The wood between the worlds

Sophia Loren keeps it classy

Some weeks ago I had a bit of a breakdown. Maybe more than a bit. Now everything feels awkward, like there’s a wall between me and everyone else. I worry I’ll say inappropriate, alienating things. Sometimes I do. I waiver between wanting to talk about all this and not wanting to talk about it at all. I’m in the wood between the worlds.

Today we had my favourite butcher and paring knives sharpened by an old man in a tinker truck. He drives slowly through the neighbourhood once a month, clanging a marvelous bell. He’s heavy-handed so I can’t see him too often, but it will be nice to have some good, sharp edges for a while. As we stood at the back of the truck  waiting, a kid walked past. He was maybe all of sixteen. He lingered for a moment, curious, watching the grinding wheel. He wanted to know, but he was too cool to ask; I was too awkward to offer.

I have to guess the man in the truck has been sharpening knives here since the 50s. It’s an old neighbourhood, and though the dog-and-stroller crowd are taking over, there are still lots of traditional services you can’t find in other places. (The deli around the corner displays great, jellied trays of head cheese.)

When I lived at home, my father sharpened our knives. I guess when we move to the country, we’ll do that, too. I have no idea where other people have their knives sharpened. Is it still a thing we do?

Lately, I have been unable to shake the feeling linear time is nonsense. I find myself making mental notes to do things differently the next time around (things like my 20s) or wondering when it will be the past again. When they present themselves, those ideas seem so logical I can’t help but give them credence. Then I remind myself, very sternly, that it is unhelpful to think that way. (Infinite time tends to suck the urgency out of things.)

This is not to say I am flat out crazy-balls. I’ve been unhappy for too long and the human brain has strange ways of responding to that. Besides, you never know but strange ideas could be the beginning of genius.

Whatever the case, I can slice a tomato like you wouldn’t believe.







11 thoughts on “The wood between the worlds

  1. When I was a child, the knife sharpener would pull his grinding wheel through the streets, ringing his bell. I associated him with the popcorn man, whose whistle could be heard on summer evenings as he also wheeled his cart through the neighbourhoods, attracting a crowd of children. These entrepreneurs were always Italian immigrants with broken English. I recall only one occasion when my mother ran out to the street to have our knives sharpened. As an adult, I have always sharpened my own knives.

  2. I love that a knife-sharpening truck is a thing that exists. I have never heard of that before – and, actually, I don’t recall my parents ever sharpening our knives, or getting them sharpened. Did we never need to slice things?

    I could buy the idea that linear time is nonsense. Lately I find myself in the middle of having thoughts that, in the moment, seem very new, only to realize at the end of them that really I’ve been having the same thoughts for my whole life. They just always show up wearing a slightly different outfit. Sometimes I wonder life is so long just because some lessons take 80 years to sink in.

  3. I’ve learned to read your entries, every word, with a special appreciation for the depth, clarity, and often novelty of your ‘reports from the battle-front’.
    “…unable to shake the feeling linear time is nonsense..’ alone is food for thought served tantalizingly. With my memory (no, my perspective and on-going picture of where I am exactly in life) kinda deteriorating in subtle ways at 65, , I am using lots of ‘tricks’ to make sense of, for example, my own 20s.
    Here (new topic) instead of the knife-guy we have the famous used furniture/appliances guy, usually an Arab in a van, yelling ‘alte zachen!’ in yiddish most afternoons as he cruises around. Mixed feelings, since lots of the merchandise was stolen. I often yell back, “Yeah, that used to be my ‘neuesa zachen’ (new stuff)
    Still in the end it’s better than an alien future society of concrete, big-box stores, and cockroaches.
    I know the conflict of worrying about ‘inappropriate’ voicings. Cuz on the one hand we are being honest and true, on the other, quizzical or judgmental reactions are a part of the woods we inhabit, and the easy route is to attempt to simply avoid that brain-noise.
    Hmm.. every morning I studiously re-read any emails I’d sent the previous night, to re-judge whether my tone was straightforward, and not overly eye-brow-raising.
    So far so good, I must say, but it’s ridiculously easy to be branded a nut-case.

    (I have, though, just invented a new verb in Hebrew: ‘to ratlan’, as in “Wow, this past three weeks I’ve ratlaned the hell out of all my gardens!” Ok, the source of the verb is that ‘helper’ pill ritalin, which these days has me methodically accomplishing the chores of ten grown men daily. Ok, maybe seven.
    At any rate, a special warm place in my heart for your pilgrim’s progress. And yes, ‘linear time’ will be my topic while trying to fall asleep tonight. Be well/JS

    • I’ve missed you. And this was a wonderful comment. And I read all my emails after I’ve sent them, too, because I need to be sure. (I’m also terribly paranoid about sending them to the wrong person.) Although it often occurs to me how useless that is–that if I were a bit more clever I would save them to drafts and the re-read them BEFORE I SEND THEM.
      I wonder sometimes if my incredulity of linear time is mostly borne of the feeling this life is too narrow in its scope. Or perhaps this self. It seems incongruous to confine so much potential in such a flawed container and allow it only a moment of existence. Although I guess then we’re onto the whole “to say ‘allow’ suggests intelligent design and what if it’s all just chaos and coincidence” thing.
      So many twisty knots.

  4. I’m awfully glad that you are feeling well enough to write here.

    I was thinking about the linearity of time the other day. How many of our choices would be different if we factored the one-way nature of our experience of time into our decision making?

  5. Coincidentally, I have been having similar thoughts about the nature of time lately and most recently about 11 hours ago just after crawling into bed. Must be something in the atmosphere, I guess.

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