Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Still reading after all these years...

There is the scent of Christmas in the air. Yesterday we set up the Nativity creche on our icon shelf in the living room.

Six weeks ago -- 42 days -- the translation of Nancy’s kidney to my body had just happened and we both in the recovery room. At least I think Nancy was still there, but at 6 pm that Wednesday, I hadn’t yet regained consciousness. Finally, perhaps at 7 or 8, there came a dream-like period when I became blurrily aware that Wendy and Anne were sitting quietly at the side my bed in that faintly lit room, and noticed other post-operative patients in other beds and a nurse or two quietly making the rounds. I know that somehow we had a conversation, though I have no memory of what they said or my responses.

Six weeks marks another border-crossing moment. As we were told beforehand, normally it takes six weeks to get the point where one has a green light to do ordinary lifting. If all has gone well, the healing of tissue and muscle that was needed has happened. While you may have thought you were back to normal life days or even weeks earlier, now it’s official. It seems to me I ought to look around for something heavier than my bike to pick up, but I think I’ll let that remain a theoretical possibility for the moment.

Nancy has returned to the kind of work she was doing before the operation. At the moment it’s a lengthy text that she’s translating for the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam: an annual report on extreme right-wing activity in the Netherlands. (Yes, even the sensible Dutch are not without extremists -- violence-prone skin-heads, assaults on vulnerable people from minority groups, etc.) The report also surveys evidence of systemic discrimination in jobs and housing.

Apart from the short essay on the oneness of Adam and Eve, which will be part of the winter issue of In Communion (a special issue on walls being guest-editing by Alex Patico), the main work I’ve mainly been doing lately, apart from correspondence, is to gather pieces for an issue of In Communion that, if all goes well, will be issued in the spring. The theme is Christian (especially Orthodox Christian) dialogue with Muslims.

Strange to admit, but one thing I miss from dialysis is the amount of time -- nine hours each week -- that I spent reading while hooked up to an artificial kidney. Not that I have given up books, far from it, but now, when there are so many options, I have to remind myself that unhurried reading is important in my life and is not to squeezed into train rides or patches of time at the end of the day after my laptop has been turned off.

The book I’m reading -- now nearly half way through -- is the new translation done by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky of Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace. (I last read it in 1969 or 1970 while in prison for disturbing the Vietnam war.) It had been my intention to start reading it while recovering at the hospital, but in those ten days the book -- about the weight of a cinder block -- was too heavy an object.

These last few days I’ve also read Wendy’s master’s degree thesis about George Orwell, which in turn has made me want to read his Homage to Catalonia, an anthology of his essays, and to reread 1984.

Just today, inspired by a review of a new translation of Paradiso, I began taking a fresh look at Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Now that I note all that I’ve been reading, I can see that, while the hours of reading may not quite equal what I was doing as a dialysis patient, still I am yet among the post-literate. Still reading after all these years...

(Double-click on the Nativity creche photo to see it enlarged.)

No comments: