Saturday, August 8, 2020

Texas Walkabout: Magic

    The Saturday report from EGD Austin bureau chief Caren Jeskey:  

   Abracadabra, what I speak is what I create. That is one definition of the word we’ve heard hundreds of times in our lives, as white-tipped wands wave and bunnies are suddenly pulled from dark and previously empty top hats. Remember those days of miracle and wonder? Squealing with delight when tricked into believing that something lovely and impossible just happened? In the spirit of being live on this earth for a limited time only (this phrase taken from the album name of my favorite yoga singer Krishna Das)—and mortality firmly pressed against the plexiglass partition these days—I am hellbent on grabbing every moment of awe and joy that I can.
     This morning I woke up, put on my battered Birkenstocks and stepped out of my tiny house into a pleasant 80 degree morning 
(it was 98 by the time I got home a few hours later). Cloud cover made it even less Texas-like and more delightful. It took a few miles before I realized that I did not have to spend any more time entertaining the shitty committee in my head. Walking has been proven to improve vitality, memory, creative expression, and health. I don’t set out on my walkabouts with this in mind. My body just seems to leave the house on its own accord. The boon of job loss, and now working only part time from home, is that I finally have time for such extravagant walks for the first time in ages. After a while my thoughts slow down and I notice ladybugs on tree leaves and orange-beaked waterbirds that were always there but seldom seen in the melee of pre-COVID life.   
      Reality can be difficult. Even in the best of times we face challenges that seem insurmountable. The enormity of our new normal is just starting to hit us. It’s a runaway coal train full of pollution and our world will never be the same. On top of the staggering greatness of the global situation we also have our own personal, day-to-day struggles. Yesterday I received some difficult financial news that pulled the rug out from under me. I felt I’d been slapped or punched and promptly felt the tug of fear and the burn of tears. Right in that moment, a long-lost and now rediscovered friend Tana texted and asked if I was free to Zoom. I cried for a few minutes until she hocus-pocused me with empowering words. I was reminded of my gifts and resilience, and all of the tools and resources at my fingertips to gracefully navigate this obstacle.
     I went to sleep last night feeling better than I have in a while. I hadn’t realized that something I was trying so hard to hold onto was not the right thing for me. Once it was removed from my life I felt more myself than I have in a while. This prompted the energy and time for the 7+ mile walk I embarked on today, where I saw a man climb out of a sub-basement covered in mud with a big smile on his face. I chose to take the route right past the Ney museum (mentioned in two previous EGD posts, Badass Women and Shadow of Death) to get a peek of her majestic castle, which always boosts my spirits and fixes me with its artful power.

     If George Orwell is correct,“thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” Sometimes it's impossible to see a silver lining and feels like a lie to say "I’m okay." But when a brighter path is accessible I am all about taking it. On my walk today I found myself singing "In Spite of Ourselves" by John Prine and Iris Dement, loudly. It felt great and made me laugh. “In spite of ourselves we'll end up a-sittin' on a rainbow against all odds, honey we're the big door-prize.” Then I remembered that Mr. Prine died of COVID and I burst into tears. I sobbed as I walked down a quiet residential street with zero self-consciousness. It was not a self-pitying cry. It was grief. Real grief. Then I remembered that I sang that song with my friend Steve at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party a few years back. I tried to remember if we've lost anyone since that party. We have. When will I see my family again? When will I see my loved ones, my lifelong friends? As I write this I realize that they are the meat of my existence. Chicago is in my bones. I will make it back soon, I just can’t say when.


  1. Since when is an 80 degree morning pleasant?
    That means a 95 degree day!
    I'll take a 55 degree morning with a 70 degree day.

    1. All the more reason to enjoy the relatively mild morning. It’s all relative.

    2. We've had a couple of those this past week, after yet another hellish July...some of our hottest Julys have all happened within the past decade.

      Felt like early fall. The angle of the sunlight is definitely changing and the days are getting shorter. Ohio's best three-month period is from August through October.

      I'm wondering if CJ plans on coming back to Chicago for good. Yes, your blood does thin out in hot climates (I lived in Florida for a couple of years), but it sounds like Chicago is in her blood, just as it was in mine (I came back and spent 17 more years there). Austin has become a major city, and it has all that great food and music. But Chicago is...well...Chicago. I hope she comes back to stay.

    3. I've heard, Grizz. It's been brutal for you all. On the Chicago vs Austin question there are pros and cons to each place- I am taking things day by day and I believe the answer will be clear soon enough.

    4. Austin's drawback is summer, Chicago's is winter. Which is harder on you?

      I've always loved summertime, and hated the snow, but the cold is even worse. Still, you can easily bundle up in the winter, and stay inside. Summer heat can be brutal, and the older one gets, the more dangerous it is. I was in my mid-twenties when I lived in Florida, so I could take it. Almost fifty years later, I don't think I could do that now.

      The Midwest's endless gray winter skies don't bother me so much anymore, but I am also getting way too old for snow removal. So it's all a wash.

      I have kinfolk who are snowbirds...Michigan and the Carolinas. That's the ticket! But I don't have the scratch. So I'll die in Ahia. Probably with a snow shovel in my hand.

  2. Ha! True, though it's relative- we got up to 98 by the end of the day. 80 feels great to me now that my blood has apparently thinned after almost six and a half years down here.

  3. Great writing Chicago Girl. You touched on all the feels, the high the low, grief and joy.Hoping you come back to Chi-town soon. City of Big Shoulders and John Prine awaits you.

  4. My wife and I are saying the same thing. We’ll get back to Chicago to see our son. We just don’t know when. Nice walking with you.

  5. As always, Caren, Elisabet is there to help! Thank you and happy trails!


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