Over the last few days, we’d been mulling ways to antidote the dark feeling that pervades a good deal of life these days, when the world seems more uncertain than ever. Then in the park this morning, we read this remarkable passage in a tiny Penguin Classic compilation of the great Joseph Mitchell’s writing, found at Little Free Library:
Every now and then, seeking to rid my mind of thoughts of death and doom, I get up early and go down to Fulton Fish Market.. .
…The smoky riverbank dawn, the racket the fishmongers make, the seaweedy smell, and the sign of this plentifulness always give me a feeling of wellbeing, and sometimes they elate me. I wander among the stands for an hour or so. Then I go into a cheerful market restaurant named Sloppy Louie’s and eat a big, inexpensive, invigorating breakfast—a kippered herring and scrambled eggs, or a shad-roe omelet, or split sea scallops and bacon, or some other breakfast specialty of the place.
We were lucky to have visited the Fulton Fish Market and Sloppy Louie’s well before dawn one morning three decades after Mitchell wrote about it in the early 1940’s. They are long gone now, the landscape changed forever, though the memory of them is still vivid.
What hasn’t changed is the propensity for humans to think “thoughts of death and doom” — Mitchell was feeling them 75 or so years ago when the world was mired in World War II —and especially, the possibility of finding experiences that rid our minds of them, as Mitchell found in the vivid life of a fish market and its local restaurant.
The fact that such a treasure jumped into our hands today lifted our spirit. As did this tiny Rumi poem read early this morning:
There is a strange frenzy in my head,
of bird flying,
each particle circulating on its own.
Is the one I love everywhere?
Little miracles and gifts came flying in all day…. A friend texted this image of a Buddha found in an old Japanese book…
Out of the park floated Abbey Lincoln singing Throw It Away.
And the remarkable book, Lifesaving Poems, a gift of a generous reader, opened to Everything is Going to Be Alright by Derek Mahon
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart;
the sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
So we were reminded of ways to rid our minds of “thoughts of death and doom”.