Dear blogmates, the time has come to face up – a little, gently – to sorrow. This is a freezing dull gray morning in Arkansas, we’re looking for it to snow soon, the holidays are over and the legal project’s submitted – the time has arrived. I can’t put it off any longer.
On that lovely day-that-lied, in early November — the four awful Bugs-less hours. (“Don’t Want Milk,” Jan. 3; “Excellent Adventure,” Dec. 16.)
But it’s too awful. I first want to set the stage for some “scrupulous optimism” – as a bracing tonic against the temptation to succumb to the “comprehensive gloom” of a Schopenhauer (“Wicked Optimism,” Dec. 31). I have on the iPod the warming dash of tropical wonderfulness that is AFROCUBISM (really friends you just have to have a listen; this CD is so wonderful, it was born of the BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB project, only the guys from Mali couldn’t get there for BVSC because of visa problems. Ten years later — last year — they more than made up for it, with this one ) –
And I also want to offer this bracing antidote to “unscrupulous optimism,” as I continue to plow diligently through the Roger Scruton book (Dec. 31 again). I specially appreciate Scruton’s using a midwife as an illustration, because we’ve been playing with the “midperson” idea (“Bugs the Prenatal Caregiver,” Dec. 12) . . . .
This is what I want to be when I grow up, become, if I should live long enough:
“When it comes to our own lives, to the things that we [do] know . . . in which we have acquired both understanding and competence, we take a measured view. . . . The midwife who knows her job respects the solutions that have been proved by the generations who preceded her . . . . [I]f she takes a risk, because the problem . . . is without clear precedent, she is careful to measure the cost of failure and to ensure that it can be borne. . . . [S]he is what might be called a scrupulous optimist – one who . . . consults the existing store of knowledge and authority . . . relying on initiative and inspiration when no other guidance can be found, or when some original quirk in her predicament sparks off a matching response in herself.”
Nice, no? And, but, to this comprehensive (possibly unrealistic) bucket list I would also add: When we might fall a little short (might? a little??) — Empathy for self and others. (“Hedgehogs,” Jan. 1; “Case for Empathy,” Jan. 2). May we have cultivated, may we connect with, boon companions who can help out with that.
So after I returned home from my hysterical tromp through the neighborhood – I entered a cold and empty place.
Let Farley Mowat say it for me in the Dog Who Wouldn’t Be. I couldn’t do better than the elegy he wrote for Mutt, as Mowat walked, with Mutt ahead of him, along the road where Mutt was to meet his end (at the hands of yet another human careless of the impact machines have on other living beings):
“There was no other wanderer on that road, yet I was not alone, for his tracks went with me, each pawprint as familiar as the print of my own hand. I followed them, and I knew each thing that he had done, each move that he had made, each thought that had been his; for so it is with two who live one life together. . . . The pact of timelessness between the two of us was ended, and I went from him into the darkening tunnel of the years.”
So I sat there, weeping –
Only in my case, then, ever-so-faintly – I heard a thin faraway mewing.
I thought, now I really have lost my mind. I’m hearing voices now.
And enter reality, back with a welcome thump: Bugs was just hiding under the house.
I grabbed as many treats as I could carry, and also whatever human-food I could scrape fast out of the fridge, dashed outside, dropped to the ground where I knew there was a hole, called Bugs – and there his little face peeked out, triangle of white in the gloom.
The relief. I spent just a moment reveling in it. There he was. Not gone walkabout in the wide cruel world, not gone in search of lady cats more beautiful than I, not chased up a tree somewhere – there he was, right there safely under the house. O glory be.