A Small Act of Doing

[blue rare]

After a restless night, you get a late start on the day.  It’s well after ten o’clock, and you’re still drinking your morning coffee, gloomily contemplating the day ahead.  A spider web in the corner of the ceiling, a partially clogged drain, a sink full of dirty dishes, a basket full of unwashed clothes.  All the little chores with sharp and tiny teeth, nibbling relentlessly away at the precious, dwindling rations of your weekend hours.

You are momentarily distracted by a crossword puzzle and a news story about a pop star who has been bitten by a bat.  A relative in California sends you a text with dancing emojis to congratulate you on the fact that Trump will no longer be able to visit your country, now that he’s a convicted felon.  But you know in your heart that, if he is elected again, that will never be the case.  Money and influence talk; those sorts of legalities are only for the powerless and the poor.  And, on this gloomy kind of Sunday, it somehow seems inevitable that he will be elected again.  Almost, even, that the accumulated events of centuries have been building up to such a thing.  And, if that comes to pass, his travels will be the least of the world’s problems.

But these are pointless brooding speculations and have no bearing on the here and now of your day.  And after all, there are certain time-honoured ways to break this spell of gloom.

Of these, perhaps the greatest is music.  So, you put some records on the stereo and turn the volume up high.  But somehow even Kamasi Washington and Chrissie Hyde have momentarily lost their power to heal.  Your day is being measured in coffee cups.  You pour yet another refill and watch dust motes spiralling about in the pool of dim light thrown by a yellow-shaded standing lamp.

This town is Deadsville.  You long to be taken away to somewhere, so you open a copy of Ripley’s Game.  There is to be no quick and easy escape, though.  Not even in the diverting company of Patricia Highsmith.  You remain grounded, the weather inside your head having cancelled all the flights.

Never a good sign, when music and words have lost their charm.  You can’t help but wonder if you’ve relied on those pleasures a little too often over the years, perhaps gone back to that well one time too many.

Is this, you wonder, what it’s like to feel old and tired of the world?  The sense that life’s colours have been dulled, like stained glass faded by the passage of time.  Like the way that you’re sure that strawberries and tomatoes used to have more flavour when you were younger.

Hours and hours drift by.  You are indecisive and trapped in time.  A younger, more foolish version of you might have looked in all the wrong places for a means of escape.  Inside a medicine cabinet, for instance, or at the bottom of an empty glass.  But that was before you learned to trust your balance.  Now you know you can surf the darkness.

So, you step out into the back yard, with the stated purpose of picking a handful of basil from the garden.  But also because you want to feel the rain drenching your face and shirt, feel the wind in your face.  You notice the way that the sky is filled with that strange light that arrives before the thunderstorm.  Everything is glowing just a little bit, everything is charged.  You can make out dragons and horses in the form of clouds.

Back in your kitchen, you turn the music off and listen to the arias of wind and the percussion of approaching thunder.  You go about the task of making lunch.  Chopping garlic, slicing mushrooms, measuring cream, pinching salt, grinding pepper, adding fusilli to a pot of boiling water.  A small and quiet way to get through the afternoon.  A familiar pastime, a creature comfort.  A small act of doing instead of thinking, to remind yourself that you are alive, that you have been happy once and will be happy again.  And that is enough for anyone.