Back home

For the month, I’ve been back in Stockholm.  From the moment I stepped off the plane I felt something shifting–this ever so slight adjustment to my perspective.  Moment by moment I could feel my self straightening, aligning and moving into some kind of balance.  


This is movement is slight, like a millimeter a day but after a couple weeks I wasn’t crooked.  My shoulders were straight, my legs were straight, my back and core were straight and I found myself in equilibrium.  


This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t irritated at times when I couldn’t get all three kids to agree on a single day’s plan or crazy happy when everyone had a good time when they thought they would be miserable.  The balance I’m talking about is a centering of my perspective at it’s neutral position.  A centering that isn’t overly stressed, overly concerned, overly worried or overly anything.  A center that is exactly in the center–exactly where it should be.


I lived through the same 14 months as the rest of the universe of course and just like everyone else I’ve been run down by it all.  In my mind, Covid has been this cat6 hurricane wind trying to blow us down to the point that we all look like the picture of the single solitary tree, sitting onto of a hill windblown to near horizontal–that picture that pops up in black an white on Instagram all the time in different incarnations–weathered and near beatdown but still standing.  Sure Covid has taken its toll on all of us but I don’t think that all it is.  


Death, suffering, economic injustice, racial inequality, lack of community, lack of purpose and lack of spiritual essence were always there, Covid simply nudged them into the daylight of everyday purview.  This beautiful life that we tell ourselves we live was caught in the lie it is, and the resulting emotion strain blew down our souls like the wind and that tree.  For fourteen months I’ve walked a crooked man’s crooked walk, everyday becoming more and more unbalanced.  


But now, here and now, I feel I’m standing straight again because I’m here.  From the air that I’m breathing to the lakes I’ve been swimming in, I feel myself pulled right.  It’s not that Sweden has magically solved its problems is some utopian society.  I’m pragmatic enough to not be so gullible.  Because Sweden is trying to be a society run by human beings who actually care about the outcome and not acting like it’s some tribal zero sum game they achieved a sense of equilibrium.  There’s a balance not because of some unachievable absolutism that the left and right in America are always hot in pursuit of, but because there is a compromise and ebb and flow and a desire to live a beautiful life.  And my god this place oozes with the stuff.


Ester doesn’t want to go back to the states.  I can’t say that I blame her.  I’m ready to come back home for good.  Why would anyone want to go back to that chaos when you could be surrounded by so much beauty.  It’s easy to look forward to the future when it actually feels bright.  Well, at least until it starts getting dark around here in November-ish.


Shot on a LeicaM7, Kodak Tri-X pushed +2 at the Icon.


New normal

I’ve lost count of the number of days since the sequester started.  When I consider it, I come to something like 60 days time has a funny way of playing tricks on you when you’re in a situation like this one.  The days don’t really start or stop–same with the weeks and now the months.  Time glides into itself, a ice-skating novice with too much momentum gliding across the ice, daring something to get in their way–daring something to stop them.  


And so are the days.  They effortless glide into each other and after a while you sort of stop counting.  I don’t know how it is for other people–honestly I hear all kinds of things.  Folks who are out of work, folks who have too much work and not enough time.  Folks who are scared.  Folks who are angry, bitter, sad, concerned, panicked and bored and happy and making-do and surviving and content.  It seems like life in the time of Covid-19 is all things to all people so surmizing some form of shared global human emotion through a couple paragraphs on a ill-kept blog doesn’t seem likely but I did want to share one thing that I feel qualified to impart.  My own thoughts on my time in sequester.  


When the stay-at-home order looked imminent, my work did pretty much whatever they could to enable us to work from home.  Some of that effort paid off for some, but not initially from me.  Eventually those initial failures bore more mature fruit and now I’m situated for roughly 90% of what needs doing from an iMac that sits on my kitchen table.  What I found immediately on my first day of true remote work was mind blowing.  Through being able to structure my day fully on my own time-table, I was able to not only complete all of the work that needed doing through the course of what would have been called a normal work day but considerably more.  Not only that but I was also able to take over mentoring Elliot in his school work, clean the kitchen after lunch, folding laundry and finding time to edit Ester and Ella’s essays for their various classes.  The fact that I finally had completely control over not just my work schedule but also my own schedule and could transition from one to the other whenever was needed was a complete revelation.  


After the first remote day I extended my “work” hours from 8am to 11pm continuing to allow myself to drift in and out of the work assignments and home assignments as I saw fit–maximizing my time and fully engaging with whatever made the most sense for the block of time I had open.  I’ve always been fast at what I do–faster than most but with the ability to fully structure my time I found that not only was I constantly two steps ahead of whatever needed doing, but that I was finding all the time I needed to be the father that I’ve always wanted to be.


AM and I have always joked that she should have continued on with her Commercial and Music Video Colorist career when we moved to Los Angeles and I should have stay home with the kids.  She loves being a mother and she’s amazing at it.  But if we had switched than I could have had a moment to be completely engaged with the kids in a way that you never can when you’re away from nine to six every day and often need to work on the weekends.  It’s juts not even the remotest of possibilities.  But flash forward to March in the year of our lord, two thousand and twenty and all of a sudden I’m finally getting to be the kind of father that I’ve always wanted to be.  I’m here for them whenever and however they need me to be.  Need help with your factoring homework, well fuck yes, let’s do that shit.  Need help with your essay on Dutch merchants of the 17th century, well fuck yes, let’s do that shit.  I am making lunches and snacks while rendering between Zoom calls.  I’m teaching Ella how to Ollie while caching 500gigs of DPXs.  I’m making dinner, checking my renders and folding clothes before I watch Bosch season 3 with Ester and AM at 10pm.  All of a sudden my days are twice as long.  I have 48 fucking hours in a day and I get to spend them all with my family.  


