Thursday, April 22, 2010

In the Bliss of Routine

Last week, and aside from the general rhythm set by work, errands, friends, and sleep, my evening walks home anchored each day with a sense of calm familiarity. The days have stayed light until seven thirty, the adult softball and kickball teams have returned to the Central Park baseball diamonds, and beside every field the trees stand tall with thick green canopies. As I begin my third summer in New York City, I'm surprised--again--by the new things I learn and discover while treading the same paths and reading on the same benches. The wisteria that retreated last June has blossomed once more by the bridle path, and the April light cuts across the Gapstow Bridge as I walk northwest and home.
I recently finished Donald Hall's latest memoir, Unpacking the Boxes; of a poetry class he took at Harvard with Archibald MacLeish, Hall writes, "Because I worked on poems for hours every day, I was offended when MacLeish called me lazy. He referred not to hours worked but to the ambition of my endeavor, to a conflict between apparent size and real scale". Something about my walks, for me, evokes MacLeish's distinction--the forty-five minutes are small relative to the other pursuits that fill my time, and yet they are a mountain in the mind, and, perhaps, the sustenance on which my life grows.

Hall, in any case, seems to have resolved the conflict. In "Routine" he writes a world into five lines, and, to me, with both the scope and focus of another year in New York and a wisteria flower in spring. Because I can't help but feel--can anyone else?--that I will live forever in the late evening sunlight, while the cheers and crack of bats echo through an April Central Park.

"Routine"

In the bliss of routine
--coffee, love, pond afternoons, poems--
we feel we will live
forever, until we know we feel it.

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