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Comets and stars

          Every morning about 6:30 my dog and I take a walk up a quiet dirt road, and admire the stars. There is too much light near my house to see stars, so I relish the quiet, moonless mornings when I can re-acquaint myself with at least the little bit of sky I can see from the bottom of this valley. The other morning I was gazing away when I noticed a peculiar looking star. For a moment I thought it must be an airplane heading this way, or a satellite. I measured the distance between it and a tree top and waited, but it didn’t move. Rather, it did move, but only in a barely noticeable, peculiar jiggling way that made me think of Brownian motion. I looked and looked, blinked my eyes a few times, and wondered if I had had a few shots of whiskey before getting up this morning that I’d forgotten about, then shrugged it off and went home. Later that day I stumbled upon a star chart at nasa.gov that showed the location of a comet that was supposed to be visible with the naked eye, and I knew what I’d seen. Two days later I looked for the comet again, and it had, indeed moved a few inches across the sky. Pretty cool.         

 Now that daylight savings time has begun my stargazing has been curtailed, it being that much lighter in the mornings, but on the bright (oooogh) side, now I can see where I’m going. Last week, when there was no moon, no snow and it was overcast it was so dark I finally turned around and went home because it was too spooky for me. Could’a been a moose out there in the dark. Or a mountain lion.  Every day I go at 6:30, but over the course of the year the walk changes constantly. Having the snow and the daylight ebb and flow around my clock-bound walk feels like the time-space continuum is bending around me, like I’m walking through deep water and feeling the eddies leaving my legs. Eddies of darkness and scattered light.         

 This morning walk is about the extent of my exercise regimen these days, since my afternoons are often spent on the tasks of a general contractor (usually in the form of driving to town to pick up some urgently needed chunk of angle iron or sheets of plywood), which burn little or no real calories – except for the stress. As a result, I’m out of shape, and any time I actually do find myself working my body hard, it’s followed by old-lady pains the next day. An afternoon spent picking up rocks or using a hand tool condemns me to three days of swollen joints that feel like a thousand tiny, angry men are repeatedly stabbing my knuckles with knives. If I squint a little and tilt my head a bit, in the dark I can even see the cartoon stars shooting from my fingers. I brought this up to my doctor during my regular checkup this year, saying that I guessed it was just osteoarthritis, for which there is little to do except suffer. There was, in the back of my mind about a 10 watt bulb of hope glowing that maybe, just maybe it was something else, something curable and, perhaps even a little romantic or exotic. But she let me down. She looked at my gnarled knuckles and said “Yep. Probably.”         

  Then she surprised me. She said I should take something for the pain. Those who know me might not find it remarkable that I’d never thought of taking a pain reliever for pain. When I get a headache I usually lie down in a darkened room with a cool compress on my brow until it passes. If I have a sore back from shoveling three yards of bison poop, I go to the spa and stretch in the hot water. Unless pain is intractable, I consider it to be there for a purpose, and rather than stifle it, I try to find the source, and fix that. It just hadn’t occurred to me that my arthritis is intractable pain, and I should treat it. The doc told me to take naproxen, so I did, and it was like a miracle! I never suspected that an over-the-counter remedy would actually work. Our health-care system is so controlled by overweening pharmaceutical companies that I have no faith whatsoever in anything they say. Lunestra, Vioxx, Viagra, Claritin….they all simply cater to a pill-popping nation so concentrated on escaping life they don’t even notice they’re not living it. Instead of an illegal drug culture, we have a profit-oriented, government-sanctioned one.

 But enough of that soapbox. I’m a firm believer in Naproxen, and am truly grateful to have found it. Getting old is not for sissies, so Allie and I are proven stalwarts.

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