Man, I feel like a fish out of water. I’m not seeing any silver linings when I look up at the sky. I feel like I’m getting up on the wrong side of the bed. Right now, I’m a square peg in a round hole. If you’re wondering, yes, I’m struggling with this gear-down, stay-home, isolation thing.
Just the other day, to my surprise and probably to my mail carrier’s dismay, a large box of books showed up on my doorstep. My brother operates a bookstore in Denver. I normally receive a few complimentary boxes of books every year. Generally, they show up with no warning. This certainly was a nice surprise.
Among the baseball books and stories by Minnesota authors, there was a paperback in the box with a sticky note on the front cover from my brother that read, "One of my favorite books." The book was "Lost Horizon" written by English writer James Hilton in 1933. I remember watching the movie as a kid and was surprised to find that the movie was made in 1937. Holy mackerel — that’s a long time ago.
The 1972 paperback edition was the 74th printing, and I’m comfortable in saying millions of copies have been sold. Some of you may remember reading this story of four people who were brought to Shangri-La against their will. Shangri-La is a place of beauty and enchantment. It was a place where life approached perfection, and no one grew old. Wow, do I like the sound of this place. Can I please go there?
Early in the book, as the four were in a plane not sure where the mystery pilot was taking them, one of the characters said: "But what are we going to do about it? Why are we here? What can be the point of it all?" Since none of them could fly a plane and the pilot had brandished a weapon, they had to accept that they were along for the ride. These lines seemed a little like our current situation.
Once this group arrives in Shangri-La, some feel its peacefulness, and they sense freedom from worldly cares. They achieve calmness, profundity, wisdom and the clear enchantment of memory. Most of all, they find time — and that is a remarkable gift to truly experience. Some of us are being given that gift right now. I won’t spoil "the rest of the story," but the book is worth the read.
All of us, in particular those of us who are older and retired, will experience many emotions. We will try to stay positive but will miss the physical closeness to our grandchildren and children. We will use technology to stay in touch. We will paint closets, organize photos, read books, and fill the birdfeeders. Those pets we have with us right now are a great comfort to us. The love they give us is good for our soul, and boy, do we need it.
I remember my wife’s Aunt Gwen. She was a kind soul with deep faith. Near the end of her life, we visited her a few times. Her whole existence was a chair. She could no longer sleep in a bed, nor get around. She sat in this big chair with pictures taped up all around her of her children and grandchildren and would greet us with a smile. Her last few months, that chair, surrounded by photos, was her Shangri-La.
There will be sadness with our current situation. There will also be remarkable, positive heroes who hold others up. Every day, I give thanks for those on the front lines of this pandemic. Thank you.
For me, I will continue to struggle with inactivity. I am fortunate to have a place of enchantment. My Shangri-La is a split-level home built in 1975 in Northwest Rochester, with two friendly cats, next to my wife of 44 years.
I have been given time, but doggone it, I will continue to age.