The Menaces of Sunday Morning Musing

It doesn’t pay to get up at 4 in the morning, though it’s one of my favorite times of day. This morning, I awoke to the sound of whistling wind and loud wind-chimes, noises that triggered all manner of thoughts in my head. For some reason, one of the thoughts that flooded my sleep-logged brain was my history of television-watching; that I enjoyed it but that it has become more than a bit of an opiate.

Ever since we recently finished watching the series, Homeland, the original which concluded in April a year ago, the television-based tension of our evenings has been converted to the silliness of Schitt’s Creek. It took a number of episodes for me to overcome my aversion to the slapstick nature of the series, but I finally eased into it enough to enjoy it; even the abject absurdity of the ongoing premise of the comedy. That acceptance notwithstanding, I long for something dramatically powerful and absorbing like How to Get Away with Murder or Lupin or Borderliner or Hinterland or…whatever. Whether through the television screen or the pages of a book, I feel a need in the evenings to have my interest captured in some way that requires little of me, other than willing submission. I want to be entertained and engaged through no effort on my part. Even though I enjoyed the Joe Bonamassa concert in Little Rock a few weeks ago and I look forward to a getaway to Galveston in the near future, I seem to prefer my entertainment poured into my head, while I sit in a chair and drink it in.

The attitude of wanting to be entertained rather than to create my own entertainment is more than a little bothersome. I think it’s healthier to enjoy a mixture of different types of entertainment and engagement. One’s mind can become stagnant and his intellectual flexibility rigid and brittle if he depends too much on a single form of escape. Even entertainment in the form of reading or walking can become a mind-numbing anesthetic if we let it.

I keep thinking about “doing” something instead of “watching” something, but to date I’ve done little about it. Art of some form keeps bubbling up in my mind: stained glass, sculpture of some kind, painting…even whittling. I simply must get off my duff and do something about breaking out of my personal cage.


The wind this morning is more than a little brisk. According to my computer’s weather data, the temperature is a rather balmy 68°F and the wind is blowing at 11 miles per hour with occasional gusts up to 16 mph. If any nearby neighbors slept with their windows open last night, I suspect they are cursing my wind chimes at this hour.

Not long after I got up and made my first cup of coffee, I heard a rather loud crash outside on the deck. I turned on the light and went out to explore, but saw nothing untoward. I suppose I’ll have to wait until daylight to find out what made the racket. My guess, now, is that a branch from a nearby tree blew down, causing a noisy commotion before sliding off the deck onto the ground far below. Just in case the noise had been made by my IC—perhaps she had fallen out of the dangerously high bed—I turned off the kitchen light and opened the bedroom door to check on her. I found her lying in bed, wearing her glasses and looking at a glowing electronic device. No, the noise was not her. But I think I convinced her to go back to sleep.

Knowing I was not the only conscious human in the house at that moment changed the texture of the morning for me. I don’t know quite what it is that solidifies solitude’s hold  has on me, but I discover in such instances that being alone with my thoughts in the early morning hours is very much a part of it. I get distracted simply by knowing that someone else is awake in “my space.” I can be alone in a motel room, knowing that people in the next room are awake, and that’s fine; being alone in a house, knowing that people in the next room are awake, scrambles my serenity for some reason. Perhaps it’s my madness at play.


Not long ago—when my IC and I were in the early stages of our ongoing efforts to pare down our belongings so we can both fit in this house—I finally parted with my 30-plus-year-old espresso maker. I very rarely used it, primarily because I was never satisfied with the espresso I made with it. I think the problem was the coffee beans I used; either not the right roast or insufficiently finely-ground. And, of course, the metal and plastic components of a cheap thirty-year-old device like that can impart off-flavors to edibles or drinkables that contact its elderliness. Whatever, I gave it away to Habit for Humanity. Someone else will use the machine and will find it an inadequate stand-in for access to wannabe espresso.

All of this leads up to my wish for some espresso this morning. I have never been to the Starbucks in Hot Springs, nor to Red Light Roastery nor to any other coffee-hawking establishment. And, given that it’s Sunday in the Bible Belt, it’s probably illegal for them to be open; certainly, it would be considered immoral for them to be open at this hour. But I wish I could look forward to a leisurely drive to a place where the scent of strong coffee would embrace me on this windy morning. I would love to sit inside a little shop, next to big picture windows, and watch the wind tear the leaves from the trees outside, as I sit sipping my third or fourth double- or triple-espresso. Alas, I live in a place and time where such dreams are delusions.


