Archive for December, 2009

Sickday/Rain Delay

I awoke Halloween morning in Lebanon, Tennessee, with a distinct rawness in my throat and swelling in my pharynx.   My entire body ached, though most likely from two days’ white-knuckle driving rather than from any sinister, barnyard-based influenza. I looked out the window from my top-floor room (that would be floor seven), from which vantage I could clearly see a low, thick, slate-colored layer for miles in all directions, as well as my trusty Blubaru parked below, rain pooled on its roof.  There was zero chance of driving out from under the storm within the day, even if I felt grand.  I surrendered.  It was plain to see there was no sense in going anywhere that day, no matter how I tried to rationalize it.  I finally called down to the front desk and informed them I would remain a guest in their well-appointed, free-upgraded suite for another day.  I promised myself I would spend my sick/rainout day napping and writing, getting my money’s worth on the room.

After another marginal hotel breakfast followed by a soak in the tub, I wrote for a few hours until my languid limbs itched for a little activity.  Not yet tired enough for a nap, I figured we (my limbs and I) would go out and explore the Lebanon environs.  I retraced John’s and my steps from the night before, and found myself shortly in “Historic Downtown Lebanon,” if you believed the banners hanging from the streetlights.  It looked more like Decrepit Downtown Lebanon to me, ‘though I hated feeling so repulsed and judgmental.  This was just another American town that had once had a lovely little town square, which was now decaying while the Prime Outlets opened a few miles up the road, and the big-box megastores paved over the neighboring farms.

I drove a few back roads, just to see if there was anything left of the old residential areas (there was), and found myself drawn to what turned out to be a lone casket waiting in abeyance in an outlying cemetery.  As I drove past, oddly struggling to take my eyes off this eerie sight, I remembered it was Halloween and shuddered a little, as this lonesome display was no holiday prank.  After turning back onto the main road, I passed a funeral home just as a stream of people trailed out of it.  Here was the lone casket’s congregation, on their way to surround and lower that coffin, no doubt.  I have often found it surreal to realize that I am peering fleetingly into the full and complete lives of strangers, which are going on by the billion all around me at all times.  It usually strikes me as freakish somehow, that as big and consuming as my own life is to me at any given moment, so is the life of that random person walking down the street, or stepping out of the funeral home, or lying dead in that casket – or it was – to them.  In the context of so-called civilization, it seems to me odd that all these teeming ant-humans each have full-screen lives.  Yet back out west, in the rocks and the mountains and the canyons, this did not strike me as odd or uncomfortable or unnatural.  I have always had this awareness, ever since childhood, but only now noticed that I find it troubling just in certain contexts.

Having seen quite enough of Lebanon (in less than an hour), I went back to the hotel to rest, yet was still not sleepy despite my cold.  Instead, I wrote all afternoon, on top of having written most of the morning.  Who was this person doing all this writing?  By evening I was ready for a change of scenery again, went out for some soup, then came back and wrote yet more. This writer, who had done little of her own writing for nearly 20 years, probably wrote for eight to ten hours over the course of that single, damp day.  I was amazed, surprised, and strangely refreshed.  Before dinner, as I finished writing one of these segments, I had looked up and out the window, and seen the setting sun jubilantly streaming in beyond the western edge of the mammoth storm front.

It was around this time that I noticed that my spiffy, spanking-new hotel room had ladybugs.  The ceilings were high, and I had not at first noticed the little dark blobs in the corners where the walls and ceiling met.  But ladybugs there were, in large clusters.  I have heard that these charming and sweetly-named beetles are a good omen, and on this day, I trusted this to be true.

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