Precariousness Happens: Autumn, Impeachment, and Anxiety


This happens sometimes, usually in the Autumn when I’ve been cloistered away at my New Hampshire retreat for a time. It starts as a vague feeling of perhaps needing someone to talk to, progresses through the sense that your skin doesn’t fit and you might need to get out of it, and ends with lying awake at dawn wondering what terrible fate is about to befall you. Sometimes cancer, sometimes bankruptcy, sometimes North Korean missiles. You get the picture.

I blame it on the shortening days, the darker nights, and the mood of these northerners who are dreading another long winter of shivering and shoveling. Today I had lunch with a friend at the Badger Balm factory where she works, surrounded by hillsides bursting with near-peak color. As I walked out of the building and into the beauty, the woman following me sighed heavily and said, “It really smells like fall, I guess it had to happen.”

Had to happen??? I just drove ten hours to see this happen! But if you live here, autumn heaviness is apparently part of life. And it might be contagious, even if you don’t live here year-round.

I guess it had to happen


This year the depression/anxiety engulfed me on my first day. It probably had something to do with the fact that our president is quite clearly out of his cotton-pickin’ mind, as my father would say, and also with the fact that my financial planner just really, really screwed up, resulting in a massive tax bill and the possibility of losing my health care.

These two realities staged a fierce competition to see which could wreak more havoc with my brain chemistry during the two-day drive up from Maryland. Although I was listening to an outstanding audiobook (Lab Girl, by geobiologist Hope Jahren), every time I stopped the car, trump was still president and my financial world was still rocking. I had way too much time to cogitate and fret. I watched late-night news in my hotel room, diving ever deeper into the details of impeachment.

Yesterday I spoke to my financial planner over the phone and finally lost it — which I never, ever, do — when she kept telling me how complicated taxes were and how she wouldn’t exactly call this a mistake, more of a “learning experience.” It felt good to yell in the moment, but not so good afterwards. To comfort and numb myself, I spent the day on Twitter. I repeat: to make myself feel BETTER, I spent the day on Twitter. ‘Nuff said.

Hence, my 3 a.m. musings on North Korea’s latest missile launch — from a submarine, mind you, which can cross oceans — which took place while the so-called president was tweeting about his impeachment being BULLSHIT, in all caps in case we missed it. (This was all before he stood before a bank of cameras on the White House lawn this morning and encouraged Communist China to investigate his political opponent.)


Today I have been thinking about the nature of the word “precarious.” It just popped into my head as I was journaling and meditating this morning.

It’s a good word, even better than an onomatopoeia, which merely sounds like the action the word implies, like buzz or hiss. Precarious is more clever than that, kind of sneakily apt. As if you might unwittingly step onto the platform of “pre” and totter at the top of that brief, crisp “c” before tumbling headlong into the “AAAaaaaar-eee-ooouuus” abyss.

It doesn’t sound it, but precarious was a legal term in the 1600s — “held through the favor of another” — from the Latin, meaning “obtained by asking or praying.” This notion of being “dependent on another” led to the broader meaning of risky or dangerous.

So here I sit seeking comfort in language and writing, gazing out the window at the flaming leaves precariously clinging to their branches until the will of a breeze or a rainfall decides otherwise, and feeling grateful for my health, my financial security, and the democracy in which we live. And praying for the favor of God’s protection on all of it.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

– Lady Julian of Norwich, 1342 – circa 1416


Lost in Yellow


Today, I went for a hike around Meetinghouse Pond in southern New Hampshire.

Turns out, it wasn’t so  easy to follow the yellow-blazed trail markers through the blazing yellow trees.

I rested on a bench by the pond, and traced with my finger the letters carved into the wood.


I watched the wind ripple the water and thought, it’s OK to be lost.


** You’ll notice the photo montage is something new for me. Sometimes I think my blog sounds a bit like a therapy session or a stream of consciousness, so . . . I’m responding to the WordPress Weekly Challenge, And Now For Something Completely Different. **  Be glad I got bored with doing Top Ten Reasons to be a Vegetarian — though you may still see that at some point!


An Elemental Longing


It comes without warning, this sense of longing. Autumn always brings it on for me, when the colors arrive and the humidity — blessedly — departs. While making the switch from flip-flops to boots, from iced tea to hot, from flakes to oatmeal, that’s when the feeling descends.

It trembles in my gut, like the faint rhythm of a far-away freight train. In fact, the click-clack on the rails can summon the feeling, as can the call of migrating geese.

It Was Time To Go And They All Left Limited Edition Print

It was Time to Go, And They All Left


Heron Dance


The bittersweet pull is made more so by the fact that I don’t know what it is. I once asked a poet friend, John Morris ( http://www.writer.org/johnmorris), if he knew the feeling. I wanted a word, a label. After I’d rambled on about trains and geese for a while, he suggested “melancholy.” That’s a start. But it’s more. It’s deeper.

Do you know what I’m talking about?

This longing brings to mind the stomach churning homesickness I experienced as a kid on the first day of school and whenever I tried to spend the night at a friend’s house. But that was unpleasant, so much so that I sometimes ended up in the nurse’s office and always had to abort the sleep-overs. So no, it isn’t exactly that. It’s not unpleasant, it’s just . . . sad. Still, I rather like the feeling; it contains a kernel of the intensity of the teenage years.


I was twelve when I had my first kiss, not counting a tentative spin-the-bottle kiss in fifth grade with the preacher’s kid Johnny, who later turned out to be gay. This one was a real kiss from dreamy Steve in the church basement, while the sock-hop plodded on upstairs. Steve was my best friend’s foster brother, who lived two doors down from my family, and we had been slow dancing — always trouble.

I was smitten. Every night, I would open the bedroom window closest to my beloved’s house and put on my 45 RPM record of the The Crystal Ship by The Doors.  I would sing from the very core of my being:

Before you slip into unconsciousness, I’d like to have another kiss

Another flashing chance at bliss,

Another kiss, another kiss.

It was fall, and the air smelled like rolling around in a leaf pile. It seemed the moon was always full, and the night was always lit a pale blue.  Now do you know? 

Spiritually Homesick

 The freight train/migrating geese longing is a different kind of homesickness, a spiritual homesick. A good kind. Not the lonely, fearful kind in the nurse’s office or the desperate, grasping waves that wash in with the words, “I’m seeing someone else.” It’s deeper, more real, more elemental than those surface upsets. It isn’t something thrust upon us by emotional needs and hurts. This feeling is built into us; it’s a birth-right of being human.

We have a longing to be home, to belong, to be loved in a never-ending embrace. I believe it’s our Creator Spirit, reminding us that there’s more than this.We are never fully at home, here, there’s always the longing. We are not quite whole yet.

I imagine this divine longing is what my Mom was feeling in hospice when she said, “Daddy? Daddy? Can I come home now?” And God said, “Yes.”

“Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God,and the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

Saint Augustine (354-430)

Do you know the feeling? What words do you have for it? Theories of where it comes from and why? I wish you all the blessings of autumn, and most especially the Elemental Longing.

The Crystal Ship, by The Doors:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsmtFRVqQZo

Please support the arts – more lovely work at Heron Dance:  http://www.herondance.org/it-was-time-to-go-and-they-all-left-limited-edition-print/

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