Friday, May 20, 2011

The Rapture: Does it make Scents?

I thought I would write a possibly- farewell post in case any of us are going anywhere on May 21, 2011 that would take us beyond the blogosphere. For those of you who haven’t heard, the Rapture is supposed to occur this Saturday at 6:00 local time. If you think you are going and are worried about left behind pets , there are avowed atheists standing ready to help.

I personally have been much more concerned about the loss of my sense of smell as a result of a lingering sinus infection and/or allergies. It was missing for more than a week, sending me into a perhaps unreasonable panic that it would never return. The last six months have been extremely stressful, but this deprivation tipped me over some edge, as infirmities often will. Think of Job stoically enduring the loss of his family and all his wealth. But when he is afflicted with boils he sits down in the ash pit and begins his famous rant.

Yesterday morning, I smelled my coffee again. Everything fell into perspective. Who cares if we are in the midst of a messy move to High Valley, the yard awash in mud where the septic system remains unfinished? Who cares whether or not we can afford to maintain it or will resolve all the complex issues with our neighbors? Who cares about the toll the economy is taking on us and everyone else, the extreme weather of which we are having our share and which is almost certainly linked to global climate change? (BTW haven’t the tribulations already begun?)

I spent the morning in olfactory rapture. I could smell wet earth and grass, air laden with the scent of blossoms, never mind if I am allergic. I even liked the less pleasant smells, a whiff of gas at a station where I stopped for a second coffee (flavored with faux blueberry). I welcomed the smell of my own waste, which I realize is one way I assess my health. I decided I could accept how out of control my life feels, the world feels, if only I can go on smelling everything. Given a choice between the Rapture and staying behind, earth wins because it makes scents!

By lunch time, which I planned to celebrate by chopping garlic and onions for a stir fry, my sense of smell was gone again. I sniffed the onion and garlic at close range in vain. Since then it’s been flickering on and off like some faulty electrical connection, and I suppose it is like that. We had another night of torrential rain and I despair of the spring and summer events at High Valley with people slogging through mud and sinking in up to their shins. If I were Raptured, I wouldn’t have to worry about the septic system or about moving. It would solve so many problems!

On the other hand, October 21st (the date the world is allegedly supposed to end ) doesn’t get me out of enough responsibilities to be at all comforting. Moreover the release date of Red-Robed Priestess is not till November, which hardly seems fair. Since I am in control of so little, I think will go blow my nose again and check my sense of smell by sniffing my cold coffee. Whether I can smell it or not, I will remember that rapture and torment, heaven and hell are all right here, in every our breath and whiff.

Makes sense to me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Out of the Closet

Note: We are in the process of getting ready to move from our home of twenty-six years to an apartment at High Valley. I am keeping a journal of the process. Below is an entry.

I finally open a dreaded closet, the one in my office (that used to be part of the attic). I know there are boxes of Christmas ornaments there and probably manuscripts, but my long ignorant bliss of rest of the contents is ending.

I pull out a box with a tarnished silver tray and another also tarnished tray with a glass cover (for smelly cheese?) and six small knives. Unused wedding gifts? What to do with them now? Polish them up and give them away? Add them to High Valley’s eclectic communal stash of cookware and plates?

There is a more poignant box presided over by Glumph (a stuffed lion who was hard for a three-year old to haul around; the name denotes the effort) and Elsa (of later vintage, named, of course, for the lioness in Born Free). Their already-worn fur now sports embedded mouse droppings. Chewed insulation lies in clumps, dry dirty snow that will never melt to any spring. And in the rest of the box: all my writings from just before college till just after as well as letters from my college teacher and mentor who took lavish epistolary care of me long after I was his student.

So I sit and read and sift, marveling at all the spiral notebooks filled with the ink of cartridge pens and the academic papers painstakingly typed on onion skin paper with handwritten corrections. I made far more attempts at writing fiction than I remember. I am impressed with some of my papers and exams. Such an unedited trove, one I would like to discover after my own death, though my progeny may not feel the same way.

Now I compose on the computer. I have lots of word files, but I weed through them, every now and then, pressing the delete key with a fair amount of ruthlessness. I do write and receive a lot of email (most of which I don’t save), but I think I wrote more letters, certainly longer ones, and I received wonderfully long, detailed letters in return.

I have lived long enough to see the passing of an age.

What will be in the closets of the digital age? Will there be no more steamer trunks of journals? (I have one of those, too, crammed with all the journals I wrote till my journal became electronic five years ago.)

I find I like typing with two fingers and having my words so easy to store and transport. I don’t like the mouse shit (or the pee on some of the pages) or the dust of the ages in the boxes. I don’t like the space all my old writings require. But I do like the thrill of discovery, of a largely forgotten life revealed. I felt the same way when we found my father’s correspondence with his father. I knew my father had been hostile toward my ambition to write, but until we found the letters, I never knew his father had said the same awful things to him, almost word for word. (Therein lies another post).

Will going through someone’s computer files or Blackberry yield the same excitement or poignancy?

I am going to have to kiss Glumph and Elsa goodbye (carefully so as not to ingest the droppings). I will probably keep only a small sample of handwritten drafts of published work. But I will keep the term papers and the early unpublished strivings in a file box from Staples. Enough is revealed in these that the journals, as I’ve always intended, can burn.