No Path Back


Reaching for my iphone this morning, I could see a book of poetry on the shelf. I thought, “I was raised on poetry. I need to read more. Everyday.” I grabbed the phone and went to exercise. The book stayed on the shelf.

While exercising I like to listen to podcasts. Today, on This American Life, it was “It’ll make sense when you’re older.” The stories went from kids in school, who thought they knew everything, how they got a little older, started to realize what they didn’t know, and ended with an elderly man in the beginnings of Alzheimers. He hated going to the doctor. At 79, and a successful physics professor, he was irritated, that this 40 year old doctor, now asked him the simplest questions. Who is the president? What year is this? Can you draw a clock? It was so simple, until one day, it wasn’t. He said the doctor told him to draw a clock face showing the time 11:20. He picked up the pencil. Held it to the paper. His brain did nothing. He looked at the pencil. He looked at the blank paper. He couldn’t do it. He could not draw a clock. He felt like something had been taken from him. His brain had let him down. In the weeks following, he tried to use his brain, to figure out why his brain wasn’t working, wasn’t allowing him to draw the clock. He figured out that the clock had three major things – the small hand, which told the hours. But it was small? Why was the important thing so small? It had the bigger hand, which told the minutes. Now he had to count by 5’s with each number. Then the largest hand, which was the skinniest, told the seconds. Breaking it down, and learning what each component was for, he willed himself to tell the time. In the interview, he explained what he had to do each time he wanted to tell the time. The process, for those listening, seemed agonizing. Yet, even though he was hung up by his sweater covering his watch, he prevailed. It took several minutes, but he was able to tell the time. And he felt good. He said it gave him a little pep. And this is what he took. He took the only gift that was given. He told the interviewer that this is what he had now – “There is no path back.” Wow. The words rung inside of me. “There is no path back.” He said he would never return to a time, when just telling time, was simple, just managing time.

There is no path back. That is true for all of us. I did read a poem today. I read, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” by Wallace Stevens. Later, I will go look for one.

And I write a poem –

Today i will read a poem.

Write a poem.

Feel the sun.

Eat cake, or a cookie, at least!

Laugh. Laugh and Laugh.

Learn something.

Think.

I will be curious.

I will be thankful.

The river will flow.

The black bird will fly.

I will drink the wine and love.

Oh, how I will love.

Today.

Today the path lies before me.

There is no path back.

I see the black bird.


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