s lost her joy and she wants it back, so she’s going to go to different places along her life’s trajectory to try to find it. It’s easy to assume that, “You took my joy and I want it back” refers to a severed love, but for me, I think of it as what the world has taken. It is so easy for our systems and our society to grind me (and others like me) down. We miss our joy. We want it back.

Where do you go, or what do you do, to get your joy? Do you find there are ways to extend infectious joy to others even when you’re still pining for yours to come back?

My parents grew zucchini when I was a kid, and my mother magically turned it into bread. Sweet and spicy, I couldn’t imagine that it contained a vegetable. When I started cooking and baking in college, I used my fledgling Internet skills to track down zucchini bread recipes in the hopes of cinnamon-sweet replication.

Most recipes I found used about a cup of vegetable oil, 2 cups of sugar, and very little zucchini. I’m certainly not opposed to oil and sugar, but I understand now why I had trouble believing my mom’s loaves had any zucchini in them.

I started experimenting with more savory breads. I’ve baked ones with barely a tablespoon of sugar, flecked with sesame and flax seeds, and dense with whole wheat flour. I’ve made a loaf with a combination of zucchini and carrots, with raisins that all sank into a clump as it baked. I’ve considered cream cheese frosting. I’ve considered that my mom’s bread might just be the best there is.

Then I started adding lemon zest, ginger, and curry powder, based on an idea I got from Heidi Swanson. It hits all the notes for me: sweet, savory, spicy, mysterious, something that people have trouble pinning down but find intriguing. I find it addictive.

As a kid, my friends and I would eat zucchini bread for snacks after school. Even my most suspicious-of-zucchini friends were won over.

As a teenager, my August breakfasts were always similar: a hunk of zucchini bread, a handful of blueberries, and whatever awful flavored coffee I was into at the time. (I was partial to hazelnut and caramel.) I’d spend my mornings on the computer, poking around chat rooms eating every last crumb.

I am generally not a romantic person. I will usually side with progress and don’t subscribe to the idea that the “good old days” are worth returning to. I am romantic about food, however, and about food traditions. As a typical midwestern family, our food was not precious or unique. Yet, every time I pull out my mixing bowls and box grater, feel the green watery zucchini strands clinging to my fingers, smell the warmth of spice, I think of being young. I think of my childhood Augusts with autumn breathing around the corner, the start of a new schoolyear, the promise of hurtling towards some bright future. My recipe may have changed, but the feelings remain the same.

I assisted another blind person yesterday. I was sitting on a patio at a coffee shop, which has steps leading down to the street. He approached my table and asked how to get back to the street. It took me a minute to realize that he was blind and using a cane. I must admit I almost ignored him because my self-preservation brain kicked in with, “Man. Right next to you, way too close to your face, saying something you can’t make out. Pretend busyness, invisibility, do not engage.” Once I realized what was happening, though, I knew I had been given an opportunity.

Rather than trying to give him verbal directions, I explained to him that he was on a coffee shop patio and offered to accompany him down the stairs. I stood up, in one place, and continued to talk to him until he reached me. I said, “Is it ok if I touch you?”, and when given consent, I put my hand briefly on his shoulder to let him know my proximity. I offered him my elbow and we walked the few paces to the steps together. I asked if he’d like me to accompany him down the steps. He declined, I did not push, I had no agenda here. I assumed he was saying no because he meant no and was perfectly capable of walking down himself. I told him that there were four steps down to 45th Street, and that at the bottom, he would be facing 45th with Midvale Place on the right and Stone Way on the left. He said, “Thank you.” I said, “Of course.” We parted ways. The end.

Why am I relating this in meticulous detail? I don’t consider myself a saint or incredibly woke, nor do I think I made a significant difference in his day. But, I had the privilege to give him a positive interaction receiving assistance from another human: one that I would like to receive, without agenda, desperation to be a do-gooder, or a white knight complex.

