Tuesday, June 3, 2014


You've had those days: The atoms ripple out of weft, just so. Everything looks the same but isn't, a dim facsimile revealed only after the world has resumed operation.

It's not like Santa Ana wind days, or Halloween. When I walked out my front door as a kid in the morning and the wind already blew hot toward the ocean, rather than cool and foggy off the water, the world changed, became taut and bristly, tilted farther, and you could count on strange outcomes, like an arsonist starting a nearby brush fire, by day's end.

Halloween was always fraught with oddity, especially as night fell red and cool.

But I expected those days to be different, and anything that happened, real or imagined, became product of their portent.

The days I'm talking about come without warning, and manifest many different ways. I detect them by looking backward, tracing their strangeness to the first events.

These last days have come with a lot of staring.

They started at church, when a man caught the spirit and began dancing during a song. Which is fine in many churches, except ours is not a dancing church, and this man dancing alone suddenly made the song very long. It's a song of high praise, so dancing theoretically is not out of the question, but since I was a kid it's the-song-the-congregation-watches-the-choir-sing-at-this-certain-point-at-Mass-before-a-lot-of-talking-commences. No dancing.

Then I sang the psalm. I'm a cantor — meaning I have a skosh too much vanity and not enough common sense — so I sing up at the side of the altar at the ambo, fancy word for lectern.

The choir director wrote the music for this psalm, simple and nice. I walked to the ambo like always, opened the book where the psalm was inserted, looked out briefly at the congregation like always, then down to the choir director at the piano at the corner of the congregation, like always, and waited for her to begin playing the phrase.

But nothing happened. The choir director stared at me. Just stared. I looked out at the congregation, waiting. Still nothing happened. Then at the director. She was still staring at me. I wanted so badly to shrug or smile or throw up my hands or gesture in some way, but I didn't dare. I just stood there, and the moments passed.

Was I supposed to begin this a cappella? Did I miss something, some instruction? Did the choir director miss giving some instruction?

The moments continued to pass. Finally, the director played the opening bars and the world resumed. We didn't talk about it after. Maybe it was a moment only I recognized.

Then Monday I returned a box full of art materials I was using for a class I taught. The organization I work for has its office at an elementary school, and the staff is used to me showing up every month or so to fetch items. They say hello, and in credit to their keen memory, sometimes greet me by name.

Not Monday.

Monday I made two trips into the office to drop off the bulky items. The staff stared as I walked in, then looked away.

The school year is running to an end and the office was stacked with piles of this and that, more crowded than usual.

"Where's the best place to put these so they're not in your way?" I asked.

"There's good," said a greeter who knows my name but didn't use it Monday, didn't say hello, didn't look up, started a conversation with a disembodied voice on the other side of a wall instead.

Atoms having shifted.

Slow drivers clogged the fast lanes, traffic lights stuck way too long on red. The barista could have found a nicer way to tell me the line was over there. The coffeehouse stared, atoms having changed places.

I post on facebook®© after every swim on a page for swimmers. But these days I struggle for something new to say about my swim, for enthusiasm to click through the other posts, even such enthusiastic posts, sharing their joy that I recognize but don't feel at the moment. Now some of those posters have created new offshoot swimming pages and made me a member, but I barely have time now to look at the posts I already receive.

The air is thinner, the colors washed out. Sigh.

Maybe we're all, all of us, just a bit tired. Maybe it's me.

Maybe it's just one of those days.


  1. We have them; I have them. I enjoy all of your swimming posts. One day I hope to take a swim with you in Lake Natoma. You have placed that in my imagination.

    1. welcome, zane. and i'd like to swim your way. well, maybe not with the catfish … ;)