"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
No definition or quote this time, since it's time for the...
Blogger Idol Week 3 Top Picks!
And now, in no particular order...
Frac » A day in the life of Jeff. A short fictional story. (This one is excellent, particularly the end. VERY clever!)
Deneice » A day in the life of my eating disorder (So personal and intense, this young lady has a tremendous amount of courage to share these sorts of things. Strength like this is truly an inspiration. Way to go! So far this lady is batting 1,000 and has been on my list every single time.)
amanda » A Day In My Life Photographic Style...gee, something new they say! (This one was neat, Amanda takes normal stuff and through her lens it becomes extraordinary. Slow load and worth it.)
sílent tríbute » A day in the life of a werewolf named Jess. (Why does this girl keep ending up in my top five lists? Check her out and see. She's been on my top five twice now.)
Keks » I'm known for taking things too literally. (Another cool one. When he says "literally" he means literally.)
Almost every entry this week was good quality. I read and enjoyed them all.
Darren at the Living Room, the originator of the Blogger Idol, wanted this "contest" to serve as a connection point for bloggers. Well Darren, you're doin' it! Thanks!
trag-e-dy Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English tragedie, from Middle French, from Latin tragoedia, from Greek tragOidia, from tragos goat (akin to Greek trOgein to gnaw) + aeidein to sing -- more at TROGLODYTE, ODE
1 a : a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man b : a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror c : the literary genre of tragic dramas
2 a : a disastrous event : CALAMITY b : MISFORTUNE
3 : the serious car accident down the road right now
It's raining out, and I think a man may be dying just down the road.
The VP of the company saw the accident on his way in, and then went back in a few minutes to make sure it was not one of our employees. It wasn't. The pickup truck was wrapped around a tree like a bobby pin from what he said, the driver trapped inside and covered by the police with a tarp.
Even though it had been a while since the accident happened, there were no emergency people other than the police at the scene.
That's a bad thing.
Someone's life changed today, as quick as a finger snap. It may very well have ended that quick. Some family somewhere will never be the same, I expect.
I think that a good many of us who do not die of an extended illness die in the company of strangers. These strangers may be the most qualified to rescue us, the first to respond to a 911 call, or maybe even just the first to stop their car and find us in the ditch or around a tree.
But those last moments, those last moments, we may see them come and go far too quickly.
Things will be left unsaid that we always meant to say, and never did.
Things undone that we always meant to do, and never said.
People that we were always meant to be, and never were.
Just like that (*SNAP!*) over and done.
I do not know if the fellow in that truck will make it or not. I hope he does. I hope that tarp was to keep him out of the rain, and not to afford him a sort of postmortem dignity. And if this is the ultimate tragedy for him, I hope he has done and said everything he wanted to before getting his exit visa.
So, have I personally done and said everything yet? No. There's more yet to do, to say, to feel, to become.
Same with you, you know.
Don't miss the train.
It might leave any minute.
The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
William James (1842 - 1910)
emerge Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): emerged; emerg·ing
Etymology: Latin emergere, from e- + mergere to plunge -- more at MERGE
1 : to become manifest
2 : to rise from or as if from an enveloping fluid : come out into view
3 : to rise from an obscure or inferior position or condition
4 : What I think I am doing, finally, but dare not hope too much for
I think, if I crane my neck, I can just make out your horizon.
And I never knew the sun could be so bright.
For me, being bipolar means that I never get to see the regular view of life that other people have. To me, life is always a great struggle, even when it is good, and over the years I have become a master of doing this inside and not showing any sign outside.
Unless it gets too bad and my grip slips, and then I explode all over the place. But we won't mention that today. At least not in any detail. Anyway, that's rare nowadays.
Only a few weeks ago, my experience of life was like being immersed in rapids. If I had any relief, it was only as if my head was just above the water. I still, on the best of days, felt overwhelmed, drowning, the turmoil inside me threatening to drag me back into places I would rather not ever visit again.
