Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Ravings on Sick Day

When the first symptoms of sickness appear, my initial instinct is to fight it:

Ignore The Beast and it will go away.

Keep up with daily activity; ‘mind over matter.’ Don’t dwell on it. Get out there and keep on living.

This is singularly ineffective in a battle against “Mycoplasma pneumoniae.”

After the fifth day or so, I surrender.

Back home at last, I give up the pretense.

With a cotton-padded brain, I “take to bed.”  (This is euphemistic, as the hacking cough frequently jerks me up on my feet.)

I’ve been here many times before, periods of “enforced rest.”

But how to fill the hours now?

I escape.

I go back to old loves. Indulge myself in an orgy of re-reading. I plunge through three Russian novels/autobiographies in as many days.

Slavs just have a way with words like no one else on earth. Even in translation.

This passage jumped out at me from Andrei Makine’s Dreams of My Russian Summers:

“On that distant evening, twenty years ago, Charlotte is already getting up, adjusting her hair in the reflection of the open window, and we leave. And on my lips, with the pleasant sharpness of the wine, these words, never ventured upon, fade away: If she is so beautiful still, despite her white hair and having lived so long, it is because all these moments of light and beauty have been filtered through her eyes, her face, her body…”

The narrator is referring to his grandmother, a Frenchwoman who was trapped in Russian by war and revolution. 

Charlotte has known incredible suffering during her lifetime of involuntary exile there.

Terror. Hunger. Brutal rape.

She has witnessed scenes of indescribable horror during world wars; seen men torn to shreds. Bandaged what was left of them.

She has watched, helpless and alone, as her husband is escorted into the night by the Secret Police.

She has experienced the death of a child.

And yet.


She is so beautiful still.

In spite of the obscene ugliness surrounding her. In spite of the stunning heart-blows, one after another. In spite of a life of tragedy and the weathering of years.

She is so beautiful still…

because of the moments.

Years of tears and heartbreak, all added together, do not have power to negate the moments of light and beauty that lie layered in her soul.

I stop and think about this for a moment.

It sinks in:

The heavy, burdensome years roll away, but the transcendent moments of light and beauty linger.

Charlotte had no control over the tumultuous years of her life, but she knew the secret of savoring and holding on to the bright, beautiful moments that flash through even the darkest of times.

And an accumulation of awe became a repository of transforming grace in her soul that was reflected in her face, her eyes.

The years cannot dim that beauty.

It is the only kind that lasts.


“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,
 are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
 which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
 (II Corinthians 3:18)


"For history is a pattern of timeless moments..." T.S. Eliot

(For more musings on timeless moments, go back here:


I want to thank the last commenter on the previous post for breaking up my pity party and encouraging me to finish (and post) this raving. You made me feel wanted! Be assured, I’m still raving all right, even when I’m not typing! It’s just that my poor husband gets most of it.


(Both oils from my collection of Russian art...  mostly brought back in suitcases.)


cheryl Doerr said...

Did you say.. "thanks for making me feel wanted?" I guess it's time to say, I check everyday to see what Margery has to say.. to give me a wake up call..I read the books you recommend..I follow the Blogs you share..I share them with my FB friends..I read the prayer requests.. and it jerks me back into thankfulness. So yes Kim Arnold.. you are wanted and missed and loved more than you will ever know.. Blessings and All Is Grace.. Cheryl Doerr

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim -- I'm praying for you about that thing you mentioned to me. :) keep writing. Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird is super helpful to writers. Love michelle

Anonymous said...

... just beautiful, in every way...


Laurel said...

I am very jealous of your Russian art collection. Also, I am very jealous that you read Russian authors. I find them downright depressing, along with almost anything else that has literary merit, and snuggle my genre fiction with much glee. One more reason to love my Kindle: No one can see what I'm reading. For all they know, it's Dostoyevsky!

Anonymous said...

<> you raved on. Lovely! Thanks. You have to do all the work, I get all the enjoyment. I feel greedy. You're a treasure of mine.

Mary Walsh said...

I remember a painting you bought of a Russian wedding as Kim Barton was yelling at the pickpocketers to leave you alone. They were circling around you as you negotiated the deal. Post a picture of that if you still have it. I would love to see it.

Kim said...


How blessed am I to have such sweet people in my life??

I love you all!

Thank you so, so much for the encouragement!

Cheryl, you are so right... ALL IS GRACE.

Michelle, thank you so much for praying and for the suggestion. You know I love Anne Lamott.

Laurel, come up to Athens and see in person! Seriously. Btw, Dostoyevsky is not my favorite either. Depressing! (But I do like Brothers K more than most of his.)

Mary, what a great memory! I'll try to post it soon. Maybe I'll inflict several more on ya'll.

Anonymous friends, you are hidden treasures of mine!

Thank you all for reading these random ravings of a madwoman.

You encourage me to keep writing even when I really don't feel like it.