My Wobbly Bicycle, 149

Posted by on Apr 25, 2018 | 16 comments

downloadReading Jeanette Winterson’s Art Objects shifted something in me. I’ve been sitting here a long time beside Jerry’s hospital bed. Generally, hospital-sitting makes me numb, or, rather, attentive basically only to what needs to be done at the moment. One thing after the other. People come in, people leave. Things have been like this a long time, or rather, time after time. Which is why you haven’t seen posts much lately. There’s a particular energy that has been missing, or, rather, used as fuel toward bare existence. This is all fine, but there comes a time—and this is what I’ve been thinking about—when just-living jumps a cog and tears through the ordinary into the shall-we-call-it? Creative.


IMG_1968We have had one surgery after another here. This last year Jerry has had a major back surgery followed shortly by the need for a hip replacement. He had an abdominal hernia in the middle of all that. Then the hip replacement dramatically failed, which is where things are right now. Getting ready to try to fix that. Pain has been our constant companion for a long, long time, which makes for a great deal of bed-rock simplicity as well as a hunkering down. Hunkering down does not admit much that isn’t immediately useful.

Then surprisingly I wanted to write to you again. “You” being my “letter to the world,” as E. Dickinson would say. The “you” being not exactly a real you, although I am sure you are, but more like the way the taproot I call newness chooses to reveal itself in the world.  Such newness is of the spirit and doesn’t bypass the mundane so much as illuminate it at last, make it visible beyond the dead language, the cliché, the plodding, that has kept it embalmed.


So, my question was, is, why and how now, rather than earlier? Or later? We’re still stuck here in the cardiac ward. We’re waiting to make sure that the atrial fibrillation that was showing up yesterday just minutes before Jerry was ready to go into hip revision surgery is not “serious.” So far I think it’s okay. Many of us have funny heartbeats, especially when we’re anxious. Especially when we’ve been waiting in the hospital for four days for this surgery. Especially after a long spell of extravagant hip pain. Here we are, having coffee, Jerry reading the paper. Nurses in and out.


But, sitting here, I read one of Jeanette Winterson’s brilliant essays about the nature of art, how art “works,” and works on us. In the room of my soul, you might say, the lights had been turned down—for ease of sleeping, for ease of coping—and Winsterson walked in and turned them back up. This, I’m thinking, is how it works. Something turns the lights up.


download-1It isn’t enough to see or read or hear art, however. There has to be a way in. A door already unlocked. Then someone needs to stand at the darkened doorway and turn on the light in the next room. It could be Picasso, or Mozart, or the Buddha, or Jesus. Then, besides that, there must be a close teacher, intimate to us, whose life has been infused, often through a great deal of study and work, with what will be transmitted. Once there is a light, there must be someone pointing. A transmission.


I use the word art, but what I’m really thinking is spirit. Aliveness. Awake-ness. This is why we who do art, do it even when no one gets it, when it seems unintelligible or crazy. Or a waste of time. We’ve gotten hold of a thread of light that even we don’t get, yet. And may never, completely. All we know is that it’s alive. And that our teacher saw it, and so we went after it.


  1. Dearest Fleda: You have been spending far too much time in recent years either in hospital (as the Brits say) or at the hospital. My prayers for you and Jerry both. But for all your demurring, it seems you have been showing us all a thread of light that burns about as brighty as any I can imagine. Love you.

    • I can always count on your to make me smile. Thank you my dear friend.

  2. Good to hear from you. Hip revision can be quite something (my bro in law)…”Fierce Grace” as Ram Das says.

    • I hope it goes well. It looks like a pretty big deal, from the pictures of how it’s done. All those screws and plates. Oh my.

  3. Fleda, this is smart and moving. So often, it is just when I need it most that I can’t open the window or door or whatever it is to let art’s consolation in. And then when I do, I’m baffled that I resisted. I’m wishing the best for you and Jerry, all the doors and windows open–scary as that is. Thank you so much for this. love, Sharon

    • Thanks Sharon, I’ve ignored my site for a while, just now reading this.
      Love, Fleda

  4. Prayers for you both.

    • Thanks, George.

  5. Hello Fleda, Our mutual colleague and dear friend Anne-Marie Oomen shared this blog post with me. We’re together here in Grand Rapids (Anne-Marie is staying at my house) working on events for our new book. It was wonderful to meet you last week in Traverse City and enlightening to meet you again through this post. My father went through serious back surgeries, so I definitely know the journey you and your husband are traveling. I’m also very moved by your thoughts about art. Having said that, I have a little gift I’d like to share with you: I’ll give it to AMO to take back with her when she leaves GR today. My prayers are with you and Jerry. All my best, Linda

  6. Dear Fleda,

    I was looking to find a “Contact” page on your website where I might send you an email, but I couldn’t find one. However, I am so happy to have found your blog. Looking forward to reading more of “My Wobbly Bicycle.”

    I’m married to Jonathan Maule, by the way, and we run Aperçus together. Great to have your work in our journal. Thank you.

    Sending my positive vibes to you and Jerry.

    LI Henley

    • Hi Lauren, You’re right, I need an email there. I keep remembering to fix that. Haven’t looked at the comments for a while. Thanks so much for writing. Your journal is lovely! I’m going to get back to blogging, it seems.

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  8. Fleda, it’s so good to hear from you again. Best wishes for a speedy resolution of this latest trial.

    • Thanks Pamela!

  9. Dear Fleda,
    Your note struck a bolt of fear in me, as I was 11 weeks out of my hip replacement at the time. I hope that Jerry’s revision surgery went well. You both deserve a break. David took excellent care of me, and I am trying tennis again. We both miss seeing you.

    • Hi Lindsey. It did go well the second time, but Jerry’s having a great deal of pain again. Sacrum, it looks like. I miss you too. I wonder when we’ll be in the same place again.

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