William Blake, if my feeble knowledge serves me, used to sit around naked reading and sometimes receiving visitors. While I cannot attest to similar experience, there is at least a parallel in my current penchant for hanging out in my greenhouse. Yes, there is a potting shed behind the house where on many a pleasant day I have been known to retire for considerable periods. San Francisco is a windy place, and the greenhouse provides a glassy chamber that both traps heat and excludes wind. It is a good place to be still. And that’s the other thing, the constant roar of modernity in the form of Interstate 280, entirely out of sight, but entirely present in its sound. Nice to shut the door on such things. Nice to be warmed by the sun without being chilled by the airflow. And also nice to be slightly out of earshot of the flow of humanity up and down the roadways. Even nicer to be 72 years old and unabashedly eccentric, so eccentric that the word hardly fits. So eccentric that the greenhouse is the place to be, utterly and completely. Safe and warm.
What do I need to be safe from, that is the question. Our latest trip to the UK sent me home with a message. You are worn out. What wore me out was hard to say at the time, although subsequent greenhouse time has begun to shed light. Too much trouble. Too many people in too short a time. And truth be told, this is only partly the aging quadriplegic, the man who feels life’s strains in the dull ache of his lower back. It is also the aging introvert. Put the conditions together, and you have a recipe for general drainage. And it is clear that I do not like being drained.
In my youth I fought my way up from a horror of physical limitation. And over time, much of that limitation has come back, settling around me subtly. Each increment has demanded more or less the same response. From fear to anger to acceptance. It’s all downhill, in other words, except for that which is uphill. No, there is a definite upward sweep to a day like this one when I get off the exercycle and briefly stand young and aerobic. The body still does a fair amount. Let us give physiological credit where it is due.
Where was I?
In the greenhouse, coming to grips, of course. Coming to accept everything, not only my waning physical powers, but whatever is lessening in the will and the spirit. Lessening doesn’t mean absent, it just means less. And one of the ways to look at this simply involves focus. What matters and what doesn’t. What can be controlled and what can’t. This means adopting an increasingly quixotic outlook. Take the demise of long-distance Amtrak, a serious possibility in this current era of Trump and a shellshocked nation. It’s a battle worth fighting and fighting well…while knowing that it may be lost. This probably should have been my attitude all along, but my desperate belief that everything can be made better has trailed me since childhood.
That’s all I have to say. When the wind blows and the freeway roars, get glassy.