Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Getting Seasoned

Last Saturday I turned 56 and it’s beginning to look as though I may never become president. I have, however, outlived my father who died of a heart attack at 55. That’s something, I guess. If I make it to the average life expectancy for an American heterosexual white guy - 76, I think I’ll be satisfied. Twenty more years.

Several people have asked me lately when I’m going to retire. It’s a good question but I don’t have an answer. I’ve been teaching for nearly 32 years. It keeps me busy and with two other jobs as well I’m seldom idle. I’ve taken care of a few vacation properties for more than twenty years. My clients are great people and the schedule is flexible unless a windstorm blows over some trees or there’s some other act of God I have to deal with right away. I could pick up a few more clients and retire from teaching. That would give me more time to write - my third occupation for the last sixteen years. It’s nice to have choices, but I see myself working at something or other until I’m either drooling in a rocking chair or dead. I like what I’m doing though and I don’t want to give up any of it right now. Poet Robert Frost put it well:

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and the need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

It’s the last stanza of Two Tramps in Mud Time, one of my favorites. I don’t read much poetry but Frost has always spoken to me. This year’s mud time is longer than most and his words are particularly appropriate to put Spring, 2007 into perspective. The third stanza of the piece reads:

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

My vocation has been teaching and my avocation is writing. I want more time to write, but I don’t want to give up teaching entirely. My curriculum is twentieth century US History - weaving in civics, economics as well as current events. It all fascinates me, and even if I weren’t teaching it I’d still be studying it. So why not teach a bit longer? I’ll be back next year, at least. After that, who knows what will come along? I sure don’t.

Meanwhile, I’d like spring to come along a little faster than it is - just as everybody else in New England would. As Frost says in the fourth stanza:

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake: and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

It’s been snowing a bit more than a flake during this year’s mud time. As I look out the window to the snow-covered Kearsarge and Baldface on the western horizon and listen to the cold wind howl this Easter Sunday, I wouldn’t advise anything to blossom either. Not today anyway. I know the crocuses and daffodils are coming up under all that white though. My wife and I saw them sprouting in her garden just before last week’s snowstorm covered them up. This week’s storm will bury them even deeper, but I won’t lose hope.

There’s always something getting ready to blossom, even when all we can see is dark and all we can feel is cold. Frost knew that. New Englanders know that. During the Easter season, Christians know it too.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

...silly question, but is there any great poets today like Robert Frost around?

Or Mark Twain?

Seems our great intelligence has left out common knowledge and simple poetics...