Sunday, October 20, 2019

Passing Our Time in a Meaningless Universe 

 I was a very early reader, quickly graduating from Golden Books and Dr. Seuss to fables and mythologies, then to mature literature like the Iliad and the Odyssey, and on to Superman comics and the works of various Masters of Science Fiction. When I was about twelve years old I discovered a volume of poetry titled “Aniara” in the Woodstock Library. Written in 1956 by Swedish Nobel Laureate Harry Martinson, it was a work of 103 cantos telling the tale of a great, eponymously-named space liner ferrying passengers from a ruined and dying Earth to a refuge on Mars. The vessel is knocked off course and doomed to drift over the eons toward the distant constellation Lyra, and those aboard it are left to live out their remaining years beyond contact with home or hope of arrival at that far destination.

Martinson had written Aniara in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956 by Soviet forces. On the space ship the passengers are initially comforted by blissful memories projected by an intelligent machine called Mima, but that device itself finally succumbs to despair, and the people turn to drugs and orgies, develop new religions and sensory-engaging media in order to fill their lives rendered so meaningless by the eternal Void. It was a tome discussing existential concepts at the limits of my young mind, and it has haunted me for fifty-four years.

"Aniara" was performed as an opera in Stockholm in 1959, and in 2018, the Swedish studio Magnet Releasing produced a cinematic version which was released at the Toronto International Film Festival. I bought the DVD this year. It was certainly no hit movie, and many will consider it dull and boring in a Swedish minimalist style; but I found it engaging and true to the tremulous spirit of the original writing. It follows the lives of various crew members and the passengers as they struggle to keep despair at bay, with abrupt transitions between the years as the journey drifts through the gulf of space. Many succumb to ennui and suicide, some bear offspring, then regret bringing innocents into an ultimately doomed existence. They all stare out at the uncaring universe beyond the fragile hull, wondering, is there any Ultimate Meaning, or is it just a pointless exercise? The film, to my surprise, takes one brief step beyond the conclusion of the somber poem, but the irony of the finale faithfully echoes the existential voyage of the lost ship Aniara. It is not a film for those struggling with their own depression. It is a film for intellectuals and for contemplation and is anything but comforting. You will find no answers in its viewing, but the questions it asks are the eternal ones we ask ourselves as we stand alone and stare out into the stars.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Today is the Future


The background buzz had been increasing for months with articles in the papers and excited chatter among family and friends, but now the impending reality stood before me. The behemoth then-named brontosaurus rose up above me next to stegosaurus, and t-rex was still under construction in the nearby hanger. My fifth grade class was on a field trip to a fiberglass artisan’s workshop near Hudson, N.Y. where they were constructing full-sized dinosaurs for the Sinclair Petroleum exhibit at the New York World’s Fair which would be opening in a few short months.

We had all heard tales of the 1939 World’s Fair from our aunts and uncles, those hopes and dreams running into the harsh realities of the Second World War. The Cold War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Assassination of the President had followed, but now the Space Race and new electronic technologies were inspiring the global civilization, and the upcoming fair was due to showcase the changing world. Better Living Through Chemistry! Our Friend the Atom! Bringing Good Things to Light!

My class roamed among the life-sized saurians, touching their flanks and examining the exposed frameworks over which layers of fiberglass were laminated. Scattered boulders of volcanic pumice accented the statues while they waited transport to Flushing Meadows, and my teacher chastised me for chipping off a lava fragment as a souvenir. I may still have that bubbled lump in a box somewhere.

Then, to international fanfare, the 1964 World’s Fair opened, with the stainless-steel Unisphere the focal point about which a jetpack-wearing daredevil flew orbits! Every Sunday the New York Daily News color magazine section would print gorgeous full-page pictures that highlighted an exhibit, glowing colors splashing the sides of pavilions or illuminating the Fair’s many fountains. My brothers and I eagerly anticipated our families and our classes traveling to behold these wonders with our own eyes.

Finally the day came, and the parking lot looked like the rows of cars lined up at a drive-in theater, only bigger. The globe of the Unisphere gleamed in the sun and colorful flags fluttered in the breeze. The buildings were something out of science fiction, truly “The World of Tomorrow!” They lined great fountains into which visitors flung coins for luck and were composed of domes, planes, rotundas and turrets. The scents of exotic foods wafted on the breeze, and an international chatter of voices delighted the ear. America was the crossroads of the planet! Heroic sculptures depicted men flinging stars across the sky, and full-size replicas of spacecraft stood erect around rippling, glassy buildings.

