Today it will be easy to clean a closet

Predictably, the BOTEC team took it hard. In our Slack feed, I posted the final stanza of a favorite poem by Emily Dickinson:

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

I don’t deal well with feelings. In the wake of tragedy, I ramp up activity, particularly things that will leave me with a sense of accomplishment. With due respect to the psychologists (Hi, Keith!) who will doubtless disagree, I do not find that talking helps. Maybe later, but probably not. I clean out closets, basements, pantries, when bad things happen. I remove dust from the top of each book with the little vacuum cleaner attachment. Yes, it gives me distance from the bad thing, but there is a pragmatic reason, too. Today you will not dither about discarding shoes that were expensive but hurt your feet. Today you will see clearly that you do not need a hedge trimmer since you hacked down the hedges after Martha Coakley’s loss to Charlie Baker. And exercise. I’m headed to the pool, now.

Author: Lowry Heussler

Lowry Heussler is a lawyer from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having participated in the RBC as a guest-blogger, she made it official in 2012. Her most important contribution to the field of public policy to date was her 1994 instruction to Mark Kleiman, "Read Ann Landers every day. You need to learn about real people." Her essay on the 2009 arrest of Henry Louis Gates went viral and brought about one of her proudest moments, being described as "just another twit along the lines of Sharpton, Jackson, Gates, etc." (Small Dead Animals Blog). Currently serving as General Counsel to BOTEC Analysis Corp., she has been a public housing lawyer, a prosecutor for the Board of Registration in Medicine, a large-firm associate and a small-firm partner. She serves as a board member for NEADS, Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, a charity that trains service dogs to increase independence for people with disabilities.

6 thoughts on “Today it will be easy to clean a closet”

  1. In the wake of tragedy? This is the scene of the ghost on the ramparts or the arrival from Troy of the herald, starting the action. The tragedy will unfold in slow motion, over the years to come.

  2. When reading the poem, I couldn't keep another one out of my mind. Something about a rough beast, slouching somewhere. (If Yeats had written about Trump, he would have had to come up with a different image – a "rough, slouching beast" would be too on the nose.) But it's weird. The day after 9/11, I felt a strange kind of hope. We were strong, we were united, there was no way the terrorists could win. I imagined that was the way people felt on December 8th, 1941. This is going to be tough, but we've got it. Now, I just feel dread and nausea.

    In my life, we had 1968, Jackson State, Kent State and Watergate (L-M Miranda could make something out of that). Our institutions were frayed, but they held. The New Left couldn't bring them down, Nixon couldn't, the nascent right was too weak to try. Do we have institutions today? We're going to find out. If the #nevertrumpers who helped burn them down can work with their former enemies on the left, and if the former enemies can work with the #nevertrumpers, maybe we can put out the fires and rebuild them. I'll forgive the arson, if they'll forgive our neglect of the smoke alarms. Our capacity for grace and forgiveness will be sorely taxed. With malice toward none, with charity for all ….

    Regardless, the institutions will be rebuilt some day, unless there really is an apocalypse, and whatever they turn out to be, they'll be better, or seem better. This darkness will pass. The arc of the moral universe just got longer – who knows how much longer – but it still bends toward justice. Is that true? If not, there doesn't seem much point in believing anything else.

    The mystic chords of memory will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

    Yes. Surely.

    1. I had, for some reason, refrained from reading it before I posted. I think because I thought it might chill me. I just read it, and my fear was justified. It's not just the "slouching, rough beast" that's too on the nose. Maybe a poet will read it at the inauguration. Trump won't know.

  3. Lowry, great ideas! You are much nicer than me. Today I am thinking of purging my friends list. (It would only be a couple people.)

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