"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Ides of Whatever

Posting a day late in honor of the time - honored
historic and historical Ides of March.

I came across this mysteriously annotated sugar packet when cleaning out my backpack the other day. How can I explain it? I searched my mind but drew a blank. It seems that once again I've written a note to myself yet completely forgotten what it was that I intended to remember. I can only assume that at some point in my travels, a stray thought crossed my mind -- something about "The Present" -- and, having a pen in hand but no paper, I jotted down a note to myself on the nearest portable surface -- thank goodness for the ubiquity of sugar packets!

It wouldn't be the first time! A friend of mine at Notre Dame asked me once how I could write down so little, and I assured her that I would retain what I needed to know. She couldn't believe that sometimes I didn't even have a notebook, and she liked to say that if I suddenly needed to write something down, I would just reach back and tear the label from my tee - shirt and jot down a word or two for future reference. I never really did that, but I liked that story!

Alas, despite my best intentions, I am unable to interpret the sugar packet message, sent by my very own self from the past into the future, never to be understood in the present. I am not alone, however; Joan Didion's journal entry -- "dinner with E, depressed" -- suffers the same indecipherable fate:

Who is E?
Was this "E" depressed,
or was I depressed?

Maybe one day my sugar packet message will reveal itself to me. Was I thinking of a gift for someone -- a present to purchase, wrap, send, or bring to a party? Was it perhaps a self - actualizing reminder to stay focused on the time at hand, to live in the present moment. One thing I know for sure, I will never solve this riddle by staring at the sugar packet, so I think it is about time to move on to some prose and poetry about time.

"Lets look to the past only as it gives us pleasure.
And look to the future only as it gives us hope."

from Death Comes to Pemberley (2011)
by P. D. James (1920 - 2014)

Jane Austen version:
"Think only of the past as its
remembrance gives you pleasure."

So often we are impatient for time to pass. Years ago, in a book from childhood, I read a story that warned against such impatience. I have lost all the details -- title, author, plot; yet one scene has stayed with me, though I can no longer recall the names of the characters: the grandchildren are piled into a one - horse open sleigh, riding over the river and through the wood with their grandfather. Excited for their destination, they start wishing they were already there, but the grandfather warns: "You must never wish the time away!" How often that line has come back to me!

Even so, we sometimes wish for the time to fly. The Here and Now can drive us a little crazy -- making us tense, so to speak! It might be that you are not really into the Ides of March, or the Ides of He Who Must Not Be Named, or the Ides of Whatever. Maybe March just isn't your favorite month, as was certainly the case for one of my favorite Philadelphia columnists Karen Heller (now of the Washington Post). In her humorous essay "Nine days to go," she gloomily describes the final days of February:
You must not fight February but embrace it like the cold, wet, aging testy, mangy, drooling gray mutt that it is. February is here to make us appreciate May . . . How can you love May when you haven't Februaryed in grand style? And so we wallow and we wait knowing that only this month could deliver a comeback, a punchline, a headache as nasty and wicked and ugly as February.
~ from the Philadelphia Inquirer, mid 1990s
Poet Leonard Orr shares the negative sentiment, suggesting "daychotomies" or "weekectomies" to get through the offending times, going so far as to eliminate entirely The Month That Must Not Be Named. Even the title offers some alternatives to the Present Tense:
Past Tense, Future Tense
My naive calendar has so much sadness now
I could not stand it. Little did I know,
little did I know. I snipped away the foul days.
I completely excised whatever was that
month after February, its name I will not mention.
If it comes up accidentally, I drown it out
with whirling greigers and stamping feet.
turned out far better, though individual days
when we could not be together, these I carefully
snipped away, performing daychotomies,
weekectomies, and sutured the ragged sad edges
together, wetting the wounds as needed
with my abundant fluids, all my excess. I expanded
those few times we were together, those dates
receiving hour - augmentations; I botoxed my tongue,
the tips of my fingers, to seal inside me those
recollections of you, the spectacular aerie,
the tiny bits of time, ticking, always ticking.
May and the first days of June, little did I konw,
little did I know, so wonderful and blissful,
joyful in my last days, my running out of sand,
and now these blanks of time, soggy, unprinted
months with no days, no light, no passionate glowing.

(emphasis added)
~ Leonard Orr ~
from his collection Why We Have Evening

Political Post Script for
The Ides of Trump

My postcard messasges:
1. Stop Gerrymandering
2. Protect Planned Parenthood & Roe v. Wade
3. Don't Build the Wall
4. Remember the traditional motto of our country:
E Pluribus Unum
5. Honor the Statue of Liberty:
"Give me your tired your poor . . . the homeless . . .
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, March 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

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