There is grey in your hair.
Young men no longer suddenly catch their breath
When you are passing;
But maybe some old gaffer mutters a blessing
Because it was your prayer
Recovered him upon the bed of death.
For your sole sake--that all heart's ache have known,
And given to others all heart's ache,
From meagre girlhood's putting on
Burdensome beauty--for your sole sake
Heaven has put away the stroke of her doom,
So great her portion in that peace you make
By merely walking in a room.
~ W.B. Yeats
After long-since giving up hope, I'm finally thumbing through my beloved edition of Yeats' collected poetry. And it only took ten years.
I recently recovered some boxes my family had to leave behind when we left Colombia in the mid '90s--seven to be precise. Seven. Boxes. It was like a school time-capsule experiment with the emotional equivalent of watching a corpse stir (well, almost). Unsettling in the extreme.
It took me two days to open them, which I did very carefully (accompanied by a bottle of Negra Modelo), while cataloging the contents in emails to my family. I've experienced the essence of "bittersweet"...several times over. The existential ruminations they inspired are dark, brooding things. But I've spent the past week hiding away from the rest of the world and rereading old favorites. L.M. Montgomery has kept me company as of late; Louisa May Alcott is next on the docket (to be read by candlelight since the lamp has gone out). It's really uncanny how you can go years (a decade!) without reading a beloved book, and then once it's taken up again, the lines unreel themselves in your head right before your eyes find them.
And then there are the memories of who you were when you first loved them...
But I'd be lying if I neglected to mention the buried-treasure element involved. My complete sets of Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, and Alcott are stacked near collections of Yeats, Tennyson, Blake, Chaucer, Dickinson, and Frost. There's a complete illustrated Longfellow from 1888, alongside an ancient second edition of Olive Schreiner's Story of an African Farm and another of Scott's Waverley novels--also from the 19th century (all I have left of my grandparents' old home).
Then there's Twain, Tolkien, Dostoevsky, Lewis, Sayers, and Burnett's A Little Princess...right next to Helter Skelter and novelizations of Braveheart and the original three Star Wars films (!).
The fragrance of old paper greets me when I enter my apartment--I've left everything out in plain sight. These last several days have been overcast, and the sea has been more turbulent and noisier than usual. Clouds have been constant--something to be grateful for as autumn is my favorite time of year. I'm glad to have at least a little bit of it in this year-round summer.
So here's to old friends that inhabit long-lost pages...and solitary evenings by candlelight...in spite of ruined dreams.