But I hung on. I smiled and laughed and told jokes and bled inside. Hey, that's what I do. I always have. I live in the lions jaw, and I don't have a lot of choice in the matter.
That began to slowly change a couple of months ago.
I was doing what I refer to as "blowing through my meds." My mood swings had become so intense and rapid that the meds I was on could not hold them in check. I knew things were off kilter. The rapids were way over my head a lot of days. I've learned that when that starts to happen, its time to go get some help.
The doc began to shift my meds around, looking for the right cocktail. In a few weeks, we got one that seemed to work.
I've been on this new regimen for a couple of months now.
I've noticed things inside of me settling down, even though it has been slow. At first, I had my head above the rapids. Then, the rapids were down to my chest. Next, just my legs. Finally, I felt the rapids just below me and I was not in them at all.
That was a heck of a day, believe me.
But nothing like today, when I can honestly say that the rapids are nothing more than a distant rumble, hardly even able to be heard.
I am realizing that this is what it feels like to be normal. This is what everyone else feels.
I am peering from the hole I have lived in all these many years, finally.
And I can see the sunshine that lights the lives around me, even though they take it for granted. Oh, if they knew the darkness below, they would laugh and dance in the light for all they were worth.
So I sit, with my head just above the rim, peering at the horizon.
Content, for now.
He who endeavors to serve, to benefit, and improve the world, is like a swimmer, who struggles against a rapid current, in a river lashed into angry waves by the winds. Often they roar over his head, often they beat him back and baffle him. Most men yield to the stress of the current... Only here and there the stout, strong heart and vigorous arms struggle on toward ultimate success.
This weeks Blogger Idol theme is "A Day in the Life Of..." Instead of writing about my normal day, I have chosen one special day to write about.
dan-ger Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English daunger, from Old French dangier, alteration of dongier, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin dominiarium, from Latin dominium ownership
1 : exposure or liability to injury, pain, harm, or loss
2 : a case or cause of danger
3 : where you can land suddenly, unexpectedly, on a sunny afternoon.
It was 1987, and I was on yet another free cruise to Nassau.
At the time, I was a travel agent and the agency would take all of us on a cruise in the winter. The cruise was always to Nassau. So, here I went, yet again, to Nassau.
Now, Nassau is not a town where you can spend endless days, like a Paris or even a Lucerne. Nassau has a limited set of attractions. Lets see, there's the straw market (conveniently located near the dock), the botanical gardens (which hardly anyone goes to, but they are beautiful), the underwater theme park/tourist trap, the straw market, a few duty free shops, some sightseeing boats with glass bottoms, and did I mention the straw market?
When I awoke that morning, I knew that when we docked at lunchtime, all those things would be awaiting me. But I felt uneasy.
Something was wrong.
It was not something I could put my finger on, I mean, you could look all around me and ask anything you liked and nothing was amiss or out of place. It was just something was wrong.
I did not know it at the time, but when my wife had dropped me off for the cruise the day before she had a premonition that she would never see me alive again. So did I, but neither of us voiced it. As others made their cheerful goodbyes and warmed up for a several day long party, I said a sober and heartfelt farewell.
The day we arrived in Nassau, I had gotten up far earlier than is normal for me. It was about six o'clock, maybe earlier. I got dressed and went out onto the deck into the gray early morning cloudiness. It was deserted except for one crewmember tossing garbage bags into the water.
Yeah, you'll notice I am steering away from naming this cruise line. We'll leave it that way.
As the ship awoke around me, I felt tense, but managed to swallow it and look as jovial and funloving as ever. And, you know, when you are on a cruise ship and you feel out of sorts, eventually you begin to cheer up and forget your troubles. The cruise lines spend millions of dollars to make that happen, and it does.
I went to breakfast and it was, like all cruise ship meals, awesome. But it seemed like it was missing something.
