Doom, despair, and agony on me
Deep dark depression, excessive misery…
Remember that old song from Hee Haw? If not, you’re either much younger than I, or had much better taste in TV as a child. But even if you’re unfamiliar with Junior Samples and the gang, you’ll probably find the lyrics above resonate with you on some level. Stripped of Grandpa’s cheery banjo pickin’, this hokey hillbilly ditty – a staple of one of the 70s’ most beloved “comedy hours” – suddenly sounds downright dirge-like. And eerily au courant.
There’s plenty of doom and despair going around these days, and I am certainly not immune. As a homeowner, a small business person, an investor in the stock market, and a journalist, I am a member of at least four endangered species…. and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. When I hear the talking heads say that “some Americans will be hit harder than others by this financial crisis,” I know they’re looking at me. I’m no Pollyanna, and I’m not stupid. Okay, when it comes to economics, I’m a little stupid, but I’m learning fast, and I see the big, dark cloud over my head.
But you know what I think? That cloud has a serious silver lining.
No, this is not one of those perky columns about how to be “pro-active” in the face of the coming Depression – how to plant a garden or stock up on canned foods or sew your own clothes. Lots of people are writing columns like that, and I’m reading them, and they’re very helpful. But this is not one of those.
This is a column about counting your blessings. Yes, there are lots of those out there, too, right now, but this one’s different. Why? Because it’s mine!
You know how they say people facing imminent death suddenly develop a deep appreciation for life? How they suddenly see everything thing in bold relief, and their lives become these Technicolor dreamscapes full of heart-piercing beauty and unprecedented gratitude? Well, my recent mood isn’t quite that fabulous – after all, I’m only facing financial ruin, here, not death (knock on wood) – but I have developed a heightened sensitivity, lately, that has me feeling everything from peaceful to giddy to almost euphoric, depending on when you catch me.
For instance: The other day, I was driving my daughter to her friend’s house on Cat Island, curving my way through Cane to get there, when I happened to glance to my left. There, winking through the trees, were a hundred thousand daffodils in a bright green field. I almost ran off the road! I’m on Cane Island probably once a week, and I’ve visited the daffodil farm dozens of times, but it’s been such a long winter, and I’d forgotten, and I wasn’t expecting this epic jolt of loveliness on this normal Sunday afternoon. I was just so… moved. And so grateful.
Another afternoon: I’m watching my seven-year-old daughter practice softball with her team. She is the only girl on it, and she is completely unfazed by this fact. Occasionally, our children do something that makes us wonder where they came from… or at least seriously reconsider what we think we know about DNA. There are these quicksilver moments of revelation – they come unexpectedly, like daffodils in winter – when our hearts leap up with the joyful knowledge that we have not, after all, passed along a particularly debilitating trait… that our children will not, as we had feared, suffer the same humiliations we did. And we want to shout it from the mountaintop. Hear ye, hear ye: My daughter – fruit of my loins, branch of my tree -– is not afraid of team sports… or boys. Hallelujah… It’s a miracle!
Speaking of which… last Friday, I had the pleasure of dining with my little sister who lives in Charleston… and is expecting her first child. When I was almost nine years old, Catherine came into the world, a golden girl adored by all, especially her three big sisters. We fawned over her and toted her around and dressed her up like a doll… and later, embarrassed the heck out of her. She was our baby. And now, Cally’s having a baby of her own. Just knowing she’s about to experience the exhaustive – and exhausting – wonder of motherhood… well, you know. I’m a little emotional.
Here’s one you may not hear everyday: The recent funeral of an old friend just blew me away. (Is it okay to say how much you enjoyed a funeral? Is that in poor taste? If so, I apologize to the family of the deceased, but knowing them as I do, I think they’ll understand.) This man was loved by many, and many came to honor and bid him farewell. Friends and family members spoke gorgeous words of remembrance, the minister gave a transcendent homily, we broke bread together on our knees, and the organist played all the great old hymns. But this was the best part, for me: During communion, the congregation kept breaking into spontaneous song. It would start quietly, in the balcony, then ripple in waves toward the front of the church, till we were all singing. How Great Thou Art… A Mighty Fortress… Amazing Grace…
Amazing, indeed. I’ll never forget it.
And there are so many other things – smaller, quieter things – that suddenly seem more precious:
• My weekly dose of “Friday Night Lights.” Set in rural Texas with a story line that revolves, loosely, around a high school football team, this poignant, unexpectedly poetic little show is the best thing on TV that nobody’s ever seen. Except for me, of course, and I’m devoted.
• The anticipation of planting flowers in my sad, scraggly-looking window boxes and flower pots. As soon as I’m certain we can’t possibly have another freeze, I’m all over the Lowe’s garden shop, baby!
• The way our cat, Arthur, rolls on his back to have his tummy rubbed – almost like a puppy – and nuzzles my neck with the top of his head, and snuggles in my lap with his chin on my desk while I work. Not a trace of feline arrogance or aloofness. A rare kitty, indeed.
In this paper, alone, you’ll find many reasons why despair just isn’t an option. Look at all the new art exhibits going up… the concerts being played… the books being signed. People are painting and writing and making music… planting gardens and decorating houses and cooking delicious meals. The azaleas are blooming and the days are growing longer, and all over town, there are crosses draped in purple. Easter is coming.
Yesterday, I was out walking in my neighborhood, and I came across an old man, down on his knees, exerting great effort to install a tall wooden birdfeeder in his otherwise unadorned yard, in front of his small, nondescript house. “Nice birdfeeder,” I said. “Thanks,” he replied, wiping the sweat from his brow. “I saw a bluebird out here the other day, and I’m really hoping he’ll come back.”
How can a girl fret too much about her mortgage or the Dow Jones when there are still flowers to plant and hymns to sing and good men toiling in the sun, dreaming of bluebirds?