Inching into this New Day

Scattered scraps of translucent grey clouds blur the hills and valleys behind my house this morning. Bright pink and orange tufts of cumulus clouds—the only evidence of sunrise except for a brightening sky—tower far above me, barely visible above the grey layers closer to the ground. It’s hard to tell at this hour what the weather will be like today. It may be dreary, grey, hot, and humid or it may change to clear and breezy. Time, alone, will tell. My questions about what weather I can expect an hour or two from now won’t change the outcome. The weather will be what it will be. It’s always like that. I am as utterly unable to control to control the weather as I am unable to control my moods. Well, I may have slightly more control over the weather.

“Mood.” The word is in common use, but we mean such different things by it. It can mean emotional tone or quality or frame of mind. It also can mean sullenness or gloominess. On the contrary, it can mean cheery and bright. “He’s in a good mood.” “Her mood could bury an entire generation under its bitterness.” “The mood of the country shifted from fearful and dejected to one of pure, unbridled optimism.” I suppose all of the connotations suggest, at its core, emotional tone and frame of mind. So it’s not such a schizophrenic word, after all.

I can’t tell the mood of the day by looking out the window. There’s not even a hint of a breeze to give me a clue as to what the day has in store. Is it odd that I’m anthropomorphizing “the day?” As if “the day” shared with humans the emotional upheavals of daylight and dark, joy and grief? Odd or not, at this moment I think the day is undecided about the course it will take. The absolute stillness of the leaves in the trees outside my window could mean I’m looking not at living trees but, instead, at a painting of trees. There’s absolutely no motion outside. Every leaf on every tree is petrified in time, captured by an artist’s brush. And it just occurred to me that I haven’t seen the usual squirrels dashing about on the forest floor of late; I bet it’s been three or four days since I’ve seen them darting around, their movements frenetic in one moment and frozen the next.

I’m trying to decide whether I should plan to go to the nearest urgent care clinic today or, instead, attempt to get an appointment to see a dermatologist and/or an ophthalmologist. Night before last, I noticed some odd skin eruptions on the side of my face, just under and the side of my left eye. They have grown progressively larger in area since then. And one of them seems to have crept into the corner of my left eye, causing it to swell and itch. And my vision in that eye is noticeably fuzzy. Bodily decay and dysfunction is unpleasant. And it’s a reminder that, at some point, recovery begins to slow and even reverse itself. Skin lesions start to take longer to heal. Aches and arthritic pains don’t disappear with movement the way they once did.  As my favorite poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen once wrote, in, “Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey. I ache in the places where I used to play.”

Outside my window, the air remains dead still, as if the planet has taken in a deep breath and is holding it, holding it, holding it…in the hope that time will make breathing easier. Either that, or the wind has abandoned this part of the planet, seeking comfort elsewhere. But, wait! I see movement. Not of leaves, but of what I assume is fog. Wisps of vapor drift slowly behind statues of trees; vapor barely more dense than the empty air in which it slides. And now I see, for the first time in days, a squirrel. And leaves begin to move. The still life has morphed into a moving scene, though it is slow to change.

The sky remains uncommitted, though. There’s no indication that it has made a decision about what it will do for the remainder of the hours of daylight left in this day. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe, if the sky cooperates, I’ll be able to slap some more paint on the deck today. That may be unwise, though, given that a bit of rain would not be good for freshly-painted decking. That reasoning may give me sufficient reason to remain lazy, to walk slowly through this day. To “slog through the porridge,” as I once said (or periodically say) in fits of incoherence.

Except for my skin distemper and my itching eye, my sensations seem to be characterized by anesthetized inertia. I could use a long embrace. Or a longer nap. I rarely take naps. Or so I say. Lately, though, I’ve found myself sitting in my electric recliner, my feet up and my head back, eyes closed and imagination wandering. That’s not really a nap, I suppose. It’s more like a structured attempt to escape reality.

I’m hungry. I think I’ll go forage in the kitchen, looking for something appealing and easy and unlike a “typical” breakfast. I no longer enjoy “typical” breakfasts. I crave stuff that rattles the taste buds into a state of surprised attention. Pasta arrabiata, for example, would be good this morning. Too bad there’s none in the house and I’m unwilling to invest the time and energy in making any at this hour. Jalapeño potato salad would be good, too, but I’m afraid the time necessary to cook the potatoes, coupled with fact that we’re dangerously low on my jalapeño paste, would make that a near impossibility. So many things sound appealing but they are unavailable. I may have to resort to satisfying my hunger with something mind-numbingly dull. Living in the heart of a cosmopolitan city has extraordinary advantages. Were I in New York City this morning, I suspect I could easily find a Korean restaurant open for breakfast (but serving from a full menu). Even in Dallas, I could go to an Ethiopian restaurant in search of kitfo; I’d find the restaurant closed at this hour, but if I were patient, I could go in for lunch after 11 or 11:30. I can’t do that in Arkansas. The closest Ethiopian restaurant is in Memphis. There is at least one (and probably several) Korean restaurants in Little Rock, but none open at this hour. And I suspect no such restaurant would have as extensive a menu as I’d find in New York.

The fog seems to have lifted and the trees have returned to their comas. Time for me to explore what else awaits me on this odd morning.

About John Swinburn

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