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Snowy owl, Plum Island, MA. © Lesli Woodruff 2020

I remarked to a friend over the weekend that I guess this year was meant to teach me Aparigraha and Bramacharya; cultivating the art of patience, restraint, letting go, and finding the exit (gift shop optional) in the murky darkness.

I’ve spent the last decade-plus, really beginning another lifetime ago, studying yoga. Its physical and philosophical practices have helped me stay the course, diverge from it when required, and get back to simple truths when the world seems like a cattywampus collection of expletives in any number of tongues, forked.

And so, when the gods of absurd realities pushed me down a hill this summer, summarily fracturing what was left of my spirit along with my left shoulder, I had to draw upon the internal yoga while forgoing the physical branch; a practice in itself of trying to stay within a fine line of sane. …


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I feel like a bird.

A bird with a broken wing. In a cage. On an island. Set afloat in the sea. It’s an inflatable island, with a pin-sized hole, or series of them, on a trajectory for The Great Garbage Patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

On the 4th of July, I was hiking and took a fall. I’m pretty good at falling, normally. But, this is 2020, so I of course ended up in the emergency room. With a broken shoulder. In gross technical terms, it is a mildly-displaced comminuted fracture of the greater tuberosity of my humerus. Not. Humorous, that is. …


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As if the gods of small annoyances weren’t already having a field day with 2020, they really took liberties on the fourth of July this year, demonstrating all they’ve learnt during lockdown, and which bones to pick, quite literally.

10 miles into a really really nice hike in Western Mass, there was a very small hill, atop which lurked a root, within which conspired a plan to royally uproot (pun intended) my summer. …


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My little city by the sea… streets deserted, as if waiting for what’s next.

After a particularly 2020 Thursday, I extracted myself from my desk, untethering a foggy brain from the pile of as yet unfinished to-do’s on my task list, disenfranchising my mood from the call I’ve just ended, glad the customer’s red tape, hoops to jump and gauntlet of demands were less horrible than initially thought. A quick Google Flights search to see if there are actually any destinations available yet. Rien.

Earbuds, check. Shoes, camera, keys. Mask. Check, check, check. Sigh.

As I walk, it’s feeling like early summer, but early summer somewhere just slightly off. Like that feeling of re-entry but without the two or three weeks of travel abroad to precede it. I recognise the streets and landmarks and cracks in the sidewalk, but my evening walk is as if I’m walking through an awkward dream, poppy music playing in my head all the way. …


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I forget which day lockdown actually started. It was like one day the world was relatively normal and the next, a fog of the unknown overspread the planet, where fear and death and angst gets caught in your teeth as you eat breakfast. Or like you’re watching yourself walk through a horrible B-movie and you’re trying to scream at the characters on the screen, “Run! Get. Out. Now…While you still can!”

March came in like a lamb and went out like a rabid Tasmanian devil that sat on a pack of fire ants.

I miss my yoga kula and a Saturday ritual. And walking without fear of an invisible murderer. I miss planning adventures. I miss tea with friends. I miss knowing the right etiquette when walking down the street and encountering other humans. I miss hugging. I really miss hugging. I miss foreign accents and spice markets and donning SCUBA gear. I even miss those undercalculated misadventures. I miss looking forward to something…to anything, really. But these are all mere privileges in the grand scheme of today’s upside-down headlines. …


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I lost my dog to cancer last week.

I cried for 2 days, from when he laid his big head on my hand and closed his eyes for the last time, until my tears ran out. Neither my vet nor his staff could hug me; my friends could not console. I cried for 2 days straight. On my own. I can confirm that it takes a body about a day and a half to replenish its stores.

