Seeking Comfort The old dream returns in its various permutations. I’m stranded without my car, must walk an impossible distance. Or swim. My cat is with me, hindrance to navigating my way home. Or I’m looking for my car, which isn’t where I remember parking. Oh, no! Where is it? Anxiety dreams, without any source for anxiety. I’m healthy, well-supplied, no worries. I’m not going anywhere I don’t want to go. Blame my chemistry. Although my mother wasn’t skilled at comforting words, I’d like to call her, hear about her cooking, baking, which sick friend she’s brought food. But she’s been dead for more than thirty years, is nowhere with a phone. Foals turn to their mothers to nurse, long after they can graze, although the milk is thin, without nutrition. I turn to spinach with pastina, homemade cornbread and a cheese omelet unless I’m fasting, when I turn to books to reread my favorites with protagonists ready like good friends. I snuggle with the cat and read, the comfort of a notebook near. So many travels between the soft covers of a novel. No car, no traffic, no fossil fuels. Those characters never let me down. Trouvaille* This is the year of the lucky find, of dipping into books I’ve owned for decades and discovering new authors—Lessing and Le Guin. Oh, the surprise delight of rereading. In this season of isolation without end, of ongoing ice and snow, it’s a time for renewing old pleasures of reading novels as sleet and rain hit the windows, or opening the drapes to let the full moon’s light illuminate my pillow to release dreams stuffed there. Lucky to return to embroidery, sewing, binding multi-page cards with saddle stitches, thrilled to have everything I need, unlike during that last year of blizzards, a dozen years ago, when I was trapped and I ached to drive to Michael’s and JoAnn’s for supplies. Look at these shelves and bins with beads, buttons, ribbons, thread, papers, paints. Palette knives and brushes, a book binding kit, in new packages. I’ll never run out of anything but time. *noun. (French) A lucky find. On a Cold and Rainy April Day To wake without being woken up by a radio, alarm or howling cat, to not startle at sirens or bombs To turn on lights and heat, a space heater next to my laptop, to have a working laptop, WiFi To stand at a clean sink, clear water flowing from the tap, the option to turn it hot or not To press a button on the coffeepot, prepared last night, the warming carafe waiting, filled with hot water To have the time and mental space to ponder dreams and what they mean, to delight in a day without plans To ponder folding paper for cards, mentally design variations to try in a dedicated room with shelves and tables undisturbed and ready. This is opulence greater than most humans have ever known. To do this every day, without fear, without invasion by a destructive tyrant. Add ongoing health, and find true wealth. An Erratic Education My education was the liberty I had to read indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out. —Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) As new books arrive, I record the titles and authors on my list, sort fiction from non in stacks in my bedroom, move them to my full library in the finished basement after reading. I flag pages where phrases and concepts catch my attention, sometimes write in the margin, “Poem here.” When I go back, I can’t unearth the poem buried there, wonder what sparked whatever glinted in those little black marks on paper. On my big bed, books in progress: poetry, one novel, a short story collection that won the Pulitzer, several tomes on crafting fiction with bookmarks three pages in. In the night, I reach across to pet them, as I once caressed my cats, nearly as comforting as my two dogs, paws held when I slept, one for each hand. Books don’t growl or bark, will never scratch or bite. Quiet companions, they offer stories brimming with generous wisdom, patient teachers on dark nights, cold days, while a pot roast simmers and bread rises. What do you like to read? The organized soul has one book beside the bed. The glutton sleeps with a New York skyline lurching an inch from the bed. —Charlotte Gray (b. 1937) British poet. No longer ashamed of the mess of books in my bedroom, I revel in opening my eyes to this wealth that promises hours of pleasure— vertical and horizontal stacks with instruction for writing fiction and poetry, slim volumes of single poets and thick tomes of anthologies. Rows of novels recommended and selected, some first in a series of fifteen speculative tales of other worlds with other cultures. It’s winter, I rise to this view full of hope, make coffee, look forward to settling again in bed amid pillows and quilts, in the luxury of travel wherever the authors take me, tracking their paths and turns, noting facts held back, people exposed slowly, like treats for a puppy in training. I accomplish few chores, wag my tail at the word BOOK! Watch me savor and eat them slowly as I walk across kitchens or ice fields, gobble details of foreign lives, turquoise oceans I dive and never get wet.
About the author:
Joan Mazza worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self. Her poetry has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, The Comstock Review, Prairie Schooner, Adanna Literary Journal, Slant, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia and writes every day.
Feature image by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash