Dawn. This day.
I woke every few hours through the night, coughing. I woke again at dawn in a fit of coughing and saw out the window this palette of gold, silver, and spring-green. Look.
Dawn, and as the day unfolded I was the recipient of an outpouring of concern and care. I receive all this kindness, I hold it to my heart, I say thank you, thank you. Phone calls, emails, good wishes bounce off satellites to reach me. Gifts from those who love me are left at my door: soup, tissues, flu remedies, coconut water, and one wild pair of socks. Thank you. I love you.
We are all flawed and mistaken, deluded and opinionated, but we can also be merciful, patient, attentive. Some take madcap delight in giving. We give what we have. We receive what is offered. Thank you. We say thank you. It is a token, this saying, for what we cannot say. Thank you.
Jeanette Winterson has written many fine books, but my favorite is a prose-poem called Weight. It is her retelling of the myth of Atlas, carrying the weight of the earth on his shoulders, accompanied toward the end by the dog Laika, sent into space in a satellite by the Soviets in 1957. I’m going to quote the end of the story, but it’s not a spoiler because the magic is the way she tells everything that comes before the end, and she gives us this clue: “I chose this story above all others because it’s a story I’m struggling to end.” So here’s how she ends it:
All his strength was focussed into holding up the world. He hardly knew what movement was any more. No matter that he shifted slightly for comfort. The monstrous weight decided everything.
Why not just put it down?
* * *
Atlas let his hands go from the sides of the world. Nothing happened.
Atlas put his hands down in front of him on the floor of the universe or the ceiling of the stars, I don’t know which, and then he stretched out his left leg so that he was kneeling on all fours, the Kosmos balanced on his back. Laika was running in and out of his spread fingers. She had never seen her master move.
Atlas crawled forward and then suddenly fell flat on his face with hands over his ears and the dog clinging onto his thumb. Atlas waited, rigid with doom. The dog waited, her nose in her paws.
Write it more substantially--NOTHING.
Atlas raised his head, turned over, stood up, stepped back. The dog’s nose lifted. Atlas looked back at his burden. There was no burden. There was only the diamond-blue earth gardened in a wilderness of space.