A Time of Solitude

22 September 2018

[Above photo:  Two giant quiver trees (aloe) at sunrise, Fish River Canyon Lodge, Namibia]

I skipped writing my blog last Sunday. I travel between the island and Bar Harbor so that takes some time. And I’ve completed writing up a curriculum for a 9 month course in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which I’ll teach in Burma.  And myriad re-entry details to take care of, as well as some cabin maintenance. The real reason is that my external life is pretty mundane after two years of being quite exotic, if grim at times.

I am in flux inside myself, preparing to visit many dear friends in California and Seattle, readying to leave Linda for at least 10 months, getting to know my daughter after many years, and so forth. Maybe it was my 78th but I find myself reviewing my life a lot more than I usually do. And wincing a bit too much with some of the memories. We do the best we can, I believe, but certainly fall short of perfection and sometimes of adequate. I don’t want to air all this here, as it’s too personal for the airwaves. But I think a turn inwards has stifled my writing.

It was blowing like stink, as they say, from the north this morning. A northerly aims directly into the harbor so the two boats at moorings have no protection. Stella, our 28 foot heavy displacement diesel lobster-type boat was fine as long as her mooring held. But I couldn’t tell if our new speedy boat was riding correctly or not; the latter would suggest water in the bilge. There is an automatic bilge pump but it seems to work whimsically and we need to have it checked when we pull her for the winter. So I walked to the float, which was rocking and rolling, put on a life jacket, jumped in one of the skiffs, and bailed out the water. I then cast off, unluckily catching a wave at an angle that tossed me around—nip and tuck there. I wasn’t ready for a late September Penobscot Bay baptism and fortunately regained my balance. Rowing out was a real chore. The rowboat, and we have two identical because we like them so much, is totally seaworthy but the wind was howling and the sea had enough fetch that the breaking waves were hefty. Anyway, I got close to Speedy, let’s call her. [Because she rolled over shortly after we bought her, “Turtle”, as in “turning turtle”, seemed an apt name but has met with resistance.] She was riding nicely with her waterline well up so she wasn’t laden with water. I turned and rowed back. Walking up the dock I realized that my strength and balance aren’t what they used to be. It made me feel old, so I ran up the hill to the cabin to prove myself wrong. Ha!

It is so sweet to get up in the chill of morning, before sunrise, as I don’t sleep well without Linda for some reason. I light a fire in the Jotul 602 and, as it is catching, put on the kettle for tea. Soon the room is toasty, I have my tea, and I can check my emails. My dear friend, Ed—Oh,tenacious one—, asked me to look over the article he is readying for publication. His crusade, of which I’ve been a part on and off, for transparency and honesty in the Psychopharmaceutical Key Opinion Leader Physician Give-Away Debacle is unrelenting even in the face of massive resistance by Organized Psychiatry, Key Opinion Leaders, and Big Pharma.  This is yet another very interesting paper. It is just such integrity that we lack in DC—DT is the swamp, he cannot possibly drain it or even want to. I realize how my blood boils thinking about this. And how nice it was to have boiling blood in Africa, given the corruption and inequity there, and not have to concern myself with the crap at home.  I suppose it has always been this way, power corrupting and the opportunity of power attracting the easily, or already, corrupted.

If I were serious about my reading of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher, I would be living only in this moment of putting my fingers on keys to express my thoughts and not be so easily riled up about what I can’t control and what is not in my immediate presence.  Can this old dog learn a new trick—Mindfulness? Nick the Greek is taking bets.

I did get the snazziest little electronic gadget—a tiny, powerful, portable LED powerpoint projector with a great sound system. ViewSonic. 5 Stars.  It justifiably has won design awards. So, if the power goes out in my lecture—or there is no power—I can still proceed. It is great for streaming movies, too (Who ever has good enough internet in Blantyre or Yangon for that?!). Even watching Stephen Colbert. Why buy a huge flat-panel TV when you can hang a sheet on the wall for a fraction of the price, electricity use, and clutter.

I think that the Burma gig will be my last full-timer. I would like to return there, I think, for a month or two at a time to keep things going.  But I like it here, I like working with my hands, I like seeing friends and family, I like this weather. I’ll find a nice piece of property and build a small house—have it built—when I return. Make it really nice, especially the kitchen, so Linda will want to hang out there some, hopefully a lot.

I realize that I’ll never be a real guitar player and I’m fine with that. It’s a little late. Also, I don’t want to spend the time needed to develop competency. I do like to plunk around, however, and howl at the moon.

Linda and I were at Blue Zebra, an upscale island retreat in Lake Malawi, in May and on the front of our chalet were two hanging chairs from Heavenly Hammocks in Joberg. The long and the short is that my tenacity has paid off. I had four of them shipped to my niece in Cape Town, minus the poles and foam. When I visited her I brought them back to Blantyre and they have accompanied me to the cabin. I fashioned poles and bought and cut foam to the right dimensions and have hung three of them on the screened porch, looking down the meadow. I’ll ditch the awful chairs we have—take up too much room, uncomfortable—and luxuriate in the hammock-chairs. I’d consider having them in the living room of my house—when I get a house. Just heavenly!

So this sort of rambling is what happens to me when I am alone for a long time. Solitude isn’t unpleasant for me. In ways it is much easier than working on a relationship. Eat, sleep, read, write, exercise, strum the guitar when you want. But it does have a hollow ring, for me at least.  There is a sense of meaning I get when Linda and I are working on Us together. I’m not sure why, as in the Grand Scheme it doesn’t alter the Earth’s orbit a whit. It could be Nature, that I’m just wired for relationship. We are wired to reproduce but I’ll leave that to Pablo and Charlie (fathering children in their 80’s).

I’ll rise before first light and take Stella to Bucks Harbor. Then I’ll drive to Unity, Maine where Linda has a booth at the Common Ground Fair. I want to see her and I want to see it. Then Ari and I will return to the island on Monday to close up the cabin for the winter, returning to shore on Tuesday. I’ll spend Wednesday night with my brother and his wife in Brunswick and Thursday fly to California.  Time’s flying, as well!

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