2020

“…in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort….” (From The Republic, Plato)

It’s hard to avoid the irony—the titular year of perfect vision, the unraveling of once reliable norms, political structures, checks and balances, civility in all arenas, the losses of loved ones and heroes to injustice and disease.

And it’s equally hard to avoid the comparison—between that titular year of sudden perfect vision, and the years of blurring and distortion, loss of sight preceding it.

That loss creeps up on us slowly. Colors lose their intensity, fading from brilliant to dull, letters spread into each other across pages and screens as poetry and prose and road signs seem layered with petroleum jelly. For a while, it’s easy to grow accustomed to, and comfortable with changes, a world smearing out of focus, and accommodate them with sharper lenses and adjusted habits. It’s easy to say we can deal with things as they are. We’re not missing anything truly important. We can still make out the big picture.

But then, one day, those street lights that come on at dusk glare at and confuse us, make us misread road signs. Or, the newspaper goes untouched because it’s too taxing to decipher small print. That’s when we realize how much of the big picture we’re not seeing.

I’m getting to that stage with my own vision, which has been on a steady decline for years. And I’ve been through enough cataract surgeries with friends and family to understand how startling sudden clarity can be.

More than one friend has related how shocked she was by her first look at herself after surgery. “I walked by the mirror, not intending to stop, then did a double-take after I caught sight of a strange image moving across the glass. I couldn’t believe the woman’s wrinkled up face was mine.”

For many of us, the severely clouded lenses that enabled our old lives and habits and beliefs have been stripped away, and we aren’t quite sure how to process and respond to the stark and painful clarity of new vision, or function with it. No matter which way we turn, no matter how well we think we’re adjusting, there’s always another flaw, another act of cruelty, corruption, injustice, bigotry, stupidity, selfishness, and there’s always another loss—of a loved one, or hero….

I wish I had words to ease the pain, fury, and helplessness over being assailed with such clarity, the harsh reality it exposes. But all I have is an increasing sense of urgency to more actively care for those I love, impress upon them the necessity of taking care of themselves and their loved ones, paying attention to persistent symptoms, scheduling life-saving tests, looking both ways when crossing the street, wearing a mask…wearing a mask….

That, at least, is a start.

Stay safe. Be well.

©2020 All Rights Reserved

Change

Our sparrows did not return this year. Their little brown house is empty and still. Only the wind shakes it now.

Last year at this time they were busy caring for their young. She, flying off to find food, and he, standing guard outside, darting off when she returned.

I wonder about them, the generations they hatched and raised while we looked on. And I wonder about their offspring, all grown now, and where they have settled, if they’ve found a shelter as secure as the one we provided for their parents.

Sparrows mate for life. But, it’s easy to get complacent, forget that things change, and sometimes, all we know is upended.

***

In high school, I opted for a class in Earth Science rather than Physics.

That year, I learned to recognize cloud and rock formations, and sat aghast as the teacher explained that earthquakes and volcanoes are constructive forces. How could that be? Surely, he had to be mistaken, considering the devastation, loss of property and life that came from such upheavals. But, no, he said. From a geological standpoint, these seismic shifts and eruptions are the earth’s way of adjusting, releasing pressure, remaking itself.

***

As millions fall prey and succumb to a novel pathogen, I struggle to remind myself that what seems devastating may also have the power to force long overdue adjustments and remodeling in thought and habit. I struggle hard.

***

The sparrows we grew to love and expect every spring will not be back. But a lilac bush, which seeded on our front lawn, is flourishing.

Everything has changed.

“The earth spins, cells divide, souls entwine…
…we grieve and grieve and somehow live again.”
(From an untitled work in progress.)

©2020 All Rights Reserved

Fetish

I spend most of every Sunday with crossword puzzles. Our local paper has three of them, with different levels of difficulty. After solving the Jumble and Sudoku, which I consider a warm-ups for my brain, I tackle the mid-level crossword, because it’s the shortest, then move on to the difficult one. By day’s end, I’ve completed all of them…and by Monday morning I’m looking for more word games.

Scrabble satisfies one craving, Words with Friends another. But I’m always left with the need to dig into a puzzle, one that will keep me going for a while. Puzzle books fulfill some of those needs, and reading literature more. But, but, but…

What happens when I’ve done the last, read the last word? Oh, there will be more puzzles to come, more books read, but in the meantime, to plug the gaps, there are apps.

I’ve been through many of them, with differing degrees of satisfaction, abandoning them when they cease being entertaining; but last week I tried a new one, and spent several hours over five days with it.

Then I deleted it.

Why? It told me the word fetish is not in the dictionary.

Not something you say to a word addict. EVER.

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