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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

Peaceable Man Files #2: Miserable Outside, Miserable Inside

Sometimes you just have to call things for what they are.

This past week has been miserable. Miserable outside, miserable inside.

Outside, pretty much all it did here in eastern Pennsylvania was rain. Rain, rain, rain. A cold April rain, the kind that goes through you the moment you step outside. I didn’t even bother going up north to the cabin this week, knowing that the fields would be sopping wet in addition to being stinky from the recent manuring by the local farmer. No fun for Cassie, no fun for me. So I just stayed in the Harleysville area where I could take advantage of the benefits of civilization, including dry pavements on which to walk the dog.

But then, first thing on Monday morning as I was setting down to do my writing, I came down with something. Fever, chills, cough, wicked sore throat, no appetite, the whole works. Forget the writing; I headed for the couch, where I lay like a slug all week. It has been more than ten years since I was that sick, and it was no fun. I’m fully vaccinated and didn’t bother getting tested, but it was clearly either Covid or the flu, and I played it safe by staying home and quarantining.

Not that I wanted to go anywhere or see anyone anyway. The thing about a respiratory virus is that it takes away your will to want to do anything. About the only productive thing I accomplished all week was to work myself off the couch to walk Cassie, who was persistent as always in wanting to go out every few hours.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than having to walk a dog in a cold, spitting rain when you have the chills and all you want to do is curl up in bed and wait for death. But there I was, umbrella in hand, being pulled like a human sled around the neighborhood by my very strong and willful German Shorthair Pointer whom I would have been happy to give away this past week. Normally, I try to find places for Cassie to run for twenty minutes a few times every day to burn off some of her perpetual excess energy, but with everything puddles, we stuck this week to areas with paved sidewalks. Everywhere we went, I saw earthworms stretched out on the macadam, gasping for breath (do earthworms gasp?), easy prey for the birds, who were, at least, having a feast while the rest of the world drowned.

As I trudged, cheerless, through the puddles behind Cassie, I found myself mindlessly reciting stray lines of verse in my feverish delirium:

“Rain, rain, go away, come back some other day.”

“Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”

“April showers bring May flowers.”

Did you know that this last saying goes all the way back to the 1500s? Yes, an English poet named Thomas Tusser originally wrote the verse: “Sweet April showers do spring May flowers.” Got to give the man credit for trying to bring cheer to his fellow islanders in what is generally a pretty crappy month in soggy old England.

So many of our everyday sayings come from poems. That thought, in the middle of what is currently Poetry Month, cheered me this week as I suffered through the rain and a virus. I persevered, and the good news is, by the end of the week, I was feeling much better. On Friday afternoon, the sun was shining, and as I was walking Cassie (or rather, she was walking me), I was cheered by sight of daffodils blooming on my walk around the neighborhood. The sight reminded me of one of my favorite poems, William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” which starts out as follows:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of golden daffodils.”

Wordsworth, like me this week, was apparently feeling rather glum when he came across those daffodils near a lake “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” They cheered him up then, just like the daffodils I saw on my walk yesterday cheered me.

A shared experience, two-hundred and fifty years apart. People haven’t changed that much over the years, have we?

That was my week: a journey from miserable to golden daffodils. Hope you are all healthy and well.

Have a peaceful week.

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