Sunday, October 4, 2015

I am basking in the extreme pleasure of going nowhere this morning, a pleasure made even sweeter by the fact that I thought I was going somewhere. But then, when the alarm clock went off at 6, and I was beginning to convince myself to get out of bed and wake up Paul so that I could drive him to his 5K race, Tom got up, and Tom made the coffee, and Tom offered to drive Paul to the race. So I am sitting here in my shabby pink bathrobe, on this frosty morning, with my fresh cup of coffee and a couple of hours of kitchen-table solitude before me, grateful for the sweetness.

Over the course of this past week, I've been pondering a variety of subjects, some of them influenced by what I've been reading, some by conversations. Here are few of my disparate thoughts.

* Robertson Davies's novel The Manticore is the first-person narrative of a character named David Staunton, a middle-aged Canadian trial lawyer who is undergoing Jungian analysis in Switzerland. In the course of his analysis, David describes his two sets of grandparents, both from the same provincial town, though one is well-to-do, the other working-class poor. As he recalls them, he explodes into ire: "God, I've seen the gross self-assertion of the rich in its most sickening forms, but I swear the orgulous self-esteem of the deserving poor is every bit as bad!" Though David is, at this point in the novel, mostly a callow boor, his frustration struck me, on both a personal and a political level, as disturbingly apt.

* I have quietly listened to many different kinds of Americans talk about the pope's visit to the United States. Most influential to my thoughts were my friend Bill's comments about the way in which the pope is pressing both liberals and conservatives to face the gray areas of their own morality. Conservatives are furious about his commitment to ecological honesty, abolishing the death penalty, and dealing with the truths of poverty. Liberals are furious about his opposition to gay marriage and abortion. Both sides want to use his "nice guy" attributes to buoy their own causes. Both sides want to find a way to downplay the fact that he does not fit into a crisp political model. Few seem to be asking themselves why he should fit into such a model.

* After spending a week on the road as a poet, I am shifting into fiddle-player mode . . . except that yesterday, at our coffee-shop gig, someone told me, "You have such a beautiful voice." No one has ever said that to me before. I know I can sing in tune, but for most of my life I have not been a singer. I have not considered my voice to be anything special, to be anything more than utilitarian. The violin has overshadowed all. So I have been thinking this morning about these enormous shadows--those aspects of a life that dominate, even choke out, the seedlings below. I have been thinking about the seedlings that never grow at all, the ones that wither and die--not necessarily in my own life but in any life.

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