January 27, 2002
The new year finds us all still recovering from September 11. Most of us feel relieved to have the holidays behind us; subdued as they were, finding cause for merrymaking of any sort didn't seem sincere. Or, maybe that's just me. I enjoy more the weeks following the hubub, the 'caving' with books and cats and comfort food. An example of comfort food? Try dipping a spoon first into a jar of Nutella and then into cruncy almond butter. I'm balancing that habit with yoga classes which, at this age, comes more from a fear of death than from vanity.
Read Savage Beauty, the Mitford bio of Edna St. Vincent Millay, play-by-play hedonistic rush toward a premature death. Went on to read Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, the new short story collection by Alice Munro, a master of the genre, then Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das, a Long Island Jew who discovered Zen in the Sixties. I find much about Tibetan Buddhism attractive and think I might be a good Buddhist in a monastic environment but think it impossible to apply the principles fully in an in-your-face Western culture. So, like most things that appeal to me, I take what is workable, and stumble on.
A week of the flu kept me even more dug in. Saturday, bolstered by a Spring-like day, I walked down to Old City and comforted myself with a cup of hot tea in Java. Except for a young man with a laptop, the place was deserted, so much the better.
I didn't even break the day's bright silence to hail down a friend I saw through the glass across the street. But he was wearing a red shirt and walking briskly, both evidence of an assignation, so I watched him pass out of sight, fictionalizing in my head the upcoming tryst. It seemed an odd place for him to be, bereft as it is of the things he is constantly in pursuit of--books, good food, intellectual or operatic diversion--that I dismissed his image as a post-flu hallucination. It's possible that I wasn't even there myself but still in my sickbed, watching it rain, imagining a future day of sun, wellness, and a window table in a clean, well-lighted place, creating the little fictions that sustain us in the long winters.