Thursday, August 24, 2006

Aspirin as an Effective Treatment for Writer’s Block

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead. - Gene Fowler

Writing is easy. It is not simple, but given the time and a life, or an imagination, or, better, both, there is sufficient fodder for writing. William Sansom told us “A writer lives, at best, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all.” This is true. Given such astonishment, all there is to writing is looking at the world with that astonishment, discovering what of that experience is communicable and putting the words into an order words have never been in before to say something no other person has ever said or say it in a way that has never been done so a reader can see something completely new in a way which makes it feel familiar or something familiar in a way that appears to make it astonishingly new. That is it. That is all. The hard part is finding the time.

Most writers do not write full time. As perhaps one of the most important professions over the ages, it is one of the least paid. Poets would be within the court of the king but serve at his pleasure. So we now serve at the pleasure and vagaries of the public. We have bridges and streets named after us but rarely do we get paid in a way that allows us to write and write and write.

To pay the bills, to give my wife the time needed to get her practice off the ground, I teach writing at a public school. A public middle school. Five classes a day and sometimes seven. I train students to pass state tests. That is my job.

I cannot do this. Instead, I prepare them for college, for Advance Placement classes, teach them to do literary analysis and critique, to think. We read Plato, Alan Watts, Bradbury. We barely open our textbooks but we write poetry, publish poetry, win contests and, in the end, gain some of the best writing scores ever seen by this state. From parents and students, I receive thank you cards, presents, pictures. From administration I receive time-outs.

In between, I keep records, meet deadlines, appear mean, being cruel in order to be kind. I tell them no, no no, when the school rules tell me I must, to students who do not want to be in class, in school. I tell them they may not go to the bathroom, must make their bodies slave to a clock, be chained to the forty-seven minute increments and a chime, we separate things not naturally separated and learn this now, that then and stop at a bell. We become subjects of conditioning and divorce our bodies from nature, marching in four minutes from class to class.

I eat at certain times, as do they. I use the bathroom after holding it too long, as do they. I switch gears at the sound of a bell, like them. And, like them, never do so smoothly or wholly. I hold off drinking and hydrating so we can get through classes, as do they. They are training their bodies to do what mine does not, live by a clock and all day, I think, as I teach writing and hold my bladder, what I want to be doing is writing and drinking. Water and words.

I hate this. It is detestable. It feels criminal, violent. Friends tell me I should be honoured to teach. I am so honoured I can barely purchase a house in the county in which I teach. I should be enthralled to make such an impact on my student’s lives. I am but need not be in such an environment to be effective. They tell me to be happy I make such a difference in their lives. I tell them to get the degree and do it themselves if they think it so important.

I cannot not meet the needs of my students. I don’t not know how to do something in a way other than well, no matter what it requires. The weird students flock to me. The writers stick to me. I’d stop today. Now, if I had the chance.

You must do it, I am told, because you love kids so. I am told this repeatedly. No, I answer. I do it for the money. Mind you, I would teach for free any children who wanted to learn and had interest. But the job I do for the money. I get quizzical looks, strangely cocked heads on people suddenly looking like confused puppies attempting to understand a strange new word. It pays better than adjunct work at the community college. It pays better than private schools. I had never planned on teaching in the public schools but then I had not thought of my wife in medical school. I went to college for an advanced degree. It was not the one I wanted but it was the one available where I was at the time and would fit my work schedule. I was going to travel Asia with my Sweetie and teach English as a Second Language. Then she decided to go to med school. I took on teaching because, it seems, there is only thing I was qualified to do by my degree: teach.

More time is needed. It will end, I’m told. I’d like to believe that but it certainly feels as though it will not. I am trying to give it more time, but frustration wins over patience. The day to day absurdity seems to pummel any sense of equanimity into paste where one day looks like the next, and each is a place I don’t want to be.

