A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…..
I have a friend who frequently blogs about her own life – holidays, vacations, family visits, memorable meals, surgical recoveries…She illustrates her blog with great pictures and enjoys a wide readership. In my case, I’ve never been able to believe that anyone would be interested in my everyday life. Still, since almost no one reads my blog anyhow, I might as well take a crack at it.
There are difficulties. First of all, am I going to tell the truth? Hardly anybody does. As Mark Twain pointed out, writers are professional liars. In general, this is all for the best. It’s important not to tell people more about you than they want to know. There are anonymous message boards where people can talk about their anxiety attacks or their struggles with a spastic colon, and that’s all for the best.
Then there are confidentiality concerns. What can I say about my life without embarrassing other people who are innocent or not-so-innocent bystanders? Writers are always getting into trouble about that. Still, I’m going to give this a whirl.
Yesterday. September 13, 2013. The thirteenth day of the ninth month of the 13th year of this millennium. An important day in the Wiccan Calendar, in a month that will be marked by spiritual suffering, according to the ancient art of numerology. My first memories of the day are at 5 a.m. Gladiola wakes me up so that I can open his little cat door. He will slide out into the night to have cat adventures in the green jungle of our backyard and the field that lies beyond. I go back to bed, but getting back to sleep is not so easy. The existential horror that has been part of my life for decades overtakes me. I remember sitting in my second grade classroom and wondering what I was doing there. What is all this? Where was I before I was here? Where am I going? What is death? Other kids were cutting out paper bunnies. I have never, in the intervening years, overcome this affliction.
I lie in bed and feel the earth whirling around me. The ice caps are melting. Friends are battling horrific diseases. Half-naked teenagers are having simulated sex on national television. Bombs are dropping. People by the millions are sitting in their houses tweeting and twittering. Homeless people are lying in the woods, surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes.
I remember to thank God for this amazing bed, in this beautiful room, for the fan that sits at the foot of the bed blowing a gentle breeze. For the miracle of indoor plumbing. For a kitchen that has food, lots of food, too much food. For my simple Freeman who lies beside me, gently snoring. He has little existential horror at this time of year because it’s football season. Then in the Spring there is basketball season. Maybe in my next lifetime I will be a guy.
I take three homeopathic sleeping pills and one Benadryl and eventually I am able to sleep again.
I wake up to the smell of coffee. Freeman and I take turns making coffee in the morning, a task complicated by our small herd of domestic livestock: “Feed me.” “Fill my water bowl.” “Let me out.” “Scratch my ears.” When it’s Freeman’s turn to make coffee they get short shrift. He’s not a morning person and he figures they will still be alive and well when I get up and see to their furry needs.
We lie in bed and watch the hurricane news on the weather channel, and engage in desultory conversation about the coming attractions of day ahead. Up front there is cleaning out the big thermoses leftover from the meal we took out to Tent City. As usual, I beg him to clean out the ones that contained meat, a product I do not indulge in. He wrinkles his nose. I tell him that it would be even more traumatic for me. He and the dog will carry out this task. He power washes the thermoses outside with a hose while Beauregarde licks the ground and wags his tail enthusiastically. I do the tea thermoses as befits my more refined sensibilities.
Then there is answering email and reading newspapers online. There is avoidance behavior, like compulsively playing FreeCell and Gold Miner. In Gold Miner a little guy with a fishing pole captures prizes that are worth money. At every stage there is a minimum amount of money he must make in order to stay in the game. I pretend that I am an 18-year-old Vermonter whose parents have tragically died in a car accident. Can I make enough money to save the farm? Will I be able to raise my younger sisters or will they be carted off to Kinhaven, the Vermont State Orphanage? The little man and I fish like mad.
This is just a little bit thin – it cannot ward off reality for long. To do that, you need bigger dramas, and at age 68 I no longer work on creating big dramas. Now there is running loads of laundry, emptying waste baskets, cleaning the cat litter pan, putting stuff back where it belongs, throwing out dead food, planning what to fix for dinner. There is also music. I love to play the “Shuffle” station on Pandora Radio. I listen to a Bach cello concerto and then to Jimmy Rodgers wailing about “A Six-Pack to Go,” and then a Gegorian chant, and then some Dave Brubeck, and then Frank Sinatra remembering a White Christmas. This station definitely helps me avoid getting into an emotional rut.
The day goes on with errands and television and trips to the garden. I fix a big egg salad and Freeman makes a garden salad to go with it. We are having a sandwich and salad dinner, enough food in this heat. In the evening we plan to go downtown and listen to a Beatles cover band play in the downtown community plaza.
The music is good but extremely loud. We sit across from the plaza, in front of the giant clock, with our friend Pat, who has a big cooler full of ice and bottled water. He has propped two signs up against the clock base: FEED EVERYONE and FREE WATER. The public fountain in the plaza barely works, so he brings this water for the homeless people, or anyone else who is thirsty. Sometimes people give him money, which he uses to buy more ice and water. He has various friends sitting with him, including a renegade lawyer who used to defend death row inmates, but now has chosen to live outdoors and walk – sometimes 20 or 30 miles a day – for reasons that are not apparent to anyone. Strange karma, but no stranger than activities people regard as ‘normal,’ such as watching many hours of television a day – surfing from accounts of cheerleaders murdered in 1964, to the adventures of SpongeBob, to talk shows where loud young women proclaim that they slept with 47 guys and want to know which one fathered their baby. It’s even more confusing now than when I was in the second grade.
Michael, a young homeless man who is a writer, stretches out on the sidewalk in front of us to take a nap. We encourage him to move behind the clock, where he will be less likely to attract a curious cop, but he chooses not to. Homeless people come by and get water. Snooty housed people walk by with their faces averted. We are a seedy looking lot. Old friends come by and chat for awhile. It is a little like the front porches of my childhood, where people sat out in big rocking chairs while neighbors strolled by, stopping to talk for a few minutes. We don’t have much of that in our twittering, tweeting world, and I enjoy it.
Tonight, though, there is a slight vibe of danger. Some teenagers fighting about money, the smell of pot drifting down from a neighboring bench, a guy with a dog on a leash. He is talking nonstop and waving a half-full bottle of beer. The dog escapes and runs into traffic. I bury my face in my hands. The dog makes it back to the sidewalk and the drunken man walks on.
We decide to go home and eat some ice cream. It’s been a pretty good day.