So Much Good Reading, So Little Time

Photo montage: So Much Reading, So Little TimeOne of the keenest problems in a comfortable life, that. So much great stuff that I would love to read, and such a short life. So many beautiful pages of literary jewels and deliriously fun junk, paper and zine, novel and blog, that I would happily devour, if only there weren’t so much other Stuff to be done in the finite hours of the day.

In my case, of course, there is the additional complication of being an interminably slow reader. I will have to live to be 627 years old, at least, to read all that I’d like to read. Add to that the extra time (about half again as long) to comprehend what I read and I will have outlasted Methuselah and any number of other supernal beings. And the problem remains, on top of this literary one, that I will have a wide assortment of other highly irksome and undignified complications to overcome and survive in order to achieve such an advanced age. So I have to pick and choose what I am willing and able to devote my actual reading time to perusing, and accept my limitations with as good a grace as I can manage.

This summer, though many of you whose blogs I am fond of visiting for both reading and commenting might be surprised to hear it, I have been reducing rather than increasing my holiday reading. Since much of what I do read is online, and on an erratic schedule with less frequent long periods of sit-down-and-read time, let alone with reliable wi-fi access, I must think about what little I can squeeze in between other summer activities and parcel out my energies and devotion accordingly. I assure you that this is in no way a reflection on the quality and desirability of your work and its pull on my imagination, but it’s rather the reverse: that I want to return to it when I can give it more of its due and proper attention and appreciation. I will return to you, rest assured. Meanwhile, I hope you are lying back on a comfortable chaise in the summer shade, sipping a cool drink, and reading whatever stirs your soul while the season lasts.

Just Another Oddball Day in Paradise

Digital illo: Got It Made in the ShadeIt was a day of superb weather. As expected. It’s only that it was the kind of weather expected at entirely different times of the year, or at least in entirely different parts of the world. At least, by me.

In that way, it was par for the course in the modern world’s weather, at least. One doesn’t really know what lies ahead further than a few minutes, though now it’s less for the reason that weather forecasting is such an inexact art (it’s far less so than it used to be, anyhow) and more that previous centuries’ patterns have apparently been twisting and turning and emerging in wholly new directions and shapes. Exciting stuff, to be sure. Not so easy to manage our lives within it, given the difficulty of knowing whether the rain that’s begun requires a light, windbreaker sort of slicker or the building of an ark.

Meanwhile, superb weather at the “wrong” date and place.

One could spend plenty of time and energy trying to figure out why, or what it might mean in the grand scheme of things, and surely, thousands of smarter people have done so. I am not the one to solve those puzzles. I went for a walk, enjoyed the superb weather, and when it grew too hot for my taste, found a few trees in whose shade I could continue to enjoy the weather without being quite so warm.

It’s a weird world, this, and not quite like the one I thought I’d known all these years. But it still has some mighty nice shade trees here and there, and if I’m not too silly to take advantage of those, I can still think of it as a great home planet. Works for me.

Doesn’t Matter If I’m the Only One

There are ways in which solitude and solitary pleasures are among the loveliest, the most inexplicably un-shareable delights we can have. Even those things that are enhanced by happy sharing with one companion, or many, can only be experienced internally in our own unique ways, through our own highly individualized filters and lenses of taste, belief, experience, knowledge, and longing.Digital illustration: From this Angle

The beauty of this is that the best things I experience or encounter can be met at several different levels. Even when I am among a host of fellow travelers on the occasion, I can have that communal adventure and be guided and shaped in my sense of its goodness and meaning by any or all of those around me, while the reflections in my heart may say to me, “and yet…” or find me collecting all of the data of the moment in some private interior compartment for later examination.

In those after-times, I am at leisure to contemplate the whole and all of its components and think whatever I will, feel whatever I will, now that I’m left to my own devices. From this slightly removed angle, my own particular skew, I may find that the true enjoyment of this part of my life comes as much from within, from my imperfect yet fully tailored perspective being so well suited to make me like what I have seen, heard, tasted, and sensed in it. That is a subtly different but wholly wonderful part of living life: being able, in solitude (whether actually alone or not) to see what is marvelous and admirable, exciting and fine, to me on my very own terms.

The Gilding of the Gliding

That magical time known as the Golden Hour seems to give everything, not just color, an extra fillip of beauty. Colors do, indeed, become warmer and more saturated when the sun is at such a low angle to the horizon as its place near dawn and dusk, but there is so much more to the mystical powers of those fleeting moments that it is a great treasure to be still in them and let the wonder fill me. At such times I feel more connected to nature and everything around me seems more in tune, better adjusted, and I feel that I am, too.
Photo: The Golden Hour

How can the mere angle of the sun turn a scrubby lawn into finely cut velvet? The touch of gilt on the scene makes every ounce of it seem that much more precious and valuable. The bejeweled day, in turn, makes the simplest action in it take on significance it never had before: the chattering of birds in the trees becomes a miniature angelic choir; the dipping of oars in the water turns from a quiet splashing to the whispering of poetry; the evening breeze that gently stirs shore grass becomes a delicate communiqué from the harmonic internal logic of the universe, and I am at one with it all. As the golden hour ripples through my environs and begins to permeate me, I almost feel as if I am gliding along their silky way right in sync with the rowboats nearby, waving fluidly as the grasses on the verge, tipping my wings with the evening birds to slide onto the branches of the trees. I am at peace with the world, and the world, with me. That is golden indeed.

