Wednesday, June 29, 2011

`What Happens Must Be Slow'

Life’s familiar props have grown a little alien. The book shelves are empty. The closet clanks with coat hangers. The suitcase fills slowly with books and socks. I’m living and working in two places, for now, and the vertigo is spatial, yes, but also temporal, like tumbling in time. Pacific Daylight Time is two hours earlier than Central Daylight Time, and I’m forever recalibrating my clock and the cultural assumptions separating Seattle and Houston. David Slavitt makes the sensation dizzyingly vivid in “Transatlantic Flight” (Crossroads, 1994):

“When it is now there, it will be then here,
but it is not now there yet.
Later it will be now there;
then it will be then there.
But then it will not be then here,
and then it will not be then there
or anywhere, ever again.”

Routines and rituals ground us, preserve us from midair dizziness. Some can be carried, like luggage; others, started only from scratch. My preference is for a slower pace (On a new job? Even an old new job?) and a realistic measure of predictability. I lived in Houston for four years and worked at the job I’m returning to for half of that time. I’m looking for the “sure and slow,” as May Sarton puts it in the closing lines of “In Texas” (Collected Poems 1930-1973, 1974):

“In Texas you look at America with a patient eye.
You want everything to be sure and slow and set in relation
To immense skies and earth that never ends. You wonder why
People must talk and strain so much about a nation
That lives in spaces vaster than a man’s dream and can go
Five hundred miles through wilderness, meeting only the hawk
And the dead rabbit in the road. What happens must be slow,
Must go deeper even than hand’s work or tongue’s talk,
Must rise out of the flesh like sweat after a hard day,
Must come slowly, in its own time, in its own way.”

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