Sunday, September 11, 2022

Week in Seven Words #584

This covers the week of 3/28/21 - 4/3/21.

In her isolation, she has unraveled. She flails at imagined terrors, as they press in on her from beyond the apartment walls. 

Dozens of daffodils swaying by the field.

The vaccine website is a test in reflexes. New appointments wink into existence and are just as quickly snapped up.

One book stands out as a suitable gift. But even as I buy it, I get the feeling that it won't inspire enthusiasm.

A rainy haze on the river.

Visiting parts of the park I've neglected for a while, like catching up with old friends. Which trees have fallen, which paths are overgrown, and is the stream still full and flowing?

After creating a video message in another language, I review it multiple times, convinced that I've made a major grammatical error or mixed up two words in an unintentionally filthy way. But it seems OK.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Week in Seven Words #583

This covers the week of 3/21/21 - 3/27/21.

The season begins with crocuses, progresses to turtles.

Spiky seed balls plinking on car windshields and roofs, as if the trees are defending against an invasion.

Interesting to see who comments on the new glasses and who seems not to notice.

Two skateboards. On one, a young man holding a leash. On the other, a bulldog at the end of the leash. They skim along at a relaxed pace, both of them looking cool and poised.

Her brain is largely hijacked by alternate realities, other versions of herself that command her thoughts.

The superstore is a comforting place because it never seems to run out of anything. It promises abundance.

They all look like they go to the same hairdresser. Their hair is in the same ponytail, some threaded through a cap. They all wear yoga pants, short jackets, and big sunglasses, and they clutch a coffee in one hand, a phone in the other.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Week in Seven Words #582

This covers the week of 3/14/21 - 3/20/21.

Brown, crunchy, bristling paths, a clear view of buildings through bare trees.

Her relaxation: Diet Dr Pepper, feet on ottoman, British period drama.

His desk: cigarette burns, a ball made out of rubber bands, a lamp with an oversized bulb that gets too hot too quickly.

Sometimes it feels like we're on the deck of the Titanic, the music playing as the water rises.

Wiser in some ways, more bewildered in others.

The water has been drained from the basin, and a girl slides inside to explore the mud-encrusted bottom. Her dog barks frantically from a nearby bench. It's restrained and can't keep her in sight. It can't protect her from whatever awaits her in the mud and the smashed leaves.

Tense muscles seem to break apart slightly in the steam.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Week in Seven Words #581

This covers the week of 3/7/21 - 3/13/21.

In the largely empty bookstore, a teenaged boy walks in a slow, wide circle while reading out loud to himself through a mask.

A riveting sax solo brings joy to this corner of the park.

Today, there's frost in their relationship. It keeps their sentences clipped and cold.

Two seals circle the small tank without pause or release, as the demented bells jangle on the hour.

First new pair of glasses in a while, and I like how they look.

A crackling cloud of seagulls electrified by the promise of food.

Crusty buildings, haggard strip malls. The brownness of late winter and early spring, everywhere brown, waiting to be relieved by flowers, leaves, anything green.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Week in Seven Words #580

This covers the week of 2/28/21 - 3/6/21.

We're caught in traps of compulsive behavior – web surfing, phone scrolling, screen watching.

What looks like ice on the lake is only the glare of sunlight.

The eyes always come out too large in the drawings. Large, placid ellipses.

His body shakes with his need to talk, to have someone listen.

A land melting into mud and puddles that seem like ponds.

Months from now, I sense this worry will seem superficial, a distraction from larger problems.

A golden retriever finds us as we sit shoulder-to-shoulder on the sunlit bench.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Week in Seven Words #579

This covers the week of 2/21/21 - 2/27/21.

Two people at opposite ends of a room. They're holding books, but they aren't reading. When will they talk to each other?

It's the first time I've been to synagogue in a year. The room downstairs has been organized into islands of chairs. Some islands have one chair, others two. The service is quieter.

Birds taking off and landing on the feeders, while nearby a chunky squirrel stares, waiting his chance.

The slip squish of mud. Everywhere mud. Most people grumble, but one kid is discovering the joy of a puddle in a field caked in mud and slush. He's not the one who will be washing his clothes later, which is part of what makes him happy.

Sitting in the pool of warmth from an outdoor heater, the cold air pressing in but pushed back.

Our relationship has cooled from genuine warmth to superficial friendliness.
Tired of online events. The small, detached faces, the audio that fails, the lack of energy, the lure of other browser tabs.

Week in Seven Words #578

This covers the week of 2/14/21 - 2/20/21.

We used to sit in this room with its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and the lamplight on the red couch.

They don't have sleds, but they do have bellies, so they slide down the hill head first, eyes squinting against the dazzle of sunlight on snow.

Beyond the dense branches there's light, white and faintly purple.

