It Keeps Me Going

I picked up the paper this morning

And read all the daily blues

The world is one big tragedy

I wonder what I can do –

(Atlanta Rhythm Section)

Sometimes, things just get entirely too tight. The lines that get pulled taut, the heaps of troubles pile higher, and the suffocation.

Recently, it’s occurred to me that 30 years of this business is more than enough. Heck, lots of people retire after 30 years of a career. Others of us are not so lucky.

Knocking on the nearer side of the big five-oh, I don’t have a lot to show for my life. A half-dozen awards from my journalism peers. A coupla books that at least managed to pay for themselves. Some good memories. I imagine my obituary will be much like Harry Middleton’s, who the Birmingham, Ala., newspaper described as “a writer whose work brought him more fame and friends than fortune.”

I doubt now there’s a bestseller floating around in me somewhere; certainly, I’ve got lots more stories in me, and probably a handful of books. But what I write isn’t commercially appealing, either to the major publishers or the magazine editors. In the end, as Stephen King noted, you don’t do it for the money, or the fame, you do it because to not do it is suicide.

Started out far too late in life with a retirement plan, and this error shows painfully clear in the immaturity of my holdings. Likely, it’ll never be enough, especially with the condition of the financial world today.

But there is something that keeps me going. Something that keeps me from losing all hope.

It’s a long shot, I guess. But I don’t want much. I don’t need much. A little bit of land on the side of a mountain, even a high foothill will do. A small cabin or house or cottage, nothing extravagant. Just comfortable and homey.

It’s a dream that’s been growing exponentially in my head and in my sleep for years now.

For want of a river, for want of a mountain, all else is diminished.

I don’t know how we’ll ever make it. It seems pretty impossible. But we don’t need much, Suzie and I. A little slice of heaven. Not much, just a sliver. Blink and you’ll miss it. And enough youth left to trod the wild paths, wade the fast water and look out at eye-level with eagles.

Truthfully, when we can’t physically immerse ourselves in it anymore, we’ll likely come back here to finish out our lives.

But for me, the thought of grinding through the same 30 years for the 10, 15 or 20 more leaves me morbid and desolate.

How frightening it is! I have only lived away from here for a short time, a little less than two years, and that was in Slidell, back in the late-80s. Wasn’t bad, but my distaste for cities was sown there, and it grew quickly, until I packed my bags and left the Northshore behind. Never looked back, either.

Puttered along for many, many years with various ambitions and obligations, but like a wanderer, never quite finding the correct path.

I still haven’t found it. The destination is clear. The route is a mystery.

When I closed my eyes, I used to see Grand Avoille Cove, black water and green cypress and lotus lilies lifting their white heads. But that’s a dying comfort, and I doubt it’ll be there for me or for my children. Now when I close my eyes, I see forests and slopes, peaks and valleys and most of all, laughing, cold, wild clear water.

Truth in fact, there’s nothing left for me here, but this job, and the family and friends I so treasure. All else has faded, gone the way of memory.

The stars are dead; the animals will not look:

We are left alone with our day, and the time is short and

History to the defeated

May say Alas but cannot help or pardon. (W.H. Auden)

There’s a certain fraction of fear involved. So many uncertainties: What if it’s not all I hoped? What if we’re not happy there, after all?

I don’t know if we’ll ever find out. But I’ll shred every last bit of will to find out.

It might seem silly to some of you kind folks. Maybe most of you. But be that as it may, I’ve missed enough in my life already. I don’t intend to miss this.

It’s what keeps me going when all the miseries pile high over my head.

Nothing left here to satiate my soul, yet plenty to fill my heart. The best of people, familiarity. But my essence aches for wildness, wildness I can’t find here anymore except in the farthest reaches of a dying river basin. I need water that is vibrant and thriving, not emasculated and thin.

It keeps me going, the dream. Through all the heartaches.

3 comments to It Keeps Me Going

  • Mike Adams

    Utopia has always seemed to be very elusive!

  • pete cooper, jr.

    Keep at it, cher. You gotta earn it – it will not be given to you.

  • breambum

    As often said, the dream is often the journey, not neccesarilly the destination.
    Or as Mick Jagger said, “Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind.”

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