Tubes

hoses and tubesUsually when I walk, I prefer to walk in silence. I used to always listen to NPR podcasts. Actually, I still do – when I am cleaning the house or on a long road trip, but when I walk, I tend to like it quiet. I do use the RunKeeper app, so every five minutes or so I hear the time and distance I’ve walked, but sometimes, even that is too much.

Lately, however, I have been in the mood to listen to music. Actually, I should say that I have been in the mood to listen to one particular album, over and over again. It is Leonard Cohen’s 2012 release Old Ideas. You wouldn’t think it would be good walking music; it isn’t the upbeat, heart racing music one usually picks for exercising, but the dreamy, darkly romantic, poetic melodies seem perfect for walking on a dark winter night. It fits my mood.

I love all the songs on the album, but seem to become fixated on different ones. At first it was Banjo. I must have listened to it a half dozen times in a row when I first bought it. Now I can’t get Going Home out of my head. I am particularly captured by one set of lyrics:

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

It’s that last line that gets me: the brief elaboration of tube. I read an article awhile back, a science article, where the author said something similar: that when you get down to it, humans are just basically walking tubes. For some reason, that stuck with me. Perhaps it has been on my mind lately because my Mother’s health issues revolved around that particular system – she had holes in her esophagus. She was a leaky tube.

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What we all want, according to Maslow.

There is also something a little humorous about it – thinking about humankind as being like overly elaborate scrunched up straw wrappers. And, I guess that gives me a little hope. I have to say, I am really sick of people right now. Not friends, family and loved ones, but the universal people. I am sick of the political wrangling, the war, the violence, the deaths. It all seems so pointless. It is like the whole world has slipped off its moorings. When you get down to it, almost everyone wants the same things. All over the world, most people just want to wake up in the morning feeling safe, hug their loved ones, do meaningful work, and then be able to go home to a place of their own. All this pain and anguish, wars and fighting – it all seems so… ridiculous.

I admit, I have lost faith in humankind. I am not a pessimist. My usual feeling is that “things will work out, they always do.” But I can’t say I feel that way about humankind. There is still goodness in the world, I know that. I still love my individual life and the people in it, but I don’t have much hope for us as a race. That is why I like thinking of us as just elaborations of a tube.

Okay, technically all mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles – they are all just tubes too, but I don’t think the planet is going to hell in a handbasket because of tribal warfare between raccoons or dust mites. I used to think that we could solve anything, fix any problem. I don’t think that anymore. Now, I just hope that when humankind has run its course, we haven’t completely messed up things so badly that they can never recover.

Mother Nature is pretty fierce, and I still have faith in her.

Going Home

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He just doesn’t have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
Going home
To where it’s better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain

Going home
Without the costume
That I wore

He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering
A sacrifice recovering
But that isn’t what I need him
to complete

I want to make him certain
That he doesn’t have a burden
That he doesn’t need a vision
That he only has permission
To do my instant bidding
Which is to SAY what I have told him
To repeat

Going home…

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

Going Home
by Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas

Photo credit: Ayton

Neighborhood Hikes

So, my mother was in the hospital over Christmas Eve, and Christmas… and New Year’s Day. She was finally released on Jan. 2nd. This last hospital stint was a couple of weeks long, but this whole saga has been going on since October. I’m tired. My sister is tired. My mother is really, really tired.

I was not surprised at how long she ended up being hospitalized. What I was surprised about was how much it effected me. We’ve been through this before, this was her third time in the hospital in the last couple of months, after all. So, it almost felt routine. I had predicted that she would be in over the holidays, so I didn’t think I would be upset.

I was wrong.

I can’t really say that I am all that close to my mother. I love her and care about her, but we aren’t as tight as some parents are with their children. Still, I have spent every Christmas with her since I was born. I knew we would work something out – and we did – but that whole day, and the days leading up to it, I felt very fragile. I would be fine one minute, and then feeling like I was going to burst into tears the next.

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There is not really a lot you can do in situations like this. I spent time with her when I could, I kept my own holiday traditions going, and I did what I could to alleviate the stress. One of the main things I did was walk. We all know that exercise is good for stress, but the fact is, I hate exercise. Trying to do a bunch of push-ups in my living room was not going to help my mood. There is one thing I enjoy doing, however, that counts as exercising – I like to walk. When I can, I like to walk with someone else. But since my boyfriend was on a temporary walking hiatus for a bit and my best walking gal was in Rome for the holidays, it was me and my pooch, hiking the neighborhoods. I like to walk my dog. He’s happy, I’m happy, and I am never bored. So, that’s what we did: we walked, and walked, and walked.

I had to slow it down once the snow hit. I can walk in snow and ice – I have cold weather gear and ice fishing cleats, but I am walking a hound dog that thinks snowfall is heaven. He loves nothing more than to bury his head in a drift, following tracks and scents. He’s also pure muscle, so even though he is under 40 pounds, he could easily accidentally make me loose my footing on ice. Plus, walking on sidewalks with snow and ice is completely different than clear sidewalks. It is a little like walking on the beach – you find yourself using different muscles in your legs, but unlike the beach, you also have to watch your center of gravity. It’s a little nerve-wracking.

Even still, I managed to break a number of my walking records; and it felt good. My back tends to tighten up when I am under stress, and walking seems to loosen me back up again. Plus, as I have written about before, dog walking is very meditative for me. It was a good solution for a tough situation.

The good news is that Mom is back home and starting to feel a lot better. We all finally feel like things are looking up. We’re even starting to plan a second Christmas in January, so we can at least get together and have a meal together. And, as I look out my window today, the sun is shining and the sky is bright blue – looks like it is going to be a good day for walking.