More Thought-Skipping

Yesterday, a friend stopped by with some little gifts and a massive amount of solace and comfort. During our masked conversation, she mentioned a friend’s description of emotions at the loss of a loved one as something like shocked disbelief. That sounds familiar. That, and endless emptiness.

But, for me, it is not like that all the time. Those unwelcome waves—sadness and loss and vacancy that continue a week into the experience—come and go. Most of the time, I am fine. Except for those grief storms that attempt to uproot my sanity and send it flying in powerful gusts of raging sadness, most of my time is relatively peaceful.

It is odd, though; those periods of peace and calm usually end with feelings of guilt that I have allowed myself a respite from the pain. I begin to think I should not permit anything but darkness to invade my mind. I understand the guilt probably is a natural but unnecessary reaction to circumstance, on the one hand, but on the other hand it seems an insufficient price to pay for an unearned sense, however long, of solace.


Yesterday, I napped early after a night of inadequate sleep. But it seems the two hour nap was insufficient. Later in the day, while playing Words with Friends with my sister-in-law, I found myself nodding. A lot. Later, I think around 4, I sat in a recliner and promptly fell asleep for two more hours. When I woke, I heated leftover  minestrone soup; it was exactly what I needed to fuel me through two episodes of the English language version of Hinterland, originally a Welsh language police detective drama series. The original title of the series is Y Gwyll (Welsh for “The Dusk”). I am enjoying it immensely, though I think it would be cool to see the original Welsh version with subtitles.

After two episodes, though, I could no longer keep my eyes open. I went to bed and fell fast asleep. And then returned to my regular cycles of waking, sleeping, waking, sleeping, etc. The most recent cycle ended at 5 this morning, when I got up, folded and put away a load of clothes I had left in the dryer, added another load to the washer, made coffee, and made my way to the keyboard.

The letters have worn off several keys on my keyboard. Missing entirely are: a, s, d, o, and l. Barely visible are c and e. The left shift key, as well as the key once known as a, is badly scarred from repeated pounding by the fingernail on the little finger of my left hand. The blank l key, too, has been damaged by the nail of the finger next to the little finger on my right hand. As I tried to name that finger (instead of saying “the finger next to the little finger”), I wondered whether each finger has a unique name? We know what to call the thumb and the little finger, but are there other names? And are thumb and little finger really the best names for those digits? I suspect medicine has names, not only for the bones of those fingers, but for the fingers themselves. Even if the names are code, like L meta2 or R3, I suspect. Phalanges could be used, but if I remember correctly there are three phalanges in each finger (are toes also phalanges?), so the codes would have to incorporate all the phalanges in a given finger.  This is oddly of interest to me, but not sufficiently riveting to merit stopping what I am doing to explore and find an answer. Sometimes my interests are so shallow I would barely get wet if I immersed myself in them. But, then, even my deepest interests often summon only cursory exploration; I am the inverse of a Renaissance man. I’ll have to see if I can find an antonym for the term. Actually, I may be a Renaissance man wannabe; I’d like to have deep interest in and knowledge about an enormous array of subjects, but I don’t have the discipline or the capacity. I’ve said it before: “I know so very little about so very much.” There, now I’ve said it again.


A local guy who’s much more of a Renaissance man than I could ever hope to be has made it one of his missions in life to visit the oldest bar in every state. I admire the dedication it takes to tackle such a challenging endeavor. I should identify such a goal for myself. I have no idea what it might be, though.


I remember a time when I would sit outdoors, smoking a cigar and drinking from a snifter of brandy or a glass of Scotch. I very rarely smoked cigars; they were not necessarily for special occasions but for special or unusual moods, I think. I smoked cigars in celebration of life and happiness and free will and hope for the future. I doubt I would ever become addicted.

I rarely, if ever, intentionally inhaled cigar smoke. It is too harsh to comfortably take in an entire breath of smoke. But the taste in my mouth, smoky smooth vanilla and an indescribable earthiness, was delightful.

My wife loathed the smell of cigars, so I made a point of smoking them only when the smoke would not bother her. That has been years ago. I stopped smoking in 2004 and I suspect my last cigar would have been a year or two before that.

Would it be possible, I wonder, to get those celebratory moods back? Instead of celebrating by smoking a cigar, would smoking a cigar bring back the appreciation of life and happiness and free will and hope for the future?  I’ll have to think about that. It may be madness that it’s even entered my mind, but there you have it.

I equate cigar smoke with incense. Neither are meant to fill the lungs, only to tease the nostrils with pleasant aromas that somehow bring about a sense of comfort and peace. The other night, after dining with neighbors, the male of the pair lit a cone of incense and put it inside a German hand-carved wooden Santa Claus incense diffuser. I think that’s what made me think of cigars.


It’s almost 7:30 and I haven’t showered or shaved or gotten dressed yet. But I have washed another load of clothes and finished two cups of coffee. For the umpteenth morning in a row, I have a strong hankering for a double espresso. Unfortunately, I have neither the appropriate coffee beans nor an espresso maker suited to the task. I have an espresso maker I bought when we lived in Chicago, more than thirty years ago. It never made the best espresso, but it made a pretty damn good cup when I used the coffee my Italian friend gave me. He had family in Montreal who he visited from time to time. When he did, he bought vacuum-packed bricks of super-finely-ground imported Italian coffee. Once, he brought a couple of bricks to me. That espresso was, by far, the best I ever made in my little Braun or Krups or whatever brand espresso maker. I never made cappuccino with that machine, but it has a milk steamer attachment. Once, there was a little stainless steel milk container for use with the steamer attachment, but the little container is long gone, I think. But I should try it again. And I should get back to getting showered and getting dressed. First, though, I am going to sneak out to the Post Office in my sweats and, probably, my flip flops. No one else would be at the Post Office picking up mail at this hour on a Sunday morning, would they? I’ll soon see.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to More Thought-Skipping

  1. fireaunt says:

    It’s thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, pinky.

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