The morning does hold promise, though, for something special. My sister-in-law brought me an avocado the other morning, a post-birthday surprise. This morning, I shall cut it open, scoop out its flesh, and sprinkle a little fresh lime juice on it as I smash it into a smooth paste. Then, I will paint it on a piece of rye toast (and a piece of oat-nut toast for my IC) as an introduction to breakfast. Avocado toast, in spite of its reputation as evidence of outlandishly decadent millennials’ attitudes about life, is wonderful. With just a hint of Kosher salt (or any of its flavorful relatives), it becomes a delight beyond words. And a little later this morning, that’s exactly what will happen. Hallelujah! Joy of Man’s Desiring!


I received a three-page hand-written letter yesterday from my “pen-pal,” a beautiful young woman who lives in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Though I’ve only met her once for just a few hours, more than six years ago, I’ve stayed in occasional touch with her through Facebook and, within the last year, by exchanging letters. Hers are lovely examples of beautiful handwriting and openly-shared emotions—both pleasant and painful—and mine are my normal manic-depressive blather produced on a printer (because neither my printing nor my handwriting are legible). Yesterday’s letter to me came roughly seven months after my last one to her. The delay in responding did not bother me in the least; in fact, I did not expect a reply because I thought our exchange of letters was a simple “blip” in the  young woman’s meandering mind; trying something different to jump-start her interactions with the world around her. But, after receiving her letter, I realized how personal has been the information we’ve shared. And I feel like we may have become a little like life rafts to one another. Not close friends, but strangers willing to listen, without judgment, to what causes heartbreak and joy and pain.

I find it interesting that I call her a “young woman.” I think she must be in her early forties; maybe not quite that old (I am terrible at judging ages). Regardless of her age, she is quite pretty. Blonde with blue eyes and the face of a Slovakian model (she is from Bratislava, Slovakia, the hometown of my niece…the one married to the nephew who lives in Ohio). And I call her young. Because she is. Especially compared to me. And reading her letter, I realize she thinks young, which is another thing about her I find quite attractive. I like people who continue to think young as they mature. My IC, who has a teen-aged grandson, thinks young, too. I know other people of like ages who seem to have abandoned their youth in favor of the drudgery of deliberate and perpetual mental decay. Ach! Such a terrible bondage!

At any rate, I look forward to writing a long letter in response to my young friend. It may take some time, but the letter I write will respond in depth to hers and will add some of my own thoughts and will reveal some of my own emotions. Perhaps a connection with a geezer who aspires for youthful engagement will be good for her. I know already a connection with a young and intelligent searcher is good for me.


I am thinking and learning, at this very late point in my life, about the value of microscopically close friendships. By that, I mean friendships with close, intimate connections that are limited to slivers of one’s experiences. These friendships may not touch on anything but a miniscule fragment of the lives of two people, but those fragments mesh together so well the two people feel momentarily quite close to one another. I’ve only given a name to what I now call microscopically close friendships just this morning. But I’ve thought about them for months. They are surprisingly valuable, though admittedly brittle and not necessarily long-lived, links to other lives. These links expose slices of oneself that one did not necessarily know existed. They prompt self-reflection in areas of one’s life either ignored or misunderstood in the past. Given that I’ve only named these relationships this morning, I think I need more time to reflect on them before I write much more about them. But I shall, one day. I consider my relationship with my pen-pal one such microscopically close friendship. That is true even though the two of us probably would not recognize one another if we passed in the street. This bears more thought. More consideration. More exploration. What if the only friendships I have are microscopically close? What if some of them are broader than others, but still just microscopically close? I mean knowing someone deeply in just one or two or three areas and remaining blissfully distant and unaware of the rest of a person’s personality.


I’ve dawdled too much this morning. Spent too much time thinking, with my fingers resting softly on the keyboard without allowing the weight of my hands to press down on the keys. I think that may be my way of meditating; keeping my hands in contact with the keyboard, but with such a light touch that ideas flow through my fingers, but do not cause the keys to be pressed. Regardless, it’s time for me to stop this and go on about my day. Up next: avocado toast.


Good morning, by the way. I love you. You know who you are. 😉

About John Swinburn

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