Monday, January 1, 2024

At the Turning of the Year

Solely by happenstance, this observation surfaced out of my memory during the past week: "The future's uncertain and the end is always near."  An unexpected message for the New Year?  And who might be the source of this thought?  Perhaps Schopenhauer or Leopardi, those cheerful, happy-go-lucky characters?  Or, further back in time, should we look to Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius?  And what of the poets?  For instance, one might imagine Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, or R. S. Thomas arriving at such a conclusion.  (Although I do think that all three of them have been unfairly and inaccurately caricatured as hopeless pessimists.)

The answer is: "None of the above."  Instead, as a member of the baby boom generation (born during the first term of the Eisenhower administration), I am proud to report that Jim Morrison and The Doors permanently planted this unforgettable line in my brain around 1970 or so.  The source (as many of you no doubt already know) is "Roadhouse Blues" from the album (which is what we called those circular vinyl artifacts back then) Morrison Hotel.  And a fine album it was, and remains.  But, have no fear, I don't intend to embark upon one of those by now tiresome baby boomer paeans to the wondrous music of my youth.  (Well, it was wondrous.)

I will, however, say this: "After all, it's true.  The future's uncertain and the end is always near.  And, although it is a truism -- the substance of which has been repeated many times in many ways over many centuries -- there is a certain frisson in having it suddenly arrive near the end of "Roadhouse Blues."  You never know in what guise Beauty and Truth will present themselves.  Be grateful for small and unexpected gifts."

Having listened to "Roadhouse Blues" numerous times this past week, I found myself remembering a lovely poem (which has appeared here in the past):

                         Garramor Bay

Now the long wave unfolded falls from the West,
The sandbirds run upon twittering, twinkling feet:
Life is perilous, poised on the lip of a wave,
And the weed that lay yesterday here is clean gone.

O visitor, fugitive creature, thing of a tide,
Make music, my heart, before the long silence.

L. A. G. Strong, Northern Light (Victor Gollancz 1930).

Harald Sohlberg (1869-1935), "Flower Meadow in the North" (1905)

"Garramor Bay" in turn led me to this (which has also appeared here on more than one occasion):

            Out There

Do they ever meet out there,
The dolphins I counted,
The otter I wait for?
I should have spent my life
Listening to the waves.

Michael Longley, The Ghost Orchid (Jonathan Cape 1995).

"Roadhouse Blues," followed by "Garramor Bay," followed by "Out There": such has been the turning of the year for me.  

Happy New Year, dear readers!

Richard Eurich (1903-1992), "The Road to Grassington" (1971)