Cloister Commentary, Day 89: A Sand Grain

I’ll admit, I ran myself through a ringer yesterday.

Before I took a sip of coffee at 4:55 a.m., I found myself in a quagmire we all know too well: an irresolvable on-line tangle with someone. Why did I insist on engaging? That drained me of almost all the energy that sleep had restored to me–and more significantly, it left me distressed. Finally disengaged and recovered just in time to teach, my students graced me with the most enjoyable class I’ve overseen in over a year. Did I mention I’ve often been called “Mr. Overseen”? That’s the power of my gaze! They made me laugh with pleasure with their insights. After class, I couldn’t just be grateful for the nice session and bask in it; I had to revisit the previous briar of a conversation, fret about a technical GoFundMe issue, revisit the previous briar of a conversation, and perseverate over a lost package until my surging stress level merged with a very strong cup of tea and brought me to the edge of explosion. Nicole, as she does reliably, talked me back about 10 feet from the ledge and onto the couch, where, despite my heart pounding, I eventually lapsed into a 15-minute five-fathoms-deep nap. I awakened not very Van Winkle-like to resume worrying and wishing my old friend was on this plane to talk to–until I checked the GoFundMe to see an anonymous $1000 donation in his memory, the sheer generosity of which (quite seriously) brought me to tears. And joy. Then my high school chum Marcy plunged me into the abyss of depression by reminding me that we graduated from high school two score and about a month ago (does that sound longer ago or nearer to now than 40 YEARS?). Then my good friend Henry called and restored my emotional equilibrium and acceptance of mortality with compassion and humor. Finally, enchiladas, two cold Budweisers, and a dive into the work of Jeff City’s Chester Himes brought me back to myself.

Anyway–it was a day. I am now thankful I was alive for it, and today I am going to try act like I just read a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, which I just did, and also act like I understand that my troubles are like a sand grain in my shoe compared to so many others I know and don’t know–as I should. I hope you all have a better day than yesterday, too.

Streaming for Strivers:

How I’m starting the morning THIS morning. This is for the Carthage High School Class of 1980.

Cloister Commentary, Day 40: Lightning Strikes!

Almost every time we’ve walked the neighborhood, on our way over to or back from Parkade Park we stop and chat with our neighbor Kelly. She’s an educator like us, and yesterday we talked to her curb-to-window (COVID-style). We generally share how we’re making it, what’s frustrating us, and what we need (and need not) to be doing. Speaking of the latter, she’s been biking the Katy, and that inspired us to get out on one of our epic Old 63-to-Scott Boulevard hikes very soon.

We knew a storm was brewing, so when we returned from our walk, Nicole went out back to bring in the deck umbrella. The windows were open, and, standing in the kitchen, I heard a sizzling crackle, saw a quick flash, then heard a boom. My heart jumped into my throat, then I heard the umbrella fall to the deck and the back door swing open. Wide-eyed, Nicole appeared, eyes wide, a little pale, and uttering epithets. We are both grateful that lightning strike spared her.

I don’t know what your dog does during thunderstorms, but ours becomes angry and races through the house looking to attack every thunder-peal, so we enjoyed that for about an hour while trying to calm down after the near-electrocution. I think I’d rather he be scared.

The storm finally abated, and we spent a second straight night reading in the front room, with the windows open and listening to jazz (the full album I’m sharing below was a major highlight). What was I reading, you didn’t ask? If you happen to be seeking some good literature that springs from Missouri heritage; if you want to be both brutally enlightened and deliriously entertained; and if you want to experience one of the most inimitable voices in crime fiction, may I direct you to Jeff City-born Chester HimesHarlem Cycle of novels, which feature the laconic yet explosive detectives Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones? I finished Blind Man with a Gun last night and have only Plan B to go before I’ve read the whole nine-book Cycle. Himes is amazing. The titles you may have heard of are Cotton Comes to Harlem and A Rage in Harlem; they’re all very good, and pack a stiff volley of punches into 200 pages.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Would you like to sample a classic hard-bop jazz album that’s near-equal parts lightning swingers and probing ballads? I knew that you would.