I’ve been awake for more than an hour and up for half an hour. And it’s only 4:30 a.m. This is not what I planned for Saturday. I planned, instead, to get up around 5:30, have a couple of cups of coffee, and ease gently into the day. The day includes another off-site breakfast, this time at a restaurant of my wife’s choice in Benton. Then, I’ll return home to do “chores” I have committed to complete. But here’s what’s really on my mind at this hour.
After our friends’ visit next week, I intend to get slim in body and healthy in attitude. And I will write. I will write with ferocity and conviction. I will dig up the corpses of characters I’ve conceived in months and years past and I will ask them to finish telling me what they wanted to say. And they will. They will tell me what they want; what they have always wanted but have been unable to attain. They will explain the obstacles to achieving their dreams and desires. I will explore these people like a detective examines a crime; every relevant bit of information will find its way into what I hope will be gripping tales, driven by character, not simply by plot. But this will involve asking and answering uncomfortable questions, questions that risk tearing away masks that hide secrets that want to remain hidden.
All that is for later, though. Today, upon our return from breakfast, I intend to finish painting the guest room. That task, one I thought would be quick and easy, has taken up far more energy and effort than I expected. The prep work, alone, took enormous time and a toll on my arthritic hands and bad knees. Blue tape protects the molding around doors and windows and contractor’s craft paper protects the floors. I painstakingly moved the furniture away from the walls to the center of the room, thinking that would make the job easier. I should have simply emptied the room of its contents; THAT would have made the job easier. But I didn’t, so I will file that bit of advice in my brain for the next project.
What else is on my mind at this quiet hour? Heat and humidity. Still, stagnant air and the way it tries to smother happiness. The fatal mistake that scorpions and snakes make by slipping into my garage at night. The absence from my refrigerator of cool, refreshing, sparkling mineral water right now, when I need it.
Those unrelated mind jags are what I mine from the depths of my brain at this moment. There are other thoughts spilling out, too. I wonder whether humans truly have the capacity to understand and accept their own mortality? Intellectually, yes, but can we comprehend the reality on an emotional level? And how is it that we can define what is and is not moral in so very different ways? Not just culture to culture, but person to person. And a news item I heard on NPR yesterday is on my mind: it reported that the National Institutes of Health had lifted a moratorium on research that would explore the creation of embryos that are part human, part animal. I find such an endeavor both fascinating and frightening; actually, it is what triggered my questions about the moving target that is morality.
And, finally, my mind is circling around the concept that I can choose at any time to change who and what I am. The future rests not so much on the past, but on the present. That’s a hopeful thought and one I choose to embrace, now that the digits on the electronic device that measures time have edged past five o’clock.