Juniper Disco | The Mini No. 12
surviving the dark season
The Dark Season has tried to be especially Black Hole-ish this year, don’t you think? Or maybe it’s just Omicron being the jerk. Either way, I’m — once again — up in the middle of the endless night worrying about it all.
Wrapped in a double layer of bubble wrap and sheer will, I somehow got myself through The Month of Terrible Anniversaries. Both my father and my Nana died in the month of November. I regularly visit the stretch of beach where we released my dad’s ashes. It is a terrible penance for not being able to visit him in the hospital when he was sick.
My grief has shifted. I felt it around the moment we moved from counting in months to counting in years — one year ago he went to the hospital, one year ago they moved him to the ICU, one year ago we were preparing for his return home, one year ago I unknowingly had my last conversation with him.
The anniversary of his last day alive was harder to navigate than the anniversary of his death. The notebook where I wrote everything down had remained shut all this time, too much for my fragile brain. I finally allowed myself to bear witness to the fragmented bits of his last weeks. Shards of my broken heart have not yet worn smooth — they may never stop stabbing me — but most of the time now I feel so endlessly grateful that he was my dad.
And with that gratitude buoying me forward, I am ALL IN on pursuing my weirdness with aplomb in 2022 — an arbitrary turn of the page, but one I so desperately needed. And it is apparently my year: “Jupiter and the sunny energy it brings will move into Pisces, making the water sign destined to have the best year of all signs in 2022.” A life raft of a promise!
This week I turned to the first page of my new Many Moons planner with my new pen (in Sleestak green, my new signature color) and started some new plans. I allowed myself to dream again. I imagined a year of learning, creating, and nurturing wonder. Of releasing resentments, protecting my energy, regulating my nervous system. Of doing age-inappropriate things (I WILL master that damn shuffle dance!). Of a reading year finally worthy of my father (maybe even The Millions: A Year in Reading.) Of finding the courage and the dedication to go wander in the outerness more. Of diving deep into this land and taking advantage of the tremendous gift of living here.
(Sidebar: On the second day of the year, I spilled water all over my new planner. It’s supposed to be MY YEAR! WTF!)
I also have some fun changes in store for this space. I have been skipping about the house as my vision for this space comes to life. I cannot wait to show you!
The first feathered visitor to the freshly re-assembled winter birdfeeder gymnasium was a Carolina Wren. The first actual visitor was a squirrel. Barking season has started.
So has safety orange season. I will forever be horrified that this sacred land is open to hunters.
And the longest season of all, stick season, is in full swing. The leaves on the trees are long gone, revealing the things they hide from the summer visitors — pools of fresh water just feet from the road, a house deep in the thick of the trees, a usually hidden pathway into the scrub pines, a special winter-only vista to the back shore.
And it’s the time of year when I pull out all my seasonal supports. Winter does not come naturally to me the way that summer does. I must train for winter or I will crumble into a sad heap of despair topped with a faux fur pompom hat. Piled around me are wintery woodsy tinctures, flower essences for strength, herbal fire teas, deep forest green bath dye, and eucalyptus Epsom salts — all tools in my deeply personal winter apothecary. I’m diving into my winter reference books (On My Swedish Island and Staying Healthy with the Seasons, my worn-to-bits stalwarts). And this year, I’m immersing myself in an online course, Winter Food, filled with whispering videos of donabe pots and beef bone broth and fire feasts.
I booked a getaway — in a room that you enter through a wardrobe, C.S. Lewis-style — for myself at a place in the West End. I arrived with a bag full of warm clothes, a stack of books, a travel water color set, and a tray of brownies.
Layered in fleece, my Aran woolie, a neon green scarf, and the puffy down Sorel boots Instagram made me buy, I sat on the private deck and watched the sunrise and the sunset igniting the fires of Truro (the sun reflecting on the windows of the houses, something Mr. Thoreau himself noted.)
