The Last Rose of Summer

The Thomas Moore poem that gives this post its name has lent its melancholia to many a song and story to follow it in the years since Moore first honed the image into such an iconic form in 1805. He wasn’t the first to recognize the symbolic substance of decaying, wilting blossoms at the end of the growing season, or to apply it to tales of longing and sorrow, not by many long and mournful years. And the idea is so ready and apt that I can only assume there will be endless instances of such fading bloom representing the grief and sadness of life.

When I see real roses at the end of summer, though, I tend to see another kind of meaning in them myself. For what could stand better as an emblem of perseverance and strength than a fragile, delicate tissue of a flower that clings boldly to life when all of its companions have given up the ghost, when the elements conspire to kill it, when all of the art of Nature dictates that it should not be able to survive? Is there an image more fitting for resilience and bravery and the hope of beating all odds? Certainly there are few representatives more perfectly suited that appear in as beautiful a guise as the rose.

The idea of being that kind of a last rose of summer appeals to me. I would like to defy the expectations of the world that I should cower in the face of death and its precedent cruel disintegration, and instead age gracefully into an ever stronger, wiser and more beautiful being. This is impossible if I depend wholly on myself and my own resources. But having chosen to surround myself with the generous gardeners whose kind tending can nourish and enrich me along the way, I think I might have a chance of flowering over time, too.Rose in Bloom

Yet More Advice-to-Self

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Cat, Mouse and Everyday Danger

That little old four-letter word Work has challenged the finest among us to test the limits of endurance, wisdom, hope and courage for as long as there’s been such a thing as a job on this planet. We agonize and weep over our work as though doing unspeakable heroics every single minute, even when we know perfectly well that every living thing has faced challenges of his, her or its own since the first moment there were, well, living things. It didn’t take employers and employees to bring this tension to full expression. If I think I’m sitting on a powder-keg just because I’ve tackled something that pushes me to my limits (or, to be more precise, because it has tackled me), it’s time to step back, take a deep breath, and remember my compatriots of every sort striving and struggling and facing greater odds than I have ever faced, accepting them as the inevitable price of existence.graphite drawingNot that any of this contemplation has the remotest chance of making me stop thinking myself both the greatest martyr and the finest superhero at work on the planet. I only get the smallest momentary glimpses of sanity through the veneer of my regular distorted self-image as the silly person I am, after all. Even though I know that in my own version of ‘cat and mouse’ the tiniest mouse could best me in the flick of a whisker.

Little Dragon with a Big Appetite

Ever feel tiny? Like everyone and everything else in the world is, by comparison, huge and powerful and towering and you can’t begin to compare, let alone compete? Have you let yourself be measured in comparison with anyone or anything else? Yeah, me too.graphite drawingBut isn’t it worthwhile to break out of that miniscule self-containment somehow? Isn’t the most valid measure of my worth found more truly in what I do as my best self, in what I become over time by growing into a finer and grander version of me? What you see is what you get–for now. And then I plan on continuing my progress as well as I can manage, for as long as I live. That’s all I can promise. With one little [ahem] caveat: I know that the best defense against seeing myself as inadequate to any task is the blessed ignorance of my true inadequacy. So I promise as a small [ahem] part of the larger issue that I will do my best to forget that there is such a thing as the improbable, let alone the impossible, and just get on with living my life, however insignificant it may seem likely to be. [Come on along.]

Invitations to Dance

watercolorDancers I: Bend Sinister

Leaning back into a dire S-curve

And turning, twisting out of grace,

Finding cruel existence takes

Her to a meaner, coarser place,

She rebels against the tide

That pulls her downward, scrapes her soul,

And makes a revolutionary

Spring to leave the great Black Hole

Of wounded spirit, tortured love,

To swim back into something sweet—

This is the mandate of the dance:

To win by keeping on her feet

watercolorDancers II: Conjuror

Under a spell of loveliness

She leans, she curls, expands;

She falls against the strong caress

Of gladness, in the hands

Of magic greater than herself,

And when the spell is done,

There is no darkness, loneliness

Or sorrow; she is one

With every boundary, with joy,

With having been set free

From all constraint; the dance has won

Her to infinity