I Have All I Need

Once again, I woke late this morning. When I opened my eyes, the view challenged the majesty of an enormous and elaborate stained-glass window in a church sanctuary. The sun had only begun to brighten the sky, cloudless but awash in muted oranges and blues and pale beiges. The sun’s light was not yet bright enough to cause me to turn my eyes away, but it was bright enough to seem imposing and otherworldly. The tangle of tree branches in front of the bright mass of emerging morning appeared like the dark strips of lead between pieces of the window’s glass.

Now that I again sleep in the master bedroom, the view when I awake is very different from that in the guest bedroom. For one reason, the heads of the beds are on opposite walls at opposite ends of the house. Because I usually sleep on my right side, my view from bed in the master is far more expansive. I leave the shades drawn around-the-clock because I love the openness. A voyeur would have to take great pains to get a look inside. And the view in the morning can be stunning, as it was this morning.

But usually I don’t see the view from bed. Usually, I’ve been up for at least a couple of hours before the sun begins to rise. And I have no view from my desk; I stare into the back of a dark wood over-desk credenza (that may not be the proper term; life goes on). So, perhaps I’m getting up late more frequently is simply to get better and more frequent views of the outdoors. If that were the case, I’d be affirming the concept that “things happen for a reason,” which I simply cannot do. Hmm. I’m not sure how that slipped in here.

At any rate, I’m now up and about and ready to tackle the day, but not necessarily at full throttle. I remain unsure about whether I can attend the Thursday morning gathering at church. I think I’ll just opt out, which will remove a little from my plate.

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Last night, I got a note from someone who visits this blog periodically, letting me know she is taking a break and going offline for a few weeks. We have communicated via email off and on for the last many months. Her decision to let me know she will not be visiting nor exchanging emails with me was kind; it will lessen my worry when I do not hear from her. I am, of course, quite curious about her decision to go off-line. But it obviously is none of my business; if she had wanted me to know, she would have told me. It is easy to understand why the imagination can take one’s mind on a wild trip on the back of a chimera. Simply not knowing triggers illusions with no basis in reality. Yet those delusions can gnaw at the serenity one might have gathered like a warming blanket around his shoulders.

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I enjoyed almost two hours of conversation with a couple of friends last night; our bi-monthly video-call during which the subject of beer comes up with some frequency. My friends each drank high-quality craft beers during the call. I consumed Shiner Bock. I learned that my friend in New England does not like West Coast style IPAs, nor does he enjoy Imperial Stouts (or, for that matter, Imperial anything) and he holds beer aged in bourbon barrels in contempt. His preferences are Saison, Farm House Ale, and Hefeweizen. And he has developed an affinity for New England style IPAs. My friend in the D.C. area does not like coffee flavor in beers. His preferences, apparently, are all other beers! đŸ˜‰ I like damn near all beers, though I go through phases when I like one more than another or I feel that I’m “done” with a beer style for awhile. But I always come back. I like Stouts (I’m especially enamored of Oatmeal Stout), IPAs (New England, especially), Brown Ales, Porters, some Lagers, etc., etc. The three of us will try to ship to the other two a different local craft beer so each of us can comment on the same beers during the next call, two weeks hence. I think shipping beer to friends is illegal and immoral and very possibly unethical, but I’m nothing if not weakly rebellious, so I’m in.

I really enjoy these video conversations with the two Jims. They are some of the only engagements of any length I have lately. It’s good to have brief interchanges with people, but it’s just not as satisfying as casual conversations with all the protective armor cast aside. Shortly after my wife died, someone mentioned to me (and I read in several “about grief” books) that I would be flooded with comments and visits by caring people who would bring me food and offer to do anything they could to help me deal with her loss. But, I was told (and read), that will not last. People will expect you to slide back into a routine before too long and they will have to go back to their lives as they lived them before the interruption to deliver kindness to you. And that’s right. People have their lives to live that, in the real world, do not revolve around me/you. Still, I miss the visits. I could initiate visits I suppose or, at least, phone or video calls, but I’m afraid that would intrude on their return to their real worlds. Catch-22 is an absurd, but very real, phenomenon. Besides, most of the people who reached out are married women and I am a little hesitant to send the wrong signals. Who would have thought that would enter my mind this late in life…that I’d have to deny “hitting on your wife?” But it would be even more embarrassing and dangerous if the charge were true.

Years ago, I think I heard about a “conversation service,” wherein people could call a phone number and get connected with someone with whom the caller could engage in conversation for as long as desired. The call was charged to the caller’s credit card, based on length of the conversation. I wonder whether that recollection is real or just another hallucination that becomes embedded in the part of the brain that stores memories? If my memory is correct, though, this service would have been advertised or written about in newspapers sometime in the late sixties or early seventies. At the same time, whenever it was, one of the day’s “hot topics” was loneliness; loneliness and its “cure” seemed to be on everyone’s mind. I doubt a telephone conversation with a nameless, faceless stranger on a topic that probably does not really interest her would be especially appealing.

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Pollen is necessary. But I wish it were not so. Everything in my world has a coating of yellow dust. Some things have a quarter of an inch of the stuff. Wipe the yellow dust off a glass table and the yellow dust turns black on the rag. And, then, the clean spot instantly is covered in a fine mist of more pollen. Pollen, it appears, is trying to take over at least this part of Mother Earth. And I cough. And I sneeze. And my eyes turn red and watery. And I curse and complain to Zeus that the world should not be thus. I was reminded last night that one of my two video-chat friends has a dog named Zeus. I don’t recall the dog’s name when they got it, but it began with a Z; obviously, they preferred Zeus. That’s how my mind misfires. “Look, there’s something shiny!” And off I go.

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I’ll end this lengthy spillage with this quote from a book I keep on my desk (The Essence of Zen: An Anthology of Quotations) to which I regularly refer for solace or support or to slap me in the face to remind me that I have all I need:

You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck!

~Rumi~

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to I Have All I Need

  1. David, that is such a good proverb! It’s good to be reminded of it and its message.

    Normal behavior, in the immediate aftermath of my wife’s death, was largely responsible for me maintaining what sanity I have left. The diminution in visits, etc. is normal, too, and to be expected. I hope I don’t experience gut wrenching grief again, but I won’t make a prediction. The heart does, regretfully, harden, but it never quite turns to stone. I owe you a drink or two, by the way! I have guests next week, but afterward I’ll check in to see if we can get together again.

  2. davidlegan says:

    Here’s a proverb that you have heard, but of which being reminded is usually a good thing:
    “Enough is as good as a feast.” book by Ardis M Marek

    The paragraph about friends visiting you in your bereavement (until they don’t) reminds me of my first crash in a motorcycle race. I took only a moderate fall…a “low side” which left me dazed but not seriously hurt in the grass to the outside of the turn. And all the rest of the riders simply continued the race. A couple of medics and two friends (who were not in that race) showed up to see if I needed an ambulance or undertaker or mechanic, but everyone else kept racing. When I realized that this was quite normal procedure which I had witnessed from the grandstands many times, I felt stupid for the immediate post-crash impulse to shout “Hey! What the fuck! Can’t you guys see that I crashed!” I guess the point of the story is that you will recognize this as normal behavior, should you ever again face gut wrenching grief. I also guess that you never again will. The heart hardens. Regretfully.

Please talk to me about what I've written. I get lonely when I'm the only one saying anything.

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