I think of leaving, going to Europe or Japan. But, what about the books I’m working on? The theatre I hope to create? I cannot afford a second household, have found work which pays only what I make now or less and this is not enough for a another home, no matter how modest. I look for work where I live but incomes are low, will not allow time for writing. Even with the few weeks-off teaching appears to give, I find I must take classes, gain credits, recertify. If anyone tells you teachers have scads of time off, tell them it is a fallacy. Then kick them.

And I must write. I do so early in the morning before school. I get up and write. I do so at night. On weekends. Hold poetry readings, perform, record poetry, write essays, write plays and do all this around teaching school. I must, or else all I do is teach and shall find I have become nothing but a teacher; else I have given up what I am, to live in order to work only. Otherwise I am but an income and, at that, not a great one.

And I am exhausted. Still, I know I will not give up that which is congruent with my self to become fully incongruent. Yet, I go to bed at night, thinking, feeling, if I did not wake, it would be not so bad. If I did not wake, I would not have to go to work.

I wake in the morning wanting to say, starting to say, with my head on the pillow, “It is a new day, with a new sun. I can make this day what I choose it to be…” but always come up short and, despite my best efforts, silently exclaim, desperately, “Crap, I have to do this again.”

I think things I should not. I wonder, do we have aspirins in the house? How many? A bottle? Two bottles? How much would be enough? I could calculate this but am afraid to learn just how little.

I didn’t know aspirin could kill. My daughter taught me that and paid the price with an ulcer. She took half a bottle. Too many and it would have been enough. How many for me? I think how easy it would be to take them and lie down, enjoy fully my sleep knowing it would not end in classes the next day, the same damn thing again and again and again. The same pressure over and over. To get into bed knowing there were no more staff meetings, professional development plans, parent conferences. Sometimes, I am hard pressed to see why this is a bad idea. Sometimes is more and more often.

My doc tells me it is the epilepsy. That it drives one a bit crazy, especially if one is a control-freak. I’ve read up on this. Epileptics tend to be very physically healthy. They live to ripe old ages but often do not make it with their minds fully intact. If they do not make it, it is often due to suicide.

I use to say I could never end up famous. As a poet, I just was not crazy enough. Look at the really famous poets and one will discover most of them are off more than a bit. Drugs, disease, mental illness. Perhaps there is hope for me yet?

I have not mentioned this to anyone. People ask me how I am. I answer fine. I have, at times, given rather strange responses to that question only to hear, “Glad to hear it,” “That’s great,“ and the ubiquitous, under-meaning “Good.” All rather funny after answering “I lost my head to a marauding swale,” “Deplorable,” or simply “Tired.”

The question is asked pro-forma. When asked the question “How are you” in any of its many similar forms, people are expected to answer in the positive or, if not positive, to give light, short, nearly cliché complaintive responses. “Ready for the weekend.” “I need a vacation.” We all are liars. Anyone asked who actually, honestly answers the question is looked at blankly, the way we look at and listen to a developmentally disabled adult while we think how we can’t wait to escape. We consider them a bit off, fringy, whining, needy. When asked how we are, we can lie or whine.

But I am high-functioning and this is not always to my advantage as I get the job done and done well regardless of how I feel. Depression does not decrease that functioning or, if it does, such decrease is not of any noticeable amount as to call attention to my health or well-being. I can appear cheerful, calm, happy. And so it goes.

On occasion a friend notices I am not as well as I seem, as together as I pretend, asks why I said nothing. I answer that I did not want to seem as possessing any of the above mentioned qualities. I do not want to be needy, whiney. I am chastised. Told the question was asked sincerely. I have no doubt. Told I am wrong to dissemble and that it does not give the friend a chance to help. Told such behaviour is selfish. True, perhaps. I believe the sincerity of what is said. Yet, in answering truthfully, what is gained? Are any problems solved? And if others then worry? How shall that be a help? How shall I knowingly worry friends with that which they cannot help, cannot change?

And so I have not. Until, perhaps, now. I have written this. And what should be done with it? I should do the equivalent of burning it, trashing it by hitting the delete key, by not saving. Don’t save it, don’t save me. Maybe I should actually print it and take the physical being of the words and paper, burn them and send them skyward as wisps and smoke to disperse into air, thinner and thinner till naught can be seen of it above and what is left upon the ground is unrecognizable as anything but that which once was.

