Santiago reflects on being old and alone , , ,No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. But it is unavoidable. I must remember to eat the tuna before he spoils in order to keep strong. Remember, no matter how little you want to, that you must eat him in the morning. Remember, he said to himself.
During the night two porpoise came around the boat and he could hear them rolling and blowing. He could tell the difference between the blowing noise the male made and the sighing blow of the female.
"They are good," he said. "They play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish."
Then he began to pity the great fish that he had hooked. He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought. Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely. Perhaps he is too wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush. But perhaps he has been hooked many times before and he knows that this is how he should make his fight. He cannot know that it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man. But what a great fish he is and what he will bring in the market if the flesh is good. He took the bait like a male and he pulls like a male and his fight has no panic in it. I wonder if he has any plans or if he is just as desperate as I am?
Here we see Santiago start to identify with the great fish that he's hooked. The old man is alone and about to fight a great battle. He has no idea what his enemy is, only that it is wonderful and strange. And Santiago is desperate to see it. To know its size and age. To be able to put a name to it.
I spent most of today resting. In the afternoon, I went to the university and taught two classes. I will admit that getting behind the wheel of my car caused me some anxiety. But the roads and skies were clear, and the drive was easy. The four hours I spent in the classroom took all of the energy I had in me. When I got home, I slept for about three hours.
You don't have to be alone to feel alone, as Santiago does in the above passage. You can be alone anywhere. In a crowded grocery store. Family dinner. Classroom full of students. It's not the proximity or lack of proximity to people that creates isolation. Nope. It's more emotional than physical.
I am still processing the loss of my sister Rose. Nobody else feels the exact same way that I do. It's a complicated mixture of grief, relief, sorrow, self-pity, anger, acceptance. Take your pick. Today, I had a physical isolation, as well, because of the car accident yesterday. I'm sore and headachy and exhausted.
Perhaps the universe is sending me signals. Over the last 24 hours, I've had many friends send me messages, telling me to take it easy. Slow down. I tend to exist in a frenzy of activity. If I'm sitting still for more than ten minutes, I feel like I'm wasting time. I could use those minutes to write, read, grade, lesson plan, podcast, or blog.
Tonight, I'm sitting on my couch, laptop on my knees. There's a wind that's tearing through the trees outside. My house is quiet, everyone wrapped in their own versions of isolation. This is the calm before the storm of togetherness this weekend for my sister's funeral.
Being alone isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes, it's necessary. For reflection. Recharging. Healing. It is the last day of January. The dead of winter. Skunks are in torpor. Bears are snoring in their dens. Fish are resting in deep, cold waters. The entire world is in a state of aloneness.
This day has been a deep, necessary breath for me. I'm a little battered and bruised by life at the moment.
Saint Marty needed to hibernate a little.