Long dark winter nights and dawn nowhere in sight at 5am. Woke with some kind of ear, throat, nose infection and a neuralgia on the left side of my face. I am so unused to feeling unwell that I was taken aback to wake ill. Another of the benefits of sobriety I have begun to take for granted, the freedom from unwellness, abundant energy, well-being.
Computer still bugged with gremlins, computer boffin appeared and then disappeared, a travelling man with no sense of rootedness or accountability. He mislays girlfriends and clients and seems to live in transition between rented rooms and friends’ couches. The kind of scruffy charm I might have warmed to when I was 19 years old, that hint of unwashed lassitude and dope-enhanced sleepiness. He has left his woollen cap behind and a purloined pen inscribed with the logo for British Airways. Unfortunately I have nobody else to fix this computer, so I am hoping he will materialise again later today. Still puzzled by the way he gave my dogs new names as he stood out in the back garden smoking.
‘Yo,’ he said. ”Cool dogs, man. Look at Thumper chasing Corkeye. Go Thumper!’
Dogs delighted with the attention and happy to hang out with him. My last PC service provider was a surfer who hated having to waste time earning a living fixing computers. He is now bronzing his lazy but lithe body on beaches in Mozambique and sending postcards to former clients assuring them he hasn’t forgotten their troubles. This new fixer is a friend of Surfer Boy and equally disinterested in computers. No doubt he will confide in me that his real passion is for steel guitars or dervish dancing or growing feathery little marijuana plants.
Later today I am going over the mountain pass for lunch — a chance to see how the winter proteas are opening on the slopes and to look out for chacma baboons. Time to sit down with friends and share, listen, celebrate togetherness, eat yummy autumnal dishes. Well, that joie de vivre was more of a possibility before the facial neuralgia set in, but I can have a thin herbal soup and listen.
Frederick Buechner: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
Change, the flux of passing days, a changing society, new growth, autumn’s decay, new people moving into the village, others leaving — that impermanence, what is passing away or coming into being. Nothing remains the same. There is continuity and there is alteration. Children grow up, parents age and die, houses tumble down, the political and the personal vye for attention. Trees, rivers, landscapes all shift in the mind’s eye, memory itself fades. Time the imponderable and mysterious, so fleeting, so slow.
Making a pot of tea this morning, I feel slowed by pain, older and tired but glad at the same time to be here, willing to deal with whatever comes up today, hoping to be of some use, hoping the writing will go well, looking forward to meeting up with friends. This day is all I have, the only certainty, the only here and nowness in which I can experience being sober and steadfast.
Rereading Samuel Beckett again and finding something new each time, more depth, more insight. A quote from Wendy Lesser for those of us for whom reading is as vital as breathing:
‘ There is a kind of rereading in which you go over and over a piece of writing (a paragraph, a page,a few stanzas) to try to figure out why it has the effect on you it does. This kind of rereading is obsessive and a bit tedious; it may be especially dull for the onlooker who does not share the obsession…it has in it something of Penelope’s nightly unweaving of her daily work as she waits for Ulysses uncertain return. She is trying to keep time still and at the same time move it forward. Something similar may be said of the obsessive reader.‘