Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Rime of the Ancient Doldrums

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink
 
I had always thought of the word "doldrums" as a metaphysical conceptBut as with many phrases, the mental term for sluggishness, lack of vigor, stagnation is derived from something real. In this case, there's an area in the oceans, both Atlantic and Pacific, around the equator where the winds can be calm, even disappear, for days or weeks, trapping sail-powered vessels as with Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, quoted above.

Ironically, Air France 447 disappeared in the Atlantic Doldrums between Brazil and West Africa, though from high-altitude turbulence rather than calm.

Without being able to put a term to it until this morning, I've been drifting through the doldrum sea for a couple of days. Brain numb and physically listless. With no explanation - no cold, no pains anywhere. Preferring to lose myself in a detective mystery, television drama, or Facebook posts of "Snowzilla" time-lapse videos.
 
Certainly Donna-Lane's battle with the severe fatigue of post-chemo toxin outflow has been a factor. Then there's a good friend who fell and broke her arm. And a young man who was assaulted into unconsciousness. This after one family member is finally through with multiple surgeries from a fall. Another who herself is fighting cancer with a smile. And a sweet woman who beat cancer only to encounter neuro issues. And I won't even get started on the depressing world news - perpetual wars, terrorists, migrants, the wealthy sucking the middle class dry, and a US presidential campaign that would make a great sitcom if none of the candidates had to actually occupy the office.

Oh, I managed to get a few things done here and there. But not nearly as much as I jot on my to-do list in the morning. And nothing that requires serious, sustained thought and creativity.
 
The fact that I'm composing this represents a transitional return to productivity. Certainly it helps my psyche that D-L seems to have turned the corner - her strength gradually returning and the numbness in her hands and feet receding as the chemo slowly drains from her system. Whereas it seemed for a time we might not even make a brief trip down to Argeles (before radio starts in February), there is now hope we may be able to attempt the soul-reviving journey in a couple of days.

Before that, there's that to-do list that's been adrift. I cam feel the water stirring.

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