It’s weird, this loss during lockdown…I’m feeling sorry for myself for feeling sad. I’m feeling sad for myself and for the state of the world right now. I’m feeling guilty for feeling loss (and lost) because maybe my loss isn’t as massive as it is for someone who has lost a spouse or a child or a family or a livelihood to this ravaging virus and its bloodthirsty tentacles. …


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Yep. Travel plans are pretty much in limbo for the foreseeable future. So any pipe dreams for diving in April or hiking in May are certainly dashed. Don’t even know if my niece’s graduation over Memorial Day Weekend is a possibility at this point, even a month and a half away. They’ve closed schools here until May. We’re on semi-lockdown and there is still a shortage of toilet paper and dry goods in the grocery stores. It’s madness. It’s weirdness. It’s an unsettled quiet like I’ve never known in my lifetime, even after 9/11. And my stepmother put it well the other night: those events, 9/11, the Marathon bombing, Paris, Brussels…they all were time-boxed. There was a thing, it happened, then it was over and we moved to the healing phase. …


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This week, I found out that my almost-16-year-old dog has lymphoma. It wasn’t a surprise. I mean, he’s over 100 in people-years. The lumps in his jowls have felt lumpier of late, so this week we went in to check on these and the other elder-dog maladies.

Google gives him 2–4 weeks. My vet, a more optimistic 6–8. Drugs or chemo would be an option, if it were an option. But he’s already past his optimistic expiration date (GSPs generally live 12–14 years), and I’m not inclined to make his last weeks or months worse by these palliatives’ side effects.

And while it’s not a surprise, it is an elephant-sized weight on my heart. He’s been living with this illness inside him — for months now, if not years. Yet he wakes each day, hopeful to greet an impending adventure. He walked 12km last Sunday. He did another 10+ today. How’s Gus? My friends ask. He’s good, for a given value of good. Sure, he’s slow. And has to wear shoes on his hind feet because his toes drag when he walks. And he’s fairly deaf, or at least very selective in responding. And the eating and pooping and walking and waking and sleeping are all a little off-kilter these days. But he runs on the beach, albeit in an almost cartoonish and slow-motion half-canter. And he still wants to take the longer loop in the woods even if it takes nearly twice what it used to. And he lights up when he sees his dog friends (and their humans) on our walks around town…but, yeah, he sometimes has to lay down if the humans get to yakking. …


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I’ve just returned from 3 weeks in Southeast Asia. It had been a rough few months at work, with an overload of “on”: meetings and projects and deadlines, and too little of the quiet, nature-filled and people-free moments that enable me to adequately recharge my batteries. So when the opportunity to visit my uncle in Bangkok over the holidays presented itself, I seized the day, as it were, to carve an itinerary around that visit.

I’m also the textbook definition of an introvert: I avoid parties and am exhausted by small talk and larger crowds; I’m very careful about who I share my thoughts and feelings with, and I need my “alone time” to recharge and feel human again. I plan and read and write and consider…and I often find destination inspiration from mythology or historical fiction or travel writing. And it seems strange, but I tend to bump into my kind of people when I’m travelling. Once away, there is little time for small talk, and there are usually mutual reasons for being in that place; so conversation, even with complete strangers, doesn’t feel like a burden or a chore. I don’t feel judged or awkward or out of place because, well, I am out of place…so that thing is an immediate known, and it is therefore immediately off the table as a source of anxiety. This is the contradictory and backwards logic which rules an introvert’s life (yet confounds many an extrovert), but also that which makes so many other things accessible in far-flung places. …


On waking up New Year’s Day in an ashtray

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I woke up on this first day of the new decade in the worst place I have ever been. Entering Mandalay via the Irrawaddy last night, our boat passed by other boats spewing black smoke, ships regurgitating brown water back into the already-polluted river, barges overflowing with coal, bound for who knows where… we arrived at the receiving dock under a smog-heavy dusk, particles of the smut-laden air seemed to cling to my being.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and the city is the textbook definition of pollution: noise, sound, light…all in an excess of excess. The theme of this city’s New Year’s celebration is Heavy Metal; apropos, I think, of a city that simply reeks of burning tires and rubbish and carbon emissions. …

About

Lesli Woodruff

Instructional Designer, writer, photographer, wanderer, reluctant but sometimes sparkly introvert, curious one, believer in magic. http://lesliwoodruff.com

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