Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Pablo Neruda kind of Afternoon

Henry and I had a big day yesterday--several miles of walking and an hour of waiting at Service Ontario to update my Health Card. Henry did pretty well with the waiting in the Government Offices. He can be very flirty and made friends with several baby groupies. (For my American readers: Service Ontario is kind of a one-stop government office where you can get your Driver's License renewed or your Health Card, etc. It's nicer and more efficient than any DMV I've experienced in the states. I've been through the DMV process in CT, VA, NJ, CA, and KS. The worst, if you're wondering, was New Jersey by far. Anyway, the Service Ontario system is another sweet advantage of living in the "socialist" north.) After supper I transferred the watch to Betsy and went to play softball like I normally do on Monday nights.

I had a descent game. My batting is improving rapidly and my fielding was much better. There is lots of room for improvement, but that's why we play the game. But all this seemed pretty unimportant when one of the guys broke his leg sliding into second. It looked to me like he completely dislocated his ankle, but the EMS thought it was just a clean break. Either way, it looked bad, but I snapped right into the crisis mindset I learned as a hospital chaplain. My main concern when I first rushed over was bleeding. Did the fracture severe an artery or vein? When I saw that the fracture/dislocation had not punctured the skin, I was next looking for edema (blood pooling under the skin) but that didn't happen to an appreciable degree, either. At that point we were calling EMS and the guy's wife and even posting guys at the entrances of the park to flag down the ambulance. When the Paramedics arrived they got him on the gurney and took him to the hospital. They said that their main concern was possible nerve damage, but the fact that he could feel his foot was encouraging. Some of the guys were a little shaken by the experience. Me, I just kept thinking of how much worse it could have been. I remember a time when I carried a code/trauma beeper that would summon me to the worst possible kinds of carnage. Honestly, I kind of miss the adrenaline rush of those on-calls.

So today Henry and I are taking it easy. Did some cleaning in the morning, and now I'm in the living room having a Pablo Neruda kind of afternoon. Let me explain what that's like...

It's cool and rainy outside, so I have the doors open to let in the breaze and hear the rain. But I also have a fire going in the fireplace to add some dry warmth to the living room. Henry is on the floor having his mid-afternoon nap. That has become harder since his teeth started emerging from his gums. Me, I'm sipping a little Brandy. My fingers smell like a Cohiba because I was just checking the humidity in my humidor. (I only smoke a few cigars a year, but I like having them on hand just in case.) What else could complete such a scene except a little Pablo Neruda, one of my favourite poets. Check out his "Ode to the Onion":

Ode to the Onion

by Pablo Neruda
Trans. Stephen Mitchell

luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.

Days like this are made for poetry, warm fires, sleeping infants and cats, and brandy.


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