Winter Solstice 2009
This morning the feeling in the early morning cold was almost suburban. I was late to work and ran through the snow for the train from Roslindale Village to South Station and just caught it. In my sprint, I only got a quick glimpse of the sun coming up over the churches and Mattapan - a far cry from the view that I've had for the past 15 years for the morning of the Winter Solstice -- a panoramic view of the sun coming up over Boston three miles away. Things have changed in this past year. But some things remain -- the golden red sun coming up on the shortest day of the year is still a constant reminder that every day is a new chance to get things right and that things always cycle back no matter where you are.
It is the end of the year and 41st anniversary of the "new" (and rapidly becoming "old") Marshall T. Spriggs and traditionally the time of accounting for the year. Here's what happened for me this year:
MOVING, MOVING, MOVING …
The big external news of the year was that, after 15 years, I finally molted out of the small studio on top of the hill in Somerville and Denise Wallace and I moved in together in Roslindale at the beginning of October. The last time that I had moved was 15 years ago and I had not developed a fine appreciation for the amount of paper, books, and just plain crap that I had accumulated during this period of bachelorhood. Moving forced me to come to the realization of the reality of my situation which was shocking, and expensive (and ultimately painful). I never liked to move and I was reminded why
D. and I talked about moving in together in the spring (I believe that the word "inevitable" was used somewhere in the conversation) and started to look for apartments at the beginning of the summer, mainly in Somerville. This process yielded lots of bad. barely livable apartments in Somerville. By the time we had come up with a good apartment in Somerville, D. had contacted an old colleague that had a place in a small house in Roslindale.
It was too good to let go -- rooms on two floors where both of us could have our own room to do whatever we might want to do (mine has become a book depository since we moved in). The rent was reasonable and the landlord, who lived downstairs, was pretty much willing to do anything within reason to get us to move in.
It was a big move for me. I was going back across the river for the first time in 30 years. But it was going to be a big move anyway and I had probably become too encrusted in the Somerville loft for my own good. It was time for a change, so we made the leap.
When you've got a "Life Threatening Disease" - even the "Cancer Lite" that I have - your health has to be a major concern even if you really want to forget all about it like I do. But you can't. At least you can't if you don't want to die an early and painful death and I could really do without that. So, I was a good boy and did all the doctor's visits and blood tests all though the year. The results were, for the most part, satisfactory - though at the end of the year there was a slight rise in PSA which may prove to have evil portents. I will know more about the results of a biopsy later in this week which will provide more information. Hopefully, this will be information that will allow me to continue to stall treatment. If there any of those scientist-types working to cure cancer reading this message, please get on it, would you?
Actually, the more relevant health problem (though hopefully less serious in the long run) that I had this year concerned my back. For most of the second part of the year, I had low back pain that was so bad at times it was a struggle to get the pants on in the morning. It is surprising how much you drop things when it is painful to reach down to pick them up. The pain kept me from exercising (at last, a really good excuse) and definitely got in the way of cleaning out my former apartment of all those books. The day after the big move I couldn't get out of the rocking chair in the new apartment to take things out of boxes. This was a little scary. Luckily, the pain has abated though the last fall (though much of the stiffness has not) and now I have no excuse for not doing the yoga that will really loosen things up, leading to me being able to aerobically exercise, so I guess that I will have to find some other excuse if this doesn't happen.
Smudgy has not been good for most of the year, but this is understandable since he is of advanced age now (somewhere in his 80's). Dr. Leavy managed to pull him back from the brink of death from an infection a little more than a year ago, but it seems to have come at a high price. We're now playing a balancing game with his medications trying to clear up one problem while not making others worse. It would be easier if he could tell me exactly why he's waking me up at 3:30 am.
