Saturday. Whew. Busy week. Interviews, paperwork, heading downtown midweek with the Thresholds homeless outreach team for Friday's column, all the usual obligations. It's a relief to sit slumped in the dugout with my left arm wrapped in ice and watch Caren Jeskey confidently trot to the mound to pitch relief. Her report:
By Caren Jeskey
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sittingRaven Theatre on Clark and Granville. Improv classes teach us to pick up whatever our partner throws at us verbally, and run with it. This seemed to do the trick and my niece was on board with the conversation.
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
— from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
From contemplating a world where live theater safely exists, I moved our bird talk on to Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven" to see if that rang a bell for her. She hadn't heard of it.
A little later, at my house, she soaked in a warm tub—does winter ever end in Chicago?—and I read her a redacted (for maturity) version of the poem. She listened raptly, and mostly had no idea what Poe’s words meant. Just as the adults in my life did for me when I was learning Shakespeare at her age (I recall seeing Othello when I was 8, in Loyola University’s library on the lakefront) I gave her the words in modern English.
I let her know that the person in the poem had lost the love of their life, Lenore. They thought, at the time of the writing of the poem, that they would never recover from the grief. We talked about how hard things happen in life that bring us down. Feelings sometimes change, and ideally people heal— even just a bit— from difficulties they thought they’d never get past.
It’s hard to be chipper these days. Being artificially cheerful is exhausting. It seems inauthentic to be a Pollyanna, ignoring the strife of the world and always looking at the bright side of life. At the same time, Polyanna author Eleanor Porter might have been onto something when she cautioned against being “too busy wishing things were different to find much time to enjoy things as they were.” Just as my elders gave me hope in a world that was surely hard for them many times along the way, perhaps even unbearable, it’s important to keep some degree of hopefulness and positivity in my heart and mind when I can, especially for the children in my life.
The raven episode had me thinking about the magnificence of birds. A client recently told me that eagles cast huge shadows on the ground, so if one is out hiking in an eagle rich area, a momentary cloud that washes over us might be a visit from one of our national birds. I took a brief hike in Harms woods recently, and such a shadow darkened my car as I was getting in. I looked up and all around but it was elusive, and had disappeared.
On my North Shore walkabouts I often keep my head to the sky. A hawk darted past and perched on a tree the other day. I stalked it and waited until I was able to capture a mid-flight photo. One such dude pulled shoppers at Da Jewel out of their early COVID funks in fall of 2020 when he posted up on a bike rack outside of the store. He gave them something cool to talk about at an otherwise undeniably uncool time.
I was once dive-bombed by a redwing blackbird in San Francisco while others captured it on a recording— they were camped out in the financial district enjoying watching passers-by anger the two winged creature as we innocently walked too close to his family’s nest.
Another time, I was at a yoga retreat in the Bahamas, I was with a small group getting a tour of the grounds. All of a sudden I felt a firm hand on the top of my head, squeezing. The group stared in shock. I did not know what was happening. I crouched down laughing, thinking someone I knew must be pulling a prank by coming up from behind and palming my head. Suddenly the hand was gone and I swung around to see who was messing with me. No one was there. The group animatedly explained that a dove had landed on my head. I felt lucky somehow, though it was probably just trying to kill me.
Pollyanna was an 11-year-old who lost her parents and was sent to live with her unhappy aunt just before World War I. She played the “glad game” and found the good in everything. Even though each of us knows that justice along with the power found in numbers can move mountains. So why don’t we rise up, en masse, and use this power to defeat the evils of the world?