Teri Orr: Adrift
September 4, 2015
It is the end of it all — of summer, of the moon cycle, of my garden, of the novel I have been reading. The week officially ending Park City summertime is this one — when Miners Day (known as Labor Day in other cities) has a parade and wraps up lazy days and long, conversational nights spent outdoors under the starry sky.
It has been a restless week for me. Sleep evades me. I blame it on the moon for being "super" in its pull. It is an illusion, but like all tricks of the mind, it has fooled me into thinking irrational thoughts. I imagine the moon is larger and brighter and more intense somehow. Science tells me this an optical illusion. But I understand how primitive cultures read such changes in the placement in the sky as A Sign. The circadian rhythms that lull us to dark and wake us with light seem out of sync when such a full moon dances around the house as the clock ticks away the hours. And I have a re-occurring thought — is the moon moving in the sky or are we moving on the planet? And why have we not fallen off — arms and legs akimbo — out of our beds?
Then, what Zen Buddhists refer to as monkey mind takes over. You know it — the constant chatter of drunk monkeys, jumping from branch to branch with incessant chatter. I tell myself it was the dinner out this night, ordering dessert (which I rarely eat at home) and a tiny glass of port (which I never drink at home). Maybe it was all too rich for my system. But what I hear are the voices of my monkey mind reminding me I have to finish writing a grant, pick up my broken (hopefully repaired) glasses, find that book I promised to share with a friend, clean out my car.
I am thinking I should just get up and turn on the light and try to finish the thriller novel I have been reading but really, if I do that, I should instead read the reports that have been trying to get my attention all week. They are in my work bag downstairs. So I lay there and hear the scratching and rustling outside on the still night. I am fairly certain I know who is in the yard, so I grab the giant flashlight in my room and step on my tiny deck and blast the light at the cottonwood tree. Sure enough — the raccoon family of nine or ten is climbing down the tree and though the leaves and onto the fences that connect three yards. We have a bit of a stare down — the mama and me. And she wins. But not before I tell her to please move on. I have sleeping to do.
And me and my monkey mind climb back in bed. I start worrying about a Facebook debate I had, just before I shut down the computer for the night, my night. It was a global discussion, started by a friend in Australia, who has attended the same conference I have annually for some time now. Ash was the wild man for years. Up the latest, bringing exuberance and mischief to the group. He tamed a bit with marriage and a bit more with the birth of his child. And on his post he said, in a sense, a la singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc, to "wake him up when it’s all over," but in this case, it was about the photo of the little toddler Syrian refugee who had drowned and washed ashore. He thought the photo was unnecessary media porn and it should be removed. And so the debate started — across oceans and time zones and without borders — about the occasional need of sensationalism to try and make sense out of a world that deflects the hard stuff.
So before the sun is up, I am… checking my Facebook account to find 17 people have joined the discussion since I fell into a restless sleep. None of the postings are disrespectful but there is great debate and universal sadness for the thousands of families trying to find safety in foreign lands.
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I shut the computer and lose the light and try to sleep some more but the images of those families, on rafts adrift in the ocean, make me wonder why I never thought much about how my great grandparents made it here from Ireland a century-plus ago. How they landed in a country where the signs in the windows said N.I.N.A. — No Irish Need Apply — which forced them out west. One to work on a ranch in Colorado and the other to become a beat cop on the Barbary Coast in the wildest days in San Francisco.
I am trying to sleep but the monkey chatter is becoming louder and tossing in my bed is nothing like tossing on the sea, but my spirit is somehow adrift. I could blame the tiramisu or the moon but I suspect it is something more cerebral and primal at once. I am not alone in feeling connected and adrift and restless, I suspect. Nor is the feeling unique to this time on the planet. In and on, the sea of humanity, we have longed to land safely on a welcoming shore. We can’t ignore those who seek safe harbors. We all did once even if the harbor was a land-locked mountain town where we could reflect on our family of man, freely, on Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.