Perhaps I should put it away for a year, look at it then and see what time has wrought, imagine how I could feel as I did, laugh or sigh. And if I feel the same way, cry over my old words for all the good they have done me. Or publish it before I change my mind.

Sixty-eight five hundred milligram tablets.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Body Modification

I was sitting with a friend of mine the other night. She’s a model on a site called Suicide Girls that specializes in chicks (her term) with tattoos and piercing and whatnot. What makes her stand out, aside from some obvious attributes (I’m not saying and no fair guessing) is that she actually has no body modifications.

So we were talking about piercings and tattoos and rivets and brands and hollyhanna I’m not getting any of that stuff done. I mean, I get tired of the colour of my sofa let alone want permo-pics penned on my pecs. Please!

Still thinking… do I really have no body modifications? Aside from the pain and anticipation, or, rush or whatreasonhaveyou people have for getting body mods, for the most part, once done they are done.

I do have a body modification. It’s a doozey too. Lots of folks do. And it is hard won, took much more than money, required dedication and grit, trial, vigilance, error, review and introspection.

It required physical labour, sometimes sacrifice or denial, always commitment. If going from a size 40 to a size 30 isn’t a body modification – if going from a double extra large to a small isn’t a body mod – if flattening one’s stomach, gaining biceps, and getting our bodies to the point where they can walk miles and miles non-stop when we started not being able to negotiate a set of stairs without huffs, puffs and frequent rests isn’t a body modification, then I don’t understand the concept.

And it takes not a moment, not a pinch, it doesn't happen when one is drunk and isn't discovered done in the morning. It takes a commitment to make it happen and a lifetime to keep it that way.

Sometimes I screw up, miss exercise, eat something I should not, feel it slip, worry it won’t last. Sometimes the lapse lasts a day, a week, and then I regain, restart and know I learned something, must cut myself some slack. It can be scary. This is not for the faint of heart. It is not for the squeamish, it is not for the week.

If this is you, congratulate yourself – you are doing one of the hardest things anyone can. You increased exercise, which is not a natural thing, and you have decreased food, which we all need and often goes contrary to what our bodies want. Buck up! You are amazing.

You are modifying you body and your life.

If this is you too, All Hail Us!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

St. Adamus Day or The Slackers Jubilation.

It is my birthday party today. I just got this email:

In order to take no chances in offending the Gods (and or Saints) I have duly
pronounced the Ode to St. Adamus this morning. In my underwear of course
and toasting with a large glass of ice water (it's hot here!) I'll say it again on Friday just to make sure that the word goes up on high that I am a follower!

This is from a lady who, unlike me, is not afraid to admit she is wonderful. I’m learning. I’m a slow learner. Here is my response.

See, it's a movement!

And I'm going to take a page from your book and proclaim, to everyone far and near, as they arrive, welcome to "me and all my awesomeness!"


A movement it is. St. Adamus started quite a few years ago and is now celebrated, though that may be a bit too energetic of a word for it, by lucky, lazy observers in many locals. Here is this year’s invitation:

You are invited, you lucky person you, to The Feast of
Saint Adamus


August 5th about 6pm

This year, we shall hold the feast at the sacred shrine. The shrine is located at Darwin Manor House at Peepton Hill, The Lap of Luxury (Palm Bay).

The Feast of Saint Adamus, also known as the Slackers Jubilation, is a newly created Ancient Tradition. Being traceable as far back as the necrotic period, records have indicated this to be one of the most hallowed of days, significant for the sheer number of people who kept the Holy Day, which comes as no surprise when one discovers the truly devout celebrants were required to do nothing more than lounge around in their underwear and snack.

