Alas! how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too deep or a kiss too long,
And then comes a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
The lines are from George MacDonald’s Phantastes. My brush with thievery (see the last post) the other night has reminded me that we all live behind panes of glass that we take actually to protect us, to be barriers against a sometimes dark and often cold and constantly encroaching world. Then the world smashes the glass: we realize that we were all-but-exposed all along: our immunity was sheer ignorance. I don’t mean to suggest that my life will never be the same again. Nothing so melodramatic. And, anyway, eventually, I am sure, I will slip back behind ignorance and take myself to be armored again against the world. But for now I am aware of how easily things go wrong.
As my son sagely said as he drove us home, making himself heard above the whipping roar of the ducktaped garbage bag. “You know, the whole thing was humbling.”
My son and daughter and I headed to Atlanta last night to see Pete Yorn (he’s doing an acoustic tour). We had a nice drive on a cold, sunny Southern evening. We ate at 5Seasons–near Terminal West, the place of the show. We parked in the rooftop lot. When we got back to the car, my driver’s side rear window was gone. So, too, was my backpack and my daughter’s bag. I lost the backpack itself (a good one that I liked), some Rx sunglasses, a couple of Anselm texts and some notebooks, as well as a couple of Parker fountain pens I have had for twenty years or so. My daughter lost her wallet and her notebooks–including all her class notes from the last couple of terms. She also lost her key chain, and so her keys to her apartment and her car. (I know, I know. What were we doing leaving bags in view in the car? They should have been in the trunk. Indeed. But we are small town rubes; what can I say?)
Although some of the stuff is irreplaceable, none was tremendously valuable: no computers or phones or ipads, etc. It was just stuff, after all. The worst of it was driving home in twenty degree weather without a window. I ducktaped a garbage bag over the hole and it held for about an hour. But we shivered and chilled for the last thirty or forty minutes. Now I get to face the series of frustrations to be hurdled in order to get the window replaced, keys made and so on. I had hoped to spend my morning on Anselm, not copying down VINs.
Yorn was great. The evening was not a total loss.
(Not my car–but you get the idea.)
There is a…dialectic at work in Jane Austen’s words, their meaning being dependent on the level at which they are being used. One cannot simply say, for example, that “propriety” is one of Jane Austen’s values, but “sensibility” is not because as they stand those statements have no useful truth or falsity. There is a sense in which either word may be used to claim an unreal value; in this false sense it may well mean, not hypocritically but ironically, the very reverse of the unlimited strength it assumes and represents itself to be. There is another sense in which either word has a real value; and in this sense it may well be a possession of someone who does not seem to have it, or may seen to be a weak limitation of its possessor rather than the strength it proves to be. –Stuart M Tave, *Some Words of Jane Austen*
I will be reading from *Stony Lonesome* (I plan to read some of the poems I haven’t been reading, so if you have been to an earlier reading, you should hear some new poems). I will also be reading from draft poems for my new book, whose working title is *Flirting with Death*. St. Dunstan’s is a great space for an event like this; I hope to see you there.