LIKE CHILL, WET LEAVES

I woke around 3:30 a.m.. It is 4:44 a.m. now. I walked last night in the still, muggy atmosphere through the silent, sleeping tin and vinyl dwellings of the faux tropical estate know as Paradise Island in the heart of a most busy and unedifying industrial sprawl. I loved the silence, at least.

A vehicle passes now on the street called Caribbean Way. Where might they be going at this hour?

Mid-November. Start of another week. Hours into Monday, November 16, 2020. I should have made these notations before midnight, for then it would truly have been exactly mid-November. I shall have a procedure on my teeth tomorrow (meaning Tuesday). Deep gum or deep route cleaning. It’s recommended. The insurance company will pay for it, apparently. They must, for why else would I do it? Why am I thinking of this now? Stupid. I’d just as soon leave my teeth alone. What marks life’s most drab and anxious obligations than trips to the dentist?

But then, I have needed my teeth this year, so I could grind them, or they could be on edge through this unwonted time of the plague.

This awkward, wee hour digression — about teeth, of all things — detracts from what had been a worthy rumination at mid-autumn, if it could be said that there is an autumn in Florida.

Another vehicle passes. I have not seen any red flashing lights on the blinds, so, for once, it is not an ambulance. I guess it is just the hour when some people in this aggregate of tin and vinyl go to work, at least those who still work and do not endure in various states of euphoria or oblivion the long, enervating skulk toward our earthly terminus in this, the month we honor the departed.

This all seems rather cynical and beyond sad. I did not mean it to be such. It lacks — something. Hope! That’s it. And gratitude for life’s coming glory and mystery. Make it a prayer!

It is probably a bit of a despairing screed against the fact that it should still be muggy in mid-November. There are mild days in northern climes — Indian Summer, or those frequent days in a Boston November when it is suddenly mild. I described November 9th, 1960 to be such a day….

Imagine that day, the first day of the the march into the Kennedy mystique, for JFK had been elected, however, barely, the day before. However honorably. And now we are approaching the end of the Trump Presidency, though not, probably, the end of the Trump Era. And let it be known, I am not altogether fond — in fact, am deeply distressed, at so much that the Great Disrupter has brought into our cooperate lives as Americans. Shall we ever recover? Was it all this fault? (Not likely.) What did it all mean? What will it go on meaning, and will he fight to the end, and to what end? Let the Phonies enter and replace the merely Crass, and we shall, as January advances as — and here’s hoping January comes — we try to see where we are as a people.

The blaze of the sun wrung pops of sweat from the old man’s brow, yet he cupped his hands around the glass of hot, sweet, tea as if to warm them. He could not shake the premonition. It clung to his head like chill, wet leaves.

William Peter Blatty

Opening lines of The Exorcist

What premonition? An evil one — that evil was near….

The clock outside my door has just rung out the Westminster chime for five o’clock but, being defective, did not strike the five gongs. The world and the clock are out of order and it is that dark hour before the dawn in the steamy, disordered southern place to which I have escaped for now for unknown, or unremembered reasons that were probably not sufficient for such a relocation, or dislocation. But we learn from everything if we are wise. Seeming mistakes can actually be moments of grace. That’s been my experience. I’ve made many mistakes and therefore experienced much grace.

But, as the astute and sensitive religiously-oriented writer Anthony Esolen has written in his book Nostalgia, published fortuitously this year, we are all homeless in a homeless world. And, as Augustine told us, “the heart is restless until it rests in thee.”

But let there be no facile escape from the jarring realities that, though jarring, kindly eased me awake in darkness from dreams in which I had been moving through a jumble of half remembered stairwells, doors and corridors, as in some parking garage of howling, familiar voices ( you know how dreams are).

We are trekking slowly toward the conclusion of this darkly memorable annus mirabilis. We are still getting sick. The fear remains. The uncouth President will, in all liklihood, cling to his Office “like chill, wet leaves.”

Chill, wet leaves. Blatty’s Exorcist was exploring hot, ancient excavations for signs of darkness visible, yet he had a sensation, in the author’s imaging, like “chill, wet leaves.” November is the season, at least near my former home, of sodden, chill, wet leaves that cling to the paved path of cemeteries and sidewalks in cool weather and Melville could write, at the middle of the 19th Century, of those moods in which it is “a damp, drizzly November in my soul.” But outside my vinyl walls, are the twin pair of Roebelini palms, like sentries, armed under their burst of draping green fronds with spikes that can painfully prick and penetrate the flesh of the unwary and careless. I know. I’ve encountered that harsh, hidden sub-tropical reality along with the hideous palmetto bugs that emerge now and then indoors and out.

And there is that couple that has already festooned their modular home with every cheerful manner of Christmas light and interior-lighted plastic image. I walked by their place last night in the dank, still darkness — and welcomed the warm, consoling sight. Christmas lights are going up early everywhere in this season when the Yuletide is bound to be muted or, as one overhears spoken everywhere through masks, “not the same.” A Pandemic Christmas before the letdown of January and the prospective inauguration of the phony and the bigot.(I must cease to be so hateful of that pair — trading my hate for all the hate for hateful Trump — and simply retire, as much as possible, from any thought of politics. Endure. We are still a free nation; all in this together. And, as endlessly noted, I could not truly call myself a fan of the crude man leaving — if he ever leaves — the White House, except to the extent that he protected, most unexpectedly, the social, spiritual, essential traditions I believe to be our bulwark, whether we realize or accept it. I speak of conscience rights, religious freedom — yes, Trump was an unlikely soul to have ended up drawing so straight with his crooked lines, at least in that department. For we are now in a world deeply hostile to such things, as the author of The Exorcist knew and stated before his death.

Chill, wet leaves. They cling. I miss them.

It will be daylight soon. Thank God for daylight. Time for my morning prayers. There shall eventually be cold and snow to the north. What’s weather? It’s not everything….just life….Thank God for weather, be it muggy or chill. Thank God for life.

But I do miss those leaves, including the stubborn oak leaves that fall only reluctantly and lay scattered over the snow well into spring….

Have a good mid-November day, everyone. It’s 5:44 a.m..

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