This morning’s moment of awe came when I paid close attention to the act of swallowing my daily dose of tablets and pills. Having very little patience, I do not swallow them one by one. Instead, I pour them into my palm, throw them into my mouth, and take a big gulp of water. In one fell swallow, the drugs begin the journey:
- the tongue pushes the pills to the back of the oral cavity by pressing against the palate;
- the nasopharynx is sealed off and the larynx is elevating, enlarging the pharynx to receive the pills;
- the pharyngeal sphincters contract sequentially, squeezing the pills into the esophagus;
- the epiglottis closes the trachea;
- the pills move down the esophagus by peristaltic contractions, past the lower esophageal sphincter and into the stomach.
The only conscious decision I make in the process is the one involving the tongue. After the pills get to the back of the oral cavity, an automatic system takes over. I did not write the bullet points above from knowledge or memory. I had to rely on The Neurology of Swallowing to guide me through the stages of swallowing. Had I not looked up the process of swallowing, I would have guessed at the physiological systems involved in transporting material from my mouth to my stomach. Thanks to teachers long ago, I would have gotten significant parts of the process right, but I would have overlooked some of the most crucial. The fact that people actually study and understand the complexities of swallowing is a wonder in itself. Life, itself, is awe-inspiring.
As I type this and drink a few sips of coffee, I pay attention to what I am doing. It transports me in some fashion to a different level of consciousness; an awareness of an action I take for granted and rarely appreciate for its mystical wonder.
Platonic is defined (in one sense) as “intimate and affectionate but not sexual” or “purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes.” I think the term is simply a label attached to a specific spot on a spectrum of intimacy. Platonic friendships can morph into passionate relationships, just as concupiscent engagements can wither into indifferent partnerships. That is, passionate and platonic are not necessarily steady states; they can slide along the spectrum of intimacy, changing in parallel with the depth of the relationship.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “friends with benefits.” Generally speaking, in our society, the phrase and the behavior it describes are looked upon unfavorably. Again, though, our social rules are not necessarily carved in stone. Morality is a flexible construct. While I might (or might not) find the concept offensive today, that attitude might be different tomorrow. And it might have been different yesterday. I wish all people were more open and receptive to new ideas or revisiting old ideas already deemed immoral or unseemly. Even those of us who claim an open-mind live within spheres built of artificial mental boundaries.
And, then, the dog interrupted. Bob and I are not suited for each other after all, I think. Last night, at 1:45 a.m., Bob came into the room where I was sleeping and woke me. He pranced a bit with this two front paws, making me think he needed something. As I got out of bed, his prancing grew more animated. I quickly got dressed (more or less…at least I wore casual house pants, a t-shirt, and slippers), attached his leash to his collar, and took him outside. Aside from a bright streetlight and a brightly-lit house across the street, the street in both directions was dark. Very dark. I took Bob for a short walk, nonetheless, whereupon he demonstrated why he was in such urgent need of going outside. Fortunately, I was carrying gloves and a double-bagged sack from Walmart.
Bob is too big and demanding for me; I’m contentedly set in my ways. My morning routine is completely out of kilter. While taking him for walks is pleasant (except for his incessant pulling and that one late-night emergency poop patrol), I have begun to think morning walks alone, without the distraction of a dog peeing every forty feet and barking at distant dogs and a hundred other diversions, would be more peaceful and thought-inspiring.
Bob need much more activity than I can give. He needs a big yard to play in. He does not need to be cooped up in a house for most of the day, with or without human companionship. As much as I like Bob and enjoy his company, I have almost reached the conclusion that he needs someone with more space and more willingness to walk him several times a day. And take him for rides in the car; he loves car rides.
I think I may foster Bob for a while, just so he does not have to return to a kennel with very little room to roam and inadequate human company (though, as I understand, the Animal Welfare League volunteers do take their dogs out for walks and otherwise treat them well). We’ll see. I thought I wanted a dog. And I think I still do. Just a smaller, less physically needy dog. I think. I wish I could magically find Bob’s original human companion and reunite them. I can’t help but think someone is missing Bob deeply, just as I think Bob misses someone who used to be in his life.
