I chopped wood this evening, for maybe a half an hour. There’s some technique to chopping, but not too much, and there is real satisfaction in the successful splitting of a log.
Before going outside with Susan to walk Misha, our dog, I had just opened up this blog for the first time in about 16 months and noted that my last entry in early November 2014 was about splitting firewood.
After slowly walking around the church next door – Misha is now quite lame – we came back toward the house and picked up a few small branches that had fallen down over the winter and brought them over to our brush pile. Lo and behold, nearby, were about 12 fat logs that I had given up trying to split those many months ago. I decided to take a whack at them.
I split a few. The logs seemed a little more brittle than when I had last tried, and I appreciated their willingness to give up without too much of a fight.
Now, I know that it looks like I went outside to frame those 18 months between blog entries by chopping wood, but I swear on a stack of bibles that chopping wood had completely vanished from my mind as we went out.
There are, in fact, a lot of things that have happened in the last 18 months that lie just outside my ability to easily recall them. The memories are there, just submerged slightly.
I stopped writing those blog entries many months ago because I had gotten really busy. I had taken over as the fill-in music director at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier, was preparing for a performance of Handel’s “Solomon” with the Burlington Choral Society, and a performance of Charpentier’s “Messe de Minuit de Noël” and Saint-Saëns’ “Oratorio de Noël” with the Onion River Chorus. The day after the final concert with Onion River Chorus I hopped on a plane and went to England (and Croatia) to share the Christmas holiday with daughter Hannah, who spent the year at Cambridge University.
I got back and settled into a busy, but manageable schedule. It snowed a lot that winter in Montpelier, but we were doing OK.
Toward the end of February I caught the flu. At 2 am on the morning of March 3 I was asleep when Susan came to bed; she had the instinct to wake me and ask how I was feeling. I couldn’t answer. I didn’t have the ability to speak coherently. She took me to the emergency room at the local hospital where, about three hours later, I had a seizure. I was taken by ambulance to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
I was there for eight days, only two of which I can now remember, but am told that I received extraordinarily good care for having developed encephalitis, “an acute inflamation of the brain.”
I returned home and began a long recuperation. Encephalitis affects people differently. Recovery is said to take anywhere from a year to five years. And “recovery” is relative. Some recover completely, some suffer permanent brain damage.
At this point it is obvious that I have suffered damage. A brain scan shows a large blurry smear toward the left, front side of my brain. I have significantly reduced ability to easily remember the names of people I have met in the last five or so years, and my ability to remember what has happened in the last year lies just below my ability to easily access those memories. When someone describes something that happened when I was there, I then “remember” it, but often can’t recall it on my own.
My vocabulary has been reduced. Writing is more challenging because I sometimes don’t accurately remember what I have just written. My spelling is worse than it used to be.
But I have the desire to try and rejuvenate A Year of Guys, so here goes.