I clicked away with my Kodak Brownie 127 camera which I had received for my First Holy Communion, winding on fresh rolls of film and dropping the exposed film into pre-paid mailers for development and printing. The resolution might not have been great, but the images would resurrect memories for decades to come. Then came nightfall, and alas that the price of color film was prohibitive! Fortunately bright postcards and Ektachrome slides were available by the rack full, because the Fair was transformed into a fairyland of colored lights and beams streaming up into the sky! The GE dome was an expanse of swirling colors and the panels of the Tower of Light were transformed into rearing planes of glowing crystals. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Commander Cody could not hold a candle to this exhibition, and I have only described the architecture! Let us discuss the wonders of science!

Drop a dime in the slot and out popped a neutron-irradiated coin to insert into a souvenir holder and carry in your pocket when you visited the Atomic Energy Commission! Nuclear power would be “Too Cheap to Meter!” Walk through jungle and mountaintop and desert environments and smell the indigenous odors sprayed into the air at the Coca-Cola exhibit! Walk through a sound-deadening corridor that made your ears pop in the Bell Telephone pavilion on your way to the videophone which would periodically take a call from Walt Disney across the continent in Anaheim, California! Watch lab-coated jugglers in the DuPont exhibit pull long polymer strands of nylon out of beakers, or combine flasks of colorless fluid that suddenly glowed yellow-green like the tail of a firefly! Miracles and Wonder! Period-piece android families complete with tail-wagging dogs told the tale of advancing home-convenience items as the audience rotated around GE’s Carousel of Progress. Cities of the future, undersea and on the moon, were practically close enough to touch in the GM and Ford exhibits, and their prototype automobiles looked like they could take off and fly, as one of them would periodically drive out into a lake before returning to dry land.

The news entertained us with stories of runaways who slept in the Coke pavilion, fishing the coins out of fountains on which to sustain themselves with hotdogs, hamburgers, Belgian waffles, and cola. The free economy was transforming the world!

No one was talking about Vietnam. Not loudly, yet.

We knew that this marvelous world was coming to pass; my father brought home portable cassette recorders for his sons, then a color television. Party-line telephones were vanishing, and the newspapers printed pictures of the new, smaller computers that were only the size of bank desks! Cars were available in multiple hues, the roar of jet airliners thundered in the sky, and Polaroid cameras produced pictures virtually instantly – just don’t forget to apply the fixer! The Soviets and Americans competed to send men into orbit with eyes set on the Moon, and there was anticipation of satellites replacing the trans-Atlantic cable to carry conversations across the Big Puddle. In South Africa Dr. Christian Barnard transplanted a heart into an ailing patient. Oh, brave new world! Bi-planes would annually fly over our neighborhood, spraying DDT to eradicate those annoying mosquitos, and we waved to the pilots as the dust settles around us. Toy stores carried walkie-talkies, no longer the province of the military; and the robotic Great Garloo did your cable-controlled bidding. Colorful bug-like transistors were quickly replacing the tubes glowing within the radios, TVs, and “Hi-Fi” record players. AM radios could now be carried in your palm. Did anyone doubt that we teetered on the edge of Utopia?

How did we arrive at this pinnacle? The General Electric audio-animatronics told us about the last century, and Bell Telephones and International Business Machines displayed the evolution of electronic and calculating devices. Westinghouse encouraged visitors to inscribe their names in a register to be included in a time capsule that would be buried next to a similar container from 1939 to present the 20th Century to the world of the year 6939. The Traveler’s Insurance exhibit presented dioramas of “The Triumph of (White) Man,” from cave dwellers to the walls of Ur, the Roman Empire( subtly promoted Christianism), and the Renaissance thinkers observing and calculating the celestial realm. You could purchase the stirring soundtrack on a red vinyl 45 rpm record to remind yourself that you were a jewel on the crown of creation.

In two years the festivities concluded and visitors packed away their assorted souvenirs and pamphlets which that they might view with nostalgia in later years. Most of the exhibits were razed and Flushing Meadows was planted as a park, the Unisphere still gracing the center, a few sturdier constructions left to perhaps be utilized at some future date.

The Future did not come as advertised although the marvelous technology highlighted at the World’s Fair was, in retrospect, quaint, far outstripped by its future’s reality. As communication and transportation brought nations closer together, it brought them into fricative conflict. The marvels of chemistry and medicine have disturbed our environment and challenged our ethics. Poor policies were implemented and mistakes were made. Utopia has receded like the chimera it has always been. But the experience of walking the lanes and corridors of the World of the Future for these brief two years in the middle 60’s still gleams like a bright dream. We can erect tower in short years and send robots to the Outer Planets. We can do whatever we set our minds to do.

But grownups need to be mindful that the choices we make can turn our dreams into nightmares.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baselines for

Imagine that you are running for your life.

Your body is trembling with adrenaline, your heart is thudding, panic-stricken, and your breath comes in hot, quick gulps. Suddenly your pursuer sinks sharp hooks into your flesh, bringing you up short. You are picked up and dashed to the ground, breaking your back. As you writhe helplessly, your assailant begins to rip chunks out of your body. Death cannot come soon enough.

Is this a scene from a horrific slasher movie? No, this is the daily experience of prey in “Nature, red in tooth and claw” as carnivores pursue their meal. When extremists among promoters of vegetarianism declare that “Meat is Murder!” we would do well to remember the natural background against which their arguments are made.

There are well over a million carnivorous species on our world, more if you include omnivores who eat both meat and vegetation. By their teeth and their alimentary tract will you know them. We ourselves are omnivores, eating venison as naturally as we do tubers and leaves. We do not need to eat meat, of course; but it is generally a richer source of protein than is easily found in the vegetable kingdom.

What about the ethical issues, though? If we are so superior to other species, aren’t we obligated to express ourselves in a kinder, gentler, more humane manner? Unfortunately, much of our “superiority” is just an expression of being one of the top predators in the food chain. Our self-reflective intelligence is only a very recent development in our evolution, and to argue that we are free of a few million years of instinctual behaviors is anything but self-reflective.

We have generally decided that one of the ideals of civilization is to minimize pain, suffering, and death, although we tend to be self-serving as to when and toward whom we apply this ethic. Just a surely as do our chimpanzee cousins and our domestic feline companions, we sometime enjoy cruelty as if it is an entertaining game, justified largely because tormenting other animals – including our own species – is simply something that we can do. Additionally, it serves as a signal to others: Beware! We can do this to you, too!

One of the primary reasons that we have domesticated animals is simply so that we don’t have to chase after them. They’re in a supervised pasture, a coop, a barn. They are protected from other predators until we decide that it is time to use them for their labor or kill them for our food. I would argue that this is not automatically any crueler than their natural, untamed lives would be. How we treat them during that captivity, and how they meet their end, however, can be.

There are good reasons to minimize, if not eliminate, meat as part of our diet. Factory-style meat production certainly presents an ethical challenge: although it provides a cheap and easy assembly-line of meats, it depends on putting the animals in deliberately painful and unhealthy conditions and using medications and hormones to keep them alive and make them extra-productive. When we eat meats derived from this process some of these chemicals build up in our bodies, adding to the witch's brew of absorbed pollutants that may destabilize our own health. And, speaking of pollution, the lakes of animal waste from this sort of livestock productions present festering bodies of danger to the public health.

Also from the health perspective, an easily available supply of meats can provide too much of a tasty thing, ingesting excess calories and saturating ourselves in fats and related circulatory-clogging organics.

Domesticated meat-production is also a rather inefficient way to produce this choice protein. It requires up to 16 pounds of vegetable protein to produce one pound of beef and 3 to 6 to make one pound of fowl; 3 to 15 pounds of water to produce the same; and 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce on pound of beef, 35 calories for one pound of pork, and 22 calories for one pound of poultry. There is more protein-laden vegetative food to go around than there is of meats.

There is also the question as to just how primitive and predatory we personally wish to be. Disregarding "animal rights activists," most people accept the seasonal rituals of hunters who exercise observational patience, go for "quick, clean kills," and eat their quarry, but disdain those who hunt for sport or trophy. The personal administration of death-dealing can change one's perspective; we have recently heard how Facebook pioneer Mark Zuckerberg is experimenting with only eating meat that he has personally killed. I suspect that if we all had to live with such constraints our meat consumption would plummet. Could I kill a fish or a fowl? Probably with not too much difficulty if I were initially chaperoned in doing so. But a mammal like a cow, goat, deer, or pig? You mean, a member of the same Class to which we belong, mammalia? Not likely unless it was a survival scenario.