The silence of snow falling. At the bus stop, he says a brief prayer.

She's gained access to the roof, and from there, she feeds birds.

The fact that I have a good night's sleep is worth commenting on. I don't take it for granted.

Without his job, his days have turned to jello.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Week in Seven Words #577

This covers the week of 2/7/21 - 2/13/21.

The role she's been asked to audition for is an improbable one: the effortlessly gorgeous, socially awkward female nerd who's such a dork but never really says or does anything unattractive, she's just, you know, a dork with glasses and fashionable heels.

The pond is clinking with ice, the shores crusty with slush and mud.

I meet him for the first time beside a tree with a heart-shaped knot.

Low branches turned to lacework by the snow.

The head and torso of the snowman are propped up on a bench, like a grim warning from the snowman mafia. ("Double-cross us, and you too will be disassembled before you melt.")

It's cute how the author thinks that pairing a character in his 60s with a woman in her 20s is edgy.

"My problems," she says, "are about not asking for help when I need it, and getting the kind of help that holds me back."

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Week in Seven Words #576

This covers the week of 1/31/21 - 2/6/21.

As the elevators fail to come for 15, then 20 minutes, I speak to a neighbor from down the hall who's waiting with me. Over the years, our conversation has never gone beyond greetings. Now we talk about how her ceiling is flaking as if it has a bad case of dandruff. And we talk about the pandemic (wouldn't be a real conversation without pandemic talk).

A dog urinates on the fallen head of a snowman.

Sitting with all of them is like hosting a talk show panel. I turn to each, ask questions, and give them time to speak. I serve as a moderator for interruptions and insults. There's no need for me to share anything about myself.

The center of the frozen lake has softened into dark, slushy water, like a pond inside the lake. Some geese are at its gray edges.

After the billows of the blizzard, there's a mesmerizing gentle snowfall.

They take a shopping bag full of crumbled bread to the lake, and within minutes, a goose-duck metropolis has sprung up around them.

After the dog's leg injury, they've set up a ramp for her against the couch. But she still tries to jump on and off, her energy at odds with her body.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Week in Seven Words #575

This covers the week of 1/24/21 - 1/30/21.

Instead of buying a pandemic puppy, she has gone outdoors more frequently to feed pigeons, easily summoned by crumbs.

Through video chat, I've become familiar with the view of his burgundy couch, the cat kneading a cushion before settling in.

A special blue-white winter light on bare branches.

A fumbled song on piano keys in an unlit room.

Heavy metal drives her anxious thoughts away. But they come back in her sleep, bringing her to consciousness on a rising wave of dread.

While working, I pick at a platter of figs, apricots, dates, and almonds, and I feel as if there should be palm fronds over my desk.

He's tried to trim the shrub to look like a cat. It looks like a vaguely feline creature emerging from a terrible green fog. But I like the effort.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Week in Seven Words #574

This covers the week of 1/17/21 - 1/23/21.

Running water in a denuded wood. The bareness makes us wish for a fir or a pine. There's only some greenness – crisp holly leaves by a splintering log.

His office is comforting and old-fashioned. The sofas are upholstered in blue and yellow, and in a glass case he's arranged a variety of charmingly odd statues. Dust is the dominant smell, with a hint of aftershave. The appointment takes a while, longer than expected, but I'm glad he isn't rushing through it. The results feel more exact.

She assumes I slept better because I stayed up reading a book. But the truth is I don't know why I sleep better on some nights and worse on others.

The wood chips from different evergreens give off a sweet aroma like mango.

I needed to hear that I have what I need. (Besides trust. I need more trust.)

I don't know what a given conversation will be like. Sometimes, it's about the pandemic and what's happening to the economy. Other times, it's about eggless cake batter and nothing else.

The heating unit that has been squealing is now purring.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Week in Seven Words #573

This covers the week of 1/10/21 - 1/16/21.

One chair rests on the ice, and the other two are partly submerged. The ice is thick enough to engulf them, to clutch at them and freeze them in place half-in and half-out of the water.

I'm not sure if what I'm doing will make things better. At the very least, I don't think it will make things worse.

I'm glad that I can still be delighted by blue jays. They're clear drops of color in a drab, cold world.

Amazing to see people cheering on an ever-broadening censorship from big tech companies, maybe because they think it will never apply to any of their own extremely correct opinions.

Testy and tense, a squirrel sits at the fork of two branches with a small stash of nuts. Thieves approach from all sides. In another tree, a squirrel plummets 15 feet and lands unharmed on mushy leaves.

He says his mind is bouncing between past mistakes and dire scenarios that may play out in the future, but he doesn't think much about the present. It doesn't leave an impression on him the way regret and anxiety do.

