As I was leaving the classroom yesterday at around 6:30 p.m. (after having been there since 9:30 a.m.) I hoisted first my heavily packed black purse onto my right shoulder, putting the long strap over my head so that it wouldn't slip off, then I added the much larger leather tote bag that's big enough to hold the big stack of manila files filled with handouts, plus my laptop. Then I picked up the grocery bag that contained the seven books I had recommended to my workshop students, my water bottle and leftover lunch foods, the laptop adaptor cord, and a final flurry of the misc. this's and that's . . . that go into running a one-day workshop.
I stood by the door, turned out the last light, looked around the almost dark room to make sure everything was as it should be, then opened the thick, extremely heavy front door, a door that you might imagine at a prison not a classroom, except that it's a nice deep apple green color, not prison gray. And it opens onto a room filled with orange, the color of joy, and warm cream, and brick red and many of my treasured belongings that once lit up my cottage home— a small, gold framed Modigliani print, a paper tote bag with a Picasso painting on it (that Toby gave me long ago), two mosaic-tile framed mirrors with tiles of green, blue and deep yellow, scrounged at some garage sale eons ago, and many other special things, each one that contains meaningful and good memories.
I managed to get this slab of a door open, manueveured myself and my gear out into the hall, got the deadbolt locked, and then headed down the eerily long long hallway (one person told me it reminded him of the halls in that hotel where they filmed The Shining, with Jack Nicholson!) toward the stairs. Early last summer, I would barely have been able to walk down this hall even if I had been carrying nothing at all. In fact, someone might have had to carry me. If I had walked on my own, it would have taken me ten minutes instead of thirty seconds to get from one end to the other. And at the end, I would have been out of breath and, most likely, in a fair amount of pain.
This sad memory, even when not a conscious one, is embedded in my cells now. But that is not a bad thing, because along with the memory I also carry an abiding gratitude for having been given this reprieve for the last year-plus. Every weighty load I hoist over my shoulders, every heavy, book-filled bag I lift, every leaden slab of a door I drag open . . . I count as a blessing, not a curse.