The Things That Count

Yesterday afternoon, we sat on the deck for quite some time, soaking in the coolish temperatures and listening to the wind make its way through the trees. There is a word for that sound: psithurism. When I learned that word several years ago, I fell in love with it. I remember, at the time, doubting whether I would remember the word, though I was certain I would recall the definition. From time to time since, I have remembered; sometimes, I have had to struggle to recall the word, but usually it comes with little effort. As I gazed into the light of the forest, I thought of another word I love. It is a Japanese term that refers to the dappled light filtering through a canopy of leaves and branches: komorebi. Both words are drenched in a sensation of peace and serenity.


I wrote the following paragraph before I wrote the one above, but I switched the order before posting because I wanted today’s post to begin on a positive note. I could have simply deleted the next paragraph, but doing so would have erased a record of my experience; something I would rather not do.

The occasional sign suggests the possibility of recovery: hours-long stretches during which I remain awake, albeit bone-tired. And, then, I realize, sometimes the weariness is not as overwhelmingly deep as it had been. But the exhaustion returns when I exert myself in only a minor way, like showering or slipping on casual clothes. Yet that doesn’t last as long as it did just yesterday or the day before; a glimpse of restoration. I am counting on a full—or, at least, an adequate—recovery by early next week, when I have various obligations, including multiple medical appointments. The most exciting is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, when my chemo port is scheduled for removal. Among the others—oncologist and cardiologist—are reminders of my inevitable decay and the mortality that eventually follows. Actually, I think I have improved enormously in recent days. I may remain tired, but I am not too tired to breathe.  I have nothing to complain about, compared to millions and millions of others whose daily lives are exercises in agony. I keep reminding myself of that. So should we all.


I feel as though I have missed the early days of autumn by sleeping 20 hours a day for the last two weeks. We had planned on driving to St. Paul, Minnesota to listen to Peter Mayer in concert in a coffee house, but both of us were ill, so we cancelled the trip. We assumed we would be better by the first part of this week, so we talked about driving to Mississippi to visit an art museum; that, too, was abandoned due to illness. Ach! And now I have a rash of obligations that will prevent me from making spur-of-the-moment road trips.  I should not complain. I keep telling myself I should not complain. And yet I do.


I look forward today to a friend’s visit. Little things can brighten one’s attitude. Even though little things are not little things, after all. They are the things that count.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to The Things That Count

  1. Meg says:

    So glad you are beginning to recover.

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