Sunday, May 16, 2010

long time traveling

Did I think it would abide as it was forever
all that time ago the turned earth in the old garden
where I stood in spring remembering spring in another place
that had ceased to exist and the dug roots kept giving up
their black tokens their coins and bone buttons and shoe nails
made by hands and bits of plates as the thin clouds
of that season slipped past gray branches on which the early
white petals were catching their light and I thought I knew
something of age then my own age which had conveyed me
to there and the ages of the trees and the walls and houses
from before my coming and the age of the new seeds as I
set each one in the ground to begin to remember
what to become and the order in which to return
and even the other age into which I was passing
all the time while I was thinking of something different
"The Furrow," W. S. Merwin (1997)

I've been carrying around this poem in my brain-pocket (side note: a quick Googling reveals that actual brain pockets exist!!) since April 23rd, when it was featured as Knopf's "Poem-A-Day" during National Poetry Month. Spring has always been my most restless and poignant season, and my most uncomfortable-feeling season as a result. If summer is a humid half-sleep, fall a tender sooty smudge, and winter a breath so clear it burns, then spring is a gray foal on a gray day lurching to its feet, hooves ready to leap up past the pasture and into the sky.

This year spring feels especially this way, mostly I think because I've spent 13/16 days of May traveling: the first 11 days in Europe (visiting wonderful expat college friends in the UK, Berlin, and Poland), and the past 2 days in my home state of eye-oh-dubyuh-ay for my sister's college graduation.
I haven't really slept much in this time, and have in fact been indulging my jet lag because I've found that waking up naturally at 5:30 from a shallow restless sleep allows you to enjoy 2 unreal-seeming hours with strange light before you have to get ready for work. On Saturday morning I woke up even earlier, at 3:30, and hit the road at 4:30 so that I could make it to Iowa City in time for the 9:00 commencement. This allowed me to be speeding south down the Kennedy Expressway as through my driver's-side window the Chicago skyline was being lit by the sunrise. I pretty much almost crashed my car--and really, if I had, I don't think there would be many better last views of earth.

Anyway, this lack of sleep has thickened the haze of unreality that I seem to be wandering through this season, making already foreign and strange events/sensations/ideas seem even less solid. And as I reminded this weekend, visiting home can definitely be more bizarre and intense than any travels requiring a passport--a sentiment that I'm sure M. Nabokov would agree with (I finally finished Speak, Memory, discussed in my last post, on my flight home from Poland). So yes, please do consider 1) the above poem, 2) watching the sun rise over Chicago, and 3) sleep deprivation as a form of life meditation. And please also consider this post merely the exposition for future, less muddled transmissions sent from this strange May-place of 2010.....

P.S. In case you were wondering about the significance of the above image, it's the only cover of The Saturday Evening Post ever painted by Grant Wood, quintessential Iowa artist, and is entitled "Spring 1942."


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