I feel depressed this morning. There’s no etiology to my mood. Though there are plenty of things that could be partly responsible for it, I don’t think anything is to blame. I sometimes feel like nothing matters. But then, suddenly, the heavy grey blanket is pulled away from me and I can see and appreciate the blue sky. Not this morning, though. I want to see the blue sky and I want to feel and appreciate all the gifts of life that surround me. And I will. But not now. I wish I could flip a switch so that an electric current could flow through me, supplying energy and power to the emotions I want to feel. But I cannot find the switch. I feel around the doorway in the dark and it’s not there. I wish that, by walking through a door, I could instantly erase my existence from before I was conceived. Not like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but in a more realistic sense, like no one was impacted, positively or negatively, by my existence…that never was. This is not new. It happens on occasion and it always fades into memory. Not entirely gone, but not being so assertive that it invades my otherwise sunny disposition.


My brother’s death last week was expected. Even after several days of allowing reality to sink in, though, it’s still hard to believe he died. It’s difficult to come to grips with the fact that he and I will  no longer engage in conversation. I will no longer be able to listen to him asserting strong opinions about matters about which we had radically different points of view. Within days of his death—before and after—the reality of his poverty asserted itself. Before his latest medical emergency, my sister had provided a few thousand dollars in funds for him to move from his longtime hell-hole of an apartment in a decaying old house to a senior living facility. Unfortunately, he fell ill and was hospitalized before he could move. Then, when his Medicare-covered hospitalization ran out (withdrawn because he no longer demonstrated the “progress” Medicare demanded to continue covering his care), I offered to pay for up to a month’s nursing home care while a long-deferred Medicaid application was completed and processed. He died just hours after he was moved to the facility…the facility that would not accept him until it received thirty days’ coverage in a shared room. At a rate of $7,530 per month.  When he died, I paid the nearly $1,000 fees required by the crematory. It was all a matter of convenience; other siblings would willingly contribute, but the process was greatly simplified with a single payer. It is my understanding that my expenses with the nursing home will be refunded. And it’s possible my brother’s bank account could be sufficient—thanks only to my sister’s earlier contribution for his move—to cover his cremation. My brother was extremely bright, but he made a lot of decisions over his lifetime that were not in his best interests. And he was the victim of circumstances beyond his control, as well. He was in part responsible for his poverty, but he was not entirely responsible. He did not deserve to live in poverty. No one does. But it sometimes is impossible to successfully intervene to counter the full throttle of social and economic engines that seem hell-bent on reaching an unwanted destination. Yet I wonder how his life might have been different if I had been willing to keep arguing with him even after he rejected the conversations. I could have refused to take “no” for an answer when he declined to accept my offer of providing start-up funding for his own air conditioning installation and repair company. I could have sent him money other times even when he said he would not accept it. Of course I’ll never know whether those or a dozen other financial and/or emotional support interventions would have changed the course of his life. But perhaps they would have. Maybe he would have had a healthy financial reserve so he could have paid for  his own care in his final days and so that his own financial cushion could have paid for his cremation. Maybe. But it’s pointless to speculate about what is now impossible.


Sleet. Ice pellets. Freezing rain. Though I am not sure what is responsible for the noise, something relentlessly pelts the windows this frigid morning, making a sound unique to cold winter weather. When I awoke just before 4, an inch of white something—snow? ice?—covered the glass-topped table on the deck. Moments later, the sounds against the window began in earnest. The online weather forecast claims freezing rain is falling. It goes on to say that freezing rain will change to ice pellets this afternoon. And the forecast calls for temperatures to remain in the mid-twenties until late tomorrow afternoon, when they briefly will break through freezing, then drop to the teens through Saturday morning.

I suspect my Friday appointment with a guy to inspect the old flooring in my new house will not take place as planned. There will be too much ice on the roads to allow us to safely meet. I will be stuck here at my old house until sometime Saturday—maybe even Sunday—when Nature gives me permission to venture out to see what damage ice might have done to the trees and power lines. Thus far, our power has held. I hope it continues to keep us safe and warm for the duration of this winter storm.


While the weather’s icy tantrum plays out, I will find chores to occupy my time inside. One of the tasks  on which I envision I will spent my time is to tighten the legs on all the dining chairs. When the chairs were recovered a few short years ago, the upholsterer stapled a piece of black fabric to the underside of the seat of each chair. That fabric covers the intersections between the seats and the legs of the chairs, making it impossible—without painstakingly removing every staple—to tighten the bolts connecting those pieces together. These Scandinavian chairs are brilliantly simple in design. But the addition of North American “style” has interfered with their simplicity. I truly admire the minimalist simplicity of Scandinavian design. I am not so taken with the North American stylistic additions. But at least the icy weather will give me time to do something I’ve put off for months. I hope I take advantage of that time, rather than frittering it away by engaging in mindless drivel.


If the universe were in the mood to treat me more kindly, it would supply me with a month of isolation in a comfortable cabin in the far northern reaches of Canada—or somewhere else equally distant from the demands of the world. The cabin would be amply stocked with food, fire wood, and an assortment of tools and supplies to enable me to make ceramics, work with wood, pretend to make art with metal, and teach myself how to make stained glass objects. The cabin would have a computer on which I could write every morning and, possibly, many nights. While the computer would have internet access for the purposes of writing on my blog, I would be unable to read about or hear about world news. The only information I could get from the computer would be weather forecasts. By the end of the month, I would have answered my own questions. All of them. I would re-enter society with a better understanding of myself and how I can better engage with all the troubles that life and death throw at us. The answers are all there, inside. I just need to figure out a way to get at them.


My mood is brightening a bit. I knew it would. It’s not even 6 yet and I’m tired again. It’s too early or too late to take a nap. And it’s too early to make noise in the kitchen. I will tiptoe around. It will be fine.

About John Swinburn

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