« Year of the pig | Main | The man who was Christmas »

Exulting somewhat

I live in such a muddle that I was actually caught off-guard by the realization that we are ending up the first decade of the new century. (Spouse insists that it ends next year, but is just being contrary.) And still no proper name for it, although the Times of London is using the "Noughties."

The New York Times, which we're stuck with, has been running incomprehensible rambles on the agony of the decade and its recent rescue, but the only part of the story I recognize is the shared nightmare (now so surreally distant) of 9/11. Supposedly we weathered several booms and recessions, but our finances feel just as perilous in good times and bad. Instead, I was struck by what an overall time of blessing these 10 years had been. Begun in fresh mourning for my mother, who departed this life a month before the "millenium" celebration she would have dismissed contemptuously, the decade shifted our focus from frantic elder care to the joyful business of raising a wonderful child. These first 10 years neatly frame Daughter's elementary school career and Spouse's ongoing gig at the museum he loves. 

The problem with being superstitious is that you're afraid to be grateful: afraid someone will come along and take your little goodies away. Bravely, I will declare that so far, it has been a very good century despite its lurking demons. And as a New Year present to all, here is the best poem ever about the journey. It is called "The Layers" by Stanley Kunitz:

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Posted on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 06:35PM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments Off

EmailEmail Article to Friend