The Sun Also Shines


I dig, periodically. Any number of chores wait for me outside, on any given day. Sometimes I mow, sometimes I rake, sometimes I sweep. Sometimes I dig. You follow.

The no-man’s land on the north side of my property is mostly clear, now. This strip of overgrowth between a hard place and a harder one, two fences, one chain-link and the other wood, perhaps 18 inches wide and 40 feet long, has drawn the bulk of my manual labor in the past couple of weeks. It was a minefield of vines and thorns, roots and a couple of decent trees, completely hopeless until I unspooled that chain link, and now it’s about done.

This was mostly a digging job, excavating some surprisingly large and gnarled roots, not helped by the yard raked downward toward the north and the west (I live on a hill). I fight gravity in two directions, then, my feet planted in unstable soil, and I always feel it. My shoulders, my arms, my back. I dig in intervals. That’ll still get the job done.

And when I dig, I think about despair.

Not my despair.

Me? I’m fine. There are no complaints from me, not while summer plays by its rules. Warm and sunny, leisurely and sedate, blue skies and bluer water. I’ve got problems like anybody else, but not so much in the summer. I’ve got an anniversary coming up, as well as a big birthday when everyone has to pay attention. No complaints.

Some of this is just thinking about poor Robin Williams, whose life is now being reevaluated via a new biography and a documentary on HBO, neither of which I’ve delved into but wait for me, you betcha. It turned out to be a celebrity death that lingered for me, far past what I expected.

I thought at first that it was just sentimental; Robin Williams showed up at a formative time in my life, and he felt like one of my guys. I was possessive and a little smug, having caught him in a comedy club performance before the rest of the world knew his name.

There’s nothing surprising, or particularly new. It was pretty much out there and known, particularly if you looked hard enough. He had his demons and issues, but it seems generally that he was a decent guy, flawed and definitely human but nothing serious. He had problems with booze and other drugs when he was young, recovered from that, had a relapse in his 50s (pretty common), recovered from that, and then found himself in a whirlwind of confusion and dread.

And I can’t imagine it matters a bit whether he was despondent over the awareness that his brain was disintegrating, or his cognitive powers were distorted by his disease. Doesn’t matter. He was going to die. He died. There are no what-ifs here, no someone who could have saved this man. It’s just so sad.

Then there are the other celebrity suicides, more sadness. An opioid-abuse epidemic is rocking our world, bubbling just beneath the surface sometimes and worthy of headlines on other days, but it’s real and nobody has a solution so far that sounds workable to me.

I’ve made a lot of jokes about women and their wine—I see a lot of memes reposted these days about Wine Time and so on. Used to be chocolate. Now it’s wine, and I joke. These are rough times, hard on the soul, and people are looking for comfort.

I’m not that kind of recovering alcoholic. I get booze, get why a cold beer or a nice glass of Chardonnay or a shot of whiskey can make the difference at the end of the day. I approve, in general, if that’s your thing. It’s not my thing anymore, because I don’t seem to be able to drink. Lots of history there, too bad, not that bad. That’s me, not you.

But a story this morning about increasing rates of cirrhosis and other liver disease is disturbing, if only because it lines up with what I observe, and wonder about.

Maybe that’s why I dig. Or maybe digging brings this up. Or maybe it’s just dull and repetitious, and my mind wanders toward the dark side. As I said, I’m good here, no darkness. I just think about it.

On a side note, I went for a walk late in the afternoon yesterday, after a fair amount of my incremental yard work. The weather has cooled a bit, down about 10 degrees, and it was in the low 70s. I took a simple route, 2-1/2 miles around the neighborhood, and my heart rate averaged in the mid-90s (according to my Fitbit). That’s exercise and a good thing, but it’s not exactly serious cardio.

On the other hand, 45 minutes of digging in the backyard is very serious, according to this thing. A word to the wise, then. Digging=good. In moderation, in all things, all the time. Take breaks. Don’t fall down. Get back up if you do. Try not to get sad. Strong hearts are good, and necessary, and now is the right time.

Chuck SigarsComment