The serenity of solitude and sunshine takes me away from writing here these days, that and the fatigue that follows a few hours’ worth of penning Frank Shaver’s story. Sometimes I sacrifice a few moments to a concern that I’ll somehow lose my ability to swing words by way of absence, but experience tells me that such a loss is not possible, that just the opposite is true: feeling comfortable with being alone is a gift that contributes to the treasure that each one of us holds inside (although not many care to unwrap that present and relish what reveals itself).
A long number of years ago I read a column written by Lawrence Block, now dead but not forgotten, not by me at least. At that time Mr. Block and his wife were planning a road trip, the type of voyage labeled Destination Unknown. As he packed luggage into the boot of his car he worried that time away from his keyboard might cause his writer’s soul to abandon him in favor of a visit to the inside of another human being’s carcass. But his wife wanted his company, and so he dragged the suitcases, the sleeping bags, the extra pillows and the road-trip backpacks along the length of his driveway and at first attempted to block out all thoughts of Lawrence Block.
As is always the case, however, he could not escape himself with such blithe imprecision, and so instead he wrote inside his head, and still he relaxed.
And so I relax, as well.
Each day I rise by six in the morning. I shower and next I accomplish my chores (exciting life, no?). A cup or two of herbal tea. Fresh fruit and goat’s milk yogurt. Perhaps a load of laundry. Feed the cat. Last night’s dishes into the washer. Sweep the sidewalk, empty the trash, water the lawn.
Then upstairs to tap the next episode of Frank Shaver’s confused mental magic into my machine for two hours or so.
And next comes my time to soak my flesh in sunshine.
A retirement nap as I sit on a fold-out chair, lean back and let the red behind my eyelids hypnotize me. Employment never brought me so much pleasure.
I find that these days I sleep with a soundness that seems almost foreign to me. I awaken and realize that I must not be anywhere, not sooner, not later.
A visit to the medicine cabinet, there to splash a few drops of minor medicine into my eyes, enough to provide me with clarity sufficient to read.
I am halfway through Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of The Vanities, and although I hate to admit that my dear curmudgeon friend was correct, the book is boring. Still, I’ll finish reading it the way a writer reads a book, because Wolfe can interweave subplots with skill and grace.
My digital book reader, by the way, now holds about seventy volumes, and those seventy make only a small dent in the device’s capacity. I recommend these machines to readers everywhere.
Two days ago, I took myself on a long walk — doctor’s orders for this old man — and snapped some photographs. Color all around me. I feel grateful for whatever time may be left to me, and for the opportunity to appreciate my surroundings free from the anxiety that a working man’s life entails. We should all retire soon enough to see the light that shines upon this speck inside the universe. Rich or poor; if you can manage, retire early. And don’t wait, as I waited, for weakened health to force the issue.
Today I spoke by way of telephone with a beautiful woman named Elizabeth. Her mom died just this past Monday (I did not know this before I called). Readers here know that one of my brothers, John, died just a few weeks ago. I felt comforted to understand that Elizabeth and I shared similar reactions to death. I hope to meet this fine lady sometime soon to share a cup of tea and laughter.
In a couple of weeks I’ll attend an open house where some of my former colleagues and current friends will gather. I am uncomfortable feeling as if I, because I recently retired, might be even a slight center of attention. Some folks who think they know me giggle when I tell them this, because I own a big mouth and I cannot stop talking when I am part of a crowd (I know, writers are supposed to be the “silent type”). They consider that I’m joking. I am not. I am a shy man.
But as the grand woman who will throw open her doors to host this fete told me, “You need to get over that.” And so I’ll try. I know that, as well, I’ll enjoy the companionship of kind people.
So pull closed the curtain for now. Perhaps we’ll talk again tomorrow. Sorry to raise your blood pressure with such a tale of suspense as here I offered you today.
And just now, as I re-read what I wrote above, I understood my good fortune; because I — even caught inside the cell of my old age — am surrounded by gorgeous women. Eat your hearts out, friends. Would that you should be so lucky.