Monday, May 14, 2012

Strange Quiet

Indiana Wind Farm
I always know that I have about 15 miles left on the highway when I start to see these gentle giants - enormous windmills turning thickly and slowly in the wind while we scurry by in our tiny metal contraptions.  They seem airy and wise where we seem rushed and dangerous.  I don't know that you can see from this photograph (taken by me while driving which is totally rushed and dangerous), but these windmills are lined up as far as the eye can see.  There are  hundreds of them making up the Fowler Ridge and Meadow Lake Wind Farms - over 600, I understand. They are the perfect greeters to the final 2-lane road stretch of driving home from Kalamazoo, the huge, wonderful medievalist conference, to the strange quiet that follows the glorious babble (BABEL) of voices and ideas of the gathering, the strange quiet that frames the conversations you still want to have. These windmills are the final big idea that makes you think new thoughts: about farming a substance such as wind, about harnessing that invisible but felt energy, about the strange quiet of such an enterprise.

And then: noise. The children's sweet piano recital, a drive and dinner with beautiful friends where I teach - familiar and warm. Ten minutes at home, settling in again, and then a phone call about my dad: lethargic, unresponsive, blue lips, 95 degrees body temperature.  The strange quiet of the emergency room at 10:30 p.m., the strange quiet of waiting, the strange quiet of signing papers, the really strange quiet of driving home at 2:30 a.m. with my dad in the ICU.  This morning, we still don't know what's happened, but something has. He's talking now, but it's about fisheries and seven kinds of seafood and redirecting the canal so that it can have fresh water and sea water intermingled and flowing back and forth. It's also about having the doctor arrested and calling the police. It's also the first time he has said "I love you" back to my "I love you" in months and months, and I'm just going to take that gift and never mind that it's in the same session with the fisheries.  The doctor has some ideas: likely a TIA: a Transient Ischemic Attack - a kind of lightning quick flash of harm to the brain: acts like a stroke, but leaves no trace. An invisible cold wind visited upon the mind. You can't see it on a CT scan, and the effects go away, but they can lead to what's called a "silent stroke." Strange quiet again. My dad's brain injury has already affected so much - he doesn't walk, he usually hardly talks, he barely eats. And yet, there's room for more decline. But he's at ease he's not scared, he's not in pain. So home for a bit now, to collect my thoughts, get some work done, prep things - back to my dad tonight. It all makes the conversations shared at Kalamazoo (which is more than a conference, it's a Gathering, a Thing in the oldest (Old English) sense of the word) so fervent and so alive, so vibrant and so important.  My father has his thoughts of fish, those quiet creatures, and fisheries, and of redirecting the fluid connections of canals to oceans. And I talk to him of medieval ecologies and stones that are the residues of oceans, and pearls that are drops of dew from the heavens.  And in the strange quiet that follows wondrous ideas, we understand each other.

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