In Praise of John Donne

S M Chen
6 min readDec 5, 2020
photo: S M Chen

“… send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.”

  • John Donne, English poet. Meditations XVII. Devotions on Emergent Occasions. 1624.

As I returned a forceful first serve from an opponent on the tennis court at which I am fortunate to still play during this pandemic, I heard an unusual sound — a thwack — from my racquet and knew I’d broken another set of strings. I didn’t even glance at the racquet.

I was able to finish the point before switching to another racquet (I carry four in my bag, just in case).

After we were done playing doubles, and the other players had left, I debated what to do.

It was just last month that I broke strings on another similar racquet.

Given how often I play (almost daily), it is a wonder strings last as long as they do. I’ve gone months, at times, without strings breaking. Then this: twice in a month.

I was probably overdue.

Last month I chose to restring at a sporting goods store in another city, recommended by a fellow player. It was closer than the place where I’d gotten restrung in the past. Another place geographically even closer was presumably closed during the pandemic. I’d called a couple times and gotten only a phone recording.

But I wasn’t entirely pleased with the recent restring job. The yellow strings shifted more easily than I’d anticipated; I wondered if perhaps the restring tension was less than what I’d requested.

So, after confirming a more familiar tennis shop was open, I proceeded to go there.

I chose a string and tension and left the racquet, which would be ready 3 days hence.

About to head home, I remembered my daughter lived nearby. I texted her.

Particularly in recent times, she has been thoughtful enough to inquire as to my well-being at least every couple days. Sometimes it’s an e-mail. Or text message.

But it tells me she cares. It is just one of the reasons I appreciate her.

She happened to be home, and invited me over.