Right before I typed these words, I paused the podcast episode of 70 Over 70 focused on the writer Russell Banks, 81 at the time of the interview. Before I thought I should jot a few notes here on the challenges today of focus, of giving myself permission to … do … just … one … thing.
At a time. Not serially, which is the way of life. Our current situation offers us so much attraction (or is it distraction?), from streaming video to podcasts to email and social and (imagine this) reading a book, the biggest challenge for many of us becomes deciding. Which will I do, and can I invest myself fully in that stream to finish it, or at least take it to a logical point of pause?
As I write, our region of the world is enduring a heat wave of memorable proportions. The pattern, here in the Columbia River Gorge, is to engage short spells of high heat that serve as punctuation in the stream of consciousness that is cool air flowing from the Pacific Ocean up the river’s channel to Oregon’s eastern deserts.
It’s natural air conditioning. I love it. Until it stops. Then I have to figure out what to do with my days, because no wind means no windsurfing. Do I contradict myself to say that hot spells also are a blessing in disguise, as much as I love my windy sport, because suddenly I have time to just read a book or magazine article. Or … well, you saw the list of options already.
So, after a morning run with my dog, I took the liberty of parking myself beneath the overhang of our deck with a glass of iced coffee and Julie Otsuka’s “When the Emperor Was Divine.” Great book, so delicately observed, so sad and tragic a depiction of one family’s experience with internment during World War II. By all means, read it. And reflect.
Then it was an article in the New Yorker about the environmental tragedy of shipping containers tipping from ships into the ocean. That article segued next to Banks and trying, as I listened, to read George Saunders’ Substack. While editing a short story I’ve been working on. That is NOT focus. The mind was NOT made for that much multi-tasking.
The congestion ultimately pushed me away from all of that to yet another diversion — the writing of this blog post.
It’s hotter than ding-dong outside. Think I’ll corral the dog and chase some cool water. I need to calm my fidgety appetite for mental input.