I guess it was my mood. The food was perfect, but Cliff wasn't. That nagging premonition just wouldn't let me go.
As the day progressed, the sun burned off the early morning clouds and we approached Nassau. In the midst of the limbo contests and the wooden horse races and the calypso music, I watched the island grow ever closer. Slowly, my unease faded to a low buzz.
Even amidst the frenetic merrymaking, I was almost bored. Oh, did I mention they have a straw market in Nassau?
The massive ship thrust itself smoothly into the harbor and then did a butterfly dance right up to the dockside. On the way in, I saw a beautiful pink hotel up on a hill. This hotel had been closed for a long time, but it still proudly stood guard over the harbor like a pink knight of the art deco round table. It was easily as big as the British Colonial, still operating and even featured in some James Bond movies. But this ancient relic seemed stuck in time, abandoned, brooding over the harbor as if it were waiting for yet another William Hearst to pull up in a Rolls Royce and claim his "regular" room.
You know, I've seen that hotel every time from the water, but I've never seen that hotel. Not really, not up close, I thought.
I'll bet I can get some really cool pictures there.
After all the checks and forms filled out and whatnot, eventually the gangplank goes down and we all get to scatter into Nassau proper. So, I dutifully head out; besides there is nothing happening on the ship anyway, everything shuts down for the shore pilgrimage.
There is a line of taxis and limos waiting to pick up passengers as they disembark. They stuff passengers in like cotton balls in a jar. Some of the vehicles are really two vehicles, or were, and you can easily tell where they cut a working car in two and welded the middle of a supposedly non working vehicle in between.
I walk the 500 yards down the quay into town, where the taxis and limos are disgorging most of their passengers. Oh my, there's a straw market.
I go the other way.
There is singing in the distance, this is a new thing. I follow it and come to a church holding its Sunday services. It's standing room only and the crowd has overflowed all the way to the porch. I stand in the back and enjoy the songs and the worship for a few minutes. There are lots of smiles and the people are really nice, and even though we are separated by more than just an ocean, I know these people are my kindred, and they can sense it too I think.
I grabed some lunch at a little waterfront dive I knew about from past visits called Captain Nemo's. They had an open air dining area on the water right next to a marina, and you could eat there and feed the birds and the fish right from your table. The food was Bahamian, very authentic. Well, hey, to them it's home cooking. And it was always delicious.
They had a fish soup that was just awesome, deep and rich and just the right kind of spicy. A young couple, probably newlyweds, at the next table had ordered the soup and they were happily eating and chatting about their visit to the straw market, when suddenly the girl gasped, "Oh my God!" She stared horrified into her bowl.
"What?" her husband said.
"There's a... a... oh my God this is ... there's a fish head in my soup, I think." She carefully, delicately, squeamishly poked around in the bowl a bit. "I think I'm going to be sick." They both stared at the bowl, and the fish head stared balefully back.
The Bahamians, of course, use ALL of the fish. This couple was unprepared for what that really meant. They left their soup uneaten.
After eating, tossing some bread to the wildlife, and watching the same boat make the trip across the harbor at least five times for no apparent reason (it was called the "Come and Go" probably because it never "stopped and rested") I decided that the time had come for my adventure.
I checked my wallet, after my meal I had about twelve dollars. If I wanted to see that old hotel, I would have to walk, at least one way.
Traffic was heavy, not because there were a lot of cars but rather because there was not much road. Actually, if you are from the United States, even crossing the road in the Bahamas is a challenge because they drive on the left. And to make it even more fun, most of the people driving are Americans in rental cars, and are not real good at the left hand driving thing. Add a few hundred rented mopeds, and it can get real exciting really quickly.
I headed up the road towards the hotel. It soon narrowed to a tight two lane with hardly any shoulder, and I was walking pretty much in the ditch with the thick tropical vegetation hanging ominously over me, completely over the road. Soon, the former luxury hotel rose into view above the jungle in all its pink glory.