Discretionary Fun

Digital illustration/drawings: Mood & 'TudeI get the impression that some people treat non-work times as the only times when they’re allowed to be happy. I do understand the need for income that can drive one to spend time in a job that doesn’t fulfill any other need or desire in life, and many of those are in the least-compensated positions at low-paying employers’ as it is. Been there, done that.

But I can say, too, that the greatest misery in my work life was attitudinal, and the more I did to discover and avoid the things that made me unhappy in my work, the less miserable I was. The more I sought to learn what I enjoyed in work and chose ways to magnify that, the closer I got to contentment both at and out of the workplace.

I grew more cognizant, at the same time, of not wanting to waste precious time on work that challenged my inner playfulness or threatened my general sense of joy and purpose. I was given a great gift in being able recognize the longing and accept and pursue it by choosing a much lower-paying job (on paper, at least) with a great happiness-quotient. I’ve seen, over the years, that many of us are easily misled when we try to calculate what we think we need for our daily expenses, and how much it costs us to earn that. Yes, we get those paychecks, but if the job requires, say, clothes that we wouldn’t wear other than at work, child care, transportation, professional training and memberships, and that sort of thing, how much pay on an annual or monthly or hourly basis does it really cost to go beyond paying for those, at least far enough to keep a roof overhead and food on the table as well?

Nobody knows this awful kind of math better than the working poor. I’ve been in that category more than once in my life, but have always had safeguards others lacked—like friends or relatives from whom I could rent living space more cheaply than I could even a minuscule, run-down apartment in a scary part of town—so I also know that I am luckier than most. Now, when I am married to a person who is not only able to make enough income to support both of us but is willing to do so, I am among the most privileged and fortunate of creatures, and I know that, too.

But one of the best things I learned along the way when I was living on a very slender, sometimes sporadic, income, remains valuable to this day: if I spend so much time and energy on just ‘getting by’ in life and don’t put forth equal effort to enjoy, live, and love my life along the way, all of the pennies I earn are of little value at all. And while I can’t always afford the most thrilling and glamorous ways of keeping myself amused, especially when I do need to be working at any task or job, I had better find the simpler and cheaper ways and the most reliable ones to fill my life with happiness and contentment, I know by now that surrounding myself with people I love, admire, enjoy and respect is the very best solution. And if my job doesn’t allow for that kind of happiness and contentment, then it is costing me more than it pays, in the end.

A Certain Age

I’ve always been mystified by the people who are terribly age-conscious. When I was younger, I didn’t get the agonies my peers went through over longing to be old enough for this, that, and the other thing. Driving a car was never especially thrilling or compelling to me, alcohol had little allure as an illicit tipple when I could see how stupidly my peers (and many legal-age drinkers) behaved when drinking more than they could handle, and I’ve still not had the remotest interest in trying to smoke anything. I didn’t even care about R-rated movies any more than I do now; most of those are too violent, too rude, and or too loud for my usual taste.

When I got old enough to do all of the supposedly grownup-geared stuff, I became just as amazed and confounded by those who wish and try to be or appear younger than they are. If I want to lie about my age, I won’t pretend I’m some young thing I’m not; I’ll certainly tell everyone I’m much older than I really am so they’ll be impressed with how fit, alert, and fantastic I am compared to everyone else “my age”—but that’s too much effort for a silly joke on my part. I’m pretty content to be myself, whatever age I am, and let people love, respect, and admire me—or not—for the real me that they know. I’m happy to have accomplished what modest things I’ve learned or done, to covet the thin grey hairs and fine-lined wrinkles I’ve earned through years and experience, and to relish the freedom that comes with age.

Because as far as I’m concerned, the biggest and best goal of growing up (insofar as I’ll concede to attempting anything like that) is to be so at home in my own skin, however baggy and spotty and misshapen it might be, that I can like myself fine and expect the same respect from others without trying to be someone or something I am so obviously not. Here I am, 53-plus years of ordinary, thin-haired, not-so-fit, tacky happiness jammed into a humbly passable carcass, and I’m mighty glad of it.Ink drawing: A Certain Age

If My Song could Last Forever

Photo: Well Seasoned 1Hours into Seasons

There’s a sweetness in the morning when the sun has yet to rise

And the blooms lie, still unopened, under sleeping butterflies;

When the stars still wink and glimmer, while the frogs yet softly sing—

There’s a sweetness in the morning that is like the breath of Spring.Photo: Well Seasoned 2

There’s a graciousness at midday when, amid the racing streams,

All arise and put in motion yesterday’s profoundest dreams;

When the past its chains has loosened on the race of all alive,

That in joyful forward motion we, like Summer, grow and thrive.Photo: Well Seasoned 3

There’s a calm amid the evening when the birds come to the trees’

Respite from the day of flying, echoed by our evening ease;

When the cares of noon have lessened as the dusk swept into place—

There’s a calm amid the evening, peaceful as the Autumn’s grace.Photo: Well Seasoned 4

There’s a beauty to the nighttime, glorious and peaceful bliss,

Treasured for the kind renewal of the souls that rest in this

Cradling darkness and this languor, in this place of mending rest

That, like Winter’s dormant healing, lets us wake refreshed and blessed.Photo: Well Seasoned 5

I would take these hours’ presents as my guide through seasons long,

Through a lifelong path that’s pleasant as a choir’s finest song;

I would be a seasoned traveler, happy above everything,

If my song could last forever,

Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring.Photo: Well Seasoned 6