My Wobbly Bicycle, 151

Posted by on May 16, 2018 | 12 comments

It’s 16 steps from our dining room table to the kitchen. Jerry prefers a complex mixture of dry cereal, granola, nuts, dried cherries, banana, and milk. Both of us also like cut-up fresh strawberries and blueberries on our cereal. Both of us like orange juice. I eat cooked oatmeal with ground flaxseed and yogurt. Plus, there are our vitamins. It’s all up to me. In the first week of Jerry’s convalescence I clocked more daily steps on my Fitbit than before his surgery.


Necessity, however, is the mother of invention. Why have I never thought of a tray before? I can load it full and cut over half the trips.


Then I load the dishwasher, clean up, add to my grocery list, get Jerry situated on the bed for his small exercises. Go wash my face and start my bathroom routine while he’s doing that. Then I come back and prop three pillows under his feet so he can lie there awhile to help reduce the swelling.


I’ve gotten us here only until about 9:30. Oh no, the day begins much earlier. At 1 a.m. I am helping him into his (rented) recliner to spend the rest of the night because the brace becomes too uncomfortable in bed. I bring him water and pills. Then also I forgot the pre-breakfast routine, where I help him get partially dressed, feed Wally, clean the two lumps of misdirected kitty-poop off the floor. You get the idea. This will go on for three months, total. His left hip is not to bear any weight until the bone grafts and screws have firmly attached themselves.


I’m sick of writing about such things, but such things are my life. Then I read the introduction to the new issue of Agni Magazine by its splendid editor, Sven Birkerts. Sven begins with his personal version of what we already know, that the “pile-up of consequential events is straining our ability to respond and changing the way we inhabit our lives.” He says he finds it hard to remember how things were before.


Not that it hasn’t occurred to me before, but my life, fraught with constant calls for my attention, is a perfect mirror of what’s happening to us all, right now. Too much, too much. All Breaking News. Sven puts it: “To tune in is to be plunged into a quasi-hypnotic state, an ever-urgent ‘feed.’


It also occurs to me that the dwindling away of the dependent clause in poetry and in all writing, pretty much, these days is another perfect mirror of our inability to assign relative value. It’s all Breaking News. Nothing, as Sven says, is in the background. It’s all foreground.


So where are our personal boundaries? he wonders. Where is the “I” when all is one giant news feed? Where is the writer in all this?


“If our age’s drive is toward both speed and dispersion, or distraction, the making and encountering of art represent exactly the opposite principles. Art has always been about deceleration and attention. The made thing embodies labor and deep patience, and its nuances enforce slowness,” Sven writes.


Hence, my opening passage. See. Here we are. Slowly living our lives.  Even so, the unspoken tensions, the constant crises we all feel, are felt within the small, personal narrative. My overload is magnified by the national news overload. Inescapable.


Yet art is the “locus of encounter,” as Sven says, “where meanings are tested.” I think of “tested” as seen and sorted out, given relative value. As in, my life is crucial, here, at this moment.






  1. Yes! yes! and another yes to this Fleda and Sven. Just what I needed to hear at this moment, and I am not dealing with half of what you are. I am in desperate need of “tuning out and dropping in” (to misquote Timothy Leary.) The constant barrage of hype seems like half-addiction and half-repulsion in my life lately and is affecting everything else. I hereby pronounce a moratorium on news consumption and a dropping back in to the slow art of my art. Thank you. Tina

  2. Yes, appreciate. Many only read the first lines of everything now…as if everything were a text. Maybe ‘the end is nigh”, but the end of what? And Musk will put up enough satellites so that they will cover with wi fi every square inch of the globe. No retreat. No escape. All connection. No awareness/no peace/no leisure (what was that anyway?)

    • It was the Heart Sutra, is what it was. 🙂

  3. Cheer up, we’re still here. I tell myself this. I spend my life looking after three siblings, all victims of our peripatetic childhood. A line of poetry comes into my head: ‘The only life you can save is your own.’
    We need poets so hang in there, Fleda.
    I am sick writing my new novel and about to dump it. I’m giving it another month. I wish I’d become a painter! I really enjoy painting now.
    Incidentally, have you tried soya with your cereal? It’s great, you don’t get hungry.
    Love to you and Jerry. I hope he’ll get well soon.

    • Yep, some of us spend our living taking care. Which is okay. Someone has to do it. I’m sorry about your new novel. I am very familiar with the feeling of despair when things are not going well. I would have loved to be a painter, too. I was good at it in college. But somehow the words got to me more. Love to you.

      • I had a great day today. The drought is over, I hope.
        Love to you.

  4. I heard just the last bit of an interview with Michigan’s School Superintendent of the Year” yesterday. He spoke of the importance of each of us leaving”margins” around different life activities. He encourages this in his staff members & educators in their professional work, and for each person to do the same at home. I resonate with that, but… sometimes we can’t! I’m care giving for our daughter who had her hip replaced yesterday. I’m trying to monitor her high school Senior daughter as she takes finals, plans prom activities, and prepares to graduate in two weeks. I do find that sitting on the porch at night, and taking a daily walk clear my head. I’m not sure that will happen yet today… Good luck, Fleda!

  5. “It also occurs to me that the dwindling away of the dependent clause in poetry and in all writing, pretty much, these days is another perfect mirror of our inability to assign relative value.” What, what? Not the dependent clause too?
    I love you. Love Jerry. Love Wally, despite the misdirected poops.

  6. Some days, some years are just so hard. My sister has cared for her husband with aggressive MS at home for years. She has help, now every day. When it’s quiet, she makes beautiful quilts.Take care of yourself too.

  7. So much, too much, more, oh-no! We too slide into it when yet another “last straw” is added. But then, turning a necessary (and expensive) errand into an excuse for a morning drive, one of us remembers and reminds the other, “It’s a beautiful day, and we’re alive.” Turn off the car radio. Take a deep breath. Go on. How is the view out your window, Fleda? You and I need to talk soon.

  8. I appreciate all you’re saying and have been there. After I read this I went to Marie Howe’s poem, “This Is What The Living Do”. In fact, I go to it often and should probably frame it! Love you

  9. I love this. A trusted friend of mine would suggest that when life becomes too rushed, too thoughtless and more reactive, that is when we must redouble our efforts to attend to our solid places. Art, prayer, friends, quiet places. And heave overboard those things that are useless, repetitive, and negative. (shout out to Eckhart Tolle).

    I was also touched by your “Don’t be afraid, let evening come.” It is now in my office. It is exactly what I needed, when I needed it.

    Stay strong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *