Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Homeric Wallop

Wallop is a term my housemate, Allyson, uses to describe a series of bad events that are beyond control and leave you exhausted, depressed, and with little energy to fight back. Last week I received a wallop of epic proportions, at least from the perspective of someone spoiled by retirement and on a journey to better health and fitness.

Last week I had a routine appointment to remove a non-cancerous growth on the inside of my knee. The procedure was painless, but what I was not prepared for was the large (the size of a fifty cent piece) open wound which had to be bandaged and prevented me from entering a public swimming pool. Then on Thursday I awoke with a sharp pain in my back right molar that shot down my jaw. This necessitated an emergency root canal, during which my dentist put so much pressure on my jaw that I developed a painful crook in my neck that did not allow me to turn my head to the right.

On Friday, I awoke to a residual jaw ache, a neck ache and a painful stomach which I attributed to the pain killers I had been taking. Unfortunately this was a missed diagnosis and I proceeded to develop a four day bout with a rough stomach and intestinal virus. By the weekend, during which I had planned to clean my office and bake a birthday cake and a brisket for my five year-old grandson, Pierre, (who loves meat), I was laid out in bed, miserable, feeling walloped. My mind took a turn for the depressive side and I felt that all my efforts to improve my physical condition and run a mile would never succeed.

What saved me from this bout of self-pity, was the book I am reading, the Odyssey by Homer. As I lay there miserable in body and heart, I came to think that the Great Achilles, son of Zeus, and God of foot speed, was taking direct aim at me during my heroic journey to run a mile run at a competitive track meet. But what had I done to cause the great God's indignation? Certainly not striving for good health and walking around Brookside Garden? And then it hit me. I had bragged about my zen moment on the path in this very blog!

With that thought I came to the passage where Odysseus sails close to the cave of Skylla, the horrible monster with twelve tentacled legs and six heads, and believes he is sneaking upon her (note: monsters in literature are usually "her") until:

"By heaven! when she
vomited, all the sea was like a cauldron
seething over intense fire, when the mixture
suddenly heaves and rises..."1
This sent be running for the bathroom head hung in the toilet bowl.
Afterwards I composed this:
Oh Achilles, God of flight, take pity on this woman
whose heroic voyage to be fleet of foot
has mired in this bed of deep malaise. Forgive her for the
words of pride, which she so thoughtlessly bestowed
upon this audience.
She has learned now, oh winged one, son of Zeus,
to respect that your gift is rare
through heaving bouts spent in the loos.
This morning I felt much better and did two blocks of floor exercise. Tomorrow, God willing, I will return to the track.
1 " Homer, "The Odyssey," translated by Robert Fitzgerald, 1961.


  1. I am worryed, would like to hear you are ok.
    A stranger who wants to hear more from you on this effort.

  2. Thanks for caring. I am fine. I just keep getting all these minor illnesses. Actually I am thankful I have nothing serious to deal with. I will write more often. Keep reading. I love the comments from strangers, Martha Miriam)