The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.
These are brand new birds of twelvemonths’ growing,
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
But only particles of grain,
And earth and air and rain.
— Sir Thomas Hardy, “Proud Songsters”
I couldn’t decide which poem to use for this post. I narrowed it down to Hardy’s above and a sonnet (#73) by Shakespeare. The sonnet was too sad, but here’s the sublime beginning anyway:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
It’s the or none, or few that gets me. He could have just said “When yellow leaves do hang” and been done with it. But he slows the thing down to consider all the possibilities, and one by one, you see them fall. Not see. Feel.
A friend dropped away last week, and then another, leaving none, or a few. And Nick is having a birthday soon. In a two weeks he’ll reach the gentle age of nine.
It’s Nick’s birthday I want to consider. Actually, the fact that I’m here to see it.
Each of Nick’s birthdays has been a miracle. But I’ve waited a long time for this particular one, watched it on the horizon like a moon slowly growing ripe. The reason is, my eighth birthday was the last my father was around for. He was gone a month before my ninth.
I woke up the just other day and realized, we’re inside that final month. For Nick and me, it’s all gravy from here.
Somewhere I read (this was many years ago) that eventually, all cares, plans, and ambitions drop away, and the only thing that matters is whether you live on, or not. At the time, I thought this idea terribly severe and sad, and surely false. But I understand it now. The thing that matters most is to see Nick into adulthood.
“How are you,” I said to an elder friend the other day.
My father had a bad heart, nourished by bad arteries. The problem was a lack of good cholesterol, a lack which I share. There were no pills for it then, no surgeries.
Nick wasn’t born yet when I reached the age my dad never reached. The number of that year was another of those pregnant moons looking down on my existence.
Now, each morning I take half a little white pill, as I’ve done since Nick was born and I got religion.
It’s working. My numbers are good, most of them, though I weigh too much. I need to exercise more.
I hate all this counting. Numbers shouldn’t matter. One should live empty of them. The day, not its number, should be what counts.
That poem of Hardy’s, it sneaks up on you. I love it because it makes emptiness a virtue.
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Confessions of a photography addict — All three pictures above were taken by writer and photographer Barbara Shallue. Confessions, her photography blog, showcases more of her lovely work. She lives with her husband Tom in their house outside Austin, Texas, frequently visited by their grown children. Barbara writes about her adventures in her other blog, Long Hollow. Needless to say, I am a huge fan.
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Any thoughts on numbering your days? Add your comment below. I always respond here.