Calling in Well

There was an endearing 1980s novel Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins which remains unlike any other novel I have read since then.

The late singer songwriter Dan Fogelberg was inspired by this book to write his song  ‘Make Love Stay’, the group La Dispute wrote a song ‘One’ which consists of quotes from the novel, and the Drew Barrymore character is reading this book over and over each morning over breakfast in the comedy/romance film, 50 First Dates.

All these years later, passages from it are still quoted

Woodpecker was written at the tail end of the LSD generation and in an age when people were more comfortable surfing their own minds than they are in today’s internet-friendly age.

I haven’t read the book since the 1980s and am reluctant to revisit … it is a bit like not wanting to go back to a place for fear that what delighted you then will leave you cold now – or worse — what you remember is not really what is there. This happened to me when I re-read The World According to Garp by John Irving, which was written around the same time as Woodpecker. The ending of the Garp book was not at all the way I remembered it to be, turns out I had rewritten a much ‘happier’ ending in my mind’s eye!

However, several of the many quirky sayings of Woodpecker have stayed with me, including Calling in Well. Robbins tells his readers he knows about calling in sick, but asks us to one day consider Calling in Well.

At this time of year, of holiday peace and goodwill and New Year promises, it is timely to remember that we all have the ability to ‘call in well’ and change our landscape.

Life is short so don’t waste time on negative or mean-spirited people. Call in Well to those people!

At a neighbourhood party the other day, several people were perturbed by a newsletter that was being circulated by a local councillor, full of opinionated misinformation that this man is renowned for distributing. I keep wondering if this fellow can possibly get shallower, and he never fails with yet another example.

This man is not going to change and, as I saw at this party, people were genuinely annoyed and unhappy with him. So what is the point of this?

Our local community should just call in well, vote him out of office and let their conversation be full of fun, imagination, ideas and inspiration rather than be drawn into a web of  negativity.

I provide this Tom Robbins quote for the councillor:

If you believe in peace, act peacefully; if you believe in love, acting lovingly; if you believe every which way, then act every which way, that’s perfectly valid – but don’t go out trying to sell your beliefs to the system. You end up contradicting what you profess to believe in, and you set a bum example. If you want to change the world, change yourself.

I provide this Tom Robbins quote for the rest of us who are letting ourselves get drawn into the councillor’s web:

We are our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.

For myself, I find it far better to smile and think a happy thought and Tom Robbins gave me pages and pages of that more than 30 years ago.

I thank Robbins for that – it stays with me.

Jan Smith