in the tubes
ferret poetry, blessing this mess, and a fresh batch of weirdly specific holidays
Between writing ferret poems (see below) and dealing with some reproductive-organ–related medical issues, I’ve spent a lot of time lately reflecting on tunnels and tubes. We—humans, writers, artists, consumers of creative work, havers of living bodies, lovers of our loved ones—tend to focus on the end of the tunnel: the published book, the big announcement, the college diploma, the cured disease. The moment the ferret’s nose emerges, triumphant, smudged with dirt.
All of these moments are extremely important and important to share. But so often, they’re all we show each other. All we see. Even though we spend 99.9% of our lives, if not more, in the tubes.
If your only interactions with me come through this newsletter or social media, you might believe I am twinkling, cruising, prolific. Crushing it, in a low-key, small-time kind of way. And in rare moments I am. And most of the time, I am not. I am ill, my dudes. Ill, and exhausted, and depleted, and sad. I’ve had to set down my deepest-heart-and-soul writing project and I don’t know when or if I’ll ever pick it up again. Opportunities I’ve dreamt of for years are passing me by because I’m too sick to pursue them. Most of the work I submit for publication is rejected; that’s just the mathematical reality of submitting work. I tell you all this not for pity or attention (please, no, do not) but to emphasize that I exist almost exclusively mid-tunnel, like we all do.
I love celebrating with you each time a tunnel ends. Your encouragement and delight are the glow that guides me onward. And the end of the tunnel is just that: the end. The hours each day we spend sniffing and clawing and writhing and exploring and gnawing old bones and licking our wounds and plodding onward and making wrong turns and collapsing and quietly resting are life, too. In fact, they’re most of it.
This newsletter is still, well, new,* and finding itself, figuring out what it wants to be. I don’t know what its final form or tone or focus will be, or whether it will even ever stop shifting. But I do know for sure that I will always want it to be honest.
Living is hard; living exclusively at the end of the tunnel is impossible. I want us to give each other, and ourselves, a little more grace. To share more of our mid-tunnel moments, when it’s safe and appropriate to do so. To remember that what we see is never all there is.
things i’ve written
A very long tunnel, and the end of it: My micropoems about Felicia, the Fermilab Ferret** are up now at The Last Word On Nothing.
ICYMI: I interviewed the Atlantic Ocean last year. We both ended up crying.
tenderness toward existence day(s)
The list of obscure holidays I shared last month generated more feedback than anything else I’ve written in this newsletter so far, which suggests that perhaps it should become a regular feature. So: here’s what’s happening in the next few weeks.
National Napping Day—3/13
Save a Spider Day (also Pi Day, Bake a Pie Day, and Learn About Butterflies Day)—3/14
National Corn Dog Day (also National Awkward Moments Day)—3/18
Take a Walk in the Park Day—3/30
Tater Day (also International Hug a Medievalist Day)—3/31
March 31 is also International Trans Day of Visibility, an observance that is neither frivolous nor obscure but is still an occasion for joy (among other things).
Thanks for sticking with me all the way to the end. I’m so glad you’re here.
*Does that make it a new sletter? What was the old sletter like? (I will not apologize. You knew what you were signing up for.)
**Felicia is my favorite mustelid in physics history, but the weasel that shut down the Large Hadron Collider is definitely a very close second.
small magic will always be free.
I loved reading this : )
It's dark in these tubes Kate, and I've been trying to tap out messages, but since I never actually learned morse code, I'm worried that my request for help will end up as a very puzzling, dirty limerick in the hands of a thoroughly baffled cryptologist.
I watch a lot of videos of cabin rides in trains. You get to see what the driver of the train sees. I find them relaxing, and I like the sound of the train. It's my favourite mode of transportation.
Sometimes there are a lot of tunnels, and these used to annoy me, because I'm a bit impatient. But with one particular video that had many tunnels, I sort of surrendered at some point. I let myself sink into the gloomy atmosphere, just kind of drifting. But then the light would appear, just a pin at first. Before I knew it I emerged from the tunnel and I'm thrown into the most beautiful vista. It's always worth it.
I agree that life is mostly tunnels, but without them we wouldn't appreciate that jolt of exhilaration each time we come out of one.
Also, I don't think it was possible, but you've made me love mustelids.