Saturday, March 3, 2018


Today was sunny yet cool, a day of amber-yellow angled light and of tree shadows stretching across bright green fields.  Walking beneath the bare trees, looking up into the intricate branches set against the sky, I was brought up short by a sudden realization:  the six decades that I have been alive have led to this single instant, an instant in which I am walking at the point of my still unfolding existence, all of those 60-odd years trailing behind me, disappearing, on a brilliant day in early March.

James McIntosh Patrick (1907-1998), "Glamis Village" (1939)

I claim no uniqueness for this moment of awareness.  But it did hit me with a fair amount of force.  There was nothing sorrowful or melancholic in what I felt.  If anything, the moment was one of exhilaration and peace.

A few moments later, a passage by Marcus Aurelius came to mind. Upon returning home, I found it:

"If thou shouldst live three thousand years, or as many myriads, yet remember this, that no man loses any other life than that he now lives; and that he now lives no other life than what he is parting with, every instant."

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book II, Section 14, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor (translators), The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (1742).

James McIntosh Patrick, "Springtime in Eskdale" (1935)

Earlier this evening, a haiku by Kobayashi Issa returned to me:

     Under moon and flowers,
Forty-nine years
     Of fruitless wandering.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 290.

Thus ends my report for today.

James McIntosh Patrick, "A City Garden" (1940)


Friko said...

A salutary reminder to live life well. Poetry so often pulls one up short, a few well chosen words encapsulating the wisdom of the world. I also admire the way you ‘saw’ March with your heart and soul rather than a camera.

Stephen Pentz said...

Friko: Thank you very much for sharing those thoughts. Your description of how poetry works is perfect. As for cameras (e.g., iPhones these days), I can understand their allure (and I am fond of looking at lovely photographs), but I avoid using them myself: as you suggest, they tend to remove us from the moment. I find that memories are better. But that's only my opinion.

As ever, thank you for visiting. Please return soon.

John Ashton said...

Today we have bright sunshine and very mild temperatures after last week’s heavy snowfalls and bitterly cold winds. Each kind of weather brings beauties of its own.
This morning the snow has melted away, at least here in the south of England and the tiny purple and yellow crocus show in drifts of colour among the grasses. It’s marvelous to be present at such moments, as fully present as we can be.

Like you I’m also in my sixth decade, and cherish such moments more and more. I want to be as attentive as I am able. I’m aware most will pass away, but some will settle in memory and perhaps last like those that live on from long ago. As vividly present now as when they were first noticed.

Stephen Pentz said...

John: Beautifully put. Your thought about attentiveness in (and to) the moment, and how it relates to some of those moments "settl[ing] in memory" is a fine one. Each time I go out for a walk, I am aware of the transience and evanescence of everything around me, yet I feel that what I experience is never really lost, that it survives somewhere inside. Will those moments ever return with full clarity? Likely not. Although, as you say, some memories may persist. But we have a choice: should we spend our time storing up those sorts of moments inside of us, or should we spend our time absorbing the products of the false human world that daily clamors for our attention (i.e., "news," "entertainment," etc.)? The answer is clear to me. Thus, for instance, I focus on puddles, not politics.

I agree with you entirely about being in one's sixties: I too find that I "cherish such moments more and more." As we have discussed before, things that once seemed important, but aren't, have dropped (and continue to drop) away.

It is always a delight to hear from you. Thank you very much for visiting again.

littlemancat said...

Just a simple thank you for the post. I found myself saying "ah,yes" as I read it. And I so like your response to one of the lovely comments about paying attention to the puddles, not politics. Amen! In the puddle is a reflection of the sky,tree branches,a face,a smile. And perhaps, if the puddle is deep enough, a bit of vernal life.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mary: Thank you very much for your thoughts. I'm pleased you liked the post. Yes, as I suggested in the post before this, puddles are indeed wonderful things, for the reasons you articulate. As for politics, I think you know my feelings about the politicization of our culture. The enmity engendered by, and the human energy wasted on, politics are sad things. But there is nothing new under the sun, is there? It has ever been thus, even though we tend to think our own time is unique. It isn't. One opts in or opts out. Puddles for me.

I hope that the recent round of storms in your part of the world has not been too difficult, and that you have stayed warm and full of light. As always, it is a pleasure to hear from you. Thanks again.

Catrina said...

Hi Stephen, I just came upon your site when I was looking for some information about John Masefield's poem, The Epilogue. Thank you for that. It's a stunning poem -- and statement about trust -- and the context you provided about his early life enriches my understanding. Thank you.

I also just read your most recent post, and I am now tempted to write here for a few reasons. The first is I had a similar experience to yours on your recent walk where you understood, in an essential way, all your past moments led to it. I turned 42 several months ago. I was walking down in the street in Dublin, Ireland, five hours from the Eastern Standard Time of my birth. All of a sudden, though I was physically in a different time zone and I had not been thinking about my birth time or birthday at all in that moment, I knew in a deep and fundamental way that it was the exact moment of my birth in Eastern Standard Time. I clicked on my phone for the time, did the quick time change conversion, and it was, indeed, the exact minute. It was a momentarily shocking experience in which I, too, was aware that all of my life's moments led to that exact moment on that particular sidewalk, but on top of that there was also a great circling, too.

I'm a lawyer as well and for a few years now have been intentionally trying to create a life that allows for these experiences. Thank you for your blog and for sharing your own experiences. Though I have been immensely and proudly political in my past, these days, too, I find I'm more puddles than politics. Thanks again.

Stephen Pentz said...

Catrina: Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your comment: other commitments have kept me away from the blog for the past three days. (Donning my lawyer's hat, actually, which I still occasionally do.) Thank you very much for your kind words about the blog. Coming here by way of Masefield's poem is a nice avenue: I'm very fond of that poem. A lifetime of wisdom in four short lines. Which we should all heed.

Your anecdote about your own recent experience of all moments leading to the current moment is wonderful, and the timing aspect of it is amazing! Your thought about the moment also embodying "a great circling, too" is a fine one, and worth pondering. You're right: I sensed the linear aspect of all past moments leading to that moment, but there was, also, a feeling of completion (serenity? the right word escapes me). "A great circling" feels right.

I agree with you that, regardless of our occupation (or preoccupations), we must do our best "to create a life that allows for these experiences." For instance, that is one of the reasons (perhaps the main reason) that I take my walks. Who knows what might happen? But, whether we are out for a walk, or brushing our teeth, we never know what may arrive.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I hope you'll return soon.

RT said...

Carpe diem! I read you poignant posting moments after thinking a bit about Scrooge in the Dickens story. There was a man who was blessed by given an opportunity to reconsider his past, look more closely at his present, and get a preview of his future. I sort of envy Scrooge (which must sound odd) even as I more carefully consider your posting and the beautiful (albeit too breezy) afternoon here in the sun on the Gulf coast.

Stephen Pentz said...

Tim: It's good to hear from you again. I can understand your envy of Scrooge's opportunity. But Dickens created him in order to provide us with an example of how we ought to look at our lives, didn't he? The awakening that Scrooge experiences is one that we are all capable of at any moment. And without having to confront Jacob Marley's ghost and his clanking chains!

I hope that all is well. The Gulf Coast sounds like a good place to be: freezing rain/snow here today. As always, thank you very much for visiting and for sharing your thoughts.