Mood: 🐱 Pensive
Music: “Cooke”, Modern Baseball
Last weekend, I was lying on the floor next to my cat Jane and reading Parable of the Talents (the second Parable book by Octavia Butler).
Lauren/Olamina (the protagonist in the series) works so, so hard to care for community. Sometimes she belongs to something thriving and interdependent, and sometimes she’s taking care of a fragile ember of possibility.
Making my way through those pages made me notice my loneliness in that moment – I decided want to keep doing what I’m doing, but closer-ish to other humans. Anyways, frigid day!, but I put on my mask and convertible mitten-gloves and found a bench in the park and hunkered down.
As I did, I noticed a woman walking by.
She had on a fluffy bright coat, and she was holding a smartphone flat so that the speaker was closest to her ear. She took each step with a kind of bouncy power-walk stride, and sang along to a pop song I didn’t recognize.
I settled back into Lauren’s story. Earthseed, marketplaces, fucking fascist presidents… and after a few minutes, I heard the familiar muffled-speaker, happy swishy jacket, going-for-it Power-Walker. I looked up and tried to do that smile-with-my-eyes thing, but the Power-Walker didn’t notice me – she was in it.
I sat on a bench near the edge of this section of the park. I thought that she must be walking in a elliptical path across the park. Walk, swish, sing, new track. The third time, it’s definitely a loop. The fourth, she’s listening to something off Purple Rain.
I went back into my book. Lots of rough stuff in that passage. (It’s lots of rough stuff right now in general, in every direction.) But I didn’t disassociate entirely into the text as I read. I felt the metallic cold of the bench edge, noticed the colors of jackets and bright West Philly hair.
The fifth time the Power-Walker walked past, I felt something gentle and reassuring. The soft hum of a gravitational field.
Orbits I’ve known and loved lately
- Coffee walks in the neighborhood
- Video game crit podcasts loading ont my phone
- The part of the afternoon where my window lets in direct light, and I put Spidey Boi on the swivel chair to soak it up
- My weekly e-therapy session
- The video game group at Recurse! Those excited video game design conversations!
- Stew Night
- The 34 trolley honking down the street (from a meme: “IT WANTS TO SING”)
- Jane hopping onto her blanket when it’s time for bed
I feel the winter this year in a way I’ve never felt before. The feeling of low light, societal dread, missing neurotransmitters. We are tired. I am tired.
I like to think in seasons. Seasons let us speak about something awful in clear terms - this is a season when so many are suffering acutely and horrifically. We also know, in an old elemental kind of way, that seasons change. (Here I’m thinking about Lauren and Octavia Butler again.)
I love the sky in winter, especially at its coldest and clearest. I went out to the park a few weeks back and looked up and watched the moon rise for a while. In that moment, I realized, hmm, I had never really thought about the brightening of the moon relative to the position of the sun and earth. I had never puzzled over the dynamics of these celestial bodies - as in, I saw the moon as alone possessing phases and brightness and positions, but not as expressing an interaction that was open to me directly.
I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought about it that way before. I had recently started playing Outer Wilds - an incredible game - and the tricky dynamics of landing a spaceship on a Little Price-style floating world had definitely primed me to think about the position of planets and moons in a new way.
That fact thrilled me! There was this rhythm that had been going on my entire life, shaping the phases of moons, and the tides, and the eclipses, and I had NEVER taken time to puzzle over what I could experience with my senses. I didn’t see myself as part of it. When I tried, I felt myself sitting on a planet and looking up.
The moon looked so pretty up there.
Orbits are kind
I like remembering to notice the orbits. I haven’t always used this language, but I’ve spent a lot of my life going to cafes and parks and gorge paths and rivers as a way to understand my belonging in something bigger. As someone who can get way way knotted up in anxiety, or deep somewhere else with trauma reverberations, I often feel cut off from interdependence. But when I cultivate routine, notice the patterns, hear the Prince lyrics (“I would! Die for! U!”), I can feel my way back.
We are all nestled into pockets between orbits - gravitational puzzles that hold us in deep interlocked patterns. We hold others the same way, too. Even in this goddamn winter.
Maybe that’s useful for you, too :)