Friday, September 17, 2010

A 74th birthday musing

Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.
A stanza from a poem of May Sarton, written at just my age, and published in her collection The Silence Now. Silence is a theme -- the cat -- that stalked Sarton throughout her career as poet and novelist. Strange, for one so prolific with words, to be constantly looking over her shoulder at the wordlessness that followed, silently, on cat's paws. But I understand. Those millions of words I have written in nearly twenty books, hundreds of columns, essays and reviews, and here in this online journal for half-a-dozen years, seem now to be echoing back and forth, reverberating. I've written them all before. You've read them all before.

How many ways are there to say, as Sarton says, "I am suddenly transported here/ Into the always saving joy and thrust/ Of pure creation…"? And why say it when it has been said before, again and again? And all the while, silence waiting there. Clear time. Clear space. Apprehension -- grabbed by the hair, rung like a bell -- uncluttered by the felt need for expression.
It is the transient that touches me, old,
Those light-shot clouds as the sky clears,
A passing glory can still move to tears,
Moments of pure joy like some fairy gold
Too evanescent to be kept or told,
And the cat's soft footfall on the stair
Keeps me alive…
Sarton, by the way, was the daughter of the eminent historian of science, George Sarton.