As the song by Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker” rang in my head—help that never comes. Why? Why does the help never come? The help we need is simple. It is simple. What kills the flame? We struggle with demons—all of us do. And we put those demons on loved ones with envy—people we’re supposed to have some camaraderie with. Instead, we refuse it. But why?
I could say some primal need for more. Here we are Black Friday. I’m so proud of my youngest for turning down a Black Friday shopping offer from one of her best friend’s families. And good God I hate crowds. There’s tragedy in crowds.
Yes, Covid worked for me. I could stay in my she-cave. As I’d written in between caring for a dying spouse. Too, as I knew our little family was safe and sound in all the illusion of shelter. I crave peace and quiet. Yet, the life presented to me has been a dichotomy. My artistic expression appears in writing—yet my writing would have been nil if I didn’t venture outside my comfort zone. Comfort Zone? Experiencing hatred. The witness to bigotry—acknowledging it’s existence. Feeling the pain of racism others experienced—the sorrow of it in my soul.
I am not the cry in the wilderness. I’m the scream in the crowd of greed. It’s all about power. All of it. Battle is my comfort zone. Sounds like something from below doesn’t it? It’s the truth.
I dream about being physical. My mind at night has nearly always gone to bed with prayers and visions of defeating the ills of others. Rescuing people in need. Having done so in real life— sometimes birds have fallen from the sky in front of me whilst I’d been running. I either carried them home or then drove them to an animal hospital—a rare occurrence. Or I’d placed them in a safe place when I knew I couldn’t carry them for five or ten miles as I ran. Perhaps, as they were on the verge of death— I’d bless them, said a prayer of forgiveness that I couldn’t ease their suffering or fix them somehow. I’d repeat an old Lutheran prayer of blessing for them as I’d escaped their demise. And pictured their peaceful death—wondering who of their knowing would miss them.
Going back to what Black Friday represents to my soul. Well, we aren’t rich perse; but I came from barely—Barely? An empty refrigerator yet food was had. As a child— in some form we had food in our home. And we had homes. Roofs over our heads. What else could we want? A dog? Is it about caring? Or about more? Or is it just a girl’s wish to give and get a fluffy unconditional loving relationship? A relationship perhaps unadulterated by the world’s ills— Probably.
As I dissect our need for more. Doesn’t anybody know that someone will have to clean up after us? I’ve watched this ritual from afar. After my mother’s death—grateful she was nearly homeless. Yes, grateful for that. Did I miss my childhood items? A little. I had a shirt I liked—perhaps some pictures. And you know, those goodie-box trinkets you thought were priceless as a child—so priceless you kept them in a small carboard box you’d gotten from shoes. But to me I’d left all that when I entered the Marines. I realized, all I had was a vessel that the federal government now owned, and I served willingly.
That worked for me. Being stripped of all. Owning anything didn’t matter anymore. And wouldn’t until you survived your time. It’s easy to give away what you don’t have—or never had. Easier to part ways with never having. Unsentimental sentiment. It’s not such a bad thing—yet it leaves bewilderment for those that want.
“Simple. We prefer simple.” Pam, an old superior of mine from forty years ago in the Marines stated. As we chatted on the phone that night—her husband Jim listened in and remarked, “Yes.” I concurred. Yet thought, what is simple?
Days later Pam and I would be having this conversation again. As the sun was nearly all the way down in another of autumns’ highlife—I raked out a recently de-stumped area that I’d cleared for grass seed. Pam, an hour behind in time—she in Minnesota and me in New Jersey. The sunset quickened its departure where I currently worked in our yard, and Pam picked raspberries from her garden in her remaining sunlight—too we’d both put our phones on speaker. Jim in the distance was fixing a car engine across the yard from Pam.
Pam, Jim and I knew what we had. As I’d finished up the raking and seeding in the dark—Pam and I disconnected as we’d entered our respective homes for more chores leading into the night. I’d begun as I had many a time with thoughts of—what do we need? I took a step back and brought my thoughts to the basics: water, running water—hopefully, electricity and other utilities. How small could I go? I wondered. And if I had more acreage. Why? I knew that answer. More garden to eat from. Could I do the labor needed? What would happen if I had a pet and it got sick? Funny enough I was unfettered by how our daughters would think about all this.
Awesome enough, both our daughters saw the difference of my frugality and my husband’s willingness to spend fruitfully. Norm was a good shopper. Yes, we’d both doated over our daughters with silly gifts when they were younger. Norm would scold me for wearing ripped up clothing for chores, athletic training and the like. Work and going out were different. I’d dress up for work and for Norm. Other than that, I’d been and am quite comfortable wearing dungarees for three or four days—unless completely covered in dirt.
I’d hang up my running attire on a wooden tree in our basement and get two to three wears on shirts and the like. Fight clothing was always cleaned after one usage, as were my gi and assorted ground fighting gear. It’s about being sanitary for others.
At the end of the day, it boils down to food and fuel. No, I’d don’t need the fancy. However, now it appears that it is quite rare to get anything bare bones. I understood since I can ever remember that it is not prudent for anyone to live beyond their means. Yet also, to save for a rainy day was encouraged. My husband and I would purchase our cars in cash. We knew what we had, and I knew what I did not want to owe. We bought bare bones basic cars with no air conditioning in the beginning before children.
When we went house shopping about fourteen years into our marriage; I encouraged Norm that we should never be married to a mortgage. I had the old standby rule of a quarter. Yes, a quarter of your income is the most you want to spend paying off your mortgage or rent per month. That’s something we’d grapple over. Too, Norm didn’t think it prudent to pay off the mortgage ahead—for tax purposes. However, I knew it was proficient for future living and raising children and having the ability to save college funds for them. He was encouraged by my business accountant—who had been more up on whether the mortgage of a homestead dictated paying less in taxes. It didn’t.
As normal bills increased with owning a home then adding children to the mix—I’d been held bent on how much more is what we need? Yet socially it began to appear as you were sucker-punched into believing in things. I preferred lessons that would give a greater understanding of humanity and nature. I didn’t need a concert, going out to eat, a Broadway show, museums. I saw all that as tools for children to learn from if possible.
With all the things we add to our persons and our homes. Some seen, some not so seen. I needed more air. The darkness of the world only works with the light of the moon and the stars. Not with things. Things bog us down. But still—you want it darker.---Jody-Lynn Reicher