Hello, All, and welcome to the weekend! Chaos continues but reading reigns! That and, of course, cooking and calligraphy, sewing and stitching, pets and photography—well, yeah, that’s not really alliteration, so let’s move on to something else.
As any even semi-longtime reader knows, this blog stays away from politics as much as possible, which is to say, entirely. I’m not here to pundit or politic—we talk about books and poetry, TV and movies, food and fascination, and many kinds of other, related items. The internet is filled with enough doom and gloom and doesn’t need me to add to it. Despair seems to be everywhere lately.
However, I do want to tell one little story for the benefit of our collective and individual states of mind in these troubling times. I know it’s been rough and none of us is having an easy go of it. Well, perhaps some, but everyone I know has had to make lots of adjustments to keep things working. More recent current events don’t really make it any better. To that end I’d like to share that one piece of something I read long ago about people during the Lebanese Civil War, a conflict that lasted, for some, from the time they started kindergarten to roughly when they graduated high school.
I can’t vouch for the complete authenticity of this small story, but I’ve seen it in several different locations, and in my experience there is more jaw-dropping information in truth than anything the deranged minds of humans could make up—plus, those same minds, when turned to the benefit of others, often demonstrate a capacity for resilience equally astonishing, so I am inclined to believe it.
So during an evening when the bombs were dropping on Beirut, a group of medical students, having taken shelter in a university basement laboratory, continued on with their studies. I don’t recall what the anecdote actually said they were doing, whether reading books, dissecting a cadaver, looking through microscopes—I have no idea. I just remember medical students who would periodically stop when an especially loud shelling occurred, or perhaps one that shook the walls of the room they were in, determine it was not close enough to collapse those same walls around them, and go back to what they were doing, often by flashlight.
That, my friends, is a very scary situation and, though I admire these individuals, I can’t begin to understand the courage to continue in the face of such dire circumstance. Perhaps they might say, What else were we to do? Or, Well, better to die at work than huddled in a corridor. Still, it’s very different to my life and that of most Americans, and I am guessing the odds were good that, provided these students survived other portions of the war, they went on to become doctors.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because here in America, despite some very dangerous times and a year that sucked major a**, we aren’t in the middle of a civil war, despite the wishes of some to bring it to that or belief of others that we are. We aren’t and, despite some high-stress-level news and information, and the need to do some things differently lately, we should be focusing on the positive whenever possible. I don’t mean this in some New-Agey way, just in the old-fashioned manner of trying to keep the good flowing by taking care of ourselves and of helping others, even in small ways. Please note I am not saying that no one is suffering or experiencing downtrodden times, nor am I scolding anyone or claiming this blog will miraculously change anyone’s life or erase all problems. But perhaps it can provide some of that light we are talking about? Those Lebanese students chose to turn on the lights when the power failed; can we do the same in our lives, making a deliberate choice as to whether we curse the darkness or light a match?
What are some things you like or like to do? Have you tried a new hobby, as many have been doing in this past year? What about endeavors that force you to sit down and move slowly, such as calligraphy? Or focus on something right in front of you, such as knitting or crocheting? Can you make up games with your family and laugh—all-in-good-fun laughter—when things get silly? And, of course, I love books, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those!
How about even small, fleeting moments or things that bring you pleasure? The scent of vanilla candles or lavender oil? The taste of a peach or feel of cold sheets when you tumble into a newly-made bed, exhausted but exhilarated when you stretch out, stiffen and then relax? The lovely, crinkly sounds made by certain pages or look of food as it is spread on the table just before we sit down to share it with family? Purple pens, the first snow, the quiet of the morning, binge-watching a TV series, alpenglow, grocery shopping, books, penguins, Christopher Nolan movies, poetry, kid jokes, a newly sharpened pencil, smell of the sea, Christmas trees, spending time with my family, wrapping my son in a towel straight from the dryer and seeing how happy it makes him—these are just a few things that bring me joy on a variety of levels, and they are easy to indulge in.
There are really a lot of fun places this kind of conversation can take us to, and I find myself calling up some kooky times or memories that make me laugh—like the day I woke up on the first Saturday in our new house when my son was three. I couldn’t find him, but could somehow sense he was there, so I was more puzzled than alarmed. I finally located his little self underneath the kitchen table, clutching one of the pumpkin breads I’d made the night before, tearing off hunks with his tiny fingers and eating them. He’d always loved this bread with a passion, and when I saw his huge, sweet eyes looking up at me, I laughed and said, “Oh, honey, you must have been so hungry!” I scooped him into my lap and let him continue to eat as I nuzzled his cheeks and we started our day.
I mention others above as well, happy to add something about the delightful reality that when we do things for other people, it has an amazing capacity to make us feel pretty good, though I don’t mean in an “I’m awesome, aren’t I?” kind of way. I suspect it is the feeling of connection or knowing we made a difference, however small, and marvel at the manner in which it often also directs the nice karma back toward us.
A few years ago we had a major earthquake—actually two and miraculously no one was killed—and when my son and I arrived home I went to check on our elderly neighbor and he headed inside. When I returned about an hour later he was cleaning and I laughed at a jar of broken applesauce that looked like it was vomiting. We did have a few losses, but he, all of fifteen years old, had protected me from the dread sensation you get when everything that hadn’t been bolted down or shut in a cupboard is scattered and thrown all over the floor, by heading for my beloved books first. I did find out he’d been cleaning the entire time I’d been gone, and it was still rather bad when I came in, so I can only imagine what it had been like to walk through a sea of books. In all honesty, we both considered ourselves very lucky, and material possessions are of course the much lesser consideration. But he knows it is a collection years in the making, that I feel happy surrounded by my books, from which I derive so much joy and peace. He knew it wouldn’t be exactly inspiring for the days ahead to see it, and I was so grateful.
Three things from today that brought me pleasure: Watching a TV show with my son and talking about plotlines; getting to finally talk to a friend I hadn’t heard from in a long time; and going for a short drive.
Best wishes and lots of love to all of you.