I can’t save anyone, least of all myself, from shitty interactions with unaware sighted people. But I hope I can do my part to reverse some of that for others. One positive interaction can, sometimes, renew my faith, reinvigorate my desire to be an ally to others, and rekindle my belief in solidarity. You might think one small two-minute act of good faith and dignity can’t restore a soul, but it can. I know.

On entering a coffee shop this morning, I was immediately flooded with the unmistakable voice of Neko Case. There are a handful of voices that have a direct link to my tear ducts, and hers is one. I was caught immediately between a sob, a desire to flee, and a desire to stay and listen forever.

The truth is, I am tired. I’ve been tired for a long time. Not to say that there haven’t been moments of joy, a day or two, maybe. And definitely, tiredness and joy can and do exist on the same plane.

But overall. I read the news, enough to keep myself as informed as I can. Not enough to saturate me so much that I can’t continue to pull back my covers in the morning. Still enough to know that I am not doing enough, that I am standing by, that I am helpless and complicit and hope may still be there, somewhere, but my fingertips keep missing it.

My heart aches.

I usually love this time of year and look forward to it with expectation. It’s Solstice, Pride season, my birth month. This year, it’s my master’s graduation. Yet this year I am wary, and I definitely feel I have not learned enough.

I know that I will be ok. I always am, if not happy, then ok. I worry for the world.

I am someone who relishes reinvention, who looks forward to opportunities for change. For that, I’m thankful for the Solstice, because a seasonal time of change is very symbolic to me. I’m grateful that this particular time of learning is about to end. I’m curious about what I will do next. (I have lots of ideas.) Sometimes, transitions bring me the most comfort. If not happiness, if not joy, then comfort. I have a feeling my real work is just beginning.

Meanwhile, I’ll stay and listen to Neko. And try not to cry too much.

Yesterday, I got on a bus and at the next stop, a woman barreled towards where me and my dog were sitting, and screamed, “Ahhhh move I’m getting off!” There was no where for us to move to, we were scrunched as far as possible into a seat; Kiva was well under it at my feet.

Before I could even react, she yelled, “Good thing you’re blind, bitch!” and hightailed it off the bus.

I was left perplexed and pissed, my body instinctively full of adrenaline. The other passengers, in their typical Seattle way, looked everywhere but at me. Their silence held all the desperation of trying to pretend they hadn’t had to witness the last 30 seconds.

Only the bus driver said to me as I was leaving several stops later, “That woman’s been off her rocker for years.”

I nodded in acknowledgement and thanked him for the ride. It took me hours to shake the experience.

I keep wondering what has gone on in her life to make her react that way to me, or to anyone. This incident is similar to others I’ve experienced on transit or walking down the street. I’m always left shaken and wondering why.

I imagine the majority of these incidents are way more about the other person, and about society, than they are about me. This doesn’t hold much comfort in the moment, but it is likely true.

I want some action step, some way to make the life of this woman better. I don’t know how to do that.

This is the thing I tell myself all the time: if I am fortunate enough, some day in my life, to no longer be poor, to not be lonely, to have the community and family I so want to build, to not pay for groceries with EBT, to have health insurance, to not have to compromise for love, to have easy days, I must remember what it was like. I must not be complicit in forgetting, no matter how seductive the thought of forgetting is.

I must remember her, because we are not that different. I must remember, no matter what happens, how struggle feels.

I must never forget compassion.

Rocks

Rocks are what has been destroyed and rebuilt again and again.

They are what has traveled from oceans, or from space, or from the tired river.

You now hold a world in your hand

a smash of things broken and recreated

fragile and solid

like we are.

Build a sentence. Write another.

Make a family with intention and actions and so many words

Say them again and again, until they are as intimate as breath

Find home for the truths, let go of what will only destroy you

Find me a jagged river rock

Press it tight between our two hands

Palm to palm

Remember me, remember this, remember us.