I stared at the water watching the tide turn, the edges of the water thinning and greening slowly, the wind catching the surf and pushing it along like a watery tumbleweed. I watched the choppy white caps of the ocean outside the harbor on a day clear enough to see across the bay to Duxbury. I watched the dogs run at Dog Beach where Stephen and I enjoy his care-free splashes through the flats in July.
I emerged only for breakfast in the sunroom and for happy hour by the fire, in a setting suitable for interrogations of a Christie-worthy cast of guests.
I read poetry about dead fathers, emptied my tank of tears, and felt blessed to have nothing to do. Through my mom’s binoculars, I looked at Long Point where I left my father’s stones this summer. I hope they are still there.
When I booked the room, I didn’t know my stay would coincide with the Leonid meteor shower. And I didn’t know the skylight over my bed would perfectly frame Leo (and Cancer and Gemini) in the night sky. I saw five meteors streaking across the sky in the darkness before dawn.
I got three vaccines in 12 days. We got our COVID booster two days after we became eligible. A week before, we got our flu shots, and four days later, I got my first shingles vaccine.
We discovered Stephen loves Vivaldi.
I’ve perfected the tight-lipped smile, a stall for time while I calculate the cost of telling the other person that COVID killed my dad. Sometimes I say nothing. Other times it feels like a punishment I can deliver in a swift strike to those who seem so carelessly selfish.
We have a flock of girl turkeys who sleep in the trees above our home. At dusk, they march down our clamshell driveway for their squawkingly awkward flight to their favorite branches. I count them to make sure they all made it through the day.
I ordered my amaryllis again in the way-too-early month of September: neon pink minis and green cybisters. And some muscari to plant in a container in the spring. And a few hyacinth bulbs — a perennial Easter gift from my dad — to force inside.
“Team Stephen’s Home Alone” — led by The Super Mr. while Nancy and I ate Tuscan truffle fries — won the first Squealing Pig trivia night since March 2019.
I took an online class through Atlas Obscura taught by a woman in Newfoundland from her electric blue and yellow kitchen, with foraged teas to start each class, cocktails to finish, and, in between, fascinating information on foraging and folklore. I learned how to make tea out of evergreens (tons of vitamin C!).
I also took a painting class and made a mauvy pink and golden fire marsh landscape that I like enough to frame and put on the wall. The next night, I furiously took notes on a lecture about tree failures on the Cape, or “how to prevent another tree from falling on our house.”
I bought a chestnut clip. And a set of hand-carved wooden American songbird calls. I also bought sparkly firefly solar lights for the front walkway. And a candle called Twin Peaks — scented with pine, fresh cut wood, and orange blossom.
Before Omicron rolled in, we Holly Folly-ed in sequined Santa hats, snooping through every corner in the open-housed inns and stuffing down holiday cookies and boozed up cocoa.
I made my own wreath this year and put up five Christmas trees. I wrapped everything we own in twinkle lights, which I’ll probably just leave through the winter.
We holiday-ed at our house. Unconcerned at Thanksgiving. COVID-tested and HEPA-filtered at Christmas, the date fortuitously planned just at the forward edge of the Omicron madness. It was a three-dog gathering with all the be-decked baubles and board games and The Super Mr.’s hot cocoa bar and Yorkshire puddings. I learned to play cribbage. My mom beat me at Chinese Checkers and my sister and I resurrected an old Mastermind rivalry. We played Hygge instead of watching TV. We feasted. And then feasted some more.
Then COVID came once again for my people. Friends with mild cases. Friends waiting for test results after exposure. A family member with a false positive. And then the news that my uncle — my father’s only brother — had been hospitalized with COVID. His fate is yet to be determined and my family is, once again, waiting in terror, stupefied that this is happening to us again.
Last I checked, we were being cautious and careful. I looked up and realized no one told me that now, NOW — of ALL MOMENTS — everyone decided to walk freely about the cabin.
And I’ve retreated back to watching Star Wars on repeat ever since.