Held on the Eve of the Ides Of August, or the Saturday night following the anniversary of the illustrious Saint’s day of birth, or whatever day is most convenient, during the dog days of summer when Canis Major rides high in the night sky and inertia and laziness prevail, when things seem dead and doing anything, exerting any energy for any reason, seems not only useless and futile, but impossible, The Feast of Saint Adamus festivities consisted of a costume party and pot luck. In ancient Mesopotomy, prizes were often given for the best Feast of Saint Adamus costume and usually went to infants and slave girls. This begins to make sense when one looks further into the customs of this most advanced, civilised culture and discovers that an ancient Mesopotomus hardly ever wore anything more than underpants, and infants and slaves less.

Food offerings consisted of gifts of leftovers brought in adoration of Saint Adamus. Anything hanging around the house would do, as long as it took little or no preparation, bespoke of no creativity and left hardly anything to clean up or wash. Utensils were considered an abhorrence to Saint Adamus, unless they were made of candy and entirely edible. Of course, in true homage to this beloved saint, as yet, no-one has ever taken the time or initiative to create these.

One must remember, the hallmark of the Celebration of Saint Adamus and the Feast bearing his name is that nothing special happens. A sort of Super Sabbath, celebrants are required to do nothing more than pay homage to their saint and each other by bearing witness to our mutual inertia. And let us do as the pious have done for centuries uncounted. This Feast of Saint Adamus, let’s get together and do nothing.



No-one ever goes to the trouble of coming in costume. Good. Some do come in their underwear. Excellent. Some come dressed and in their underwear: wearing it outside, on their heads, stuffed in, overflowing from, pockets.

When someone does manage to follow the rules, I find a prize. Since I never plan for this - it would be too much trouble - I just pick something off my shelves - candles, knickknacks, a flute - and hand it to them. I have too many things anyway.

People circumvent the rules by all sorts of strange means, like religions everywhere. Can’t use an elevator on the Sabbath? Just turn it on to stop at every floor from Friday afternoon to Saturday night. Can’t drive to temple? Drive mostly there and park down the street. Letter, not spirit. Likewise, people tend to make… Well… Here is another email:

Oh I have made something sinfully good for your party

My response:

As long as it's a leftover. You can't make something 'special.' then you
aren't bein a slacker!

(Thank you)

Re-response:

It's leftover. I made it yesterday ;-)


What am I to do? One of the reasons I chose leftovers was to keep people from working to out-do each other. Also, I wanted a party that was not based in food, delectable, delicious, diet-shattering delicacies need not arrive. I want to talk, not chew, sing, not drink. You get the idea.

So, I started cooking in advance or picking up food I liked. Food, most likely, only I’d be eating. Not that others can’t enjoy them if they like. But, chances are, I’m the only one who’s going to drink the kvas and eat the cold-smoked mackerel. Today, I am smoking a rather large, a bit over a foot long, beef tongue. Smoking it means it’ll still be pink. As a centerpiece, I have a feeling that will keep a fair number of delicacies off the table I’ll be eating from.

A few hours of delight and pleasure need not end in extra pounds. I am serious. Really.

Besides, I’ll be far too busy throwing out Mardi Gras and being entertained by the masses there to celebrate the awesomeness that is me. Unless they read the Ode to St. Adamus, which, of course, is recited every year.

Ode to St. Adamus

A man named Adamus, a saint,
Had but a single loud complaint:
His workload nearly made him faint-
His time was not his own.

The other saints, he’d explicate,
Had time to sit and contemplate,
Philosophize and meditate,
Or solve an ancient koan.

But he alone of all the bless’d
Got not a single moments’ rest
He’d end each day dog-tired and stressed
His hands worked to the bone.

This sorry state continued ’til
The tired saint had had his fill
I need a day to just sit still!
The neighbors heard him groan.

Amidst the papers in his room,
A lovely thought then pierced his gloom
A way he might escape his doom
And find the time to zone.

To each saint is a feast assigned
And patronage of those whose kind
The saint’s good works were most aligned
With, when his works are known

Saint Adamus then beamed with glee.
It seemed that he would soon be free
His own feast he would now decree
Ere one more hour had flown.

A day of utter laziness
Steeped in the summer’s haziness
A break from all the craziness
Would be its general tone.

