WinterWalk by Mark B Hill
The clinic where I work has begun requiring all of us, even the support staff such as I am, to wear protective masks. This is due to not only an increase of Covid-19 but also of Respiratory Syncytial Virus aka RSV. I get irritated when I look at myself in the mirror. The daily mask wearing has made a mess of my long beard, causing it to tuck under my chin. It looks a little ridiculous, to be honest It's like if you parted your hair the wrong way and then put on a knit cap, leaving it there for a few days.
Irritated. Yes. I have worked so hard at not fussing with the beard. Not clipping or snipping the wild hairs. And now, at this very moment, I am considering trimming it down to a goatee. This is the wrong time of the year to have these thoughts. Usually, I consider this action when the weather warms in the Spring. But it's the end of January, in Wisconsin, and the Winter is far from over.
I lay this directly at the feet of all those dismal anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. I firmly believe that they are the reason that Covid-19 has not been completely eradicated. They are the reason that the variants came, with the resulting extra boosters. All this because of some fucked-up sense of freedom, but without any responsibility.
I blame them that I will probably have to trim my beard. Jerks.
I think to myself that it's also a mixture of ego and a weird since of materialism. Isn't that why people who are initiated into being Buddhist monks shave their heads? A gesture of letting go? I am more inclined to cut my hair short, I wear a hat anyway and it gets thinner as I get older. I resist shaving or trimming short the beard.
Yet, I am not impulsive. Tomorrow morning, a Sunday, I might look again in the mirror while I brush my teeth and say to myself, "I'll leave it one more day."
Monday may present a different frame of mind. It depends on how early I get up to get ready. Shaving in the morning, before I've had coffee, presents a few obvious dangers. I try to avoid sharp objects before my morning coffee. It's not that my hand is unsteady, it's that my vision is blurred.
Every other month, Valerie and I fly to Laurel, Maryland via Reagan National Airport, where Valerie is pursuing her Master's degree in Yoga Therapy. On the months we don't fly there, her classes are virtual. I come along for the down time, spending most of my time there in the hotel, reading, writing, working on the podcast. This time, however, it didn't work out how I had planned.
We flew in Wednesday night and retrieved our checked bags. I had a carry-on, a travel backpack. We walked out to catch the shuttle to the rental car area. I put my carry-on on the bench and we waited. Then, I'm not sure what happened. We boarded the shuttle and half way to the car rental, I realized I had just left my bag on the bench. By the time we came back around, it was long gone. Stolen.
I felt that I had experienced what could be described as a "cognitive lapse." It was less that I had just forgotten my bag, and more that I had forgotten that I even had a bag. I didn't occur to me until we were well on our way to pick up our rental car that I did have a bag, but it wasn't with me. Suddenly, my mind was full of a mix of panic and a sense of "what the hell is wrong with me?"
After making certain that the bag was indeed missing, there was nothing to do at the time except to drive to Laurel and call airport security. I was, to say the least, devastated. Not just because of the loss of possessions, but the thought that there were signs of cognitive lapse. Valerie tried to reassure and comfort me as well as she could. "At least we are safe and most of what was in the bag is replaceable."
The nest day, I called airport security and they assured me that no bag fitting the description I gave had been turned in. The advised that if any of the airport staff had seen the abandoned bag, the DC police would have been contacted and they would have swept it for explosive devices and/or drugs.
What was in the bag, you ask? All the elements of my weekend that were to keep me occupied. My Kindle Scribe, my fountain pens, a book I was reading and planned to finish over the weekend, a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and a Lochby Field Journal (kind of a binder that holds 3 cahier notebooks with pen slots. There was also a travel espresso maker, the keys to both my car and our apartment, and my medications. All of these things are replaceable. I had to go two days without my medications, but those were eventually replaced.
The one thing that is not replaceable is my journal. It was a 6 x 9 hardcover notebook and I had almost filled it. Reading notes, quotations, writing and podcast ideas, all gone. I did have my contact information written in the inside of the front cover. I, however, hold no faith that anyone would bother to put it in bubble mailer and ship it to me.
