Last night, we went to hear Joan Baez sing on a small island in the river. A scenic location.
Sometime two days ago virus no. 125 or maybe 525 had caught up with me and consequently, yesterday was pretty gruesome but by early evening I took one of the forbidden ibuprofen and
I have never been a true fan of Joan Baez and folk music gets kind of tedious after a while but I was hoping for encouragement, some kind of message on endurance and hope from a 78 year old artist and veteran civil rights activist.
Instead, I felt melancholia, nostalgia, loneliness even, sitting there in the crowd on our 3000 small chairs on the lawn by the river, like good children at assembly. There was a high wind rustling in the poplar trees and occasionally, the tuktuktuk of a passing river barge. Of course, she was a commanding presence but I felt such loss and when as a second encore, she sang "Where have all the flowers gone" (in German), I wanted to leave, I felt so sad. Walking across the bridge with the sky darkening so beautifully above the river, her last song ("Imagine") felt like a bad spell following us and I wanted to shout, this is getting us nowhere, enough.
I hadn't eaten since lunch, that plus the virus, who knows.
Early this morning it rained, gently. Like a whisper and then it was over and the birds, reinvigorated no doubt, began their show in earnest and at full volume. From an open window down the road I could hear my neighbour calling for help as she does every morning. She still looks as stunning as she did when we moved here so many years ago, the short Jean Seberg haircut and the stripy Breton shirt, tanned legs and elegant long arms. But her posture is that of a small bent woman, Alzheimer's disease does that to a person, and she barely looks up when someone from her devoted family brings her for a walk.
I listened to her for a while, trying to send her my best wishes, and made my mental list for the day, my list of all the tricks I intend to pull out of the bag to ignore my aching hands and feet, to play the game of being energetic and full of purpose. A game I play entirely for myself. There's no fooling R who carries the breakfast tray out to the patio table while I trudge along with the breadbasket.
The heat wave is over for now and today was a perfect summer's day. I slowly worked my way through my list, cleaning the bathroom, hanging out laundry, making the peach and star anise tart from the Chetna Makan book and watching R digging up carrots and potatoes. After lunch, we sat outside under the big umbrella looking through the family tree he has been working on with his older sister, reading about James and Patrick and Theresa and another James and another and several more Patricks and the many Desmonds and Peters and Marys and so on. Stories of emigration, foreign and domestic careers, dead infants, death during childbirth, poverty and riches. At times, we laughed but mostly we sat there thinking of these lives, these losses, the hardship, the courage.
And now, the ibu has delivered the expected results in my digestive system (whereby system is an euphemism, let's call it chaos, or hell) and has sent me to lie down with a hot water bottle, reading and thinking.
We carry our burdens on our backs, in our stomachs, in our hearts. We carry the burdens of those who hurt us, those for whom we are responsible, those we’ve lost.(from a beautiful essay by Amy Scheiner)