On the 4-2 Walk: Changes. The 4-2 Walk is two miles in length, beginning and ending at my house. It proceeds south down Fourth Street to Roosevelt Street, where I turn east and go to Second Street. At the library, on Second Street, I cross the railroad track and proceed north down Second Street to Crawford Street, where I turn walk west to Fourth Street and then walk north to home.
There is a new sign in the front yard of my neighbor, two doors down. I find that she is not selling; the sign advertises roofing and construction.
On the next block there are new occupants in a house that has been vacant for over a year. They have put a pole light in the front yard, to match, I suppose, the two that are already on the block. The pretty flowers they have planted will remain visible all night through the ugly glare which blasts holy darkness.
The “Eclectic Living” shop downtown has a new owner, a former excellent elementary school teacher. There is a display in the window that celebrates the change: “You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello / A Change Will Do You Good / Change Is Gonna Come / CH- CH- CH Change / Time For A Cool Change.”
There is no change evident at our ice cream shop. Three rocking chairs still invite on the sidewalk, but in this heat, I would rather go into the neat small shop with its four neat white tables.
At a church, and throughout the town, are signs that say, “WE (Picture of a Heart) OUR CHURCH.” with this name and address thus advertised. I wonder what’s the idea of such publicity. A form of evangelism, I guess.
On the south end of the street, a block from where I turn, one realtor has listed two older homes. One is a two-story house with a large back yard; the other is a large bungalow with a large front porch with a swing. The front and back yards have tall, good trees.
I am pleased that the plot of woods on Roosevelt Street still stands. It is heavy in summer foliage. On the lot next to it, the unhappy dog, which was formerly chained to a post, still sulks, though the owners have put up a fence and two dog houses. I wonder if he now has company.
On Second Street, I pass the home of the friend who gave me tomato plants. Hers are thriving and full; mine are scrawny and have small tomatoes. Green thumb vs. brown. I pass the park where soccer and softball are played, but there are no games on this hot late afternoon. At the next block, though, I see a father and son, equipped with ball, bat, and gloves walking to the park. It’s probably just throw and catch and hit with them. These are the first people I’ve seen outside on this hot and humid day.
The library needs books for a sale, so says a sign. I may give them a call. I like to cull my books.
I cross the railroad tracks. They are hot in the late afternoon sun. Across the tracks I see two men running. Both are wearing running shoes and black shorts. One, tall and large, wears a green t-shirt; the fellow runner wears a blue t-shirt, and runs easily beside his friend. He is shorter, only shoulder-high to his friend, and smaller. They seem engaged in congenial conversations. They exchange a wave with me.
I arrive home. New flowers are blooming. Phystogesia, with its purple-pink bell-shaped blossoms, started blooming last week. There are bees and butterflies at work, darting among the new blossoms. The lilies and white flowers in the back-yard plot also bring these friends, as well as dragonflies! One crepe myrtle tree in my side yard blazes red; the other, taller, flames bright pink. The trees in the front yard have had good growth. It’s time to weed the borders once again. Summer is not slowing down yet.
Back Porch Music on a Summer Night.
I don’t have a back porch; there is only a landing for stairs. I’m in my den at 9:00, listening to the WUNC broadcast of “Back Porch Music.” I hear bluegrass groups, contemporary and classic country singers and miscellaneous groups: Dolly Parton, Lynda Dawson and Pattie Hopkins, Mandolin Orange, The Milk Carton Kids, Richie Haves, Emmylou Harris, Eva Cassidy, Bland Simpson and the Red Clay Ramblers. I’m alone. The only light is a night light. The ceiling fan circulates cool air from the newly repaired air conditioning. I sip cold water. Music chosen for Southern listening. Life is good.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction. Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Metropolitan Henry Holt and Company, 2014.
Gawande is a surgeon, a leader in public heath, and excellent writer. Using examples of his friends, patients, and family, he reflects about how the body ages and how we adapt to growing physical and mental limitations and the prospects of death. He criticizes medicine and its institutions for its failure to consider basic psychological and spiritual needs of human beings and offers possibilities for our society to improve care so that we may face our decline and death with dignity. It’s a thoughtful and moving reflection.
Notes on Reading. Drama. Anton Chekhov, Three Sisters (1900) in Six Great Modern Plays, Dell Laurel Edition, 1956.
When our hopes and dreams of better, happier times end, what do we do? How do we live? How do we adapt to necessary change? The characters in the play discuss and enact these challenges. It’s sobering reading.
Quotations from Readings of the Week.
“The problem with medicine and the institutions it has spawned for the care of the sick and the old is not that they have had an incorrect view of what makes life significant. The problem is that they have had almost no view at all. Medical professionals concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of the soul. Yet–and this is the painful paradox–we have decided that they should be the ones who largely define how we live in our waning days. . . . medicine exists to fight death and disease. . . But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who know how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender when it can’t, someone who understands that the carnage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end,.” (Atul Gawande, Being Mortal)
“I think a human being has got to have some faith, or at least he’s got to seek faith. Otherwise his life will be empty, empty. How can you live and not know why the cranes fly, why children are born, why the stars shine in the sky! You must either know why you live, or else nothing matters. Everything’s just wild grass.” (Chekhov, Three Sisters)
“Why do we become so dull and commonplace and uninteresting almost before we’ve begun to live? Why do we get lazy, indifferent, useless, unhappy? People here do nothing but eat, drink and sleep. Then they die and some more take their places, and they eat, drink and sleep, too–and just to introduce a bit of variety into their lives, they indulge in their disgusting gossip and vodka and gambling and law-suits. The wives deceive their husbands, and the husbands lie to their wives . . . and all this overwhelming vulgarity and pettiness crushes the children and puts out any spark they might have in them, so that they, too, become miserable, half-dead creatures, just like one another and just like their parents.” (Chekhov, Three Sisters)
Thank you for reading. I hope you are enjoying summer.