In which I follow doctor’s orders

I meant for this Saturday to be insanely productive.  Yet my list of tasks lies forgotten on the table outside, weighed down by the edge of a clay pot.  The day sagged under the burden of a sleepless night and achy joints; and the distraction of an anticipated visit from a neighbor that never happened.

At two a.m. , my mind had finally relinquished its hold on my body.  For three hours, I had struggled to find a position in which I could not feel the searing pain in my joints or trigger a spasm in my calves.  A noise at just past five startled me awake.  I reached for my phone, checked the message, then dropped back to the pillow and reclaimed sleep.  As I sank into the abyss, an inner voice reminded me that we had not finished cataloguing my failures.  I’m done, I whispered.  Came the answer, Just one  more thing:  You need to pick a better soundtrack for your life.  I murmured my agreement as I faded.

Over coffee, I remembered my argument with my inner spirit.  I thought of the music that I played in the car, loud, on scratchy CDs:  Bonnie Raitt’s version of Guilty, the Randy Newman classic; Steve Earle’s Goodbye; a young Kasey Chambers desperately asking Am I Not Pretty Enough?; Emmylou Harris whispering, I told you everything about me; I told you everything I could.  I know every word.  I feel every vibrato.  I have lived every nuance.

I got one load of laundry done, fetched the mail, and read a book cover to cover sitting on my porch beneath the crisp spring sky.  With my head resting on the taut nylon back of the chair, I let the sun drench my face.  The Stanford oncologist says the type of leukemia that I  have often occurs in people who — like me — manifest vitamin D deficiencies.  It’s indolent; I’m likely to die with it, rather than from it, but undoubtedly my lifestyle will factor into that prognosis.  So I get my hours of sunshine when I can, coffee on the table beside me, my hands idle, my spirit consciously quelled.

The citronella plant on my porch has grown tall.  Purple buds along its branches opened today, sending a delicate fragrance into the breeze.  In my small bit of yard, the perfume bushes have begun to droop, their yellowed leaves fluttering to the ground.  But the jade plant has rebounded from the rainy winter.  I also have some reason to believe that the lime tree might bear fruit this year.

In the end, my neighbor texted his regrets.  Folks from the city had come to visit his farm.  I didn’t mind; he knows where I live, and will visit when he can.  A new tiny house pulled into the park and the couple two doors down returned from their year at graduate school in Berkeley.  I watched the comings and goings from my little 8 x 8 deck.  I nodded to passers-by.  I drank water.  I finished my book.  As the sun slipped below the crown of the oak rising overhead, I went inside to find some dinner, closing my door against the gathering dusk.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the one-hundred and twelfth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

by Sara Teasdale

When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I have looked Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange–my youth.

Photos taken in the California Delta.  The swans hovered in the slough across from our park.  The field of flowers stands adjacent to my house.  Quote author unknown.

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