And so it is at August’s peak
When heat runs high
And will runs weak,
We gather, some relief to seek,
And sit around like stone.

Mind you, this was not written by me, Oh, no. It is by Jeannette Westlake. See, I have fans. It’s a movement.

I think I’ll need more knickknacks by the end of this evening.

Room for one more, Honey

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Playing at Playalinda: Mindful Self-indulgence at the Beach.

Playing at Playalinda: Mindful Self-indulgence at the Beach

We planned another day at the beach, Evanne and I. The last day at Playalinda was enjoyed so much that another day was planned on the way back from the first. It certainly lived up to its name: beautiful beach. Evanne pulled out her planner: a notebook with self-drawn calendar inside. Evanne’s keeping of a calendar has been the best thing for my social life. That is what I told her in the car. I misspoke. Social, yes, but artistic more-so, as every time we are together feels like an artistic expedition. It is not that I use Evanne’s scheduler. I need no calendar on paper and keep it, instead, in my head. But others do not and it has always been a difficulty. They must check their calendars, look at their schedules, get back to me later. Evanne knows now with the flip of a page. So, yes, I misspoke. With Evanne’s do-it-yourself dayplanner, we can work in tandem. With a date picked, Beth was called to make sure it was a day she could make it, or arrange to, and it was done. Thus, our day was set.

A trip for five was in our thoughts. We had just heard about a shipwreck and wanted to investigate; knowing Evanne’s husband Jack would be as interested as we. I looked forward to the mile or so walk up the most unspoiled seashore in Florida to the derelict, supposedly on the shore. My wife, Lee, may or may not go for the walk but was definitely up for an afternoon of laying out on the sand, wading in the water, enjoying her Atlantic Ocean. A trip for five and, as today, not a single bathing suit would be packed.

And for two weeks this was looked forward to. We would leave at ten to keep Beth out of the afternoon sun.

During the next two weeks, times changed; later, earlier, who can go, who might be working and but week was left.

We spent the week painting my son’s room. This had been planned for over the last two months and the time was here. By ‘we’ I mean Evanne and Alek from a design by Alek. I was tapemeister. I can be trusted with masking tape. Paint is another story.

Black squares, red squares, black and white checkerboard walls, graffiti ceiling, a black wall full of Mindless Self Indulgence. That is to say, the wall is covered from top left to bottom right with lyrics written in silver Sharpie. It was amazing, the process of taping, painting and moving a room from stark to startling in three days. What was more amazing was to watch the process of Evanne writing on the wall, word by word, letter by letter. Just as startling, no six inch square section of the lyric wall does not contain a curse-word, an expletive, a derisive term. I measured.

Pictures were taken, digital, emailed to his friends. They think it is cool and can hardly believe his parents, us, allowed the room painted in such a way. My son thinks it would be more cool if we thought it was less so. He’ll have to deal with that. My wife thinks it’s cool. I think it’s cool too but I don’t get the lyrics. I understand the parodic nature of the band. I get it as anti-pop. But I also don’t see the artistry, why anyone would want to look at it day after day after day. The world from which that music would come is not the world I’d want to live in.

I too have started writing on my walls. In silver Sharpie. Our back room, that which use to be a shed, is painted in dark swirls blue as new denim, dense as cirrus clouds. It is the conservatory of our manor home and it contains two drum-sets, a dulcimer, a base guitar, an amp, four full floor to ceiling bookcases, an old sofabed, a fifty-year-old Castro Convertible table. It is ten by nine and slowly, the walls become home to a hypergraphic storm of poetry and prose.

It was two weeks ago I had said, in an off comment, if I lived alone, I’d write on my walls. I said this again, later, to Evanne, Evanne said this to my wife. Surprised, Lee thought this was splendid. Why not?

Soon, we’ll start on our bedroom: denim, patched walls. Rivets and seams. Lee has already picked up a denim comforter. On the walls will be the signs for the directions. Painted around the room, emerging from the fictionalized aging of the denim, within the discoloration over time, a part of the creases from wear, the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Tibetan Buddhism. What do we constantly face? What do we take in through the eyes, in what do we immerse ourselves? What do we make ourselves and what do we become?

