1. The football announcer is crying, squinting up from your lap through a smudged pane of Gorilla Glass, lamenting the diminished powers of the star quarterback.
2. You are seized by strange cravings at odd hours. You scour the supermarket aisles in the alien predawn and find you are not alone.
3. Of your three true friends, one has been distant lately, one eloped with a stranger, and one fired a bullet into his left temple.
4. You often dream of the dead. Sleep tethers you and forces you to listen as their voices crackle to life in your twitching mind. Grandma is there. Plump Grandma coddling you in the glow of a warm kitchen stove. The words spill out of her as your sleeping heart pounds. Hello, little gumdrop, she says. Funny little gumdrop. Hello, Grandma. Hello, after all these years. Your own grandma. Plump and gentle and fake as cardboard waves in a school play.
5. The Great Murmuration: It begins with a few thousand birds in northern Mexico then spirals its way up through the heart of the continent. Mile by mile, the great amalgamation sucks in dark flapping bodies until millions of them blacken the midwestern sky, painting shifting inky patterns on the cobalt twilight canopy, rippling and flickering without pause until, weeks later, birds start dropping from the sky, millions of them, a hailstorm of wheezing, spent bodies falling to the earth, mounting slowly into undulating dunes of emaciated downy breasts.
Watch the eyes of your children; they are nature’s most articulate harbingers. They may shift in their sockets, turning animal-like, coldly practical. They may fall to rest on you.
Trust your senses. Obey your instincts. If you have to gamble, get your money in good.
Remember that in certain lights it’s hard to tell if the lion is behind the bars or in front of them.
Forgive yourself. Forget that you got fat at trendy restaurants while lesser minds died in your name. Forget that you shrugged while the aching world turned.
Watch the eyes of your children. Trade the prettiest luxuries for the lowliest practicalities. Leave nothing behind.
In the coming season there is no room for pride.
Front page image by Ctd 2005.