Pen self-portrait of Leonard Cohen published in Fifteen Poems

I can’t say he woke me up but he definitely got me to haul my ass out of bed, and a good bit sooner than I’d have preferred, too.

This past few weeks have been rough. You may have noticed that the “Fall Into Productivity” event just sort of … stopped. Rather abruptly. More on that later but basically, I lost the thread.

I was focused on the election. I’m not going to say anymore about that here except for this: It’s been a horribly stressful few weeks here lately, and I haven’t slept well at all for most of it. Only in the last day or two has it started to improve, ever so slightly – and when I say “improve,” what I mean is that I’m up to six hours or so a night, and I’ve been waking up shortly after 5 AM.

So this morning, that’s what happened. 5:15 AM.

I sighed. I rolled over in bed, pulled the covers up higher, tucked in my legs to conserve more body heat, grabbed my phone and opened my browser to a few of the sites whose work I most enjoy.

A few clicks later I found myself on a page where 24 words brought me up short. Here’s what I read:

…[D]espite his diminished health, Cohen remains as clear-minded and hardworking as ever, soldierly in his habits. He gets up well before dawn and writes.

You guys, the man he’s writing about here is, at the time of writing, 82 years old. He’s in pain from compression fractures of his spine. He will die mere weeks after publication of this profile.

But until that happens, he will keep getting up well before dawn and he will write.

I read this on my phone’s cramped little browser, squinting at the bright light in the dark under the covers. I read it again. And again.

I looked at the tiny digital clock in the toolbar. 5:42 AM.

I grabbed a thick sweater, pulled it on in the dark. Rummaged around in the dresser drawer for socks, pulled them on in the dark. Grabbed my arm warmers, my shawl (hey, it’s basically South Canada where I am, and in my little attic room under the eaves, it’s freakin’ cold).

And I hauled my grumbling, unhappy ass out of my warm bed and into the cold air and down the creaky, narrow, slightly too steep stairs to my laptop.

To this page.

To these words.

Further Reading

On Leonard Cohen

Some of the better pieces on Leonard Cohen I’ve read recently include:

On Writing and Other Creative Work

A friend on Facebook confessed she felt like returning to her art studio was specious and ridiculous at a time like this, post-election. “Does art even matter anymore?” she asked.

To a one, those of us who are her friends and fellow artists, writers, etc., responded with a variation on a theme: “Art is what matters most right now.”

Image credit: Self-portrait by Leonard Cohen, published in Fifteen Poems

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