Karen Rivers

ordinary days.

Karen Rivers

The words come slowly sometimes, when the come at all.  


Words like me best when I'm away from the keyboard, but thinking about typing.  


That's how it works, out in the woods, the hum of bees in the thistles beside the path, the dog's leash tangled behind my knees, some sort of crisis involving the kids and a rotten tree stump.  "Oh," I think,  "There you are."  I rub the words in my mind like they are wishing stones found on a beach.  


I make wishes.  "I wish things were better," I think.   

"MUM," the kids shout.  "THERE HAS BEEN AN UNFAIRNESS."  


"Who told you anything was fair?" I tell them.  They look at me, rolling their eyes, tall and lean and flushed with the wrongfulness of what the other has said, fists curled at their sides.  


"But he said and I said and she said and we said and then I..." 


"Oh, calm down," I tell them.


We walk more and there are blackberries and the weather keeps trying to be hot and we keep trying to swim in the ocean, which is filled more and more with jellyfish that look like ice cubes, which is suitable because it's cold enough for that, and it shouldn't be and rain drums on the tarp over the tent and we fall asleep to the sound of wind in the trees, blowing autumn steadily closer.  

It's summer.  


Last time I blogged (terrible verb, I know), it was February.   Time slips away.  I eat handfuls of cashew nuts.  I drink glass after glass of water.   I go for long walks.   I think about salad.


Terrible things happen.

There is a plague.


What do we do?  Do we run?  We have to stop it.


We have to stop this.


It's shootings here and over there.  It's systemic racism.   It's mysogyny.   It's rape culture.  It's bigotry.  It's terryfing, that's what it is.   Everything is becoming a blip on social media.  But it's more than that.  


This is who we are now.  


It's unbelievable.


Why is this happening?  the kids say, about this or that.


I don't know, I say.  


It's a man driving a truck into a crowd.  


It's a caricature of Evil taking the reins of America.   


It's because he said and I said and then he did and I did and she said and so I hit her and so I shot him and so I ran them over with a truck and destroyed them and us and you and her and him, too, for good measure. 



We have so much.

We have everything.


But everything is an illusion.



Here's what we really have:  



Here is what is plaguing me:  worry.   Loosely categorized in the following areas:  The world.   America.  My dad's health.  My parents, aging.  My kids, fighting.  Money, or lack of it.  The dishwasher leaking all over the wood floor.   The way the landscapers didn't lay landscape cloth under the gravel path and every day there is more green poking through, the occasional bright bobbing yellow of a dandelion's mane.    


Here's what we do:


We play Pokemon Go.  


Outside, perched on benches with lures on them, we listen to crowds of not-quite-adults laughing and mock-fighting and huddling together to find the dragon.  


We breathe in the pot they are smoking.  "I think I'm high," my kid says.  "You're not," I tell him.   But we move, just the same.  The air is just too thick, that's all.


It can be hard to breathe.


We catch monkey-cats and strangely shaped fish and we feel like we are winning and the kids say, "Just hold my phone for a second" and then they are gone and running, like regular kids, like 1970s kids, like all kids, ever, who are outside and at the top of a hill that demands to be run down.   The Pokemon is just a way of getting them there.   The Pokemon and ice cream cones, melting fast in the hot sun, the water park with it's endless cold spraying, the way the ocean curls up against the beach and their toes.

I try not to worry about the raw sewage.  



My daughter swims like a dolphin, head first, her back arching in a perfect-C, away from shore, looking for the boundary.


The dogs are getting older, too.

I have some books that I'm writing, three at once, four if you count the nascent idea that's percolating back behind the others.  


Maybe the only words I have are already spoken for.  They are for the books.  


So I talk less.  I text less. 

Real words come more slowly than fictional ones.  


I have a feeling something is about to matter.  I open my mail slowly.   Once a day.  Less.   


Reality keeps trickling in at the edges of things, the news, the guns, the ignorance, the hate, the EFF THIS and EFF THAT and EFF YOU shouted behind us as we capture the FireHorse, the way the water at the beach is unsafe, the way everything is always lapsing towards chaos, like it always is, like it always has been.  A door slams on my son's finger.   A phone is dropped and it cracks.  The dog coughs at night.  Sirens scream in gaggles like geese down the street.


The tomatoes get red on their growing vines.   Peas burst from their pods.  


I forget to water or I water too much.  The dog digs up the cilantro.   


My daughter, in photos, is often caught looking away from the camera, looking out into the world, her arms raised in either victory or a greeting, I'm not sure which.  A power pose.   The book says that women should use power poses to be taken seriously.  The world takes my daughter seriously.   The world considers my daughter.  The sea holds her up.   The sky turns its most beautiful face towards her.   The lights of the city shine in her direction.


Remember this, I want to tell her, when you ruled the world.   


Things will change one day.  


Things always change.  


Take me, for example.  Just when I think, well, then, this is OK, this is my life, I'm Ok with this variety of ordinary, something happens, a ripple that precedes a tidal wave.   It's dangerous to think you recognize normal.


How does anyone sleep? 


"Oh, take an Ativan," my mum says.  


In Turkey, some men storm through the doors of the government offices, their faces obscured by masks, guns held high in their hands.   Crowds watch the fireworks that celebrate France, bodies pushed together, faces upturned to the sky.   In America, a black man gets pulled over because his tail light is burned out and the next week, it's his funeral, attended by CNN.


You never expect the truck is coming at you, that's the thing.  


It's only when you hear the first gunshot that you realize it's not an ordinary day, blue and bottomless, bees buzzing in the clover, the news happening to other people.  


The thing is that there's always someone, somewhere, who has a right to a gun.   There's always someone, somewhere, who is going to use it one day, to do what it is designed to do, to take away the thing you thought you had, fleetingly, a life, an ordinary life, your arms lifted up to embrace all your possible futures.