But as Valerie reminded me, I came out of the whole thing a little worse for emotional wear, but was safe, relatively healthy, and alive.
I spent the next day, while Valerie was in class, meditating and pondering about letting go. It was all just "stuff" I said, stuff that would eventually be replaced. I spent the Friday following looking for a new notebook, a cheap set of headphones (from Five Below, no less) and then I found a thrift store with a decent selection of books. With that I managed to get through the weekend relatively unscathed.
We are back home now. I received my new Kindle Scribe and a new Lamy fountain pen. I found a decent shoulder bag and a couple hardcover journals. And we are home, safe and alive. The sting of loss will fade eventually. There will be new ideas, new opportunity to create. And lessons of mindfulness and of letting go.
As far as the cognitive stuff goes, we will just have to keep an eye on it. It could be nothing, It may have been that I was just over-tired from the trip. I always tell my doctors, jokingly, that having open heart surgery about sixteen years ago made me a bit of a hypochondriac. Let's hope that is all this is.
A Companion to Episode 9 of the Coffee Before Pants Podcast
Here are links and cover art for the albums I featured on Coffee Before Pants podcast, Episode 9. The links will take you to Amazon.com. I'm sure you can find them on Spotify as well, but I no longer have a Spotify account.
Kind of Blue- Miles Davis. Initial release 1959. Personnel: Miles Davis on trumpet. Julian "Cannonball" Adderly on Alto Saxophone, Bill Evans-Piano, Paul Chambers-Bass, Wyn Kelly-Piano. James Cobb - Drums and John Coltrane -Tenor Sax.
Moanin, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Initial release 1959. Personnel: Art Blakey-Drums. Jymie Merritt-Bass, Bobby Timmons-Piano, Benny Golson-Drums, and Lee Morgan Trumpet.
Cornbread-Lee Morgan. Released 1967-Lee Morgan-Trumpet, Jackie McLean-Alto Saxophone, Larry Ridley-Bass, Hank Mobley-Tenor Saxophone, and Herbie Hancock on Piano.
Journey in Satchidananda-Alice Coltrane- Initial release 1971,with Alice Coltrane on harp, Piano, Cecil McBee-Bass, Majid Shabazz -Bells, Tambourine, Pharoah Sanders-Soprano Saxophone, Percussion and Tulsi on Tamboura
Bags and Trane-Milt Jackson and John Coltrane. Initial release 1961 with Milt Jackson on Vibraphone, John Coltrane on Tenor Sax, with Connie Kay on Drums, Paul Chambers-Bass, Hank Jones on Piano.
Straight, No Chaser-Thelonious Monk- Released in 1967 with Thelonious Monk on Piano (of course) Larry Gates-Bass, Charlie Rouse-Tenor Saxophone, and Ben Riley on drums.
Wild Flower-Hubert Laws-First released 1972 Hubert Laws on Flute, Ron Carter on Bass as well as several others on strings.
Song for My Father-Horace Silver-Released in 1964 with Horace Silver Piano, Teddy Smith and Gene Taylor-Bass, Roy Brooks-Drums, Junior Cook-Tenor Saxophone, Blue Mitchell-Trumpet,
Blue Train-John Coltrane, initial release 1957-Personnel includes John Coltrane on Tenor Saz, Paul Chambers on Bass, Philly Joe Jones on Drums, and Kenny Drew on Piano. And guess who on Trumpet. Lee Morgan!
Bird and Diz- John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie, Released in 1952, with Charlie Parker on Tenor Saxophone, Dizzy Gillespie on Trumpet, Thelonious Monk -Piano, Curly Russell on Bass.
Mingus Ah Um-Charles Mingus, Released 1959 with Charles Mingus on Bass, John Handy Alto Sax, Shafi Hadi on Tenor Sax, Horace Parlan on Piano, Jimmy Knepper on Trombone, among others.
Portrait in Jazz-Bill Evans Trio, released 1960, with Bill Evans on Piano, Scott LaFaro on Bass, and Paul Motian on Drums. Yep, that's why they call it a trio.
And you can listen to the podcast by clicking here