Inescapable Insurrection

Arising a few hours before sunrise can be a cleansing occurrence. I think getting up that early enables a person to discard some of the accumulated detritus from the preceding days and weeks—if, that is, the person wants an opportunity to freshen his engagement with the battles of daily life. As I contemplate the opportunity, it occurs to me that, lately, I have not arisen as early as I like. For that reason, among others, my cones of incense have remained hidden in my desk for many days. This morning, though, more than two hours after I awoke for the fourth time since going to bed last night, I lit some incense. I sense it now as it caresses me with its calming aroma. Its potentially calming aroma. Unless a person is ready to allow his frenzied mind to be sedated, the odor of incense—any unusual smell—can be more disruptive than soothing. Whether I am actually ready for my thoughts to be quieted, I want them to rest…calm…soften. I need to relax the stiffness that has gripped me during the last few days. Failing to address the brittleness, I might shatter into a million pieces, pieces so small and fragmented that putting them back together would be impossible. So I inhale the scent of patchouli smoke. I invite it to breathe elasticity into my porcelain brain. Perhaps I should have brewed hot tea this morning, rather than coffee. Maybe tea is a better sedative than coffee. I should stop distracting myself with thoughts like that. I should focus gently on the healing elements of aromatic smoke and rich, hot coffee. And, so, I do. At least I try. But regret and guilt pry at my serenity, creating cracks in my tranquility from which geysers of flammable fuel could erupt. Any little spark could ignite them. Peace should not be so fragile, nor so easily twisted into war.

It is getting late. The sky is weak with dim grey light; the dimness is receding, but it is not being replaced by brightness. Instead, the dimness is washing into emptiness, as if the sky wishes to reinforce the sullenness of the day. Stiff winds bend trees and limbs for a moment, then their movement suddenly stops, as if they have lost the ability to breathe. A modest hole appears in the dim grey cloud cover, allowing a pastel patch of orange and pink to peek through for a moment, only to be drowned a moment later by dull grey clouds. I wonder whether the day will continue this way; making efforts to emerge into light, only to be foiled by clouds that are both stronger and more certain of their strength than the distant sun.


I wrote the following paragraphs before daylight. They belong at the end of this diatribe, because they have no other logical place. They are accidental links to a frenetic past. Or something like it.

Six episodes into the first season, I am thoroughly hooked on the French-language series Public Enemy (Ennemi public). The Belgian television series, available on Netflix, is three seasons long (I assume it has completed its production run, but I am not certain of it).  So far, my eyes have been glued to the screen in each one-hour episode, darting between the English subtitles and the action. Like so many foreign-language films/series I have seen in recent years, the subtitles are so well done that, in a matter of minutes from beginning to watch, I forget that I am not personally translating the dialogue. The plot begins with the release, after twenty years in prison, of a convicted child killer, who is given sanctuary in a monastery in a village in Belgium’s Ardennes forest. The villagers are livid at the presence of a child killer in their midst, so a young woman, a federal police inspector, is assigned to protect the man. Shortly after he arrives at the monastery, a little girl disappears. From there, the storyline grows increasingly tense and gripping. I read this morning that the plot was inspired by a similar set of circumstances involving a man named Marc Paul Alain Dutroux. The man’s case was so infamous that, according to a 1998 article by BBC News, “Over a third of Belgian citizens who have the same surname as the convicted paedophile Marc Dutroux have applied to have their names changed, France Info radio reported on Saturday, quoting the Belgian daily paper `La Derniere Heure’.

Mi novia has grown nearly as addicted to foreign-language political and crime thrillers as I. Well, maybe not quite that addicted, but more than simply tolerant. As we scan available films and series, we both find ourselves drawn to foreign flicks, especially Scandinavian, and lately French-language programs. It’s not just a matter of language, either. It’s the cinematography and the greater “believability” of the stories and the actors’ portrayal of believable characters. Maybe there’s something else, too; but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

It is simply a distraction. But it works, for a while, to paint over the old, cracking, sun-dried topcoat. Maybe I should sit on the loveseat all day, watching television. That might be more soothing than smoking pork ribs. But probably not.

It’s nearly 7. More than three hours since I got out of bed for the third or fourth time last night and into the wee hours. I may need to sleep later in the day. But not now. I should have something for breakfast. Nothing “normal,” like cereal or fried eggs, though. Tomatoes and avocadoes, perhaps, with dabs of habanero salsa to liven the flavors. Like little knives jabbing at my tongue and taste buds, trying to instigate an fight. Or an insurrection.


About John Swinburn

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