Monday, May 7, 2007

And suddenly, we're a week into May...

...lilacs everywhere,
and the angle of light saying--finally--YES, summer WILL come
and the long shadows of this northern latitude will recede
as warmth accumulates and the greenery darkens...

A nest of starlings peeps and tweets in the ceiling of our balcony.
(Maybe our parrots will learn to imitate their baby-talk?)
I see the parent-birds come and go all day, after grocery-shopping in the treetops below us.

The Mountain is crystalline on the SE horizon.

Spring seems oblivious, here, to the headlines from Iraq--
everyday we hear--as background noise, unbelievably--
more dozens of deaths from suicide bombers in marketplaces in Baghdad;
errand-running lives snuffed out, so matter-of-factly...
Not to mention the Virginia Tech massacre
--"another school-shooting" goes the inevitable phrase...

These things came to mind ( again) the other day, when the following comic-strip appeared in the paper:

Question: why evil?
Needed: answers...
So many platitudes have led people to hands-up-in-the-air-agnosticism, at best,
and hateful atheism at worst...


A few weeks ago, on the flight from Tucson back to Seattle,
I began reading Wallace Stegner's novel "Angle of Repose."
For years, on my 'list'...finally finished--what a great book!

(I guess I'm on a Western kick...
I've been reading lots of essays by Barbara Kingsolver as well, dealing with the West, among other things...
Incidentally, Kingsolver's essays come closest, in what I've read recently, to the spirit of Montaigne's essays.)

A passage from the beginning of "Angle of Repose" stands out, for me,
especially in this month of May. (My father died ten years ago this month, one day shy of 65.)

In the novel, the narrator, an aging partially paralyzed historian, is involved in researching and writing a book about his grandparents, who were among the first people from 'back east' who tried to 'carve civilization' into the West.

He writes of how the physical law of the Doppler effect 'teases him' as he tries to apply it to history:

"The sound of anything coming at you--a train, say, or the future--has a higher pitch than the sound of the same thing going away. If you have perfect pitch and a head for mathetmatics you can compute the speed of the object by the interval between its arriving and departing sounds. I have neither perfect pitch nor a head for mathematics, and anyway who wants to compute the speed of history? Like all falling bodies, it constantly accelerates. But I would like hear your (his grandmother's) life as you heard it, coming at you, instead of hearing it as I do, a sober sound of expectations reduced, desires blunted, hopes deferred or abandoned, chances lost, defeats accepted, griefs borne. I don't fine your life uninteresting...I would like to hear it as it sounded while it was passing..."

Ten years after my father's death,
with a bit more empathy and insight that comes from being an adult,
I wish I could 'hear my dad's life' as he did...

I wish he could hear mine.

1 comment:

  1. joe, you need to leave teaching and become a writer.
    your words about your father were so moving. you really have a way w/ words.