Dear John

Well, it looks like our relationship is over, almost before it began. An accidental meeting, and I feel like I’ve known you all my life. Your wisdom, your humor, the aching in your soul all new to me, but somehow familiar. How did we not cross paths before? Where have you been? Or, more likely, where have I been?

Romantic love, sexual tension can be shallow, easy. A flirt, a spark, an opportunity. But love of a spirit is different. Timeless, genderless, every kind of clean and wholesome that can be. And I believe we are kindred spirits. Presumptuous of me, I suppose, since I don’t know if you would have felt the same.

So, there you were in one of the music-streaming mixes that keeps me company in a workday. One song, and I was hooked. You had something different that resonated with me.

I began asking relatives and old friends from the 60’s and 70’s, “How did we miss this guy?” Or was it just me, young, sweet, and clueless, who failed to pick you out from the crowd? No one could say.

I caught up quickly, every song deepening the connection. Your spoken introductions, and later, every recorded interview I could find, giving me glimpses into the mind and soul that makes your music.

Devastated to learn you were sick with Covid 19, we joined so many others with prayers for your health. It was early days, and Covid was even more frightening by the mysteries of what it is and how it works. By then, I knew of your cancer survival – not once, but twice – by the grace of God. And I knew that some lung problems were still with you. Lungs, the Achilles’ heel of Covid recovery.

Someone, somewhere, announced that you were improving, and we were grateful – just long enough to find out that you’d died. It’s a cruel thing to be given hope, and then have it collapse. But sometimes, you know, that’s the way that the world goes around.

In loving and respectful memory of John Prine and his music that will always enhance our lives. Thank you, John.

(c) 2021, J. L. Cools

New Eyes

O MAN OF TWO VISIONS! Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the Beloved.


This concise bit of guidance is something from the Baha’i Faith – an excerpt from a little book called The Hidden Words. The selections cover all sorts of topics from personal reflection and growth, to world affairs, to obscure ponderings of life itself. Each is an encapsulated concept, worthy of independent consideration, though I’ll admit that this one has special meaning for me.

It’s been a favorite selection of mine for a very long time, brought back to mind recently while I’m busy coming to grips with getting old. I don’t feel old… but doctors keep slipping phrases like “the elderly” into our conversations. Another recent one was “cataract surgery.”

I first heard about my cataracts a number of years ago. I rationalized them away with the doctor’s assurances that they were just beginning, and that my folks had had cataracts and that, heck, doesn’t everybody get cataracts? At an annual exam two years ago, the doctor said “It’s time” for the surgery. I put it off.

The following year, I got the same advice and I gave in. I opted for the top-of-the-line lens, and got set for two outpatient surgeries, since they won’t do both eyes on the same day. My first surgery was scheduled for March 26, 2020.

For anyone here in Michigan who is good with dates, you’ll already guess where this is going. Covid shut down everything in Michigan on March 23. My surgery was cancelled.

At first I was really frustrated. I had finally committed, and darn it, I wanted to go through with the surgery. Well, yeah….. except if it isn’t safe. Then no. And YIKES! What if I had the first surgery and everything shut down before I could have the second eye finished? Walk around indefinitely with one eye fixed and only one lens in my glasses for the remaining eye?

OK, fine…. I’ll wait.

Well, by early October surgeries were going again. Covid testing is mandatory for staff and patients alike, so I got set up. The first surgery went fine, and I got accustomed to the aftercare sessions four times a day with four or more different eye drops.

Recovery has been slower than I hoped it would be. The new eye however, allowed me to get an idea about the extent of the cataracts. Of course they develop over time, and like so many things that happen slowly, we just don’t notice.

With one eyed cleared of the cataract and the other eye still sporting its cataract cloak, there was a striking difference in vision – particularly in the clarity of colors. The operative eye was seeing a lot more blue-tone colors, clearer whites. The waiting eye was seeing a darker field, as if that eye was wearing an amber sunglass lens.

As I experimented with the differences, I would try to explain what I was seeing to my husband (and I cannot imagine that he found all of this as fascinating as I did). One expression was that the cataract eye’s vision was like being in a room where the lights were too dim. Another was the look of odd light that comes during an eclipse.

To accomplish this research, I would close one eye and open the other, comparing the light, comparing the colors one eye to the next. The act of doing that, of course brought me back to the quotation that began this post.

“Close one eye and open the other…” was written in the Persian language. And those many years ago when I was a student of Persian, this little passage was the first thing that I was able to read in the original, and comprehend. A special moment for any language student.

Another layer of special is added now, as I work with the challenges that we “elderly” face to restore or retain our sight. Close one eye to the gunky, collected dross of living for years on planet earth….. and open the other to beauty inside and out. Here’s to new eyes, and clear vision.

(c) 2020, J. Cools

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