Alice Munro reminds me of a forensic pathologist unearthing truth under each gravestone, and dissecting each bit of tissue she comes across. Her path reports gleam with the clarity of presentation. My new project is to study her collected works over time, but my colleagues are afraid I will be depressed over time from the reality she displays.
I am unafraid because I relate to her inasmuch as she was a pretty, small town girl, unmoneyed, but with determination that amongst other things succeeded in winning the Nobel prize for literature. Who could not relate to that ? I am determined but not pretty. Who would not take advantage of the study of the wordsmith skill seen in the stories ? Who, Canadian , unmoneyed , determined, near her age and a small town boy wouldn't want to read her ?
A friend , Fran who reads fiction extensively, says she always avoided Alice because the work is dark. I suppose in a sense all forensic pathology is dark but it also embodies an interesting truth that the ordinary is so often extraordinary. So I suppose that forensic study of humanity is dark but also embodies truth.
Alice continued to exhume the troughs of her youth, seeking the answers of flesh that was buried that gives rise to new feelings from old shadows. She respects her readers enough to permit a resolution of her stories by themselves. That is both respect and engagement. We don't need our hand held. That can't be possibly depressing. It is therapeutic. It is however a writing scenario that doggedly and consistently records the faltering of humanity, or the ordinary despair, accepted, that surrounds us.
Classification of Alice's autopsy findings should be, Adult Only.
Interestingly I have an inkling that Alice does not write of men who can have significant and lasting relationships with other men. Curiously her capacity to examine relationships as a whole is so acute and perceptive, so why is this so mysterious ? Her men appear to be solitary or only connect to other men mediated primarily through their women. They often appear transient in their relationships. I wonder if this is common in fact in many women authors ?
Leaving, expressed as " goodbye". as "farewell". as " Au revoir" , have some connotations worth looking at that more than meets the ear. This week we said these words to our children and grandchildren and great grand children some of whom live far away.
For instance "goodbye" is said to arise from the archaic, " God be with ye " and is more likely connected with the " bye and bye' which means " some time again " , which I find more satisfying in that they will find they are surrounded with goodness until we meet again.
It meets the likeness of " farewell " or " fare thee well " that implies leaving, but in doing so that "wellness be your fare", a blessing that follows you where ever you go, your fare abundant.
And goodbye is sister to " au revoir " that recognizes that we will see one another or re-see one another again in the bye and bye. It means " Adieu, also that dieu follow you.
Each phrase imparts sentiment and good will that is expansed to one another and more than you think. Be careful what you say. Language counts.
A while back on a night of the day of Ash Wednesday I met my Boogeyman. That night he was in the dream. He appeared on a flat sea at the horizon; at a distance, a tall hairy Ellipsoid rapidly walking on the water toward me with disturbed seagulls flying wildly in the background. It looked initially like a tall hairy dog, and then a burro, and then a young Wilding! The eyes were glistening! He asked me if I was alone.
My Boogeyman is actually my interior evil that manifests from time to time when I don't nourish the goodness and feel alone. Then, not only does the Boogeyman speak for me, but he also closes my ears and and my eyes and opens my mouth and posture, much like the Boogeyman of Dr. Jekyll ( Mr. Hyde ).
Jesus dealt with his Boogeyman three times in the wilderness by obedience to Goodness. It does no good to believe that the interior Boogeyman is not there with me. He is always there.
When I went to a silent retreat once on an Ash Wednesday I was assailed with a dream about my collection of sins: sins of Commission and Omission. They came falling down from the sky like large raindrops with labels. The recognition of them is liberating in a setting that promotes goodness and forgiveness.
When I was a little boy I always looked under my bed to make sure the Boogeyman was not there. He was never there, or anywhere else outside of me. Having now found him, it is possible to keep him more or less in check by suffering through the sins of omission and commission and striving to nourish the goodness in preparation for Easter Day when my load and my cross is shouldered anew !
I don't want to be like paint that never dries;
In 2016 I wrote a book called "Listen to Your Garden." Some one said to me that was an odd title that made no sense, so the following was my forward in the book that I wrote to explain what I meant ,and I thought that would save him and others time from reading the whole book and he could devote himself some where else.
When I define listening to the garden it is not only hearing sounds , the sole responsibility of the auditory branch of the eighth cranial nerve ; it is sensing with all the seven senses that we are blessed with. This is the sort of listening that is much broader than hearing alone and tells us that we can be successful if we can combine these dimensions of our mind.
There is little in the book to satisfy the gardener who requires a menu of useful information. I don't consider myself an expert in gardening. There are plenty of professionals in horticulture whose knowledge and love of the subject is available. They could be Master Gardeners. They could be hired hands. Amazon listed 18,400 gardening titles available the day I looked so there is no shortage of expert instruction in gardening. There is probably no shortage referring to looking at the garden, but they didn't list any others that advocate listening to the garden that I could determine.
One may legitimately ask " How can the garden help me grow ?" There could be much that will satisfy those who require understanding of a sort that fulfills Aristotle's observation. " Nature does nothing in vain. " I suppose that he could be inferring that our growth under Nature's tutelage will not be in vain. In the garden we live with inhabitants that are rooted, some who scamper, and some who flutter. If we care we have to figure out what they need. Since we are one with them all, we know they need what we need.
If you think all this is a touch of madness you can read on to the 18,400 titles to show Mother Nature that you, not her, are the boss. To listen, however, one needs all seven senses. I reveal the seven senses in the book if read carefully, to gain the hidden dimensions.
