Let's go over the brink together, shall we?
(First: at the seminar table, a revelation: "I got an e-mail from someone who saw you walking around on Friday night and thought you were on a date! He was like, 'I mean, do you think she was? She was all dolled up, and her hair looked nice!' And I said, 'Well, yeah, probably she was!'" Laughter and laughter from me. I looked pretty much the same as always, as we strolled through campus Friday evening. The difference was that I was animated and happy, walking with my dear friend, showing him where I live. The difference was that I was acting my age, without reference to my students, and the ones who saw me could sense it. "I saw you too," another student said, "and I tried to calculate where our paths would cross, and what I would say if I actually did run into you." So now I know how to break the news to everyone, should there ever be a somebody who sticks around: take a Friday evening walk. As if I didn't already know.)
When Friday rolls in and I've finished having my last class meeting here at the house (a morning class on memory deserves indulgence in one of my favorite traditions, the pancake breakfast, and if they're lucky, they'll get faces in profile, with chocolate chips for eyes), I want to start reading again. Geraldine Brooks's March won the Pulitzer for fiction weeks ago, and I bought a copy the same day. But it's been sitting on my bed ever since. I've started feeling my way into Czeslaw Milosz's work--poetry but also memoir--but haven't gotten nearly as far as I'd like, just tiny touches to sustain me into the weekend. From the last poems, a book of agedness: "I should now be wiser than I was. / Yet I don't know whether I am wiser." "Let reality return to our speech." "So strange, the self-loving 'I' of men and women that adores itself in mirrors." And the title poem:
So, I will read poetry. And I will read novels (the new Peter Carey comes out a week from tomorrow!). And I will sleep, having finally taken the time to dig my bed out from under its accumulations, to put the threadbare flannel away for the summer and bring out the percale, the soft crispness that's best for scissoring one's legs in during summer waking. I will walk out and stare at the sky while the air is still cool and light, before the heavy, hot damp settles in for the summer.
How spacious the heavenly halls are!
Approach them on aerial stairs.
Above white clouds, there are the hanging gardens of paradise.
A soul tears itself from the body and soars.
It remembers that there is an up.
And there is a down.
Have we really lost faith in that other space?
Have they vanished forever, both Heaven and Hell?
Without unearthly meadows how to meet salvation?
And where will the damned find suitable quarters?
Let us weep, lament the enormity of the loss.
Let us smear our faces with coal, loosen our hair.
Let us implore that it be returned to us,
That second space.
And I will write. Such writing I hope to do this summer. And picturing. And walking.
And I will call everyone, just everyone.
And I will calm, and that will be the best part, the steadiest part. Several years ago, writing to my beloved Brooklynite, I figured out the precise way anxiety and loneliness felt: like a small, fluffed and trembling bird, fluttering just behind my sternum. This year, it really is just like sticking with everything through the last stage of a migration: the scenery is still lovely, there's good food of all sorts just ahead, and there's nothing to do but keep pushing determinedly onward.