Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Arteries of the Spirit Harden

Arthur Rackham: illustration for Ruskin's King of the Golden River

6:30, and the dark is still complete: windows and skylights are dull black, except where they reflect an old, shrunken fellow huddled over his laptop. Not a hint that dawn is anywhere near.

I get on with the work of clearing phlegm from my lungs. My cold is ceding a little bit of territory, so there's some hope of getting ahead on that, at last. I've taken the last couple days off work, but that means, this being the giving season, that work is piling up for me, gifts that need to be entered into the database. I've tended this database for over a decade now, and I don't really like anyone but me entering the crucial gift data. Which means that, at this time of year, data entry tasks accumulate relentlessly.

On the other hand, there is an end to the task. Every year the spigot shuts off, abruptly and completely, on midnight of December 31st. The mail straggles in for a couple more days, and there's a couple big end-of-year tasks, but that's it. If I can stay on top of things till then, then I will have shot the rapids for another year, and be out into still water.

I began reading Isabel Allende's memoir, La Suma de los Días, but lost interest after sixty or seventy pages. My tolerance for vague and self-indulgent mysticism has dropped sharply.  A wealthy Marin County lady believes herself to be witch who makes things happen with the aid of her prayer circle: well, sure. Why not? What's the cost? And the fact that the centerpiece of the narrative is a marriage which I know busted up a short while after she finished writing adds, unfairly maybe, to my skepticism. The woman who wrote Eva Luna had things to say to me: I'm not sure this woman does.

And that, of course, stirs my deepest fears of mortality. The body dies, sure, that's right and proper, but it strikes a chill into me that the imagination dies. The arteries of the spirit harden. You look into the windows for a hint of dawn, and see nothing, and pretty soon you start making things up just to relieve the blankness, to fill in the darkness. But there's nothing there but your own reflection.

Well. You have to be willing to travel. And you have to be willing to wait for the darkness to resolve, on its own schedule, and to see whatever finally does appear. Whatever it is, welcome or not, and whatever it demands of you.

But beyond that, the point is, there are stories that belong to you and stories that don't, and there are stories that should be told, and stories that shouldn't. (These are separate distinctions, mind you, not the same thing said two ways.) That's what troubles me.

And if the dawn doesn't come, then it doesn't come. You leave the page blank. You go for a walk, or you take up the next duty that presents itself.

1 comment:

Pascale Parinda said...

You are right of course! That not every story is for every year. But I don’t believe that means some stories should go untold.

Tell the stories. Trust they will find the ears that need to hear.