As If You Needed Another Reason to Buy the ’08 International Firefighters Calendar

But say that you’re having a spirited discussion with the Professor, perhaps about some brilliant point about race, gender, or liberalism in general and it’s just the two of you and you’re afraid you’re going to be out argued by her big brain and in-depth knowledge of things you’re only familiar with from wikipedia.  Just hold up his picture and say, “As the Church Secretary says…” and I guarantee you a good five seconds of confused, dazed happiness on the Professor’s part, at which time you can make any point you want and she won’t notice how stupid it is.

It has worked for me.

Why I Took the Day Off Work

I believed there was nothing wrong with me.  I mean that, as sure as I am sitting here with you there and this glass and snapping wires between us, I was sure that I would come back to you and say, “Oh, y’all are not going to believe how stupid this is!  I have a giant snot ball clogging up my right lung!” Or “I am full of mold!” and we would all laugh and joke about it and move on with our lives.

Here’s what I thought it would be like.  I thought it would be a ghost story and I would tell you how I was sitting on the couch and how the dog and I both perked up when we heard the screen door open and how I got up as I heard someone struggling with the locked front door and how I felt the knob wiggling under my hand as I opened the door only to find either that one of the neighbor kids was trying to get into the wrong place or to find no one, the screen door still shut, both of which have happened to me here.

Instead, it’s as if I threw open the door and instead found a translucent Union soldier, his young face slightly bearded, who smiled at me sheepishly and said, “Ma’am, the boys and me took your can opener and the captain says we got to give it back.  Apologies.” before handing me the green-handled can opener we lost when we first moved here.

And now I’m standing here, with definite proof, that for all my certainty, I don’t know how the world works.

It just shook me and I had to have some time to learn how to know it.  I went to the park with Mrs. Wigglebottom and we made our way slowly around our old loop.  Then we came home and slept until just now.

The last time I was really sick, my favorite professor recommended Mary Oliver to me.  I have been thinking about her poetry this go-round, too.  I find it comforting, like the most depressingly optimistic poetry you’ll ever read.

Here is a poem of hers, called “Poppies.”  See what I mean?

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?