Monday, July 16, 2007


I was going to take my coffee and my book outside, because it's summer. It's a cloudy day. I saw a few raindrops about a half hour ago, but they're gone now. The air is soft and even my weedy backyard seems like it could stand in for the lawn at my favorite vacation spot.

However, in front of the house, the street is lined with utility trucks. The workers from the gas company are using a jackhammer to break through the pavement. The noise puts a hard edge on everything. My skin enjoys the cool breeze coming through the open window here by the computer, but the pounding in my ears is putting an edge on this drawn-out summer aftrenoon.

Meanwhile, the coffee is putting an edge on me, or so I hope. I wouldn't be writing this without that caffeine boost. I didn't sleep well last night, so this afternoon was devoted to foggy napping--the kind where you fall asleep and then the phone rings. You answer it, wake up enough to converse, then try to nap some more. From then on, you're never sure if you're awake or asleep.

I read when I'm trying to fall asleep, and sometimes the book merges with the dreams. Sometimes it becomes part of the sleeplessness. Last night, as I was trying to lead my mind away from the personal anxieties that were keeping me awake, I was reading Taylor Branch's At Canaan's Edge. It's the third volume in a detailed history of the civil rights movement. It is packed with short, sharp sentences, every single one of which seems to have involved a different source, a different avenue of research.How did he put this all these details together?

It is difficult to keep track of all the names in this history. The book is like a complicated tapestry. You can follow the threads, but you have to look closely. Most nights, my brain gives up on such intense mental activity and I don't read more than a page or two before falling asleep. Last night, my prickly, worried mind found itself right at home in the violence-spiked story of Martin Luther King's 1966 campaign for fair housing in Chicago. It took a long time to make it over the bump between drowsiness and sound sleep. Rocks were everywhere--hurled at African-American marchers in Marquette Park, lining my path of worries into the future.

The jackhammer sound outside continues, though it has moved to the next block, It seems they're going to have to look down several deep holes in order to fix the problem with the gas pipes under the street.

Would drilling holes into my head fix the mess in there? What is leaking? Caffeine, at least, has brought me back into contact with the life around me. Our black dog sits under my chair, doing her summertime pant, exuding that summer dog smell. The frozen pizza is in the oven for the supper; I will share it with the only child who is home this evening. I have to go rehearse Oklahoma! tonight, and make a list of all the things I need to take care of tomorrow, because I didn't do them today.

Called back to life? Assault the mind with challenges--caffeine-induced jumpiness, the banging of a jackhammer--and it comes out fighting. Perhaps I am not made for languid summer afternoons. Struggling seems more like real life.

Let us run with perseverance the race this is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

can you please write books of short stories, they would own my heart--Liz