A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


People Who Live

People who live by the sea
understand eternity.
They copy the curves of the waves,
their hearts beat with the tides,
& the saltiness of their blood
corresponds with the sea.

They know that the house of flesh
is only a sandcastle
built on the shore,
that skin breaks
under the waves
like sand under the soles
of the first walker on the beach
when the tide recedes.

Each of us walks there once,
watching the bubbles
rise up through the sand
like ascending souls,
tracing the line of the foam,
drawing our index fingers
along the horizon
pointing home.

"People Who Live" by Erica Jong, from Becoming Light. © Harper Perennial, 1981. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

I love this poem by Erica Jong. I confess to an off-on relation with her because she was a early and fairly strident feminist who often made me angry and uncomfortable mostly because I was not ready for the rhetoric, maybe because of the guilt she made me feel--perhaps this was her self-appointed role!  Whatever! Enough said about that because this poem is impressive.

The sentiments and ideas really touched me in lots of ways.  I lived many years at or near the Connecticut shoreline. And, yes, the sea did help me better understand the concept of eternity. Every time I was on the beach or in a boat, my mind expanded to contemplative thoughts--ponderings--about what all the earth's seas must contain: living things like whales and krill and manta rays and dolphins and tuna and starfish; the inanimate contents like newly formed structures where tectonic plates meet and clash and slide over or under each other; fortunes in precious metals and gems that have been formed miles below the bottom of the sea and erupted out; or sunken U-boats and galleons, the bones of millions of sailors and swimmers and suicide and murder victims, the currents of fresh water mixing with the brine.  What stories the sea would tell, if it could, of what was hidden there, dissolved there, floating there.  I would love to ask it where its water came from originally and why it maintains its salinity, its buoyancy, its clarity, its softness when poked with my finger and its rock hardness when I misjudge the entry angle of my  "showing-off-jack-knife-dive" and hit the surface  flat.

Exposing "sore-wisdom," Jong teaches that I will learn that the "house of flesh is only a sandcastle." What a wonderful image.  And it complements the knowledge I gained from Professor Renton  who teaches my video geology class ("The Nature of the Earth: An Introduction to Geology" available from The Great Courses). The mountains I see out my windows are, of course, subject to the same wasting forces as the sand castle, except that the process is infinitely slower--bringing to mind at least another hint about the nature of eternity--a concept that takes on meaning for me when I consider the 14,000 ft. peaks I can see out my window and know that over endless time, natural processes (frost, thaw, wind, rain, snow, heat. plant roots, etc.) will eventually flatten them out and eventually wash their rock, now fragments of sand, into the sea.  And my own "house of flesh." Well if rock turns to sand and mountains are flattened, then...Eternity begins.

The processes of creation and destruction on the shore are generally more observable than here in the hard rock mountains because the changes are comparatively rapid. But in both cases, mountains and shoreline, the primary agents of change are the same--water as liquid and solid, temperature, wind, vegetation, aging or the passage of time. All of which  calls to mind the people I know best, including myself, in whose bodies and lives and relationships, (as well as biological processes), change is constant as well--some of which is observable, some less so; some slow, some rapid, some creating and sustaining, some destroying.

Finally, the recognition that we only "walk t/here once" has come to me with blunt force only in my later years.  I heard and understood this truth as a young man when it really had little existential meaning for me; but now, as I look in the mirror or see old photographs, it does; and I wonder if it is too late, if I have traveled  too far down the beach, to make constructive use of my a-ha moment. Those who love me say it's not too late, and they urge me on.

In any case, I marvel at the tenacity and fragility and mutability of all the seen and unseen forces that have made--and continues to make me...Me, and you...You.

PS:  Just read the final column written by Marina Keegan,  a '12 graduate of Yale, and published by the Yale Daily News just after she was killed in an automobile wreck. Here's the except I read. And I feel shamed to have felt that "it might be too late for me..."

"What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it's too late to do anything is comical. It's hilarious. We're graduating college. We're so young. We can't, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have."[my emphasis]

I confess that it's hard for me at 75 to keep and nourish my "sense of possibility."  However, I do stand corrected by this wise young woman, and will try again.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Mark. It is hard to keep our sense of possibility at any age but especially as the decades pile up. Always good to be reminded it's never too late.