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Number my days

Number my days

by Wolf Pascoe on June 12, 2011

The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,Proud Songster
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
In bushes
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,
Nor thrushes,
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.

“Still vertical.”

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.
. . .



My dad is pitching for the cub scouts

A story about fathers and sons



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.
. . .


Any thoughts on numbering your days? Add your comment below. I always respond here.


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles Bernstein June 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Beautiful, Wolf. Thank you.


Wolf Pascoe June 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Thanks for visiting, Charles!


Barbara S. June 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Such a wonderful post, Wolf. I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself! (and thanks for the shout-out!)


Wolf Pascoe June 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm

My pleasure. And I’m just going for a bike ride now.


BigLittleWolf June 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Lovely, poignant, and so glad you’re here – for Nick, and for all of us.


Wolf Pascoe June 12, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Thanks, BLW. It’s kind of you to say.


Lucas June 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Thank you Wolf, that was beautiful and filled my heart to read. I’m reminded of my favorite Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.


Wolf Pascoe June 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I need more Rumi here. Thanks, Lucas.


Planner2015 June 12, 2011 at 7:57 pm

The numbers measure us without grace. Or mercy. They are what they are, even as we are not just a number in any sense.

So glad you are able to think of the rest as gravy. It really is, you know. You’re doing a great job. Print all of your posts for Nick to read someday. Just in case.


Wolf Pascoe June 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm

I really need to do that. Thanks, Planner.


Eponine June 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm

We’re very happy you take your pill. For Nick and for all who love you. Is it Lipitor?


Wolf Pascoe June 14, 2011 at 9:41 am

Indeed it is, the generic. Makes my toes cramp, but for a good reason.


Lady Fi June 13, 2011 at 10:45 pm

What a lovely thoughtful post! (Visiting here via Barbara S.)
Life is a miracle!


Wolf Pascoe June 14, 2011 at 10:00 am

Hello, Lady Fi. Thanks for dropping by. What lovely photographs on your site. I never thought of flames as dragons–yes!


Gina Calvert June 13, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Hi Wolf,
Found you via my friend Barbara Shallue and immediately became a fan of your thoughts and your obvious love of words and your son, blended with poems and beautiful photographs.

I’ll be back!


Wolf Pascoe June 14, 2011 at 9:51 am

Thanks, Gina. So glad you dropped by. I love how you mention in your post about chaos that the Chinese symbol for the word depicts a new plant breaking the ground.


Jillsy Girl June 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Hello Wolf! Any blog friend of Barbara’s is a a friend of mine. I can see by your writing why you both have become friends. Nice to meet you!


Wolf Pascoe June 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Howdy friend. Thanks for stopping in.


Jack Adams June 16, 2011 at 10:12 am

Wonderfully written post.


Wolf Pascoe June 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Thanks, Jack. Much appreciated.


Tessa Holman December 11, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Lovely, poignant, and so glad you’re here – for Nick, and for all of us. My pleasure.


Wolf Pascoe December 12, 2011 at 3:01 am

I hadn’t thought about this post in a while, Tessa. Thanks for visiting and recalling it to me.


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