Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Day, 2020

 This is what I have always desired above all else: that this day should be a day like all others, a day with a morning, an afternoon, and a night, any of which might be made into anything. 

Rightly or wrongly, I've always disliked holidays: days that absolutely must be one thing and no other. They seem to me a disrespect to the world, an imposition on it that we have no right to make. Who are we to call this day Christmas, as if days were a thing to be ordered and sorted and classified by human beings? Who knows what we've lost, over the years, how many days born in the tenderest part of winter, that might have been days of learning or of loss, that have been made by brute force into days of festivity? It's hard for me to see this act of coercion as homage to Jesus of Nazareth, who came to make everything uncertain and raw-skinned and new. 

(Though he himself celebrated Pesach, and I doubt he would have had much sympathy for my desire to escape the strictures of a human life. What would I build with an unformed day, but the same old jail I build every day?)

Still. The longing for freedom reaches its peak on holidays, on the 4th of July and on Christmas. It's then that I most want to be far away from other people, far away from their anxieties and desires. Stop chattering, just for a moment, and let me think! All I want is one moment of stillness, one moment in the heart of winter, or in the heart of summer, unnamed and unnameable. 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

A Pale and Uncertain Blue

 The moon carefully makes its way through the laurel leaves, to take up a post where it can look in the west-facing window. A quarter till seven, and no sign of dawn. She is still brilliant; mostly full; criss-crossed with hedge twigs. A small, hard, ambitious light, which illuminates nothing. I am not friends with the moon this morning. I just want the sun to rise, and bring summer with her.

So, a vaccine trial has come to town, and I'm going to try to sign up for it, I think: most of my hesitation is about the fine print. If I'm in the placebo group, how long am I committed to wait to get a real vaccine? Apart from that, it's a no-brainer: the control group is only 1/3 of the total, so that's a 66% chance of getting a good vaccine quite a bit earlier than the average Joe. It's not even in the first round of stage-3 trials -- in fact it will probably be approved for emergency use by the FDA while this trial is going on -- so if it does anything icky to people, it's something that doesn't show up for months. Meanwhile, COVID has also come to town, with a vengeance, and it definitely does icky things to people. Where do I sign?

As I write, the sky lightens, and the moon begins to lose her grip. No longer the absolute mistress of the sky.

The giving season has begun in earnest: for the next six weeks my workload doubles or triples. I bump up to thirty hours per week, instead of twenty, and work almost as much as real people do. As always, when this happens, I marvel that any regular working people keep their health into their fifties and sixties: there's simply not enough time to take care of yourself properly. Realized as I was going to bed last night that I'd inadvertently skipped my daily walk. That sort of thing is fine, for six weeks. Year round, the stresses would accumulate and things would start to break down. And one thing leads to another, when that happens. You eat more because you're tired, and you stop exercising, and then you're more tired, and joints get huffy and obstinate, and hauling yourself around the house turns into more than you want to do... and it just goes on, until you're totally sedentary, totally stressed, eating like a maniac, and just waiting for the first critical system to go. It's no mystery to me why American health is so poor.

But enough. Light is coming back to the world. The hedge is green instead of black. The blue of the sky is pale and uncertain, but it is blue, and it will become bluer.