A New Year… and masses probably resolving to lose pounds. Yet my 2024 resolution is not about weight but shedding paper. The rub, however, is an idiotic need to read everything first before the papers end up at the dump for recycling. This tedious habit is how I came across a quote on yellowed paper from a wise Greek. I have no idea when I typed this gentle prayer and failed to identify the source for the words in Plato. What mattered to me was the message. One I wanted to remember.
“Dear Pan, and all other gods that dwell in this place, grant that I may become fair within, and that such outward things as I have… may not war against the spirit within me. May I count him (her) rich who is wise and as for gold, may I possess as much of it …as only a temperate person might bear and carry within.” (I took the liberty of changing man to person, since we have the vote, as Athenian women didn’t.). If you allow yourself to read the words slowly, preferably aloud, and more than once, they are incantational. (Forgive the directive teacher-writer in me!)
Plato’s Four Muses: The Phaedrus and Poetics ofPhilosophy, Chapter 4
Socrates: “Dear Pan….”
A few other tidbits this third Sunday in the New Year. Last week I forgot to give the title of the William Butler Yeats poem. A fellow teacher kindly let me know this. I asked webmaster Ilona to add the missing title, “The Second Coming,” to last week’s blog.
I have frittered away this Sunday, though not deep fried it in butter. Which is to say I am not using the noun form, as something eaten, or as Virginia Woolf did when she wrote, “People have been staying here…such a fritter & agitation.” One reason I love the OED is the seeker gets to see how fine writers use words. Who should I find under fritter as a verb? None other than the brilliant British writer, Julian Barnes.
Those who have taken my classes or read Tennis Talk of a Nobody, know that I adore JB. Here is how he used fritter: “She had watched her mother’s intelligence being frittered away on calculations about the price of tinned food.”
My frittering today was other than this. Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits. A friend and brilliant artist & graphic designer said this to me once. In memory I hear Cort’s playful intonation. I mention this because my Spanish phrase a day calendar told me, Debes descansar mas. You should get more rest. And yes, things fall apart, such as one’s spine. Truthful words resonate from a physical therapist last week. Yes, I have young knees and can run (thank you Dr. Nordt) but the rest of me is over 80. Very tedious and painful to keep my head back, chin not jutting forward. Today in a study with two walls of windows, looking out at the creek, edged a frozen white, I see floaters. I swat at them as if they are actual tiny black bugs. They remind me to close my eyes and rest. This is tahsome (as Virginia W. pronounced it) for me and the reader! I apologize to a childhood friend who wrote recently that he had read my blog and enjoyed it because I was not writing about myself!
Today I have in my lap an essay by Baltimore writer Patricia Schultheis, “In the Meantime.” It won first place in Creative Nonfiction in the Soul-Making Keats competition in 2020. I recently pitched seventeen “winning” (first, second, third) essays from 2017 to 2023, when the contest ended after three decades. I have kept Patricia’s lucid and lyric essay on creativity and mortality. On the back of this narrative essay is what I wrote to myself, the judge, in December 2020. “From the first read I knew this was the winner. As gentle and rich as Yo Yo Ma’s CD, “Songs of Comfort and Hope,” playing in the background. Next week, I will relate what Patricia’s memoir, A Balanced Life, has inspired me to do. This action is related to the Franz Kafka quote that precedes the memoir’s preface.
“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.”