Wednesday, December 27, 2006


In Case You Wondered...

Actually, this is a New Year's letter. But I started it just before Christmas...

A Christmas letter: what a novel concept.

Only to somebody like me… Mister Contrarian.

Well, I’m obviously mellowing with age. Either that or I’ve just reached the point where I’m beat down and joining up with the rest of the culture seems like a good idea. “Resistance is futile.” No, I’m contesting every inch of my retreat. A Christmas letter is...well, it’s defensive, I guess.

Been quite a year. The last couple of years have qualified, each one, as “quite a year.” Sometimes, it’s felt like a string of cosmic dump trucks have used me as a disposal site. I know that’s not true, of course: “learning experiences,” each and every one of them. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Ouch.

I’m a slow, difficult learner. Seems to take some pretty heavy-duty lesson plans to get through to me. Here’s a lesson that finally got through to me: I’m 68 years old, beat, physically crumbling, and there’s a bunch of stuff I can’t do anymore—if I ever could really do them, uh-huh. There’re quite a few things I’ve never done that I can’t do. I can tie my self-esteem—my ego, really—into achievements, and I can do that without hardly noticing what I’m doing. I still dance a little close to the edge on that one.

In 2005, I understood that something I needed to do was participate in a Sun Dance by pulling buffalo skulls. Two skewers inserted through the skin over my shoulder blades, and ropes hooked over those that are tied to the skulls. It’s a complicated line of reasoning, intuition, and recklessness that led me to doing that. That year, on a spur-of-the-moment action, I pulled the skulls. And I decided I’d do it again this year; and each year as long as I could. I didn’t realize just how hard that would be. The pain part of it was easy: I’ve had a lot of physical pain. There’s a high involved, like runners hitting the wall (or so I’ve heard!), and then you’re past it. It’s true—at least it was for me. That wasn’t the hard part.

The hard part was that when I got home, I had a full-blown case of bronchitis. I thought I was suffocating. I went to the hospital in an ambulance, and I spent three days there, on oxygen, inhalers, anti-biotics, and steroids. I got diagnosed with C.O.P.D.; too many years of smoking, the kyphosis —hunching—of my back, and assorted other things contributed to a diminuation of my lung capacity. That was a reality-mortality sandwich— a triple decker.

Back to the exercise class at the pool! And a couple of months later, I slipped on some stairs there, coming out of the whirlpool tub, and broke both my tibia and my fibula. I’m still seriously gimped from that one. There’s a major irony there, going to the pool to enhance my health and breaking my leg in the process. Another month or so, though, and I’ll be back at the exercise class. Aside from the (usual) health benefits, there’s something really nice about seeing it as self-affirmation. I can pat myself on the back, to use an old-fashioned cliche, for following an exercise routine. And I’m a social person: I like interacting with people. Being laid up—I’m getting around, slowly, with a walker—has put a crimp in socializing. You bet: the internet is a god-send.

Hasn’t been a totally catastrophic year, though. Last summer, we got in a great little trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. I kind of fell in love with it. Great place to visit: cosmopolitan residents, inexpensive restaurants with world-wide cuisines, book stores, and breath-stopping scenery. And the people are nice. Another visit is in the works: the anthropology museum at the University of British Columbia is still waiting for me. There are dozens of untouched used book stores. Malaysian food. Low-end French cuisine, British bangers and meat pies...Fresh sea food. Really fresh sea food. Sea food as a staple rather than a delicacy—what a concept!
After visiting Vancouver, we crossed back into the States and drove across the Northern Cascades Highway. Then we re-entered Canada—after being stopped by the U.S. Feds and asked why we were going into Canada...I know, I know: that sort of thing is just for our own good—National security my ass.

So, yes, it’s the same ol’ same ol’.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?