Looking back on my decade of loss during a global pandemic

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Gratitude to Minnesota artist Beth Bowman for use of her image.

“It’s the pause that refreshes!” — early Coca-Cola slogan

Here’s the marching orders I got from Glenn, a fellow writer: “So you don’t want to write. And you say you don’t want to write about COVID-19. Why then don’t you just write about not wanting to write about the coronavirus?”

Of course I’ve been inactive here on Medium since the year began, when I wrote this chirpy piece back in January. I still stand by it, but sometimes a metaphor that works about optimism and ambition (bowling) doesn’t work for clinical depression and pandemics (The Hunger Games). What was the big deal? Wasn’t I a writer already, after many years in the business? (And by that I mean, yes I did make money from my writing.) Did I forget that I had my own voice? …


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Much gratitude to Benjamin Faust for his awesome photo on Unsplash.

Start your new year with an early morning routine that embraces daydreaming, planning, and joyful expectation

Fear is my gutterball.

It probably has been from a very early age.

And I sure as hell have been throwing my share of frames’ worth lately.

I’m coming out of a fog of holiday dread and confusion, worried about the state of the world as well as that of my own friends and family. Aging brings health worries added to economic worries, which become a pile-on of anxiety that would rattle the steadiest of us.

It hurts to admit this, but the frustration has reached the point where I needed to slow down, breathe, focus on the pins in front of me, and center that ball straight down the alley. …


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French Onion Soup with thyme, photo courtesy @sheri_silver on Unsplash.

“Crusted with cheese, golden at the edges. The waiter placed it carefully in front of me, and I broke through the top layer with my spoon and filled it with warm oniony broth, catching bits of soaking bread. The smell took over the table, a warmingness. And because circumstances rarely match, and one afternoon can be a patchwork of both joy and horror, the taste of the soup washed through me. Warm, kind, focused, whole.”
Aimee Bender, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Maybe it lies somewhere deep in my French heritage.

At my late father’s knee, he taught me to love onions. We were never without them: yellow, white, or green. Dad would spread butter over a slice of white bread, then top it with a thick hunk of white onion and eat it as an open-faced sandwich. Yellow onions went into soups and chili, which he happily made himself. Green onions were for chomping on along with radishes, washed down with a cold can of Olympia beer while reclining in the front yard overlooking the lake where we lived in Minnesota. …


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Daytalking (from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD).

“‘One thing,’ he said later, ‘it’s quick in space. Death. It’s over like that. You don’t linger. Most of the time you don’t even know it. You’re dead and that’s it.’”
— “The Rocket Man” by Ray Bradbury

THE LAST THING I ever thought I’d do was write about Ray Bradbury again. After all, I met the man just twice: once in the early 1990s, and the last time in 2000. …


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Daytalking (from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD).

“Nothing” is always something. It’s just that sometimes you can’t see it.

“Small” says, “nothing is always nothing.”

“Big” says, “Just you wait and see.”

Expanding, going big. Or shrinking — and feeling small.


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Daytalking (from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD, forever and Amen).

“And you can sing this song
On July the Fourth
In the sunny south and the frozen north
It’s a day of loss, it’s your day of birth
Does it take a death to learn what a life is worth?”
— Jackson Browne, “Of Missing Persons”


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Daytalking (left, from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD).

How as a culture we can become more tolerant and curious about each other?

I’d been expecting the news.

But it still comes as a shock: the death of a friend.

I’d been out the Saturday before Hallowe’en, slumming through my neighborhood thinking about buying a used hat. Winter was coming and I needed something to keep my head warm.


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Daytalking (left, from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD).

Accumulation. Aggregation.

What are these things?

A collector knows them well. A collector thinks: “What do I have? What am I missing? What would complete my collection?”

I gravitate toward montage artists, collectors, discriminating selectors.

Hoarders, wastrels, bone rag bucket dippers — buh bye. I have no time for that.

So lately I’ve gone full-on protection mode. Head down, waiting for the bark of creativity. I can’t act on it even if the alarm went off, so I have to stay attentive and ready. I rested — A LOT. It felt good to feel rested. I’m fine with that.

But there’s a point when resting becomes lethargy. And that’s not good.


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Daytalking (left, from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD).

“I’d look at this as a wondrous moment to end this mystery.”
Lou Reed, “Fly Into the Sun”

Hey, Uncle Ray! We finally did it!

We’re finally living your story “The Golden Apples of the Sun” — and just launched a mission toward the sun! (Well, as far as realistically possible. That is, it’s not a manned mission.)

Retrieved from NASA Goddard, published on May 31, 2017.

Last weekend, NASA sent the Parker Solar Probe into space on Aug. 12, 2018 at 3:31 a.m. EDT. According to the space administration, its mission is to:

Trace the flow of energy that heats the corona and accelerates the solar wind. …


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Daytalking (from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD).

It began at 2:30 this morning.

Insomnia. Then thinking.

Then worry.

And I’ve been fighting some persistent lower back pain that started two days ago, after I’d been biking in the heat and slept all night on a sofa where I wasn’t able to spread out.

Physical pain always brings out the darker, deeper, mental kind of pain.

So, a question like: “What if this is a symptom of a larger health problem?” is not something you want to be asking yourself in the dead of night.

I got up to drink a glass of water and take over-the-counter pain meds, which eventually helped me sleep — and pulled me into the nightmare that I need to write about now. …

About

Michael Maupin

Writer, editor, and media maker. Blogs at Completely in the Dark (www.completelydark.com) and lives in Minneapolis, MN. I notice things.

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