As for days, there are long ones and short ones. Not sure which ones are better. Sometimes a short day drags on forever as I hop from one dark hour to another, with hundreds of minutes in between and thousands of seconds in each minute. The same monotonous tune, the ticking of the clock.
January 2018, resolution 3:
Relocate source of happiness from outside to inside. Warmer there and safer, more chance for survival.
1 January 1965
BY JOSEPH BRODSKY
TRANSLATED BY GEORGE L. KLINE
The Wise Men will unlearn your name.
Above your head no star will flame.
One weary sound will be the same—
the hoarse roar of the gale.
The shadows fall from your tired eyes
as your lone bedside candle dies,
for here the calendar breeds nights
till stores of candles fail.
What prompts this melancholy key?
A long familiar melody.
It sounds again. So let it be.
Let it sound from this night.
Let it sound in my hour of death—
as gratefulness of eyes and lips
for that which sometimes makes us lift
our gaze to the far sky.
You glare in silence at the wall.
Your stocking gapes: no gifts at all.
It’s clear that you are now too old
to trust in good Saint Nick;
that it’s too late for miracles.
—But suddenly, lifting your eyes
to heaven’s light, you realize:
your life is a sheer gift.
Today, I got an email from a long-unseen-unheard-of friend in America, Debbie, with a message of happiness and good wishes for Hanukkah and holidays:
happiness and hope
to you and yours!
Debbie is an artist and also sent me this with her message:
This thought has been with me for some time, but if we celebrated each other’s holy days, the world would be a much better place. Plus, there would be so much more time off work…
And what a story.
My own humble hummous also contains garlic, is less than smooth and has a secret ingredient. It is a healthy and optimistic kind of food, starts a party, aids conversations, invites company, slows down time, brings back good memories.
Served with Arabic bread, cut into triangles and crisped-up in the oven, it is the ultimate zakuska. My Arab friends like it, so I must be getting something right.
Should make some hummous again soon.
Fell asleep like Alice falling down a tunnel. My tunnel was short though and I emerged from it after just a couple of hours. What woke me up? Anxious thoughts or the smell of garlic from the evening’s cooking? Absurdly awake at 12:55 am, I’m currently looking at 12 powerhouse vegetables you should be eating to be super healthy (WebMD). Beetroot greens are one example. Full of Vit K apparently. Beetroot. Such an earthy, Polish peasant-y veg. Used to hate beetroot. Its ever-lasting red stains on my various childish outfits marked the saga of my anti-beetroot rebellion. Next go “microgreens” – what the f is that? Baby versions of bigger things – you find them sometimes in salads served in trendy restaurants with health bells ringing. It’s very annoying actually – the whole idea of a salad. You usually get a few bits and pieces on top of a mountain of green leaves, micro or macro (cost cutting?). How the hell do you eat that lot in a restaurant without making a mess of yourself? I might have a major rant about that one day. OMG, the rest of the listed veggies are all green, kale, spinach, peas, etc. I like green – colour of hope – even though it’s also the colour of mould. Oh, now red peppers, like I didn’t know before. OK, whatever.
Moving on, as my former student used to write in his essays (I told him how much I hated the phrase, yet he insisted. He failed my course, but is now taking his revenge: the bloody thing is stuck in my brain forever). So, moving on to Bertrand Russell – his Decalogue of liberal thinking is an interesting read (included in his article on liberalism published in the NYT in 1951). I like the last commandment:
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
I’m thinking, using the word “commandments” is really quite illiberal, but well, let’s not be too pedantic. As a teacher, I do like this:
The teacher who urges doctrines subversive to existing authority does not, if he is a liberal, advocate the establishment of a new authority even more tyrannical than the old. He advocates certain limits to the exercise of authority, and he wishes these limits to be observed not only when the authority would support a creed with which he disagrees but also when it would support one with which he is in complete agreement. I am, for my part, a believer in democracy, but I do not like a regime which makes belief in democracy compulsory.
A morning walk sets you up for the day. I took one today and the green bits, plus the blue skies, plus the sparkling, shimmering early sunlight, plus the still sleepy birds singing, plus all the random, chaotic but increasingly happy thoughts that flooded my brain as I walked amongst all this beauty – they all fused into a new wave of energy. My spirit, low though it was before, got lifted. My thoughts took a different path. My heart started beating more regularly and my blood pressure dropped (or so I imagine). All it took was a walk at sunrise. That is the power of nature, stronger than the landscaping meant to tame it. The manicured lawns of my glamorous compound were no different from a jungle. I jumped over a bench and went back home.
My friend Bob the Poet told me about it. A terse verse tercet. Seems related to the Japanese Haiku, but apparently originates from the Philippines. I’ve found an obscure website about it: http://www.baymoon.com, which says the following:
In a traditional Hay(na)ku, there are:
- 3 lines.
- A total of 6 words: 1 in the first line, 2 in the second line, and 3 in the third line.
- There is no restriction on syllables or stressed or rhymes.
Variations include a ‘reverse’ haynaku where the longest line (3 words) is placed at the beginning and the shortest (1 word) at the end of the poem which still has only 6 words in all.
Here is mine this morning (OK, I cheated, ditched an article, used a hyphen, and made the lines look inconsistent):
Dead or alive?
I can still see my friend A standing in the door of N’s office, tugging at her abaya and singing “I want to break free”. She did, although it was years before “free” re-entered her dictionary. Now she looks radiant and has a purpose in life. She says it takes her a long time to make a decision, she is slow in weighing out her options and choosing the best one. But once she’s chosen, she goes with it and takes it to its conclusion. Today she showed me a video a friend sent her from Iraq of a glorious sunrise on a farm full of palm trees and chirping, trilling birds. No sound of bombs. Only beauty and freedom. No need for decisions, just breathe in the dawn.
My decisions, if rash, can be like exploding bombs, leaving rubble and devastation, scorched grass, broken glass, injured parties. They are marginally better when I don’t make them immediately, but sleep on them after drinking suitable quantities of thought-inspiring beverages. There is a lot to be said for hangover as a source of insight and serenity.
In general, I think, my decision-making skills are mediocre at best. Therefore I have made a decision not to make decisions. “Don’t rock the boat”, a good friend told me last night. Let the sleeping dogs lie. No decisions. Let it be. I’m feeling decisively mellow having made that decision.