Lee is talking about a wall of hieroglyphs.

She is also saying she can’t go to the beach. She has taken patients for that day originally scheduled for a day she had to drive to South Florida. We are four.

Friday comes, Jack is called to work. Ultimately, this is a good thing for him. Construction, remodeling, building and rebuilding is decreased here. This is recent. It is hurricane season. So now we are three and it is time to leave. Driving together, in Beth’s car, we are lost, end up on US1, much like old Florida, roadside attractions, rustic shops, antique malls, flea markets. Scrub and river. Forty-five minutes and we find our way. We drive to the last lot as Beth, a biologist by training, cannot believe there is so much unspoiled, conserved land. We must come back to hike. We must return to the sanctuary. We will, but on to the beach.

As usual, the parking lot for the clothing optional section, the last section, is the most crowded. It is next to one of the many small domed observatories dotting this coast, used to track launches. A white two story bubble with a mohawk crest, surrounded by a fence. We see them everywhere here.

We look to use the restrooms before unloading the car: three chairs, a small plantable umbrella, and a cloth bag stuffed with two horseblankets, some towels, extra clothing and our water. The bathrooms are composed of a room the size of two port-a-potties with a slanted toilet embedded into the stainless steel wall. Next to it is a lever coming out from the floor, extending upward about three feet and slightly off ninety degrees; long enough to reach my waist. The ladies bathroom, and I have this on authority only, contains a spider large enough to require a personal name, wide enough to play frisbee with. As a result, I guard the men’s room door while it was occupied Evanne. It has two locks. I guard it anyway. There are few honours left men these days.

We have taken sneakers with us and small bags to hold our clothes. We grab those and the umbrella, take out the blankets, put back the chairs. Off we go, walking past the observatory, giving it a wide berth. NASA is close by, fences everywhere, guardposts. Our boys in the government, here to help. A wide berth.

The beach is crowded, especially considering the distance one must travel to get to this beach, to the end of this beach, to the last lot at the end of this beach. We walk toward the water and the cooler sand, north, out of the crowd and, at a place Beth and Evanne decide is a great spot for a blanket, settle. Down the blankets are lain, out comes the umbrella, Evanne opens it and I grab the handle quickly as she is jerked suddenly northward. I take the umbrella to make exactly the same error in case anyone did not see it the first time. Shall we open it into the wind, she suggests. Absolutely. Into the ground, no hammer, rocks gathered, sand piled around the base and, when all is done, we have earned an oblong patch of shadow large enough to keep the one o’clock sun off a toy dog.

And, by the time I have the sand piled around the umbrella pole, the clothes are off and the ladies sit, looking out to the ocean. How easily one can get use to a new way. No trepidation. I’ve nothing to do but join them.

I pull the sunscreen from my bag and make sure it is available, visible. I am reminded we should watch each other to make sure no-one burns. I don’t forget the spots I missed last time. You are parental just when you need to be, I am told. A compliment. Appreciated.

Into the water. It feels cold to start and warms slowly. I know the temperature of the water has not changed but only how I feel it, perceive it. We become accustomed to a thing. Our perceptions change. Our senses adjust. Plain becomes beautiful, cool becomes warm and the change has been us, not the thing itself. But, in the end, who can tell. With no external witness, it is the location of two points in an otherwise empty space. Which one has moved and in what relation to the other cannot be told. Reality is plastic.

Beth walks out. At an inch shy of six feet, thin and long, the waves wash around her, take no notice. Evanne and I get knocked over again and again, washed in, washed out. We are buffeted and I turn to the side, grab Evanne’s hand to keep her from falling back as she is hit by another wave. Beth stands tall in the distance; we are getting buried on the sand. Still, the hot air, warm water, cooling breeze, open to the world, even with feet covered, sand over my ankles, I am in bliss and, then I am on my backside and washed over by a wave.

