Sunday, March 6, 2011

Quick Takes, March Madness Edition

1.  I can't help it.  This is the time of year that makes me miss my old place, and my old place in the world, more than I do at most other times.  The grayness, the bleakness of late winter, punctuated occasionally by the nearly-forgotten sound of bird-cries, the dirty patches of snow at the curb, the wind that rages and at the same time brings the barest hint of cleansing freshness with it -- all of these make me recall New York at this time of year, and walking through it, walking for miles, which is one of the most wonderful things one does there.  Today in my mind I am walking and walking in the neighborhood Madeleine L'Engle described in my favorite of her YA novels, The Young Unicorns.  I'm walking up Riverside Drive along the edge of the park as the wind whips the bare trees and the river sits like a dull strip of lead down below.  If you're a poetically-inclined young girl on this walk, the wind whipping your coat and hair around you will evoke all the sorts of things you long for, even though most of them are things with no names, but after the walk you will go to the Hungarian Pastry Shop (whose facade is pictured above) and have something hot to drink and write, no doubt, in your journal.

2. Nonetheless, I have it on good authority that the present moment is the one in which God dwells, and that to allow yourself to sink into the hot bath of the past -- one of those baths that feel heavenly at first, but soon grow ice cold, but you fear you'll be even colder if get out and dry off -- is to turn your back on God, to deny Him the gratitude that's His due for the abundance He's pouring into your life right now.  This is probably true.  And yet, I am thinking right now of all those dirty patches of snow by the curb and that biting wind, which seemed, in my beautiful former city, to presage so much more than their counterparts, here in Northern Appalachia, seem to do.

3.  I wonder to what extent I'm a prisoner of my past, and to what extent this is neurotic and unhealthy.  There is something perverse, perhaps even decadent, in constantly turning your mind to something that's gone, even if it was where all the excitement was, and where all the beauty seemed to be.

4.  I'm glad that Lent and Easter come so late this year.  As usual, I don't feel ready for spring at all.  If snow, to paraphrase of the great Tommy Wolf-Fran Landesman song "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," will not be returning to hide the clover, at least penance will keep me from overweening lightheartedness at this time of year.

(By the way, I recently found out that "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is from a forgotten musical about beatniks, The Nervous Set.  Here is the show's poster, designed by legendary cartoonist Jules Feiffer.)

5.  March can really hang me up the most.  I'm usually a stressed-out nervous wreck this month, for no reason in particular.  Though it's true that two dear friends of mine died in March, a year apart, and that the year the second dear friend died, I had a painful and difficult pregnancy loss a few days later.  And I just realized the other day, after many years of mistakenly assuming that it would have been in April, that my first, lost child would have been born in March, twenty years ago.

6.  Here is a sad song which some of you may recognize, and which I don't dare post until February is past.  No matter how bleak and saddening March can be, perhaps it's not quite so much so as February.


Anonymous said...

#3, ugh. It must be March, I think it's in the air.

Enbrethiliel said...


Pentimento, I have similar thoughts about the dreariness of my present, in comparison with the golden age that was my past. I'm amazed at how happy I used to be without ever knowing it. And now that happiness has become an act of the will--something that often takes more effort than I can bear--I fantasise about building a time machine and just escaping.

And yet I don't really want to escape to the past. I just want to be somewhere different from where I am right now. The past is merely the first and least vague candidate in a potentially endless list.

I think you're on the right track, trying to find a balance between the richness of the past and the magic of the present moment. At least I'm assuming that is what you're doing and don't mean to make you uncomfortable if it isn't. For in this post I see a coming together of your past, of your present, of places you've lived in that are still thriving now that you're gone . . . and of awful scars that will never heal and beautiful music that will never be forgotten.

In an earlier post, you said that you hoped your sufferings could become balm for those of others. There is much balm here, so I hope that is of some comfort to you.

Pentimento said...

It is greatly comforting, Enbrethiliel. Thank you.

Sometimes I wonder if the music would be so beautiful if the scars weren't so awful. Life is so mysterious.

Anonymous said...

My daughter likes Madeleine L'Engle.

Sheila said...

I used to really, really struggle with some of this, having lived in Florence, Italy, for two years and then moving to Croatia just in time to live through three years of war….

But war and culture shock aside, for a long time I had a hard time accepting that my Italy years were over.

But I love your paragraph about God always with us in the present, and I'm going to borrow it and share it, as I firmly believe it is true and have had years since those earlier ones that deepened my sense of His presence. I think now even living through a war would be a different experience--though I hope and pray I never had to find out.

Sheila said...

Oh, this is rich. I was actually thinking of emailing you to see if you were familiar with Ann Voskamp or had read her book.

Then I remembered I wanted to see what "good authority" you had linked to when you wrote this, so I went back and clicked….and found her blog.

I love it. God bless you.