Fragments of Facts and Flesh

Yesterday was an absolutely delightful day, the kind of experience one hopes every summer day will deliver. Except, of course, yesterday was not a summer day. But the temperature felt like it. I think the air temperature exceeded eighty degrees, the upper limit of what summer temperatures should be. In my imagination. The one that runs away with me. But, according to the weather futurists, today’s temperature will barely reach the mid-fifties. And the next seven days will see temperatures hovering in the fifties every day but one or two, when a rush of warm air will rocket the temperature into the sixties.

This radical change in air temperatures was delivered some time around midnight last night. It was then that thunder and lightning jolted a peaceful sky into a roiling cauldron of Nature’s rage. Raindrops pierced the atmosphere like razor-sharp arrows, tearing the air into disconnected fragments of oxygen and carbon dioxide and abject fear. Molecules, too, can be afraid. Afraid of being shredded into scraps while the weather gods throw tantrums unmatched in fury and spectacle.

Even this morning, more than six hours later, the growling aftermath of last night’s explosive Natural rage stabs the sky, releasing sheets and rivulets of tears.

I hope the water from the sky washes away the pollen that has been collecting for days and days. Pollen drifts, as deep as time in places, have threatened to suffocate me in the yellow powder. I pray the sky has flushed away the Springtime plague; but I know better. Wet pollen will coalesce into pollenstones as hard as diamonds and as permanent as coffee stains left to set on white linen.

The sounds of the rain and thunder this morning are at once distracting and orgasmic. They take me places I see only in my imagination and they thrill me in ways only sensual, erotic magic can. Yes, I think I am deviating from my original intent; exploring the changes in weather and, by extension, myself. Because I am, like all of us are, a different kind of weather.


A few years ago, a more or so before we moved to Hot Springs Village, I awoke one morning to thoughts of feathers. I wanted to know more about feathers. And so I explored. Here’s part of what I wrote:

Feathers consist of barbules, barbs, hooklets, rachis, afterfeather, downy barbs, and calamus (the hollow base).  And there are many types of feathers. There are tail feathers, flight feathers, semiplumes, filoplumes, bristles, and downy feathers.  Feathers, like fingernails and hair, are made of keratin.  So, if my fingernails and hair are made from the same “stuff” as feathers, why can’t I fly? The answer to that question may be more than I can handle, emotionally.

I remember writing that, roughly seven years ago. The fact that I so vividly recall exploring and writing about feathers (though the “exploration” was only about as deep as I’ve just written), must have some special meaning. Right? Or was it just a coincidence that I invested time and thought into feathers and, later, remembered it so well? I think my memory may have something to do with the fact that, just a day or two ago, I thumbed through a book of poetry, Wingspan, written by my friend Kai Coggin. Wings and feathers are inseparable pairs. Maybe that’s what my recollection was all about. The inseparable pair that once was John and Janine, but now is only John. John is a fragment, a piece of something whole that cannot be reconstructed.


If I had known many years ago what I know now, I would have taken and preserved at least one photograph every year on April 13, beginning in 1980. The photo would have featured my wife, smiling a celebratory smile. And, if I had had the wherewithal, I would have had another photo take of the two of us, smiling and toasting the ongoing celebration of our time together.

What I know now that I did not fully understand then was that those photos might have sustained me over the years; both the years already gone by and the ones yet to come. I might have looked at the photos each year and allowed my heart to swell in gratitude for the joys I knew but did not sufficiently appreciate at the time. Every year—in fact, every day—was a gift that should have been etched in my mind. Photos on every anniversary would have given me tangible encouragement to give my incredibly good fortune the ongoing appreciation and recognition it warrants.

I appreciate receiving words of sympathy and encouragement, but what I think I need more than anything right now is time alone with my wife’s memory.  I will make that time.


This morning I have an appointment with an attorney who, I  hope, will help me wade through the molasses of bureaucracy that is keeping my wife’s “estate” shredded into pieces that I simply want to weave together again. That was an unnecessarily long sentence. But all sentences are. “They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom…” A song phrase from Leonard Cohen’s First, We Take Manhattan. Yet these words from Death Cab for Cutie’s I Will Follow You Into the Dark are not so much sentences as they are promises:

Love of mine
Someday you will die
But I’ll be close behind
I’ll follow you into the dark

I know, of course, some people think the tune—its lyrics, at least—are morbid. I think otherwise. The lyrics are simply fragments of a love song bathed in reality. The fact that an appointment with an attorney morphed into a philosophical brush with mortality should explain my dilemma: I cannot help but see the connections between almost everything. It’s like an ever-more-tangled web of overlapping attachments.

Speaking of attachments, yesterday I happened to read a detailed, blow-by-blow account of my surgery around Thanksgiving 2018, during which a tumor and the lobe to which it was attached was removed from my right lung. How I can to read the account is unimportant and, frankly, impossible for me to remember. What’s important is that I read it. And I read the the surgeons encountered considerable amounts of “adhesions” in my chest cavity; they presumed the adhesions were caused by the much earlier double bypass surgery. I have felt the effects of those “adhesions” for years now; it’s like having something inside my torso “catching” on something else, creating stress and pain.


I feel like writing and writing and writing this morning. But, instead, I must quickly clean up and get ready for my trip to see the lawyer. I’ll take my checkbook; she charges obscene fees for work that a poorly trained legal assistant trainee could do. But I’m not bitter. Not in the least. Not at all. Sure, drain my bank account because…hey, you can.

Off to the wars.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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