So we walk. We think of getting our sneakers, putting them in our bags with some clothes so, if the shipwreck is found, we can climb, clamber, explore. Instead, we opt to leave them behind taking only one small bag and a camera, choosing the freedom to walk unfettered, unburdened. And walk we do. A mile, two, three. No shipwreck. Then, darkness at the surf’s edge. Rolling rippled darkness visible through the sand. Tar? Stone? Stone is unlikely here on this central Florida shore. I reach down and feel for the texture. It is not stone but gives gently, dense and spongy. A fingernail comes up with softness under it. Softness and moistness like soil, compost. This is wood; sea-soaked, decomposing wood. We have found our shipwreck and there is nothing here to explore. We walk it and it is visible over a hundred feet long, look out and it is wide by at least forty, disappearing into the waves. We walk on.

And walk. We pass all people, everything. There is nothing in sight made by a human. Nothing to hear but waves, birds and our own laughter. We are alone on the beach from which we are separated by nothing. Evanne says something I do not remember but it results in a hug, my arm around her waist for a moment as we walk.

And walk - the three of us, all light, bright, reflective. Ohio, Nebraska and Massachusetts have given three bodies to the South and we look it. We are white and pink, not tan, beige, bronze. And we are walking together in the July sun.

The sandpipers are running up to the receding surf, away from the incoming waves. Along the shoreline as it moves in and out. Evanne does the same, yelling she is a sandpiper, a sandpiper, a sandpiper, running up to the foam as it leaves, away from the surf as it arrives, in and out, up and down following the shore. It is a perfect imitation as she jogs and bobs with them, her little body in perfect mimic of the tiny birds.

They are redubbed Evannebirds.

It may be too much for Beth, the heat or the distance or the incline of the shore and we turn back, passing a couple kissing by the surf. In the distance, the observatory, small like a newly popped mushroom. The closer we get the more people we pass, then chairs, towels and, at last, our blankets, umbrella and Beth heads to the water to cool. Then back, wet, to the blanket to lie, looking up at the sky, blue and clear.

As she rests quietly, Evanne and I talk. Who is offended? Why should so few beaches be open to this? We are comfortable without wet cloth, we are not cold. Not covered in dry cloth, we are not hot. I frame it as a health issue. Evanne frames it as a freedom issue. Why not at least half the beaches? If there are people who are really offended, why not set aside a beach for them. At the end of the road. The last lot. Past the last lot. But those who wish the least constraints are nearly always put upon to travel the furthest. It is the way, it seems, and seems to have always been so.

And now it is time to return to constraints. The clouds are coming in: dark and rumbling in the not-so distance. I do not mind getting wet, walking in the rain, but I would like to put away the umbrella and blankets before they are sodden. Once this is done, we make a mistake by looking at a watch hanging on a bag. It is past four o’clock. We have taken our time, took no notice of tomorrow, no thought of yesterday. Just now, now and the sound of the waves. In the moment. Mindless.

We do, indeed, go.

Clothes are put on with great reticence. We have eaten saltines, apples, oat-bars. Real food is called for. Where to go is asked by Beth, who is driving today, as we pack. They know I am careful but I do not try to put my diet on them. They know I will not keep them from going where they want but know I should eat as well and want to know where we can go. Anywhere with vegetables is what I tell her as we drive the long road out of Canaveral. Down US1 or to 95? Truly, I do not know. We choose 95, driving through Titusville and find a sub place. This will do and we park as Lee calls. Dinner? But the girls are hungry and we are forty minutes away from Lee.

Vietnamese is what she wants. I’d love it myself. Beth and Evanne have not had and, Beth, considerate as she always is, suggests putting dinner off a bit and joining Lee. I am glad of this. Since Lee still has an errand or two, the timing works. Beth drives and Evanne holds my phone out between them as they sing her a song, one they created about a “pokey woman” and dedicated to their favorite physician; my Lee. She laughs and laughs over the cell.

We meet at the Vietnamese restaurant. One of us is short and the meal is covered. It’s no big thing. It is no thing at all.