Where to Start?

January 4, 2015
Epiphany Sunday

Later, opening a little journal he kept sporadically — whole months were missing — where to start?
— David Guterson, b. 1956
American fiction writer
from “Tenant,” short story in New England Review, Vol. 33, No. 3, 2012

I opened my notebook, the J, this morning, to J44:11 (Volume 44 of the J, p. 11), and found that I had ended yesterday’s session with a comma.

“8:20, 38º, did I just leave off yesterday with a comma? Where was I going?” I wrote. “‘God is in the detours of our lives,’ says today’s meditation in The Upper Room. Prayer focus: ‘the elderly.’ Easter is in 90 days. I do not know how to get back to where I once belonged. I do not know where that place is, nor what one does when one gets there.”

My last post here, and for Holidailies, was Christmas Eve. I began a few more, but never worked up the strength, emotionally, to finish and post them. On Christmas Day, toward late afternoon, I drove for nearly two hours without leaving Dauphin County, past places that held some energy for me. I never got out of the car, just slowed down, if possible, and looked. These places included the house on Second Street where I was taken for pediatrician visits until about 1959, and the place where I went for piano lessons in those same years. I continued to go to physical therapy and saw improvement in my mechanical functioning, at least in my hips and legs.

On December 30 I saw a cardiologist, who looked at the results of the stress test I’d undergone in June and recommended a heart catheterization. He also prescribed several medications to “protect” me until that procedure, scheduled for January 12. He didn’t say what, precisely, I was to be protected from. One of the medications lists as side effects “fatigue, depression, and strange dreams.” I already have those things, I thought. I don’t need to take a pill to invite them.

At the 90th birthday celebration for Ron’s youngest uncle, I ate two very large slices of pizza but took a sensible pass on the chocolate cake. I woke this morning from a dream I’ve had before, both historically and recently, of walking down a labyrinthine hallway toward a desk on which are piles of papers which I have to review.

Today is Epiphany Sunday, two days ahead of the traditional date of Epiphany. Tomorrow is “go back” day, and if I were still in the classroom, I’d be going back to school. I haven’t done any creative work since Thanksgiving, not really, although I have read a new poem every day. This morning I picked up, entirely at random, an issue of the New England Review that I’ve had for at least two years. I read “Tenant,” a story by David Guterson. (You can read it yourself, here.) For the first time in a month I fell into fiction, into reading it, into walking around in the life of someone who is just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus tryin’ to make his way home.

I keep the figures of the Magi from a handsome Lenox crèche on a table in the living room all the time, and a small charm depicting them on my writing table. They were advised in a dream to go home by another road.

Where to start? Right where you are.


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