Excerpt from my journal on Shavuot.
Like clipping the top of a shit pile with a lawn mower on a sticky day. The discomfort of grass shrapnel sticking to your skin, flowing its way down the babbling brook of sweat that collects in the small of your back, feels like a panic attack. The smell of lawn still makes my nose itch, years and miles away from this cold train on what promises to be a rainy day in upstate New York. I have not had to mow the lawn in a decade, but today as I avoided the banks of clipped grass in hopes of keeping my dress shoes at least clean if not dry, I thought about mowing the lawn. I felt the unease of this semester and the treif feeling of not having yet completed my final assignments beginning to settle as I tried to steer my mind from the thought of having to use the leaf blower to clean off the sidewalk.
I have begun unpacking my anxieties. So often my fears take the form of clingy discomfort—a sort of mental claustrophobia to which I subject myself because I can’t help but rehearse disaster in my head. I carry my tension in my jaw and from there it radiates from my shoulders to the small of my back. This semester it rendered me nearly immobile some days, unable to leave my bed for lack of strength. I have learned to live with the idea of my anxiety, but I have yet to tame the cacophony, to conduct it from the stage. Rather I find myself pacing the aisles of the theatre as the band drones on.
The clouds above the mountain look something violent. How appropriate a shroud above their freshly-greened peaks on this day for remembering the flashes of Sinai. The sun shines between the threads of dark gray and a slice of the mountain drinks of its cascade, long sips as the earth rotates, until the green is cast in shadow again.
I imagine beneath the canopy of oak and evergreen a congregation of wildlife receiving their own Torah. They enjoy their moment of sun and return to the doings of forestry: the daily demands of growth and life, of dew and death, sun and dust. Kaddish! They exclaim, and mumbling in the drizzle, they conclude their prayers.
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The intoxicating dizziness of a hot summer room is the legacy left behind by southern revivals and cult leaders. The condensation streams down a glass of iced tea onto the coffee table where a stack of pamphlets once announced the second coming. The parlor where a woman once fainted from heat and woolen gown—overcome with the spirit, no doubt—is the way I make sense of hardwood floors and craftsman decor. This fictional room in my head is the memory of days spent in sunny spaces avoiding the harshness of Texas summer. The buzzy way your head feels after a day in the sun when your back finally relaxes into a soft couch is the pinpricking of my skin by tiny drops of rain the day before June arrives to Brooklyn. Here the days are less hot, but we achieve the romantic warmth of a Texas summer thanks to our large windows’ northern exposure.
While I miss the boozy feeling of the sun urging you to take a nap, the gleam of distant sun reflecting off the towers of south Manhattan is reminiscent of the sun of my childhood. Spring here has already afforded me a handful of dreamy afternoons that break with the opening of windows, transforming my cozy warmth into a breezy parlor. This month brought the first thunder storm and with it the thunderous breaking sound that comforts my ears against the foreground of wind and water battering window ledges and awnings. The weather here is dynamic, for sure, and while at most times a far cry from the weather I knew before, it is satisfying. In fact, the weather I have experienced is what I like most about living in New York. Take the city, I don’t need it. The pattern of change that comes with clouds is all I need.
When Alex and I first started dating we spent a lot of time drinking cold drinks on hot porches. I remember thinking I wanted to live my life this way forever—in a time bound obligation to make sure the clock ticked by as slowly as possible; an obligation to drink every drop before it was time to return to my home where he did not yet live. My desire to be near him at all times with the aching heat turned me away from the cruelty of summer. The dog days were the moments we stole away from G-d, greedily keeping them for ourselves in our perfect bubble of budding love.
In the slow heat of the day I find excuses to stand for hours in the kitchen. I have rested barely a second since classes ended, spending a good chunk of each passing day in my favorite room of the house, cooking, cleaning, organizing, and prepping to begin again. I struggle with the idea of being productive, even in leisure. I’m not sure I know how to relax. How do you discover this at twenty-nine? Is there an age you reach when you at last understand just what your mind needs to be at ease?
Today it has drizzled nearly from the moment I awakened until now. The rain fell in a snowy pattern, light drops blown by wind into formations more akin to birdways than precipitation. I kept the windows tightly closed, air conditioner turned off. I must do my part to capture the sleepy hot air of the summer, allowing myself to doze at the peace that only a humid heat can make.