© January 5, 2014
Letter to a faraway friend:
I’ve been snowbound for three days now and thinking about how muted life can be when you stay home all day. Been cooking a lot, we have ample supplies and going to restaurants without any income seems irrational. My cooking is getting very good. Since I have a very limited choice of what to eat because of my numerous and confusing allergies, finding interesting ways to vary what is on the approved list makes it intellectually challenging as well.
Coffee is a new and welcome presence in my life. The making of it, the aroma while it brews and the first scalding sip are a delight on cold, disappointing mornings. I never drank any coffee until I was fifty-nine, five years ago. I waited until the debate in the press about whether it was good or bad for me was sufficiently resolved. It is a rarity to add anything new to my restricted diet, so I take few chances. I have also learned, decades after my peers, that there is a very large range of good and bad coffee. Picking out a favorite coffee to become accustomed to sipping early in the morning, is akin to picking out a good painting to live with and then see it every day on your wall.
I don’t shovel now, mostly push mounds of snow around, but I think that is no longer wise. I am accepting my limitations. A sharp pain in my upper left chest was startling last night, even if it was most likely muscular. Being found by a passerby while lying facedown in a random snowdrift is not my idea of a life well lived.
Besides, writing stories, poetry and advertising for my currently inaccessible store is legitimate enough work for me, although none of those activities produce any revenue. Alice in Wonderland and I would get along very well about now. I need that White Rabbit.
I find that I hardly watch movies despite having hundreds of DVDs and cassettes. I read sporadically while confined here. There is an unusual, for me, uncertainty about how to spend my time. Turns out that between being trapped by snow and/or killed by snow, does not necessarily focus one’s mind.
The patterns of my unfrozen life—waking, dressing, coffee and breakfast, driving to work, being there, talking to whomever comes in, switching reluctantly into a selling frame of mind, watching the hours wind down, the closing routine cemented by switching off that last light, driving home or somewhere else, arriving, greeting my dogs, daughter and wife, eating, undressing, reading or watching a film, talking to my wife, daughter or dogs, sometimes considering the meaning of the day without reaching a conclusion, becoming sleepy while hypnotically staring at my computer screen, switching it off, falling into bed, sleeping—have become so muted in these last mostly silent days. Time flows without splashing. Interruptions are chosen, not required. A more private life.
We’re concerned about our water pipes freezing and the growing amount of heavy snow on our nearby wooden garage, too. Once I would climb a ten-foot ladder to clear it off. An insane objective now. Living inside of 900 sq. ft. with a periodically contented wife, a teenaged daughter who reads (!) and two dogs is very cozy and better than I would have imagined as our world and income have progressively shrunk.
Friend, aspiring writers, even ancient ones, wind up dwelling within exotic small living spaces. But that was a choice, not a consequence.
Another thing. It is interesting how intimate communicating with our dogs is. They have trained us well. They have very strict behavior patterns and we accommodate them so that they are content. It is not a burden. It is clear to all three of us humans that showing them affection by talking to them, scratching their ears and tummies every so often, is very necessary for them. They protect us, announce strangers before we can hear them, work 24/7, are cheap to feed and keep us very warm at night, especially now. Suppertime is the very peak of their day, a cause for celebration, and all five of us take that situation very seriously.
My daughter often chooses Betsy to sleep with, our now quite old beagle that she picked out of a cardboard box at a sprawling flea market on the grassy banks of the Illinois/Iowa Mississippi River when she was four years old. Betsy is a hot water bottle covered with fur. I found that cuddling an old dog who picks her spot on the bed and then stays there all night, is a fundamentally satisfying experience. For both of us. Like a warm apostrophe, she fits perfectly into my sleeping fetal position. My missing piece.
I didn’t plan on writing to you this frigid morning. I wasn’t hired to do it. You don’t require it. Our communication pattern is a fluctuating one. But the time and opportunity for recording my thoughts about limitations and change offered itself to me and I seized it. I’d like to think we both benefited from the impulse, though my words aren’t so immortal.
It is 7 AM.
So, what do I do now?
My other life and how to contact me:
The Store: Magazine Museum
4906 Oakton St. Skokie (Downtown)
Mon-Fri: 10-5 Weekends: 10-2
100,000 Magazines back to 1576
For Birthdays, Anniversaries or Business gifts
50,000 posters @ $5.00 & $10.00 each
(Bob’s non-fiction stories and poetry)