There are science-fiction procedures being developed today to grow meat without having to kill a living animal that would be more environmentally-benign and potentially healthier if the nutrients could be adjusted to add vitamins and reduce fats and glycerides. While some people might call this gross, it is much less so than slicing the throats and spilling the blood of a conscious animal before hacking its corpse apart; I would order a pound and a half of vat-grown fillet without batting an eye before touring a typical slaughter house.

Meat is tasty, and there is nothing unnatural about eating it. It may be a good decision to not eat it, or al least much less than we do. But for the nonce, I am at the top of the Food Chain; someday in the next forty years I expect that I will be at the bottom, food for the bugs and worms and microbes. I don't begrudge them their meal; so I will choose that upon which I myself dine, in full awareness of my choices.

Bon Appétit


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Advance Directives

Eleven years ago an idiot doctor correctly diagnosed me with Lyme disease but incorrectly treated it. As a result, the spirochetes ate a piece of my heart, and I now require a battery and a microchip to help it keep pace. Without this device I am conscious, but not much good beyond that, as weak as a kitten. Thank Ifni for modern medical technologies!

I have also undergone a number of medical procedures in the last several years including an appendectomy, hernia repair, and pacemaker replacement, and one of the newer anesthetics that has been used functions rather like a light switch; you’re conscious, then you’re not, then you are once again, with no sensation of transition and never noticing that you vanished for the last hour.

The recent deaths of several people I've known and my advancing age got me to thinking about mortality. I don’t believe in a hereafter, and the contemplation of Death used to give me the willies. However, these medication experiences have alleviated that anxiety. If the “on” switch is never flipped after having been turned “off,” well, oblivion is not half bad. Don’t Fear the Reaper.

Ah, but the process of dying is a whole different issue. Tubes, wires, indignities, fear and pain; these are not so pleasant to contemplate. Falling asleep in an easy chair after a nice glass of wine and just never waking up would be fine. But we are not given a choice, are we? In fact, even in civilized circumstances, we are not allowed a choice. There are few places where voluntary euthanasia is permitted. There is supposedly something noble about terminal suffering.

Suppose I am in my end game and circling the drain; will my pacemaker delay my departure and prolong the agony? Do I get to point to that device in my chest and say “Turn it off, Doc!” if that will hasten my death? Do I need to document this with Advance Directives? I suppose I’d best do so and not leave it to chance, but it seems ludicrous that I might need to do this. If it is my life, why can’t it be my death as well?

I suspect that as do many things, it is something that discomforts others and is given a fig-leaf of cover by religious sensibilities. No, it’s not really my life, it belongs to a Deity. Never mind that I consider that superstition. One must jump through hoops to opt out of the traditional systems and beliefs.

One only need google Karen Ann Quinlan and Terry Schiavo to recognize that the real thing to fear is other people's beliefs. Be prepared, because there will always be someone who thinks that they are deputized to act in what they decide is your best interest. Be on guard, and lay your plans somewhat beyond a simple retirement. You may be reluctant now, but you may be powerless then.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


There is something ludicrous about a privileged majority claiming discrimination, but certain American Christians love to play the victim card, complaining that their rights and traditions are being suppressed in favor of some suspect minority. Ms. H.’s November 9th letter to the editor is a recent example. She resurrects the nonsense regarding the so-called 9/11 Victory Mosque in New York and accuses the Obama White House of promoting a supposed War on Christmas, concluding that her "right" to her beliefs is being attacked.

I know of no movement to close churches, prevent their construction, or determine where they may be built; see no effort to ban Bibles, remove them from libraries, or create media circuses by burning them; there is no law preventing full-Gospel radio or TV from preaching "the Word" and soliciting tax-free contributions while doing so; Christians are still free to deposit pamphlets on my windshield or harangue me on the street about going to Hell because I hold the wrong beliefs; no one is trying to legislate who may or may not marry whom in their own denomination or as a civil matter; and no one is preventing them from displaying a crèche and a sign proclaiming "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" on their own private property.

They seem to think that this is their very own "Christian Nation" and that they should therefore receive special privileges including government assistance in promoting their faith with (carefully worded) prayers in schools, religious monuments and holiday displays on public grounds, their mottos emblazoned on our currency and courthouse walls, and their prayers opening government assemblies. They expect laws to enforce their particular beliefs regarding marital relationships, reproduction, and end-of-life decisions, and to allow them some sort of "right to discriminate" in housing or employment against those not of their creed because non-Christian Americans are apparently second-class citizens.

