Corona Chronicles: June 18, 2021
Corona Chronicles XXXII
Flap wide wings
Yes, it’s time
You call the others
My peanuts for your trinkets
I am so much the richer one
We waited so long that by the time we finally decided to sell our 5-bedroom family home, my husband and I had become invisible – no children out playing on the lawn, no loud teenage parties, not even a dog to walk. Not paying attention, we had become the old people in the gray house.
On one of our last days in the house, my husband was mowing the front yard, now decorated with a SOLD sign, when a young neighbor stopped to introduce himself and welcome Steve to the neighborhood. I watched them shake hands as Steve haltingly explained to the young man that he was in fact not moving in, but rather moving out, moving out after more than 30 years on the street. Embarrassed, the young man wished him well and hastened away.
I remembered when we were the young people with small children, pets, even a few loud parties of our own. I remembered the first Block Party, when Mrs. Nickles welcomed me to the neighborhood, and I wondered why this older woman thought I would be interested in getting to know her. So much time had passed since then, so many lessons in humility.
We’d had a good run, we’d made some lifelong friends, but we had stayed too long. We no longer even attended the Block Parties and made no effort to learn new neighbors’ names.
When we drove away that final day, no one waved good-bye. There were no tears. Our long chapter in a house that had witnessed great joy and deep sorrow was over. Despite our long tenure, our epitaph was brief, our lasting impression so fleeting that we could have never have been there.
But, we had been there. We had played a part in that young-family world. We had chaired the Block Party, organized the potlucks, helped distribute candles for the Christmas eve luminarias. In retrospect, those years seem idyllic – a well-lit chapter full of possibilities. Parents didn’t die, children didn’t rebel, we would jog forever with healthy lungs and flexible joints. We would never be the old people on the block.
And then we were, and we had to leave, let someone new live in the gray house. We would rotate to the next position and fill our empty nest with new adventures, with an earned understanding that things may not always turn out for the best, but they do turn out. And, we would try to be ready, looking for opportunities and watching our timing.
“Will there ever be a Conservative Studies Program at Georgetown University?”
Two decades ago at a University open house a prospective graduate student posed that question to Phyllis O”Callaghan, then director of the University’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program.
With an Irish twinkle in her eye and the authority of a university dean, Dr. O’Callaghan explained liberal studies at Georgetown was not a political approach to learning, but a serious and demanding interdisciplinary effort bringing together students and faculty in the broad pursuit of knowledge—in essence liberating the mind.
I was in the audience that evening, a recent and appreciative graduate of Georgetown’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program during which I had sought to expand my knowledge of history and philosophy, supplement previous degrees in literature and government, and seek connections and contexts.
I wrote my master’s thesis on four Walt Whitman poems published between 1856 and 1883, seemingly a narrow and limited topic. It was not. “The Good Gray Poet” of nineteenth-century America was not merely a poet but, in his word, “multitudes.” Walt Whitman was born in rural America and died in industrial America, a remarkable poet for sure, but also a mystic, lover, democrat, nativist, nurse, and self-promoter. He celebrated Abraham Lincoln and the American Union, but also the Suez Canal, the transcontinental railroad, and the transatlantic telegraph cable. He sought to reconcile humankind and an understood god. He was an essayist, a newspaper editor, a prolific letter writer, and the author of two undistinguished novels, one of which yielded Whitman the largest payment for a single work. (Leaves of Grass was a financial failure.) Whitman, person and writer, was both consistent and contradictory.
Almost three decades later, as a person, a student, and a college teacher, I continue to champion “multitudes,” to pursue the consistencies and contradictions of history, philosophy, literature, government and science for consistency and contradiction in social, economic, technological and spiritual context. To find worth in the comforting, challenging, inspiring and sometimes discouraging fuller world of human existence.
Thoughts for the Day
All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can simply learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart.
~SARAH BAN BREATHNACH
~Again and again, I am reminded that the wild, like the human spirit, cannot be managed or reproduced, it can only be recognized, protected, and honored.
Courtesy of Gratefulness.org