Harvey keitel 2

A scene from Wayne Wang’s Smoke. Have you been looking at old photos, too?


Have you been doing lots of things you haven’t felt like doing before?  I have. Apparently a lot of people are baking bread, and I’m trying to work up the courage to make some New York rye. Baking is not my thing, but I found a recipe for making rye bread with pickle juice – that sounds irresistable.

I’ve also been listening to audiobooks, not because I prefer them but because the library in closed during this pandemic and only ebooks and downloadable audiobooks books are available.

On Mother’s Day, I did a lot of looking at old photos. My bet is a lot of people did the same.

Life since the end of February has been a bit disjointed, with old patterns flying out the window and new patterns flying in, then the new ones sneaking out, replaced by others sneaking in, then those new ones sneaking out and…well, you get my drift. Are you feeling like the “pattern” during our Stay Home, Stay Safe pandemic seems to be no pattern at all? Is that a good thing or bad thing? Who knows? (she says, shrugging her shoulders….)

My thoughts are a little scattered, possibly becauset the boundaries of my world are now more restricted. There are lots of new rules. But how can a day be simultaneously “More of the same” and “Everything’s different”? I’m confused. What’s new? (she says, shrugging her shoulders….)

As writers we’re used to being at home when we work. But we’re not used to the whole neighborhood, town, county, state, country staying home. It’s more than eerie – it’s serious business. True, change presents opportunities as long as we’re healthy. There’s space for innovation,  creativity, new choices. There is also space for insomnia because we feel a sea change coming, and we know the pandemic is no metaphor, it’s real, it’s out there.

Like I said, life’s been disjointed – could be a chance for change, could be a mess, most likely both.  Whatever is coming, the present passes a bit more slowly in ways I can’t quite figure out. Same for you? Despite the slow pace, does your day end without you being able to figure out what you did all day – how did you get from morning to night? In some ways, does life seem to be in slow-motion? Or even no-motion?

Of course, slowing down has always been something I’ve recommended to my creative writing students. Good writing – especially poetry, as far as I’m concerned – requires it.  “You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down, my friend” – that’s a line from Wayne Wang’s fascinating movie, Smoke, which I also recommended to my students. It’s based on a book by Paul Auster, who also wrote the screenplay. Auggie, played by Harvey Keitel, has scrapbooks full of snapshots of his smoke shop in Brooklyn, and when he shares the scrapbooks with a friend (see the photo above)  the friend points out that all the photos look the same. But Auggie disagrees. On the surface, yes, the photos seem identical. But his smoke shop, his “little spot” in the world, is different every day, if you know how to look carefully. Different people pass by, or the same people pass by but they look different from the day before. The air each day is different, the light is different, the weather and the seasons are different, colors, noises, conversations, the details are different.

Harvey Keitel

So I’m living in my little corner of a Smoke world right now. The same each day but different. Forget-me-nots blooming, carrots coming up in the raised bed, chickadees building a nest in a wooden birdhouse. The white lilac has come into its glory and is about to go out of it, as it does each year.

My grandson turned thirteen yesterday. I love him to the moon and back, and I can’t imagine being thirteen, even though I once was. When I go for my walk later today, I’ll try to remember what being thirteen was like. And when I go to bed, I’ll still be trying, because I like to get the details right. I remember slowly.  I might fall asleep thinking about that, or I might be thinking about taking weekly photos of my little yellow house because it’s the same but different every day. Or I might fall asleep thinking about the word “disjointed.” It’s a word that makes you believe your skeleton could be rearranged so your knee bones switch places with your wrists. Or the knuckles of your thumbs get attached to your ankles. “Dis-jointed.” I’m sure there’s a poem in that somewhere.



13 responses to “Disjointed

  1. julie rowan zoch

    Yes to every question. This is just what I needed at 4am, an hour after allergies woke me to the worries that surface in the wee hours. I also hear a poem titled, “she says, shrugging her shoulders”. Thank you!

    • Posted in the wee hours, indeed! I’ve been resorting to warm milk with a dash of almond essence, Julie. Worries can be fooled into settling down. Maybe.

  2. Your reflections capture perfectly how I’ve been feeling. Am working full time from home at my usual day job, but having the same sorts of disjointed feelings. In good weather, I’ve been jogging wearing a T-shirt our daughter gave me years and years ago when she was thirteen (and our grand-daughter is now thirteen), so I’ve been reminiscing too. Thank you for this post.

    • Thanks for visiting Books Around the Table, Ellen. Of all the words and phrases that have risen to the surface during the last three months (shelter in place, shutdown, stay safe / stay home, social distancing, the new normal, etc.) the one I like best is “We’re in this together.” It feels reassuring. Good to remember. And while we’re in it, remembering other times – good times – is soothing. You’re so right.

  3. laurakvasnosky

    Yes. Disjointed. A good word for these slippery time Times. We’ve taken to writing lists morning and night: lists to plan what we will do, lists of what we accomplished. Helps distinguish each day. Happy birthday to your thirteen-year old. I can’t believe he is a teen already.
    love this post. thanks, julie.

  4. Yes, exactly, Julie. Everything does feel so disjointed. Seeking normalcy in an abnormal world. Things don’t make sense yet one thing does. We do have control over our own decisions and how we respond to this.

    • Very true, Terry. (And how nice to see your name pop up! Hope you’re well, healthy & happy. )

      • Thanks, Julie. I hope you’re faring well during these trying times. I was thinking of you last week, and your wonderful lecture on maps. I found myself utterly lost in my own story until I remembered your lecture, and then found a map to help ground me in my setting. Suddenly, everything became clear! 🙂

  5. Margaret Nevinski

    Time feels disjointed now, as if it’s stretching in some ways and shrinking in others. Thanks for these reflections.

  6. A bit like one of those lonnnnngg balloons you can twist and shape into animals, but it starts bulging mid-balloon and after that everything goes wonky! Stretching AND shrinking – exactly, Margaret!

  7. Interesting article over at the New York Times about how many people are feeling this strange distortion of time. Here’s the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/26/arts/music/classical-music-coronavirus.html?referringSource=articleShare

  8. Terry, I still love talking about /thinking about maps! How nice to hear that the lecture helped – thanks for letting me know!

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