Embracing the Finite Things

This is going to be as obvious as hell. There’s not much I can do about that. It’s just where my head is, at the moment. It’s about how much more we tend to appreciate things as soon as we remind ourselves that they will all-to-soon come to an end.

I could see it very much in evidence around my town in the last week or so. In every green spot, around the lake, at every shop corner, you could see gaggles of young people desperately meeting up, shopping, laughing, joking. They were simply trying to extract the last vestiges of fun from their summer as it drew inexorably to a close.

It’s the same pattern I see every year. The summer holidays begin and, just as they do, the kids become omnipresent, all around everywhere.  They are finally free, the world is now their oyster and they are going to do everything they promised themselves they would do when the summer finally came. 

The summer seems to be some sort of an infinite thing, at that point. As a result, so many of the things they promise themselves will never happen. The sunny rendezvous, the nights under the stars, the cycle trips down to the beach, the lazy back yard quarrels. There is so much time to do it in that none of it needs to be done right now and so it never gets done.

A couple of days after the holiday has begun, there are no more gaggles of kids. The park is sunny but deserted. There are endless days ahead in which to sit out there and shoot the gentle breeze. Today need not be one of them. 

There are other reasons for the vanishing, of course. People go off on holidays, to summer camps, to grannies for long biscuit-laden weekends. Others cannot get to their friends, the school transport system shut down for the holiday months. They are stranded in their rural homes.

Mostly, though, I reckon it’s the comfort of the illusion. The lovely feeling that this time will  go on for so long that time no longer matters. When, of course, it does. It always does.

And then, quite suddenly, the infinite summer has all but gone. Without warning, the summer is a precious bauble again, rather than the over-inflated beachball it had previously been. Suddenly it is a thing to be clung to and adored and milked for every possible remaining drop of experience.

But here, boof, it is gone. The town green is once again swarmed with school-uniformed kids, hoisting their far-too-heavy schoolbags towards their labours. The thing that they took for granted as being eternal has ended. The only comfort is that Summer Holidays will come again, one fine day, and they will be wiser the next time. They will know better. 

We’ll get together then, guys, you know we’ll have a good time then.

You don’t need me to say the moral of the piece. We all know it. It applies to everything in our lives, however tiny or enormous. What to do about it, though? What to do?

I think I might try to imagine that something is nearly over, I don’t know what yet. Then I might try to enjoy it all the more for that imagining. Perhaps I’ll try it with Autumn.

Autumn is here at last. I will see it again next year, probably. Let’s just pretend I won’t though. What can I do with it this year, now that it's here? I can’t stop it from slipping away. I can only taste it a bit more than I normally would.

Look, a golden leaf. That's cool, isn't it?


Jim Murdoch said...

You’re getting old, Ken. The kids you talk about seeing in the street already think you’re old. But you’re starting to think old. I had to look up ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’. I remember the song well enough but I couldn’t recall who sang it. In the process I learned Johnny Cash covered it. It’s far more upbeat than I would’ve expected from the man who recorded ‘Hurt’.

It’s September. September’s when I call my daughter and book a visit; I see her four times a year, literally seasonally. I’m always the one to ask when we’re going to meet up. There’s a rather sad man inside me who wonders if I didn’t drop her an e-mail when she’d notice. She’s thirty-seven now and has a busy life. I know she has a busy life but I always feel as if I’m imposing. Gone are the days she turned up on our doorstep three times in a week basically because she was lonely. I miss those days but I wouldn’t know what to do with her if they came back. I’ve moved on too.

Have you ever looked up “middle-aged”? The OED defines it as “The period between early adulthood and old age, usually considered as the years from about 45 to 65.” How many people do you know who’ve lived to 130? Life expectancy for males living in the UK stands at about 80 at the moment. I’m not a kick in the pants off 60. Is that when I get to be officially old? According to the UN, yes. I certainly don’t feel middle-aged.

I read about John Ashbery’s death this morning. He’s not a poet I know well and what little I’ve read I’ve not been that impressed with although someone posted a poem on Facebook I didn’t hate but now, of course, can’t find. I’ve always been aware of famous people dying—Stravinsky was the first I took note of and begged my mum to let me stay up to listen to a performance of The Rite of Spring because it seemed the right thing to do—but the most recent deaths have been people who’ve been part of my life, who made me the man I am today. So it’s like a bit of me has died. And every day I become smaller, a little smaller and one day there’ll be nothing left.

What to do with the time left, eh? Since I stopped blogging I’ve been allowing myself to become bored. I wrote about boredom a while back and about the positive side to it. Certainly it seems to be working for me because scraps are forming. This is one from this morning:

      Another has gone.
      Seems like they're going every day now.
      One and then another and then another one.

Ken Armstrong said...

I *am* getting old, Jim. I can feel it in my bones. I had a photo taken with my two boys last week and how much taller and straighter and 'vertical' they are than me. I am getting increasingly 'horizontal' these days.

Get you, sitting up to listen to The Rite of Spring. That's pretty cool.

Your scrap sounds good. I hope that blogging energy can be deflected into new and exciting creations on poetry, prose and whatever else catches your fancy.

Anonymous said...

I am not getting old, I am old. Well physically at least.

Unknown said...

You're spot-on about Summer - first it's endless and then it's gone. The same with youth. And with passion, very often. I think all of life needs to be regarded as a soon-exhausted resource because it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that everything and everyone I've ever taken for granted is only with me oh-so-briefly and every moment needs to be treasured.

Ken Armstrong said...

Chris - You are as old as the game you play. You're doin' okay. :)

Julian - It's a valuable lesson to learn but a high price to pay to learn it.