Music and Memories of Annabel Lee

By Bob Grindle

Ever so faintly in the background music is playing…a crazy tangle of flute and piano and harpsichord and guitar and voices. A patchy quilt of sounds. Not sure where it’s coming from…Herbie Mann, maybe Joni Mitchell, definitely some Leonard Cohen, Dylan and Ella Fitzgerald and not sure, Bach or Vivaldi. The music fades.

It is late in the day of September 13th, a grey and threatening day outside. Somewhere in Hartford Hospital I feel like every stored idea and memory I’d ever tucked away in long forgotten, poorly lit, cob-web covered and untidied corners of my mind has fallen off the brittle archival shelves in the prefrontal cortex and broken into a million pieces…more than seven decades of debris…shards of incomplete thoughts and random incoherent fragments of memories; plans wrapped in layers of hope and carefully shelved: “…sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground…” and even memories of fourth grade teachers reading Annabel Lee were clotted somewhere inside my brain as a slowly returning consciousness struggles to overcome the chaos of more than 6 hours of general anesthesia. Curtains of caution wafted uselessly as words bubbled up endlessly from this artesian fountain word-spill. My wife was amused for a while as I tried to make some sort of conversation during this cerebral power outage but, realizing the worst was over, she kissed me and headed home.

The spell was cast and with Lin’s kiss and departure my awareness curled back into its reverie and, gradually, tattered memories and visions of sunny hillsides or star filled night skies faded into the quiet empty canvas of sleep. After years of excellent health and good fortune in navigating life’s ever shifting currents, this recent diagnosis of esophagus cancer has become tonight’s rather heavy reality of a post-operative helplessness heralding the beginning of a long recovery. Waking the next morning to the sounds of monitors and life support ‘bots,’ I felt lucky to have an east-facing window and watched as Venus rose into the clearing dawn sky over Hartford. There are moments in all of our lives when our sense of well-being—that belief in oneself that you can cope with whatever comes along—when that confidence is put to the test. Sitting here, pretty much unable to move without help is one of those moments, but reflecting on the amazing skill, talent and dedication of the healthcare team that made this journey possible quiets my anxiety. If I ever doubted that living is not a solo undertaking, those doubts have taken wing and are long gone.  

It is midday October 22nd, some five weeks since the operation…a chill and blustery day here in the quiet corner, a day full of color and energy.  Living in eastern Connecticut it is easy to feel we are rocking in a cradle almost too gorgeous to be real…nestled between impressive urban centers of dynamism and opportunity, but hidden away under dark night skies and tucked in between forests, farms, waterways and vibrant small towns in a valley that is ancient beyond belief and lovely without taking your breath away, it is easy to pat ourselves on the back for choosing such a place to build a nest. Walking slowly uphill, past the chicken pen, over to the garden and then out to the fields, I notice that the younger sugar maples don’t seem to have lost their leaves to the anthracnose fungus in this exceedingly wet year, and the red maples along the west and north of our property are as beautiful as ever. The forests that surround us are some of the most diverse, and might I add, most beautiful mixed hardwood biomes to be found anywhere. The recently cut field invites a quick run and I smile to think…perhaps not just met. Healing is for the moment and we set off on a simple and immensely enjoyable walk as we talk about healing strategies and I recall reading that the older maples will rebound just fine next year.

By the time we finish our walk it is late afternoon and the waxing Moon is rising into a still day lit sky. The chill that has been with us all day is starting to settle in and remind us that the Sun’s heat is all about the angle of attack and tonight will be worthy of an extra blanket. Jupiter will be rising soon and by the time of the full Hunter’s Moon this weekend the planet and Moon will make for a delightful pairing. Bring on November, and with it a return to Standard Time. 

Without a doubt the loveliest display of the month will be in the pre-dawn sky of November 9th. After the clocks have been turned back and mornings start a bit earlier, the pre- dawn hours of Thursday morning’s east/southeastern sky will see a diamond-bright Venus nearly touching a shimmering sliver of the waning crescent Moon. A jewel of a way to start the day if ever there was one…let’s hope for clear skies. If you miss the 9th, Venus and the faint crescent Moon will be around for a couple more days. They just won’t be so closely paired. A couple of weeks later, in the eastern sky shortly after sunset on November 24th and 25th  the waxing Moon and Jupiter will repeat October’s close pairing as the Moon approaches its full Beaver phase, occasionally referred to as the Frost Moon. 

There are two, usually minor, meteor showers that extend most of the month of November, from the Taurids in early and mid-month to the Leonids that usually peak around the 18th. Due to some advantageous alignments and phases of the Moon this year, a little extra time spent looking up any time you’re out at night this November might be rewarded. The Leonids especially are known for some of the fastest shooting stars (meteors.) 

Stay well, be kind to those around you and enjoy what’s left of the colorful end of year celebration that our region treats us to every autumn. Oh yes, and be sure to enjoy the musical score that is always playing in the background of our lives.

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