Some of their feelings are hurt by some people questioning their beliefs or some artists expressing their opinions of their faith in sometime crude terms. I certainly agree that we have become an impolite society, but you would think that they were about to be fed to the lions from their shrill outrage! How dare a Christian be mocked in their own nation! As for the President not promoting a Christian Christmas, perish forbid there is ever a Jewish or (horrors!) atheist occupant of the White House! They refuse to acknowledge that we are a pluralistic, multicultural, secular society and that most of the changes in our holiday expressions are business-driven, not part of any nefarious social or governmental plot.

It is high time that these insular and arrogant Christians grow up and recognize that this country belongs to all of us and that they have to learn to share. You get no more rights than do other beliefs, and they get no less than you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Across the Atlantic

I took three years of German back in High School forty years ago. I was never very fluent, and never really had any opportunity to use it except wihen one friend and I went out drinking, and later as a private communication between my wife and me when we didn't want our child to understand us.

I was interested in the German culture not because of the military history, but because of their history of advancement of the physical and social sciences. More recently, my interest in the Roman Empire identified their limits of Western expansion on the European continent as Koln. I had never traveled to Europe, though; there is so much to see in North America alone including exotic Hawaii. Yet I now write this seven miles above the mid-Atlantic. As do so many things, it began with beer.

The Artificer and I were hoisting a few and he mentioned that it had been a long time since he had seen his aunt who lived West of Munich and will be 97 jahren alt. Said I, who has been saving his pennies, 'well if you want a traveling companion, here I am!' So we are cruising at 584 mph at 32000 feet on eine Reise zu Deutschland. I may speak like a hick, but I'll get by and will improve. I will expand my horizons.

And, I will be blissfully absent from work. O Brave New World and great Aluminum Birds!

Oh, and I understand that the Germans know a few things about beer, too.


(Sent from an Internet-enabled zimmer in Germany 5 days later!!)

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Camping in the Great Indoors

I didn’t expect to spend my 57th birthday roughing it; the plan was to go to work as usual and finish up a few critical month-end tasks, go out to a nice Italian dinner – free! with proof of your birth-date – and then claim the new camera my wife was getting me for my upcoming Germanic Adventure. Fate had other plans, precipitated by eight inches of heavy, wet snow that resulted in a chain of events including a power outage of 63 hours duration, and a visit to the local Emergency Room so that my wife could obtain three staples in her scalp. Happy Birthday to me!

It was snowing steadily as predicted by (that socialist meteorological agency) as I prepared for bed at 1 a.m., when a deep “BOOM!” echoed from up the road and the lights flickered and went out. Oh well, life in the country does include some inconveniences, but we have plenty of long-lasting LED lights, and a low fire in the woodstove moderated the house’s temperature. Wife (a teacher) and Child will be off from school today I grumped as I settled under the covers and slid into the Realm of Dreams.

Morning dawned, and indeed, a light wet mist still drifted down to earth, and my family, having woken to hear the snow-closings on the radio, was back at their slumber. The power remained out after seven hours. They had thrown a few logs of our almost completely depleted wood supply on the fire, and I warmed a pan of water for tea on its surface.
Just like the morning camp fire! I consumed a banana – mmm, potassium! - and dressed to start the snow blower, clear the (lengthy) driveway, and prepare for a somewhat belated work day. My first indication of trouble was the labour necessary to clear the sidewalk: the snow was heavy, and the strain quickly told on my lumbar. As I stood panting in front of the garage door I surveyed bushes crushed to the ground, branches broken off of trees, sagging utility wires, and in a little bit, my wife would be out to note that part of our magnolia tree had broken off as well. This was a Winter that was going out with a vengeance. Regardless, I was called upon to respond to the challenge

Dragging the mighty machine on to the driveway, I opened the choke, pushed the primer, and yanked the cord. Again. And again. And again. This is labeled an “Easy-Start” device since it had an electric starter… but of course, we
had no electricity. Prime and pull. Pull! Pull! And it caught!! Oh, frabjous day! But I had to pause to catch my breath before proceeding. Pant. Pant. Then, engage the auger! Engage the throttle! And… the wheels spun in place. The composition of the snow was such that the rotating wheels turned the matter to slush of a consistence that filled the tire treads, and all they could do was to spin. If I only had tire-chains -- ! Oh, if. What I wound up doing was physically shoving this weighty appliance up the drive, wiggle-waggling it to fill the scoop with snow, until I broke through the slushy wall that the Town plows erected between the road and the driveway. Then, I could make a return sweep, taking only a half-scoop so that one tire could gain traction on the previously-cleared trail. So I continued for half a dozen passes, until the wife came to relieve me.

Relinquishing my efforts I set about heating a kettle of water on the wood stove’s surface so that I might sponge away the accumulated stink before setting off to my place of employ. Unfortunately, since this was the very last of the fire wood, it was not terribly dry and produced only low heat. But, aha! Our barbeque grill has a side-burner for heating a pot of corn or such, and the propane tank was full, so I fired that sucker up to boil me a comfortably-warm sponge bath. As it heated, the Child awoke, hungry as they are in the morning (and mid-morning, noon, early afternoon, afternoon, evening, and before bed time). Aha! once more! From eBay I had last year purchased a replacement for my old and rusted two-burner Coleman camp stove, and we had the propane tanks to feed it! Child was delighted, and cooked herself toast, toast, egg-in-a-basket, and a side of toast. My water warmed, and I thought that I would work a five-hour day and bring a few projects to completion.

The Child, enjoying the camping gear, had just decided to cook some scrambled eggs (with toast) for her mother, when Wife-Mother staggered through the door, blood streaming out of a scalp wound. While stowing the snow blower in the garage she had fallen, executing something like a triple-axel, and ended her motion with her head up against a sharp edge of metal. Time to travel up the freshly-cleared driveway to the Emergency Room, and hand over the $100.- co-pay for examination and wound-repair. And so it was, with naught more serious than a laceration. But my wife declares, with first-hand knowledge, that having a scalp wound
stapled does not “pinch”… it hurts! Or, as she told the doctor through gritted teeth “I don’t much like this!!”

Happily, the procedure was concluded in five hours, with the tedium somewhat relieved through the utilization of MP3 players and iPhones. Facebooking from the E.R.! Oh Brave New World! We ate a very late lunch, then I was presented with the promised Casio Exilim 10.5 megapixel camera, at no cost to mine own accounts! But returning home we discovered that power was yet to be restored. We were down to the final half-dozen logs, and we dare not go into the freezer because it would accelerate the powerless defrosting. Evening was coming, and candles, oil lamps, and eventually, a double-mantled Coleman lantern were lit. Civilization generally provides for food and heat, and we were fast losing those resources. So the Man of the Household, Aged, and with Aching Back, set off on the hunt.

Just a few weeks before I had mocked the small, over-priced, shrink-wrapped bundles of firewood that convenience stores occasionally sold to provide tourists upstate with ambiance, but now I myself was in search of them. I drove through still-falling slush at dusk, wandering from shop to shop, when inspiration struck. Although our digital, wireless landline was useless without power, we had swapped it with an older touch-tone phone earlier in the day, and the telephone lines were yet intact. Interfacing modern technology with those earlier electronics, I pulled my modestly-used cell phone from my pocket and networked with the Wife. ‘Call around!’ I implored. ‘Let me know where I can purchase dead trees!’ And, lo! There were several shops that Had What We Needed, and so I loaded the trunk. Picked up some groceries, too, so we needn’t open the refrigerator or freezer to the “warmer” surroundings.

Finally, I was home, lit by the glow of captive fires. The Child, temporarily enjoying the Frontier theme, brought in the wood for her weary parent, and the house was thus kept warm. The groceries were placed in a cooler packed with snow, and buckets were placed beneath the rainspouts outdoors to collect water to flush the toilet and to heat on the stove to clean my stinking flesh later that night. The Birthday Dinner would be postponed, but exhaustion had banked my appetite, regardless.

I inserted my down sleeping bag beneath the bed’s comforter and cocooned myself, whispering a prayer that when I awoke this cold dream would be ended, the Promise of Spring would be fulfilled, and electrons would once more course merrily through copper filaments in the wall, working devices and illuminating lights. So Mote It Be!

Instead, it snowed another two days, and power was not restored for just short of three days, three days of… adventure. But Civilization
did return, and just in time to host my mother when she lost power!

But now, with temperatures soaring into the 40’s and the Internets humming, detritus cleaned and stove ashes emptied, those days so recent have an ethereal quality in memory. Labour-intensive, yes, but not miserable. We rose to the occasion. And anyway, a week later, there are still 20,000 people in the county who remain without modern amenities. I count my blessings.

I hardly notice that I’m fifty-seven years old.

Unless I try to move. Then my body reminds me, in no uncertain terms. But, better than the alternative, eh?

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