Things not to budge on
I am a creature in need of many comforts. I know saints have walked this earth and foregone much more than this, for the love of god or man, but I am not a saint and become even less of one when I give these up.
1. Biking every day
2. Cooking every day
3. Alone time
4. good things to read
5. an animal to love
6. clothes that fit
7. 8 hours of sleep
8. Human contact
This list may seem cloyingly minimalist, but it is a real struggle to keep these elements in my life. The biking thing- I budged on that for a job I thought was real important, and all that ended up happening was I went off my rocker. I can't budge on it again. The cooking thing- that's very very easy to forget about if you're super busy, but again, I can't budge on it, I'll go nuts. It's not a good situation for anyone if I go nuts. I've learned in adult life all of these turn into luxuries, and you only lead a life of luxury if you act real entitled and uppity.
Luxuries are funny. The more a person needs luxury items- fancy vacations, gorgeous clothes, shiny cars- the more likely they live in a manner that doesn't allow them the daily luxuries of time and routine, that relaxed pace that lets you spend 20 minutes chopping vegetables, and then leaf through a novel. It's not easy to maintain that pace in your life.
I'm so close to the precipice of mental health that I have to be vigilant about these daily routines. A few days without biking, going on birth control, eating from the microwave, working too much, a few drinks; all of these developments could make me foam at the mouth. I am looking for how to not be so close to the cliff. I'm taking St. John's Wort now, and magnesium still. But throughout history there have been many people who looked around at their villages and said, "I need to live in a place where everyone's silent, we always eat at the same time, someone gives me a discrete task to concentrate on for hours, and almost every day happens the same way. And we're in the woods." It's not so nutso to need to do and be less.
by Paul Zimmer
Amongst dogs are listeners and singers.
My big dog sang with me so purely,
puckering her ruffled lips into an O,
beginning with small, swallowing sounds
like Coltrane musing, then rising to power
and resonance, gulping air to continue—
her passion and sense of flawless form—
singing not with me, but for the art of dogs.
We joined in many fine songs—"Stardust,"
"Naima," "The Trout," "My Rosary," "Perdido."
She was a great master and died young,
leaving me with unrelieved grief,
her talents known to only a few.
Now I have a small dog who does not sing,
but listens with discernment, requiring
skill and spirit in my falsetto voice.
I sing her name and words of love
andante, con brio, vivace, adagio.
Sometimes she is so moved she turns
to place a paw across her snout,
closes her eyes, sighing like a girl
I held and danced with years ago.
But I am a pretender to dog music.
The true strains rise only from
the rich, red chambers of a canine heart,
these melodies best when the moon is up,
listeners and singers together or
apart, beyond friendship and anger,
far from any human imposter—
ballads of long nights lifting
to starlight, songs of bones, turds,
conquests, hunts, smells, rankings,
things settled long before our birth.