Sunday, July 12, 2015

Eyes Wide Shut

After a storm-filled winter and cold, rainy spring, there’s no misery worse than being stuck inside with the flu on the four sunniest, hottest days of summer so far. Right?

Er, well, wrong.

First off, it’s really just a bad cold, but it feels bad enough to be called a flu, so I’m going with that. I’ll spare you all the details, but one symptom of this high-level cold is that, for two days now, I haven’t been able to read, watch TV or movies, or generally look at anything because of itchy, watering eyes akin to the worst seasonal allergy attack you or I have ever had. Meanwhile, with my eyes half open for only seconds at a time, I can see that many of my FB friends are off to the beach, on retreats, waterskiing, hiking and flying to exotic locales and posting wonderful pictures designed both to proclaim the beauty of life and. occasionally, I’m sure, to stir a light envy within the still-beating hearts of those who aren’t there with them. Most, though, are just sharing, and I appreciate that, in fact. I don’t live vicariously, but I like to see people enjoying their lives. I usually welcome proof of life.

The first two days, I was doing okay, figuring I’d be better by Sunday. Yesterday, I was supposed to start my road trip to the U.S. – something I did for the first time in August of last year and enjoyed it so much that I feel a need to do it again. But, as you can see, I’ve had to delay the gratification of several days of driving nowhere in particular and feeding my soul with the sights of a different country. America is no country for sick men. (Here, I’m sidestepping the obvious allusion to certain interest groups, televangelists and Fox news.)

The rebounding tomato plants.
I didn’t sleep last night and so, this morning, my eyes still hurt. I stayed in bed till nearly 9 a.m., then forced myself to go make coffee and then some toast. I already had my sunglasses on, so I went out to the backyard, where it’s sunny and warm – something a raw throat, and all the rest, have kept me from enjoying the past few days. I saw that my strawberry plant was hanging low – the squirrels and bunnies had eaten a few berries, but, miraculously, had left a couple of me. So I ate them. Vitamin C in the form of a fresh, ripe strawberry is pure therapy.

That little yellow bud there?
Looks like a great pumpkin's early days.
Then, I took a tour around the garden that I’d started back in mid-June when the weather was just warming up, but there were still frost warnings and torrential rains, with lots of high winds. I didn’t know if it would survive, especially the withered tomato plants and the giant pumpkin. The tomato plants had looked sick, nearly dead when I finally planted them. The pumpkin, even as recently as a couple of days ago, didn’t look so great.

Trying to catch and sing the sun in flight -
the promise of a sunflower.
But, somehow, they survived. I got out the hose and gave them all – the peppers, onions, lettuces,  tomatoes, squashes and flowers – and gave them a good, long drink. And I even saw that the lone sunflower that I’d planted – my most favourite of flowers, but which I’d never grown before (but then, I’ve never grown any plants before that lived) was sturdy and strong, peering up at me as if to say, “Soon, boss, soon.”

From the shade, I see and feel the breeze,
and drink my coffee, sunglasses on.
Then I sat myself down in the shade where I had a good view of it all – the rippling blue lake, the welcoming tent that makes me think that I might have run away with the circus after all, the waving flowers, the burgeoning vegetables, and surrounded by tall, sheltering trees and green grass all around – and realized that the plants weren’t the only ones that have survived and were thriving, in spite of nature, and yet because of nature.

All the flowers lived.
Self-pity fled from my soul. I thought of friends who are battling cancer, living with daily illness, have had trauma in their lives, both physical and emotional, from which they’re still recovering  and wondered, what has this morning been like for them? What has this weekend been like for them? This springless spring and sunless winter? What have they  endured that I couldn’t even begin to fathom?
Of course, self pity isn’t my style. ‘Twas merely a fleeting touch of gray to begin with. I know I’ll be fine tomorrow. In fact, I am fine today. I’ll be well tomorrow or the next day. I’ll take my road trip and other adventures as soon as I can – if only because I can. I’m always all too aware of those who wish they could do these things and, for various reasons, truly cannot. So, in a way, I owe it to life itself, and to myself, to get on with it, to grow things and enjoy moments, to participate in life in as many ways as possible for as long as I possibly can.

I won’t dare to think anything so pithy as that I’m doing it for anyone else. But it doesn’t mean I can’t empathize with others. And it’s not a bad thing to remember that a cold is just a cold, even if it feels like a flu. And to be unable to see well for a couple of days is hardly the worst calamity to strike a person, even a writer.
Sitting out there, the wind blowing  and the sun shining upon my bare chest and feet, I remembered a time four years ago  – in July 2011, at the height of summer, when I had eye surgery and wore dark glasses inside and outside for nearly two weeks. It was a self-inflicted surgery, to make my vision stronger (which it did, I’m happy to say), but I was in the midst of revising a novel called Finton Moon at that time.  Suddenly, I found myself unable to stand the glare of the computer screen. What was I to do? Surely, I couldn’t just wait two weeks of glorious summer (tick-tick, tick-tock, with classes starting up again in six or seven weeks) before writing again. Back then, I hadn’t published yet and the thought of wasting two precious weeks was, well, unthinkable.

NL Book Award winner,
 completed with blind faith.
So, I dug out my neverending short story collection and thought that, if I could just write the three or four stories I knew I had left to tell (though I had no idea what they would be) then there was no reason for me not to submit Moonlight Sketches to a publisher by the end of summer. Long story short (or short stories short) I wrote “The Darkness and Darcy Knight,” “Run, Mother, Run!” “Fish of the Damned” and “Chosey Bilch,” as well as a couple of others in a prolific period of about six weeks. The other stories had been revised (some published, some award-winning already) so often that they didn’t need much revision at all. And, once I’d written these stories, and my sight came back to normal, I was able to revise them to my heart’s content. By the end of that summer, I was able to submit my manuscript to the one publisher I thought could appreciate those stories more than any other – Creative Publishing. As I’ve said before, it was the right collection for the right publisher at the right time. And if I hadn’t had the eye surgery, I might still be writing that collection. As it was, I signed a contract in mid-December of that same year.
So, I thought, this morning, I feel inspired to write a blog entry about all these thoughts. And, later today, I think I’ll try my hand at a new short story for a new collection I’m working on.

I can always revise these things later when my eyes are wide open and healthy.

Life, you see, is a lot like that. But when I take that road trip alter this summer, I think I’d better be able to keep my eye on the road. Still, I won’t know where I’m going till I get there, and that’s the most exhilarating part.

Please forgive the typos. No revision today.

But, as you can probably see, I did take some pictures before the moment had passed.


  1. Hi Gerard, I'm at work and it is rainy and cold for about the billionth day in a row. My outreach clients didn't show but I messed around with other stuff. I'm alive and well and like you - happy to be awake. Hope you hit the road soon.

  2. I saw the message within more than the typos you are referring to and I would like to thank you for that once again. I am hoping for your full recovery...and CONGRATULATIONS for having green thumbs.