It’s spring, and I am rediscovering the pleasures of the coffee shop patio.
A table over, three old Russians scratch lottery tickets. Two tables over, a man enthusiastically discusses his plans for a new kind of porn website (“classy; not like Hustler. That’s just how I was raised…how do you feel about photography?”). A group of Jews goes by, then a group of Quakers, passing in different directions and wearing different kinds of hats. Just behind me, an old man reads Michael Flynn’s1 Eifelheim: I make conversation about it, but the man gets spooked when I ask to read the back cover, and leaves quickly.
As for me, I came here to smoke, drink espresso, read True Grit, and generally do what I can to avoid triggering the old chain of dark thoughts that’s been dogging me all month, till my friends arrive later tonight and I’m safe. But I end up calling an old friend instead, who has also got it bad, worse than me, whatever it is: panic attacks, relentless insomnia, waking up crying, the whole nine yards. I hang up, pray for her, and smile: there’s nothing to be done for either of us at the moment, but it feels good to understand and be understood.
Probably that’s why the old guy was spooked: I have apparently become one of those people who has loud, intensely personal, not to mention profane, phone conversations in front of strangers. Probably there is someone a few tables over, laughing at the guy who drops an f-bomb in one sentence and suggests a particularly good novena in the next. Probably he is planning to blog about it when he gets home.
But it’s a beautiful day. Why I live in New England: winter may be enough to make you curse and spit, but every spring feels like Resurrection. The motorcycles are all out, and despite my bike’s third breakdown in as many weeks, my heart is not troubled — not like earlier, when my ride broke down at the very inspection station and it took me a full two hours to recover from the disappointment. When I complain about it on facebook, my niece comments that how I feel about my motorcycle might be how God feels about us: decrepit old machines, sputtering and complaining and breaking down at the worst times, but inspiring an unaccountable fondness in their Owner.
The rhythms of my life have been changing, and I’m still adjusting. Having roommates again is good, but brings complications. Kung Fu remains a huge blessing, but two weeks ago I pulled a muscle pretty badly, and have had to sit out; that leaves a big hole. And always the writing, a pleasure and a continuous adjustment: will I have an idea, something worth saying, or have I dried up permanently this time? In writing, more than anywhere else in life, I am like the sparrows, totally dependent on Providence, on the muse that descends on her own times, her own terms.
Time to get home and set this down; set up the house for the poker game I’m hosting; set aside my preoccupations as much as I can, take solace in the company of friends, and keep learning to sit still for the long, slow work of Providence.