Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Emptiness

We had a day planned here on the winding drive.  The water was going to be out as they finally fix the line, so we had spare buckets and pitchers lined up.  Tom was going to make bean soup with ham hocks, which is something of an endeavor the way we do it. Greg was coming over to help Tom mount the new house numbers, a project that has taken weeks or years to come to fruit, the way things usually are around here.

Then Tom discovered that they did indeed shut off the water at exactly 8:30, just as the announcement said.  And he hadn't put aside water for the bean soup endeavor, thinking they wouldn't be punctual this one time. Then Greg called with a fever, not coming today.  Suddenly before us was a day with no big plans. It interested me, how empty it felt. It was as if the day we'd imagined had a certain reality, occupied space in our minds.

It made me think of how I labored to finish my PhD program - the hard part, the dissertation and defense - though I now knew I did not want a career in academia, just shoot me instead.  There was a certain reason to it -to be ABD is to announce yourself as a failure - better not to even start the program, I thought.  But there was another reason, I think now; I could see the span of time before me filled with a certain something, even if it was only a form of acute suffering. If I had quit, never mind what my father would have said about quitters, (oh, don't go there) I would be faced with - this empty space.

Empty of what?  My thoughts about it, the mental structure I carried around. Tell me those mental emissions are not "real," I know that. I also know they are. They are like the four tote boxes in our front closet full of various clothes I wasn't wearing at the time we moved, but valued, and might fit back into some day, and didn't want to get rid of. Those boxes don't exactly exist behind the closed sliding doors; but they do.  And in fact, they exist in my mind, too, cluttering me up, alongside ideas about 10,000 things I ought to do, how one ought to live, etcetera ad nauseum.

Well, I thought it was interesting, that's all - the space these cancellations left in our collective mind around here. It made me think, too, about how I would live if I knew I didn't have that apparently endless stream of years in front of me until, maybe, I die.  That A Year to Live idea. If I'd known I would die a year later, I certainly would not have bent myself to that dissertation.  During those stressful years the cancer began growing that was discovered two years after my graduation.

There is the melancholy joy of this time of year, too. Ohio is at its most beautiful in the fall, many kinds of maple turning many colors, the gingkos along High Street yellow fans, the brown oak leaves piling in drifts in the gutters. The sun in and out, which makes each moment of sunlight precious. 

Each day you know this is the last day of its kind. Tomorrow, fewer leaves, less color.  In two weeks we'll be into the drab, cold days of November, which are garlanded in the cheap Mardi Gras beads of the consumer holiday frenzy of eating, drinking, spending.  However, of course, that does not exist right now, except in my fertile mind.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, by the way. On Tuesday we were supposed to go to the pumpkin farm as soon as the kids got home from school. At nearly precisely the time the bell rings it began to rain, and then it rained harder and did not stop until, well, tonight? Anyhow, I felt so out of sorts and at loose ends somehow, and you're exactly right--the night felt "empty" without the outing.

    Is it kind of like moving the couch way over to accommodate a chair, and then never buying the chair, but being left unbalanced with an empty space? Perhaps.