I’ve been thinking a lot about:
“Give everyone their flowers while they are here.” — 2021 Many Moons planner
When you see someone’s light, tell them. If you take anything to heart, please let it be this.
“Yeats said a poem should click shut like a well-made box.” Nicole Sealey
The Sealey Challenge — reading one book of poetry a day for a month — is usually held in August, but November is a more suitable time for me. I was uncomfortable reading an entire book of a poetry a day at first. It feels like you’re supposed to do more pondering and thinking and savoring with a poem than with a story. And sometimes it is overwhelming to be surrounded by so many words.
I learned to read the notes and acknowledgements in the back first. And I discovered what a cento is. I do not like prose poems. I prefer poems describing color. Or birds. I like the physicality of words on the page and the sounds of the words as much as the meaning. And I went down a rabbit hole looking for the name of a font that has the most charming slanted hyphen.
Also, here’s some stuff:
Wordle. I’ve started playing this every morning to keep my brain just north of dull. Starting your day with a tiny triumph is something I highly recommend.
Suspect podcast. “An apartment complex hosts a big Halloween party with themed rooms and costumed partygoers. By the end of the night one of the party’s hosts is murdered.” True story. Disturbing. I have my opinion about who did it.
A few newsletters I always open: The Agatha Christie newsletter. All things Agatha Christie, a welcome break from the world. // The TueDo List. For us GenX women. // Ageist. A modern 50+ angle. // Million Gardens Movement. Gardening to save you and the planet. // Just to Delight. A light, cheerful read with dinner suggestions for the week. // Shelter. A fresh perspective on modern life. // The Mallorcan. I know this is highly specific, but I am desperate to travel again.
The second season of Wu Tang: An American Saga (Hulu). Are you watching this? Why aren’t you watching this? By far, the household favorite show of the year! // Love Hard (Netflix). I did not watch a lot of holiday movies this year, but I LOVED this one so much, I watched it twice. // Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles (Paramount+). As my soul sister, Dave Holmes, put it: this season “feels like something from the Saw franchise.”
I’ve binged a lot of low-brow, highly entertaining stuff lately: I Know What You Did Last Summer (Prime). Series remake of the film. Very twisty. I don’t do scary, and this one is right at the cusp. // One of Us is Lying (Peacock). Binged straight through to find out which one was lying about the death of their classmate. // The second season of Baptiste (PBS). A thrilling search for an ambassador’s missing family. // What to Do When Someone Dies (AcornTV). A husband dies unexpectedly and his wife (and only his wife) thinks something is amiss. // The Gulf (AcornTV). A very noir-but-with-sunshine New Zealand series. // The Beast Must Die (AcornTV). A child is killed in a hit-and-run and the mother goes to great lengths to find who was behind the wheel. // The final season of Lost in Space (Netflix). Spoiler alert! Parker Posey is back!
Molchat Doma. A Russian time machine to Joy Division/early New Order/Depeche Mode 80s with a moody broody vibe. Teenage Missy would have LOVED them.
Palm Beach playlist. “Transport yourself to the land of chilled martinis, panama hats, caftans, gold bangles, and well loved Belgian loafers with this mix of Ye-Ye, samba, and modern electronic.” Yes, please.
A few local things:
Stations of the Peaked Hill Bars. Snippets of poetry “inspired by Dennis Cunningham’s two-week stay in the ‘Boris’ dune shack, sponsored by the Outer Cape Artists in Residency Consortium and the Peaked Hill Trust.”
MLK Jr. Education Task Force Book Drive. My favorite local independent bookstore, Sea Howl Bookshop, is participating in this book drive for diverse books — especially centering Black and Indigenous children, families, and historical figures — for the third grade classrooms of Nauset and Monomoy elementary schools. Runs until January 17th.
The last word, according to Susan Sharon, because Big was always an asshole and this reboot is a complete drag:
Playlist: Training for the Dark Season. I gathered together a few podcasts that have been helpful in my winter training. Perhaps you’ll find them useful or inspiring, too. Godspeed!
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