And she was massive.
I walked up the cobblestone grand drive, still preserved, and looked at the ornate main entryway to the lobby. You could see that, in her prime, this must have been the playground of only the most rich and the most famous. But now, she was falling down. Palm trees were growing through the roof, vines hanging everywhere, the jungle was eating her alive. She was valiantly fighting, but she was losing.
I walked into the main hall, and saw a pile of trash and bottles. It looked like someone had been sleeping there, or at least getting drunk there. I thought better of this and went back outside, where it felt safer.
As I headed to the side of the huge decaying structure, I came to some coconut palms that had grown through the old sidewalks. Beneath them were some broken coconuts.
I went through them, and rounded the corner.
This was like a scene from the movies. I was standing on an old tennis court. You could just barely tell what it was, because there was grass and weeds coming up all over it and the ancient clay was hopelessly cracked. There were huge spots where the weeds were three or four feet tall, but it was easy to imagine how gentlemen and ladies with bobbed hair and bloomers had played tennis in this spot.
I was surrounded by thick jungle on every side except where the hotel was. I began clicking off picture after picture, this spot was incredible. Palms sticking up through the roofs, flowers everywhere, the sun hitting just right. There were some buildings behind me too, probably private bungalows for the immensly rich. I could stand right there and use up all my film.
Which is probably why I didn't notice him come up, with my eye gawking through the viewfinder.
"Hey, you got any money?"
He was gaunt, almost starved looking with big hollow eyes and gray skin from eating badly and cleaning less.
I had only twelve dollars, and that was supposed to last me. And I needed a taxi, I figured. Besides, I hated panhandlers.
"No, not really, no. Sorry."
He covered the ground between us like a tiger and before I knew it he had a knife to my throat. "I'm going to kill you. Now give me your money."
The moment was here. My heart pounded in my ears like a bass drum.
He started trying to rip my back pocket off to get at my wallet, and I reached in and dropped my wallet on the ground. He picked it up and took out the twelve dollars, still keeping the knife against me. He might have been gaunt but he was strong.
He took my rings and took my gold necklace.
I said, "Wait...You don't want to do this."
He looked at me, stunned. What a thing to say. And I think I was probably looking at me stunned too.
He stared at me, motionless, looking deep into my eyes. "I'm starving. I need food. All I have had to eat are some coconuts and I am craving real food. This is the only way I know to get it." He lowered the knife.
The broken coconuts. Coconuts don't break by themselves.
I began to talk to him about seeking help, and he told me about how he had tried and no one would help him. I told him about the church I had visited and how nice the people seemed. As I talked (for I think God was guiding my words) his heart began to melt.
"OK", I said. "First give me my money. I will then give you some of it back to buy food, and it will be a gift, not something you stole."
He looked at me like he fully expected me to trick him. He held the bills out as far as he could reach, ready to spring if there was any motion from me, eyes wide, nostrils flaring, knife gripped tightly. You could tell how hard this was for him, how badly he wanted to trust, how difficult it was to do it.
I carefully and slowly took the cash, took a couple of dollars for a taxi, and gave him the rest. He smiled. "You are giving this to me?"
"Giving?" he repeated.
"Yes. Now the jewelry."
He handed the jewelry back. "Man, I didn't want to hurt you, I am just so hungry, I would do anything."
I told him about God, and he listened. Afterwards, he even walked me back to the road so no one else would rob this ignorant tourist who did not know better than to get out of sight of the highway.
I walked home, unable to find a taxi. Inside, I was elated. I had crossed the nexus, I had met the challenge and passed it. I melded with the crowds of passengers winding their way back to the ship, firmly gripping wierd hats and gigantic straw baskets. I had something far better.
I was alive.
Dinner that night was one of the best I ever tasted. Danger survived does that.
It's a dangerous business going out your front door.
J. R. R. Tolkien (1892 - 1973), The Fellowship of the Ring