I wake before dawn. It is not hard to do now as the days grow shorter. I make coffee and read less of the news than I used to. Reading newspaper articles can ruin your ability to think and write about as quickly as reading freshman essays can. Or so it seems. Sitting in the darkness before dawn, coffee at my elbow, laptop before me, I think to change some aspect of my life or another. Most days, anyway. And most days I go on as I did before. Only circumstance seems to change. Most days, I struggle to meet it.
Did I tell you my mother had a terrible reaction to her flu shot? Surely I did. Headache, then nausea, then vomiting and a nose bleed? I made dinner for her yesterday. She said she feared she had a stroke. That had not even occurred to me. I asked her how she felt now, and she said fine.
What I mean is. . . circumstances.
I still wasn't feeling energetic yesterday. It was a beautiful day, but I didn't manage to get out in it until it was time to see my mother. I've talked to many people now who have had or who know someone who has had a very bad reaction to vaccines. I still have faith in science, but I wonder more and more about scientists and who they work for. Everything is being run by MBAs now. There are investments. There must be profits. If not, nobody gets paid.
This is the beginning of a good conspiracy theory, eh? It is easy to throw shade. . . but that doesn't mean it is wrong. I've always argued that science is better than religion, but is the scientist better than the priest? Corruption has many forms.
While I wasn't engaging with the world out there yesterday, however, I was engaged with my multitude of photo files. Good God, I've been good from time to time. It makes me want to be good again. I had put away all my cameras, but I've begun pulling some out. I've charged batteries and looked at the stacks of film I haven't used. Maybe I'm interested again. No, it is not interest that has been lacking. It is something else. Call it "gumption." Or maybe "bravado." One needs a sort of idiotic confidence and curiosity, too. Imagine Alfred E. Neumann with a camera. He would be great. Think the photography of William Eggleston.
I need to channel Neumann and his philosophy. Stated differently, perhaps, but I'd adapt the motto.
It is cooler now. It was sixty degrees when I got up. We will barely break seventy today. It is cafe time. I need a scooter. A coffee. A tea. A beer. I've been looking for one. I've found one about three hours from here that looks nice for a good price. I can't figure out how to get it here, though. I'll keep looking.
I will change my life today, I think. Small things. But there is a cycle. Today is garbage day. The lawn crew comes, too, and I need to pay them. Tomorrow the maids. But I have a lunch date with my former secretary in the factory town, too. That will disrupt the routine a bit. I'll take a camera with me. After lunch, I will go for a drive.
Have you ever read Steinbeck's short story, "Chrysanthemums"?
"The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot. On the broad, level land floor the gang plows bit deep and left the black earth shining like metal where the shares had cut. On the foothill ranches across the Salinas River, the yellow stubble fields seemed to be bathed in pale cold sunshine, but there was no sunshine in the valley now in December. The thick willow scrub along the river flamed with sharp and positive yellow leaves."
(you can read it here)
It is a heartbreaking story. The tyranny of routine. . . the heartbreak of desire. I've argued about the meaning of this story with colleagues forever. They seem blind to it to me. In the end, we all must alter our expectations. There is a barren emptiness that Elisa, the story's protagonist, must fill.
"It will be enough if we can have wine. It will be plenty."
A scooter, a camera, a cafe. Enough, perhaps. Plenty.