WOIK (as Maynard G. Krebs used to say)
Things are not quite as shiny at MIT this year as they were last. I'm not sure if this is just my getting more used to the usual work-related horse hockey that comes with any job over time, or if it's because of the economic environment, or if it's because my boss, who I liked very much, up and suddenly retired in the fall, but there's been lots and lots of work of the not particularly enthralling variety for me at the Toot and though the amount of work has let up in the last couple of weeks, this is the first time that this has happened since about the middle of August. Add to this the fact that I took on a significant chunk of my former bosses' job until they hired a replacement at exactly the same time that I was beginning to move and we have a recipe for burnout. Am I burned out? Well, the weekends are mainly about sleep these days. Is this the result of my job? Well, the pace of the job has not helped all that much of late.
That being said, MIT is still a good place to work if you like that work sort of thing. This is particularly the case if you do technical work. I could do a lot worse (come to think of it, I have done a lot worse), but I am beginning to understand this 'urge to retire" thing that I've watched people go through.
There may be more layoffs in the offing, but they probably won't show up until mid-summer when the new fiscal year kicks in. All of the easy cuts were made in the last round, so if they chop again (and they're saying that they probably will) then the cuts will really hurt. Will they cut me? By the summer I will have a two years seniority, but that may not mean much. Hard to predict.
Not much has happened this year in the wonderful world of arts. My body has not allowed me to do any martial arts and I've been been too distracted to write much that would be coherent outside of some journal entries and the occasional blog post.
I've been drawing only a little bit. It's good that, though I don't do it all the time, I don't seem to lose my eye or my style when I lay off. So, I'm not progressing, but not falling back to stick figures either.
Maybe when I get the books loaded out of the room upstairs ...
A highpoint of the year was a short trip to Nashville to visit a good friend of Denise's. This was my first trip to the home of country music and I was impressed by the ubiquidous pie and the fact that every street corner seemed to have a Baptist church on it.
I seemed to be a year where we were always going to weddings. Cate & John got married as did Larry & Laurel. At the L&L wedding, I got called from the bench at the last minute to be the surprise Best Man, something that I had never done before. I am proud of the fact that I didn't drop the rings during the ceremony.
In September, I attended my 40th high school reunion. It was held about 600 yards from the cemetery in Rehoboth in which my parents and all the other previous generation of Spriggs are buried. I found this odd. But then I also found odd the fact that there were so many old people at the reunion.
One person who didn't make it was Lorna Maynard. We were all saddened to hear that she passed from this plane earlier in the year. She was a wonderful person who I lost touch with over the years. I finally found her on the Internet about a month after she had passed. Too little, too late. The stuff of regret.
Well, Barak and the Forces of Rationality won slightly over a year ago and over this past year we've been able to start to see what he's made of. Looks like he's all about negotiation and rational process and dialog. Of course, rational discourse doesn't serve you very well in a bar fight and Barak doesn't seem to understand this.
The Clowns on Wall Street will take the money and run because they can and that's what they're about. The medical insurance lobby will kill thousands of people if it will fatten their bottom lines because that's what they're about. The Limbaughs and Becks and Coulters will mislead and lie and drive people with fear because they're about the rush of power that being a demagogue gives them. None of these people have anything to do with morals, the common good, or rational discourse nor do they want to. The question is whether Barak will ever wake up to this fact and act like the advocate for the people and not our negotiator.
One year in and the jury is still out.
I have no idea.
At times this fall Terra Incognita seemed to be the place that I've moved to rather than Roslindale. Lots of transition going on here. The big 60 shows up this coming year and I will become officially old. Smudge will continue to hang on until he can't. Work will be alternatingly frustrating and satisfying. I will continue to enjoy living with Denise and we'll continue to explore what this means. I will not enjoy turning myself inside out in order to deal with cancer. These are the only things that I can project as likely. It could be that I've lost my imagination or maybe the next phase has to do with what's in front of my face. Don't know.
What I do know is that I couldn't have gotten this far without the help of people such as yourself. Here on the 45th anniversary of my mother's death, I pause for a moment and turn back to you in the spirit of gratitude for helping me get this far. Don't think that I've ever forgotten. The Winter Solstice is all about the light returning whether it be over the whole city or Boston or one neighborhood as seen from the train platform. Thanks for all the illumination that you provide along the path. It is much appreciated.
Happy Solstice and Much Love,