A warm wind this morning and a buttermilk sky to the east. Floating through my mind since I woke up, a song fragment: “A storm is going to come, a storm is going to come…” No idea what it’s from. And not likely anyway.
After my grandfather went blind from glaucoma, he used to sit out under the chestnut tree in our backyard reciting poetry to himself, a balding old man with watery blue eyes, a grizzled jaw, and a red wool scarf wrapped around his neck. Coming from a generation where memorizing the great classics of poetry and oratory was part of public school education, he knew a great many, but now and then his memory would fail him, and he would start calling out for his daughter–my mother–to track down a fragment. She’d haul out Barlett’s Quotations and the Dictionary of First Lines and send my brother and me scouring through them, while she hit likely poetry books. Nobody rested until the poem was found and read to my grandfather. It was worth it to see the relief and delight sweeping across his face.
And now? I simply call up Google, type in “song fragment, a storm is going to come,” and there it is, a song of the same name written and sung by Piers Faccini…which I can then listen to on YouTube to be sure it’s the right one. Ah, sweet relief. My children are going to have a lot easier time of it when they have to go in for fragment identification.
Two days in a row now I’ve ignored doctor’s orders and walked on the treadmill for half an hour. While it isn’t helping the numbness in my foot, the numbness of my mind is immeasurably better. Odd that I can walk on the treadmill without a lot of pain but not in the great outdoors, but that’s how it is right now. Have just returned from an appointment with Frank, a physical therapist known far and wide among members of my HMO for his excellent diagnostic and treatment skills and affable nature. Frank cares–or does a damn good imitation. He explains his recommendations in detail, with supporting anatomical and physiologic evidence, stick figure drawings, and a big dose of optimism. And he remembered me from four or five years ago. I felt better just talking to him. What a difference it makes to be human first, a health care professional second.
Frank told me to keep using the cane, checked the height, explained the best way to walk with it. It’s funny how it disarms people. On the way back to the car, three different men said hello to me. I’m sure they would’ve carried my groceries if I’d had any. Old age does have its compensations.
At home, I made a cup of coffee and sat down to read the morning paper, which was full of stories demonstrating what we all already know, that inequality rides triumphant in the country and the world. I hate it, but have little idea what to do. Herman Melville wrote,
We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.
No action equals no change. Yet, as Norris describes in her discussion of “Dark Night of the Soul” by John of the Cross,we can come up with a thousand reasons for inaction:
At the first sign of difficulty or obstruction you try to think of ways to move past it, but at every turn you defeat yourself, shooting each fresh idea down as unlikely to work. How foolish of you ever to have believed in that person, that project, that God. You tell yourself that whatever may have worked in the past won’t help now, and you grow cynical in your despair. At the second stage, you are severely tempted to abandon whatever once gave your life joy and meaning. This is a time of great spiritual aridity, when desire itself seems dead and forsaking hope seems the only adult thing to do.
—Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me, p. 231
One reason I want to get better is that these ideas go on a joyride in my brain when I’m isolated. To feel power and motivation for change, I need other people around me wanting it too. In this high-tech society of nearly instant communication, we tap in code on the walls of our rooms when we should be flinging open the doors.
There is a crack, a crack in everything/ that’s how the light gets in.–Leonard Cohen