The flip side of ignorance

Image captured last week at the Conservatory at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

Since my last post, I’ve read:

■ Macbeth (William Shakespeare; 1606. Drama.)
In advance of watching Joel Coen’s film. Related story/review here

■ Six Characters in Search of an Author (Luigi Pirandello (Trans. Edward Storer; 1921. Drama.)
Cannot recall the precise path that led me to Scallydandling about the books, but I can say that I enjoy poking about in her video lists. Six Characters was her January drama selection.

■ Late Migrations: A Memoir of Love and Loss (Margaret Renkl; 2019. Non-fiction.)
For the commonplace book:

p. 7
But the shadow side of love is always loss, and grief is only love’s twin.

Holding a useless camera, I suddenly realize that something extraordinary is happening right before me, a great serpent slowly on the move and all the songbirds aware of its presence and calling to each other and telling each other to beware. The miracle isn’t happening in the sky at all. It’s happening in the damp weeds of an ordinary backyard, among last year’s moldering leaves and the fragrant soil turned up by moles.

p. 73
[…B]ut the flip side of ignorance is astonishment, and I am good at astonishment.

p. 155
When I didn’t die, however, and then didn’t die some more, I came one day to understand: I wasn’t dying; I was grieving. I wasn’t dying. Not yet.

p. 186
Human beings are creatures made for joy. Against all evidence, we tell ourselves that grief and loneliness and despair are tragedies, unwelcome variations from the pleasure and calm and safety that in the right way of the world would form the firm ground of our being. In the fairy tale we tell ourselves, darkness holds nothing resembling a gift.

What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place.

With the month closing and only nine books on my list, I’d say this year has begun at a far more leisurely pace than last year (twenty-five books). That said, I’m reading quite a bit. With 100 Days of Dante, I’ve nearly climbed Mount Purgatory. With book groups, I’m reading Anna Karenina, Moby-Dick, and Debt (see sidebar). I’ve just begun A Clockwork Orange, the February Cardiff BookTalk selection. And my husband and I have embarked on a read-the-bible-in-a-year schedule. (It pains me to confess that I haven’t read the complete bible. Do you have a recommendation for a “bible as literature” resource? We’ll take it.)

I began listening to State of Terror (Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton) on the drive to and from  Michigan last week — not Chief Inspector Gamache but certainly entertaining. While away, I also tried to finish Noah Hawley’s latest novel, Anthem (review here), but no luck. Unlike S. Kirk Walsh, I’m finding it a bit… tedious.

Before heading out on my mini-vacation, I gave a Zoom* performance for an audience of one, playing the Rondeau, Polonaise, and Badinerie from Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067. Was it flawless? Nope. But while I was away, my teacher wrote, in part, “Really, really excellent work on the Bach! So pleased and proud that you put your all into it and did such a great job.” Yes, I’m still grinning. My new solo piece is Howard Ferguson’s Three Sketches for Flute and Piano. I’m also working on the ninth of 18 Studies for Flute by Joachim Anderson, Op. 41, in Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute, Book 1, and “From Duetto No. IV” (W.F. Bach) in Selected Duets for Flute, Volume II (Advanced). My practice schedule remains much as it was in the fall.

Our walking schedule, however, does not: The snow and ice (to say nothing of the extreme cold of days like yesterday) make early morning walks in the neighborhood untenable, so we’ve been using workouts on DVDs, after which, I hop on the exercise bike while my husband gets ready for work. We have the equipment needed to walk the conservation district paths, though, so we head there on the weekends during which the weather cooperates.

* Given the continuing uncertainty surrounding the virus, I requested that we return to the virtual format until at least February.


Portions of our neighborhood were developed with older residents in mind, and the reasonably well maintained sidewalks and paths make daily walks as easy as after-lunch naps. While my husband and I regularly walk three miles in the neighborhood before he begins work each weekday, though, we prefer to get out to a conservation area or state park on the weekends. The image above was taken last Sunday.

Sick and tired

66F98766-8949-4F9D-A3C4-45785B6591D9It’s not that I’m never sick, but I have been pretty fortunate. Sure, five years ago, I spent much of the late summer and early fall battling an upper respiratory infection, and, yes, I’ve had a couple of colds since then, but mostly it seems that I am able to vanquish the occasional illness quickly.

On Friday, November 9, though, I succumbed to a clinging, cold-like bug. Fever, chills, and fatigue nearly caused me to miss a play on Saturday night. (Afterward, we mused that it was, in fact, quite missable, something we’ve said about only one other play in eight years.) Coughing and exhaustion forced me to call out of work on Thursday, November 15, but apart from post-nasal drip and a lingering cough, I felt much better on Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, however, I awoke to “stomach flu” and an impressive fever. (It may have been the guacamole; no one else had any.) When that subsided twenty-four hours later, I needed to focus on post-holiday travel and the blizzard. Given how physically weak I was, my husband and I decided that I would drive my youngest back to university and remain overnight, and he would stay home to keep up with the snow clearing — which would have been great decisions, had my daughter and I discovered the leak in the new air mattress before 2 a.m. Monday. Heh, heh, heh. “Boy, will I sleep well tonight!” I announced when I returned home. Nope. Another night of broken sleep.

So… I spent the remainder of this past week catnapping and getting to bed early to put the kibosh on a lingering, low-level fatigue. It’s my fervent hope that one or two more nights will do the trick. It has, after all, been more than three weeks; I’d like to be done now, please.

The gloomy weather doesn’t do much to improve my energy level, either. The photo above was taken on a family walk Thanksgiving morning. I’m certain it has looked like that nearly every day since.


“And, as they say, the incident is closed.”

Past one o’clock. You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.

This poem was found among Vladimir Mayakovsky’s papers after his suicide on April 14, 1930. The middle section, with modest revisions, served as an epilogue to his suicide note. Yes, plagued by critics and disappointed in his personal relationships, the poet who had criticized poet Serge Yesenin for committing suicide took his own life: You and I, we are quits, and there is no point in listing mutual pains, sorrows, and hurts.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, maintains the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). But we don’t talk about it much, do we?

According to the AFSP:

Although there is no single cause of suicide, one of the risks for suicide is social isolation, and there’s scientific evidence for reducing suicide risk by making sure we connect with one another. We can all play a role through the power of connection by having real conversations about mental health with people in everyday moments – whether it’s with those closest to us, or the coffee barista, parking lot attendant, or the grocery store clerk.

It’s also about the connection we each have to the cause, whether you’re a teacher, a physician, a mother, a neighbor, a veteran, or a suicide loss survivor or attempt survivor. We don’t always know who is struggling, but we do know that one conversation could save a life.

Know the suicide warning signs and if you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK (8255).

Take care of yourselves.