Two dreams last night stuck with me, at least in parts. In one of them, I was asked to buy a clothes hanger system for a girl who was going away to college. I never saw the girl, nor did I recognize the woman and her other daughter who asked me to buy it. The hangers comprised an ingenious system wherein the hangers were loosely attached to a rail that had multiple sections. Each section of rail expanded out of the section to its left, creating a very long rail when fully extended. The hangers’ design was traditional, except for the top; instead of a curved “hook,” the top was designed to slide onto the bottom section of the rail. It was ingenious except that it was made entirely of plastic; I thought it would not stand much use before breaking. But the woman insisted I buy and install it for her daughter. I do not know how or where it ended. Odd, that dream.
The other dream involved my late wife and me making some sort of frozen dessert and selling it to a bakery. We delivered it, but the passageway from the store’s entry to the area where the freezer was located was too narrow for me to pass through; so my wife when down that passageway and I went through another entry. When we started to unload our products into the freezer, we discovered it was completely filled with other products and, mostly, frost. It must have never been defrosted. Again, I don’t know where the dream went, nor how it ended.
Do dreams actually end with some sort of resolution or natural conclusion? Or do they simply stop, as if they were recorded on film that was suddenly cut in the middle of something important or relevant or meaningful? I’ve often wondered about that. Many people find stories of others’ dreams boring. I find them fascinating. I can envision a dream-sharing group, just two or three or four of us, sitting around a table relating our memories of our dreams. We could then guess as what they might “mean,” as if we have any way of knowing what or whether dreams have any meaning at all. But it would be fun, I think. The conversations would be great over coffee. Or wine. Or something else.
A friend from the DFW area plans to visit in early April. I think I’ve met her only once, face to face, but I’ve followed her on Facebook for quite some time. She writes poetry, which is how I came to know her. My wife and I learned from another friend that this woman was going to read her poetry at a library event. We decided to go. I was impressed with her reading and have followed her, off and on, ever since. She has wanted to visit Hot Springs for years, apparently, and the fact that I am here and have a guest room helped make her decision to come. She may come with a friend; that’s up in the air, I think. She wants to go for day hikes; I told her I might be game, but my stamina may not permit it. I may suggest to my sister-in-law that she give my friend guidance and possibly accompany her on day hikes. My sister-in-law may read this before I mention it to her. That’s the thing about blogs; they sometimes tend to pre-communicate.
I finished watching To the Lake, a Netflix Russian-language series, last night. To save myself and readers the trouble, here’s how Wikipedia describes its plot:
Residents of Moscow are infected with an unknown deadly virus, the main symptoms of which are coughing and discoloration of the eyes, and after three to four days, death occurs. Nobody knows how to resist infection. The capital of the country is covered by an epidemic, gradually turning it into a city of the dead: there is no electricity, money has lost its value, chaos and lawlessness reign everywhere and gangs of marauders are gathering, the media are panicking, and those who are not yet infected are desperately fighting for food and gasoline. The city is being quarantined; all entrances to it are closed.
Fleeing from the epidemic, Sergei, along with his new lover, her autistic son, his own son, his ex-wife who could not forgive him, his father and the neighbors who joined them, go to Karelia. There, on a desert island in the middle of Vongozero, they want to hide from the threat of contamination in a refuge ship.
Against the background of a terrible global catastrophe, a cruel family drama is also played out. People who normally would never have been under the same roof must now unite to try to escape the growing epidemic. On the way, they will not only face various dangers, but also overcome family troubles, learn not only to survive, but also to forgive.
I found the series (only eight episodes of about 45 minutes or an hour each) fascinating. It is based on a debut novel by Russian writer Yana Vagner.
I think it’s about time to devour a bowl of bran flakes. In an earlier time, I might have made shakshuka, but it’s not as much fun to cook for one as it is to cook for a couple. My wife sometimes enjoyed my forays into international breakfasts, but more often than not she simply put up with them (or opted to eat something else, much to my dismay). But having her here to watch or, at least, view the finished dish was always gratifying. I miss her so much in so many ways. Until just now, I was ready to charge into the day; now, I’m splintering.