I am literally living the dream, because none of it feels real.  It feels completely fabricated in some sleep-induced dream-mill and any second I’m going to wake-up when my alarm goes off right before 6am and I’m going to wish it was real.  Because time is a problem for me.  It’s slipping away.  In fact it’s slipping away so fucking fast these days that I feel like I’m going to blink and I’m going to be 60 and my kids are going to be living their adult lives and AM and I will be alone.  Well, we’ll never be alone really–I suspect Elliot will always be either living with us or living extremely close by, but my other babies are a stone’s throw from leaving the nest and I’ll wonder where the fuck the time went.  Because it doesn’t make any sense.  It baffles me daily and I know I know I know that I sound like some geriatric-bound boomer when I say “oh where oh where oh where did the time go?  They were just babies I was cradling in my arms?”  


But seriously… WHERE THE FUCK DID THE TIME GO?  


It’s all slipping away and slowly, slowly, slowly a thought has metastasized from it’s birth as a small pebble knocking around in the shoe of my mind, to this all-consuming, all-devouring fear eclipsing almost every other though in my mind… that I’ve missed the most important years of my life pursuing career and status and station.  I would lay in bed, sleepless, restless, agitated and saddened wishing that I had made other decisions.  Wishing that I could change what obviously couldn’t be changed.  


And then enter Covid-19 and my second shot at redemption.  All of a sudden I can be the man I want to be.  I can be the father that I want to be and come hell or high water I know that–and it truly feels horrible to say so given that as of today, seventy-seven thousand people have died in America alone from Coronavirus–but I feel truly grateful and unbelievably blessed by the fates to have this time together with my family while we are all still living under one roof.  Have there been moments of frustration?  Absolutely.  Have there been moments of anger?  Absolutely.  But we’re dealing with ALL emotions together, truly living as a group of connect individuals depending on each other, not just for physical needs, like clothing, food and shelter but for our emotional well-being as well.  We love and anger and resolve as a family and many years from now, when whatever has transpired has transpired and we’re living our version of whatever life is at that point, I will look back on 2020 and remember first how grateful I am to have found time with the people I love most in the world, when I though there was no time left.  I’ll look back fondly on this “New Normal” and the moments it gave me and family together.


New Normal, shot on Tri-X 400 +2 with my Leica M7, processed at the Icon


Thought the looking glass

After the first week of quarantine there’s an interesting emotional dichotomy at play.  But this is about more than Covid 19 and quarantine so let me back time up a few weeks, to a morning I woke-up, completely disoriented, crying my eyes out.  


The kids were only a few year old.  Ester was maybe 5 which put Elliot at 7 and Ella at 3.  We were baking in the kitchen, cookies I think because I had on this apron that my mother made–a real 50s number with bold patterns, a susie-homemaker-shape and lace on the straps.  The whole kitchen counter was covered in flour and I had smears of butter and crusty dried sugar all over the tops of my hands, face and apron.  We had just slid the baking tray into the oven, or 5-year-old Ester had just slid the baking tray into the oven when she turned to me and said, 


“Pick me up!” 


Which of course I did and hugged her tight for maybe a second too long–taking a moment to smell her.  Any parent will tell you that they love to smell their children.  They don’t always smell great but there’s something about their smell that binds them to you.  A familiarity and a ritual from when they were just little babies.  Anyway I took a deep whiff of her batter streaked hair and then pulled back to put my nose against hers while I held her in my arms, staring into those deep green eyes. 


And that’s when I woke up and the tears came instantly–so much so that I couldn’t catch my breath.  No-one tells you when the last time will be that your child wants you to pick them up and hold them.  You never know.  One day just realize that you haven’t done it in a while and that while becomes and even longer while until you realize that it will never happen again because they’re 15 and they don’t want you to anymore.  So I cried my eyes out in bed–literally sobbing and choking because time is slipping away and I can’t catch it, can’t stop it, can’t even slow it down.  I am helpless and and I am scared and I am sad.  I look over to AM for some emotional support but she’s out cold.  I could kick her in shin and she would just roll over and mumble something about me stealing the covers.  


As quickly as the sobbing washed over me, it recedes and the shallow breathing subsides.  I get out of bed, put on my Birkenstocks, the black hooded jacket I always wear and head to the kitchen to make coffee.  I open the squeaky kitchen door carefully not wanting to wake anyone and immediately glance over at the oven triggering a second wave of intense sobbing.  I force the crying down down down into my core before wiping the snot dripping from my nose (and onto the floor I would later find) on the sleeve of my poor jacket, further solidifying it as my security blanket of choice.  Yes, I am a forty-something-year-old-man.  


Time has passed too quickly.  They kids are so much older now and while AM and I will always have Elliot, the same can’t be said for Ester and Ella.   Ella’s already trying to figure out way to ditch us so she can hang with her friends and in two years from now Ester will be heading off to college.  The rest of us will be trying to understand how we can continue to live a normal life after one of us is no longer with us every day.  The though tears me apart.  The unfairness of childhood going so fast.  The unjustness of having so few years with your children while they are actually still children.    


So when I got the news that we were being ordered to shelter-in-place, a feeling grew inside of me that can only be described as pure bliss.  The idea that we would all be together through this crisis–regardless of how dangerous and how lethal this virus is–made me happy.  Despite how incredibly difficult it is for five people to be confined to 1400 square feet for weeks on end, I knew that we would be together and for that I feel truly blessed.  Blessed because I’ve been given a chance to be present and available for all the hugs and kisses and fights and moans and groans that my family can collectively throw at each other during this quarantine.


Blessed to not be alone, passing through the looking glass of time, leaving behind a world that will only ever exist in my dreams.   


Shot on a LeicaM7, Kodak Tri-X pushed +2 at the Icon.

 

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