Swirling Thoughts

Before the leaves turn vibrant colors, they lose their green vibrancy. A dull, greyish pall seems to envelop the forest, creating a depressing early-day atmosphere suited more to mourning than to morning. Or is it just me? Does the forest look the same now as it did a few days ago, but my eyes and my mind have adjusted somehow to make everything look more than a little bleak? Silence, on top of the dullness of the sun’s filtered light, makes the view out my window seem like a still-life enshrouded in a sullen mood.  Odd, that.


I cannot feel the chill in the outside air—the temperature is 43°F—this morning, but I can imagine how it would feel if I were to go outside and let the chill soak into my every pore. This morning is ideal for a fire in the fireplace, but I have not had the gas tanks and valves serviced, so I won’t light a fire. I had all summer to do something about it, but spent my time, energies, and thoughts on other things. Now, I am ready to be mesmerized by flames licking the air; all I can do is light a candle, instead. Laziness does not pay the kind of dividends I wish it did.


As I close in on the end of my sixth decade, the reality of the accelerating diminution of my physical and mental strength becomes more and more apparent. The reduction in strength and stamina began quite early, before I was nineteen, when Crohn’s disease figuratively punched me in the gut. Though the symptoms have long since subsided, the pain of periodic flare-ups plagued me for decades. Emergency surgery when I was in my mid-thirties—meant to respond to a wrongly diagnosed appendicitis—probably minimized symptoms in the years after, but even after surgery my gut occasionally reminded me that the disease is chronic. Then, when I was fifty or fifty-one, my long and stupid history of smoking led to a double coronary bypass; more weakening of a body too young to be decaying so fast. That same history of smoking left me with lung cancer about five years ago, which was treated with a lobectomy and chemo and radiation. More stresses and strains on a body already abused by time and my insolent belief that I must be invincible. There has been more, of course. Every physical assault on my health has been accompanied by the shame of recognizing that much of the damage was self-inflicted. And realizing that the time when I might have been able to repair some of the damage has passed. I have not given up on myself—not by any means—but I know I can never be a healthy forty-year-old again…as if ever I was a healthy forty-year-old.  This self-assessment came about this morning after I read an article that mentioned the world’s southernmost “city,” Puerto Williams, Chile.  Even further south is Caleta Eugenia, a tiny place (population of two), the southernmost place on the planet to which one can drive. For reasons I do not completely understand, I have always been fascinated with Chile…the entire length of the narrow country, from Arica in the far north to the southern tip of the country. For years, I dreamt of going to Chile, wandering the country to determine whether I could adapt to a completely different lifestyle. At one point, probably fifteen or twenty years ago, I came across images of an architecturally stunning, absolutely beautiful house built on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The place was for sale and I wanted to buy it (it was affordable!). Of course I did not, for many good reasons. But the dream of living in a secluded place with views of the Pacific stayed with me. Those dreams, of course, belong to a young man who has not yet reached the prime of life; not to an aging dreamer physically unfit to live in a challenging natural environment.  Ach! Now, I look back at unrealistic, impractical dreams and understand why I never allowed myself to pursue them. Had I tried, I would have failed; my interests would have suddenly shifted, as they always have, from one shiny object or idea to another. These depressing thoughts do not belong here with me. I will abandon them for something more appealing. Perhaps.


As of this morning, I am eleven pounds lighter than I was when we left for Mexico. I am sure at least some of those lost pounds will be found, but perhaps I will, this time, stop looking so hard for them. Maybe I will turn my attention to something unlikely to recover that unwelcome weight. Most of the weight loss, I realize, resulted from the two weeks I was sick; little appetite, a bit of dehydration, and a lot of sleep. Yet I think my unconscious desire to force my body to discard unnecessary mass probably helped. Yahoo.


The day is moving on, and so shall I.

About John Swinburn

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