When Sir Thomas Browne, graduated from Medicine at Leiden in 1654, he wrote, " thus there are two books from which I collect my divinity : besides that written one of God, another of of His servant Nature, that universal and public manuscript that lies expansed unto the eyes of all. Those that never saw him in the One have discovered him in the Other ."
a Some time ago a woman in her mid-seventies was trapped between the elevator doors of a down town parkade. The doors shut when she tripped as she was entering the elevator and both legs and one arm was pinioned outside the elevator doors as it ran up four floors and then ran down again to ground level without opening.
She was transferred to the Jubilee hospital emergency "in extremis" . All the involved limbs were mutilated. I was working in the operating room at the time as it was my day. The general surgeon in emergency called up and asked if I could " make room now " , and as I was finishing a case, I would bump the next one along ,as this was urgent. We examined her in the operating room . She had multiply fractured long bones in all three involved limbs, grossly shredded open wounds in all three limbs and filled with dirt and ground up with grease. She had a dangerous low blood pressure and a thready pulse but she was receiving fluid and transfusions and was conscious.
Our team suddenly became two anaesthetists, two surgeons and three nurses. Nothing here was salvageable and an ill-informed attempt to do so would be certain death in the face of old kidneys. Immediate removal of irrretrievable sources of contaminated crush products from entering the blood supply of the patient is life saving, She had immediate amputation of all the limbs proximal to the compound fractures and was transferred to the ICU by the anaesthetists.
She never turned a hair and was out of the ICU in three days and was on the ward. Shortly after that she was transferred to the Rehabilitation wing. Her husband and children were incredibly supportive during her stay.
After her transfer to rehab I lost track of her. About a year or so later I was visiting my mother-in-law in a Personal Care Facility with the pianist and we were having lunch in the dining room. A beautiful woman in an electric wheel chair came over to me with her husband and thanked me for looking after her. She was vibrant and her eyes sparkled. She was all there ! Her life had resumed !
Where does the power come from ? Where is the Well that we can draw the strength from to continue to live a real life that is beyond simply existing ? We didn't talk about faith that day but I saw serenity. The Well that we draw from may be beyond definition for some, or defined by the curious faithful , but whatever it is, it is real.
Traveling swiftly through the forest darkling
No broken branch, no twig displaced
No deep footprints in the wet, no leaf displaced
Silent and swift in unbroken movement
Going somewhere in search of place to place
Observing everything, disturbing nothing
Touching everything, disturbing nothing
Leaving silently, spoiling nothing
Known to You alone .
In the early morning hours, as I get up first, I sit in the kitchen in my wheeled walker and drink my coffee and my eyes always fall on the paraphernalia that sits on my small cupboard deck that has no theme ; or has it in fact a major theme?
First, The Amarylis was given as a Christmas gift from Ann, our neighbor ! I haven't had one for years but my Dad always had two or three in the CN railway station office where we lived as well , to brighten up the wicket in the waiting room. I look at the flower and am drawn again to think of him.
Second, The half empty bottle of red wine corked by Uncle Charlie, the porcelain cork that resembles Joan's great uncle, and her favorite, who was a rascally physician in Regina in the 40's. I never knew him but she has wonderful stories about him and I wish I had known him and maybe I do already because I had some of that attitude myself and am drawn to him.
Thirdly, The two little bronze frogs sitting on the ledge in postural differences are part of frog paraphernalia lurking about the house that are icons in today's world much like the canary in the cage in the coal mine. When I think they are cute, they are certainly more than that. I used to keep green tree frogs in my greenhouse to eat bugs but stopped when I think of the world and I thought of John Lennon and " whisper words of wisdom, Let it be, Let it be ."
Fourthly, The large Chinese urn was given as a prize to my father-in law who was a fine man and a dollar a year man during the second world war on the Canadian Ration Board. That he let me marry his daughter 64 and a half years ago was fortunate for me then, and fortunate for me now, and it may just be stuff, and you may think this is "stuff and nonsense" but I think of him often as I look at it.
Fiftley , The little book that is a compendium of British Columbia birds has given us some pleasure over the years but the birds don't care what they are called as long as they can survive. Today was a good day because the oregon juncos have returned in droves. They are our winter birds and a welcome addition and I am going to reread my little book to stay familiar with them and their needs.
Sixtly. On the other side of the counter is a pile of sheets , pamphlets, little books all connected with cooking and all of recent use by she who does all the cooking of new things to try. She has never been confined to cooking the same old stuff only but has never avoided a challenge trying anew, a recipe, or changing a recipe by application of the general nature of cooking. Reminds me of Julia and Julie after a fashion !
I think of her courage to try and try and handle stuff over the many years.
What's it all about Alfie ?
Harvesting from the soil over time without adding to it ends with depleting fertility and leaving it without muscle or synapse. Soil, like the mind, needs regular feeding to reproduce the fertility it was blessed with.
Good compost may be likened, in one's life, to the fully digested product of one's past material experience. With water, air, heat, and those harvested materials from the past, a fungal, bacterial enzymatic biomass is created which will raise the composted materials into the fertile dust of renewal. The renewal takes time ; heat, the right enzymes, destruction of pathological bacteria, aeration. watering, catalytic admixture, and earthworms who will tell you that you are on the right track.
Is mediation of the infertile mind the same and as simple as the addition of the carefully prepared compost pile to the soil? Maybe not, but I have to give it a shot, at least as hard as I work out at the compost bin. It seems to me that remediation of the mind is equivalent to the remediation of the dirt and equally useful. Then you can trust that the ruminant harvests that you have brought up from your past will be re-digested with care and with luck your muscle, muse, synapses, and mental fertility will be fulfilled and stimulate new growth in your life. It's really just chewing the cud.
We aren't that different from compost. Both of us are special. We both came from dirt and to dirt we shall return.