It didn’t surprise him that he quickly understood the cat they adopted during the pandemic for all he had to do was apply basic feline logic, that everything in her new home was either hers or theirs collectively, it was just that simple. He had come from a place, a life, where there had been hers and theirs, simple. When that life ended, as everyone but him seemed to know it would, he came away with that portion of theirs for which his ex cared least or of which she had grown tired. So he and the cat had a comfortable understanding until more and more of theirs became hers alone.
People say that dogs can live to well over 100 dog years, but each of our years is seven of theirs, so our self-delusion feels complete. We want old age for our dogs to feel they have lived a full life, something we also want for ourselves and so we project on our pets. The odd thing is that as we age we wonder if our pets will outlive us, and the older we get, the more it begins to feel that time is attempting to behaves like dog time the years seeming to pass ever more quickly.
You probably imagine that the life of the poet is one of great excitement and adventure. There are moments that might be deemed exciting or adventurous but those happen just as often in the lives of those who despise poetry. And believe me, poetry is not only not a career, it’s not a job unless you sit in some city square and offer to write a short poem for anyone offering you a dollar, a prescription for homelessness and starvation. The life of a poet is setting aside time to stare at a blank page of a journal trying hard to imagine words appearing and organizing themselves into neat lines and stanzas, then you put the Journal away in frustration promising yourself to try again tomorrow.
It shouldn’t be so easy to forget where your ancestors came from, why they left their homes, traveled to a new place where they might not be welcomed but took the chance for a better future or just to avoid the horrors of where they were. It is a part of your DNA, yours were the” other” then, but yours came and made a new life, as your grandparents told you repeatedly until you covered your ears, the story an earworm you only wanted to avoid again. Now you sit in your pleasant home, with food on your table, and decry those who appear at the border as your ancestors once did, seeking escape from terror or poverty, so it seems your forgetting is complete, your ancestors are consigned to history.
Life Is of limited duration but we never know what that duration is until the moment it ends, and then we have no reason to care. But as we age and that period necessarily shrinks, some pause and wonder what’s left, wonder what they might have done differently, where they would be today if they had. But they don’t stop to consider that every moment spent in the past is a moment taken from the present and stolen from what the future offered. You want to keep your memories, but the price of storage is great, so there is a tenuous balance to maintain. Still your past is a shadow that follows you, and the question is whether you want to spend ever more precious time looking over your shoulders rather than engaging the world around you.
When I write the story of my life, it will not be me standing by the sea staff in hand, waiting for the waters to part. It will be sand, endless seas of sand, piled around my feet. I will not recount ten plagues for there is only one that matters at all and it was not terribly exciting, no generation perished, we weren’t overrun with frogs or vermin save the odd infestation of cockroaches and the passing rat that makes faces at the cat cowering in the corner. I could have climbed that damned mountain, but the thought of dragging two great tablets back down with the poor footing, it just wasn’t worth it. It has been over forty years wallowing around in the sand until it caked between my toes and not a cursed thing has happened, just sand and writing on the sand grows tiresome after the first breeze. Actually I don’t care if I never see this new land, just get me away from this godawful sand.
No child, no youth wants to imagine the moment of his or her conception. Now, that is the moment of personhood in some places, a moment when two cells become one and is a life of its own, but it isn’t the convergence of sperm and ovum we avoid, but the act leading to it. When you are an adoptee and only later in life discover your now dead birthparents that moment, that scene is a small void in your life among larger voids you want to, but cannot ever, seem to fill, so it is left to your imagination of time, place, circumstances and ultimately action, but you ensure that scene ends moments before conception.
He was the smallest, that is what drew you to him. Still, he had a certain bravado a serious strut to his walk. Perhaps it was because his father was there, a protector in part, in another part a challenge. He knew his mother was looking so it became a matter of pride. He could imagine himself a father one day, his own children trailing behind him threatening to break away, knowing full well they were not ready yet, needed him for protection from the always present predators. That was life in the wetland for most wading birds, the only life he knew or wanted.
As I age now I am aware that the tether to my earliest memories has grown thin, stretched by time until I know it will, of necessity, soon give way.
And so I spend spare moments trying to sort through my life as I recall it, selecting those moments that bear the effort of retethering so that time would be better served weakening others.
But the hidden beauty, I know, is that when a memory is gone, has fallen away, it often takes its shadow along, so there is no hint even of its prior existence, and you don’t mourn what you never had, even if you did.