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Hello, Darkness, my old friend

Hello, Darkness, my old friend

By Bill Stork, DVM

Sweetie is the feline equivalent of that old lady who lost her filter. She’s a sixteen-year-old Persian with an unruly mane, who has to be sedated for her spa appointments. Sweetie doesn’t hold her liquor like she used to. The day after her most recent style and perm, she was still feeling a little low and slow. Her temperature was normal and heart was strong, but she was a tad dehydrated. Some subcutaneous fluids and an injectable anti-nausea medication would have her back to sassy in short order. (I’m glad I didn’t have access to maropitant in college).

Convinced she was going to be OK, I looked forward to the ten-or-so minutes it would take for the Lactated Ringers to run under her skin. Sweetie’s people are Margot and Peter. Margot is always smartly dressed and well put together. She exudes elegance of an era past. She is a retired professor of English and a prolific author. Invariably, I learn something. She has complimented my writer’s voice, and taken the red pen to my grammar. Peter has a cautious demeanor and a measured manner of speech that piques my curiosity as to the things he knows and the places he’s been. Peter is a devout home-body, but when he does leave College Street, he travels to destinations that I have to ask the spelling, before I can look them up. At a time in life when many might be content to whittle away the days napping, reading, and waiting for cocktail hour, they’ve opted to hit pause on the aging process.

On the prevention of aging, Clint Eastwood said, “I don’t let the old man in.”

Margot and Peter just adopted a three-month-old Sheltie named Scout.

We returned Sweetie to her carrier and talked about house training, exercise, and engagement for the little one.

As we parted, I wished them a Merry Christmas and asked about their plans. Margot speaks with the eloquent diction of a silver-screen siren, “Oh, we’re not much for Christmas, we celebrate the Solstice.”

In recent years I’ve developed an appreciation for the things we can do better in times of perpetual darkness. I was interested in their take, “Mostly, we just sit quietly and think.”


December 21st, or thereabouts, is the longest night of the year. In the thousands of years prior to Google calendar and Accuweather, people hunted, gathered, and grew. Their very survival was predicated on tracking celestial events. After six months of progressively less light, Pagans and Christians alike celebrate the beginning of the return to light. In the millennia before incandescent bulbs, LEDs and Facebook, we could not see past our noses, for months on end. By definition, our thoughts turned inward.

On the occasion of the birth of the sun, observers will start a raging fire representing light and hope. On the heels of a period of introspection, observers recall aspects of their being they wish to shed.

Judgement, insecurity, forgiveness: they’ll scribe their vices on a sheet of paper, and chuck ‘em in the flames.

We all revel in seventy-five degrees and sunny, but in the darkness and cold we tend to grumble. “I can’t stand this time of year. It’s dark when I’m driving to work, and it’s dark when I’m driving home.”

It does not have to be that way.

The ground is frozen hard and the grass won’t grow. Interview your eldest kin, and write it down. Read a book, write a book, listen to Astral Weeks from start to finish, call a friend… or, just sit and think like Margot and Peter.

A wrought David Letterman asked Warren Zevon how he dealt with terminal lung cancer, “Well Dave, you enjoy every sandwich.”

I have no clue how many days of good health and clear thought I’ve been granted. I try and make them count. If I can enjoy fourteen hours of darkness per day, I’m well on my way.

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