Thursday, August 20, 2009

Citizen of 4F, Aug. 19, 2009

On the 4F bus into downtown Minneapolis today, the mood seemed strangely Mevillian to me.

One of Herman Melville's many strokes of genius was his ability to articulate mankind's struggle to behave in a universe where nature is often indifferent and even hostile to our wishes and preferences. That's the mood I felt on the bus this morning.

Yesterday, during a cool day-long gentle rain without thunder or lightning or wind of any kind, some upper level disturbance suddenly caused a small tornado to drop down through the cloud cover and tear up a small portion of south Minneapolis, about a mile from my home. In a retangular swatch roughly 2 blocks by 12 blocks in size, at least 100 trees were uprooted and flung onto cars and houses. Outside this area, there was literally no sign of wind damage of any kind, and the pattern of the debris tells the authorities that this was a freak tornado.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in any way, but we here in Minneapolis love our trees, and the sight of 100 destroyed elms, ashes, and lindens causes us much sorrow. All evening long, mournful sirens of emergency vehicles sounded in the near distance, as emergency workers tried to restore power and clear streets of debris.

This morning, the drizzle continues as the bus picks its way through the torn branches of south Minneapolis. The cloud cover starts barely 1,000 feet above us, and the tops of the downtown buildings are buried into ragged gray cotton. It's a somber day.

On the bus, Stephanie is having an off day. A stunningly pretty blonde woman in her early 30s, Stephanie normally is kind of a self-illuminating source of energy. Today, though, she's just plain off, and she knows it. Twice she checks her appearance in a hand mirror, and finally gives up in disgust. Pretty woman are probably more often the source of envy, but the burden to keep looking pretty is not something most of us really understand. A pretty girl having a bad day suffers more than usual. 

A new passenger boards at the Super America filling station on 48th street. I'll call him Tom. He has just finished his morning grooming in the gas station restroom, and sips a small cup of cheap gas station coffee. No bus pass for him; the small change he drops into the till is real money to him. He tries hard to be cleaned and groomed, but he is very likely a member of the homeless community, and it's hard to stay presentable when you sleep on the ground several nights a week. His face has a haunted look to it that's hard to ignore.

I open the New York Times, and the first thing I see is an extended feature article about palliative care physicians——the folks who help people in the end stages of terminal disease, as they try to make that final transition with a minimum of indignity. The article has particular meaning for me, as a friend of ours is suffering from cancer that's invaded almost every part of her body, and what I'm reading is directly applicable to what she's going through.

It's a dark morning in every regard, and the only thing that brings me any optimism is the knowledge that nothing whatsoever ever stays the same for very long. 

The weather report says the weekend will be a beautiful example of early fall weather.


Jerri said...

I'm so sorry about your friend's struggles and hope some sunshine finds its way through the clouds soon.

Paul said...

A very nice bit of writing. Your simple observations expose the ordinariness of everyday life. And life goes on, good weather and bad.

Molly said...

There's comfort in that---" the knowledge that nothing whatsoever ever stays the same for very long."