Tag Archives: life

Suddener than we fancy it.

SNOW

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes —
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands —
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

-Louis MacNeice

Your taste for the mundane grows.

This weekend Soldier and Joy were here with Liam and Laddie. Soldier spent most of his time building two redwood planting boxes for my future vegetables. The first day I helped him at the table saw in the surprisingly burning sun, but he was at it for twice as long by himself and appreciated the iced ginger ale that Joy carried out to him.

The second day he worked just as hard (after church) in spite of drizzle turning to rain, having to work in the dark at the end, and still without the satisfaction of completing the job. The rest of us (including a couple of friends off and on) had less work and probably more P1020554 GLfun, feeding children and wiping them up, taking them to the potty, reading stories, putting them down for naps, calming quarrels, picking up matchbox cars and puzzle pieces, laughing and chasing, kissing and hugging.

It all reminded me of this poem, which I share with you because I can’t write a custom one that might more perfectly capture our own family’s contentedness.

The Continuous Life

What of the neighborhood homes awash
In a silver light, of children hunched in the bushes,
Watching the grown-ups for signs of surrender,
Signs that the irregular pleasures of moving
From day to day, of being adrift on the swell of duty,
Have run their course? O parents, confess
To your little ones the night is a long way off
And your taste for the mundane grows; tell them
Your worship of household chores has barely begun;
Describe the beauty of shovels and rakes, brooms and mops;
Say there will always be cooking and cleaning to do,
That one thing leads to another, which leads to another;
Explain that you live between two great darks, the first
With an ending, the second without one, that the luckiest
Thing is having been born, that you live in a blur
Of hours and days, months and years, and believe
It has meaning, despite the occasional fear
You are slipping away with nothing completed, nothing
To prove you existed. Tell the children to come inside,
That your search goes on for something you lost—a name,
A family album that fell from its own small matter
Into another, a piece of the dark that might have been yours,
You don’t really know. Say that each of you tries
To keep busy, learning to lean down close and hear
The careless breathing of earth and feel its available
Languor come over you, wave after wave, sending
Small tremors of love through your brief,
Undeniable selves, into your days, and beyond.

–Mark Strand

Make haste to live.

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom elaborates on what the Orthodox exhortation to “remember your death” really means. 

St. Paul in one of his epistles says that we must make haste to live because time is deceptive. We live all the days of our life as though we were writing hastily, carelessly, a draft of life that one day we will copy in fair hand. It is as though we are just preparing to build, collecting all that will later be organized into beauty, harmony, and meaning…. But years pass and we never do it.

elder Paisios the Hagiorite
St. Paisios of Mt. Athos

This is not only because death comes, but because at every period of life we become unable to do what the previous period would have allowed us to do. It is not in our mature years that we can achieve a beautiful and meaningful youth, as it is not in old age that we can reveal to God and to the world what we might have been in our years of maturity. There is a time for all things, but once the time has gone, these things can no longer be done.

Victor Hugo said that there is fire in the eyes of the young, but there should be light in the eyes of the old. The time of the glowing fire passes, the time of light reaches us, but when the time of being a light has come, we can no longer do those things that can be done only in the days of our flaming. Time is deceptive. When we are told that we must remember death, it is not in order to give us a fear of life; it is in order to make us live with all the intensity that we could possibly have if we were aware that every moment is the only moment we possess…. And so the remembrance of death seems to be the only power that makes life ultimately intense.

–Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, From Living Orthodoxy in the Modern World

 (I put a photo of St. Paisios as an example of someone who shined with a bright light.)