"My social skills are gone," she says, half joking, "and I'm never making plans again."

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Week in Seven Words #572

This covers the week of 1/3/21 - 1/9/21.

Tousled hair, face smushed into the pillow, cold air leaking in.

Applying for a job, she wonders how she can make her qualifications look more impressive. "Doesn't fall asleep during Zoom meetings, usually," is a good one.

Stay calm, and keep writing.

Whenever I hear from her, I think about how glad I am that we're friends.

Once seated at the piano, she merely stares at the keys. She doesn't know how to begin, because inside her there's no music, only knots of fear.

As soon as I start slipping into helpless spectator mode, I try to wrench my attention away from the news.

Buildings in the background, denuded trees in the foreground, and slick muddy paths that make the world wobble.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Week in Seven Words #571

This covers the week of 12/27/20 - 1/2/21.

As New Year's Day approaches, Duolingo is telling me something: "Fais plus de sport!"

I look over her shoulder at the computer game she's playing, Heroine's Quest, and I'm enchanted by its artistry. In one scene, the player character goes ice fishing at night against a backdrop of Northern Lights.

In the field, a hollow has filled with rain, and it looks magical in the gray light.

The stalls at the holiday market look like bright glass cubes. Most of them sell warm food, like apple cider donuts, or they display art, jewelry, and pretty knickknacks.

Some of the paintings crackle with life. Others are weak, supported mostly by the jargon in their captions.

Thankfully, they're feeling better, but they're still quarantined, their viruses mingling pleasantly.

Musicians try to pump some cheer into lackluster people. Not enough people for a crowd, and still too many businesses closed.

Week in Seven Words #570

This covers the week of 12/20/20 - 12/26/20.

Errands sweetened by puffs of cinnamon-laden wind from the vendors' carts.

"What's the point?" she asks. "What's the point of learning any of this?" And there isn't an easy answer. Telling her that learning can be good for its own sake would be a glib response.

With creeping wonder and dread, he realizes that his isolation has made him more like his father.

Kissing by an arched stone bridge, ducks in a gaggle and the water crisp with ice.

It's easier to talk about books, history, and other topics that aren't deeply personal. I don't often unearth the personal in conversation.

A towering snowman awaits us on the knoll. The next day, he's still there, looking less robust but still stubbornly upright.

When asked to rate his pain on a scale of 1 to 10, he hesitates before saying, "Pi" (a joke from a TV show he's been watching).

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Week in Seven Words #569

This covers the week of 12/13/20 - 12/19/20.

An app with a green owl mascot is helping me work on Hebrew writing and French reading comprehension skills.

She's painted the walls of her bedroom a dusky pink and hung up drawings of plants, from lianas to roses. The room feels more vital and cozy, as if everything in it is cupped in warm hands.

Of the dumb, shattering decisions people make, from which will they recover and to what extent?

A silver sheen on the lake and leafless trees.

The park is powdered, the paths slick.

I'm glad to hear she's feeling better. One virus dominates the headlines these days, but there are still others, like colds, flus, and stomach bugs – miserable, and sometimes very serious. 

The heat from the candles washes over my hands, and I feel cozier and more content.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Week in Seven Words #568

This covers the week of 12/6/20 - 12/12/20.

It's a major shopping avenue, and on normal years it would be teeming with people and sparkling with lights and sensational window displays. Now, only one store looks festive. The rest are subdued. It's a pallid celebration.

There are no more turtles in the pond. Only dark, frosty water with ducks.

Increasingly, we talk about interesting lectures he's heard on different Jewish topics. Familiar texts still have a great deal in them that we haven't explored and considered.

A walk by the river: joggers, people with strollers and dogs, and, yet again, dead fish glistening belly-up in the water. Later in the week, a milky fog swallows up the river, and the fish are gone.

This is the season of fattening. Of cold and carbs and holiday treats.

She doesn't realize that the venom of her jealousy keeps them at a distance.

Minding the gaps: I want to make better use of gaps in my schedule, like the hour between two meetings. What "better use" means would vary from one day to another: answering emails, doing some research, closing my eyes for a short while.

Week in Seven Words #567

This covers the week of 11/29/20 – 12/5/20.

The basin has been drained. It's encrusted in dirt and leaves like diseased skin.

Wake up in a low, grubby mood. Getting to work immediately helps.

I love the tree that's still bright yellow, a flame awaiting winter with confidence.

Waisting, sleeting – two seven-letter words, both last minute, that win her the game.

A drone hovers outside the window. Is it filming us? Where is this boundary-wrecking insectile contraption from?

They stomp around on a lawn caked in wet fallen leaves. They're ecstatic at the crunching, the crumpling.

Sometimes, what connects people in these socially distanced times, is the smell of Frosted Coconut Snowball hand sanitizer.