Monday, July 15, 2013

`That Was the Kind of Day It Was'

“Last week, there was a day I hesitate to call perfect only because I’d hate it if the truly perfect day had already come and gone in my life.” 

Agreed, but a day can be judged perfect only in memory. No one recognizes perfection as it happens. The day’s aches and gripes and mundane contingencies distract from emergent perfection. The perfect day must be seen, like fine jewelry, in the appropriate setting – that is, among the more conventional days surrounding it. Perfection, paradoxically, is relative. The quote above, Verlyn Klinkenborg’s, from More Scenes from the Rural Life (Princeton Architectural Press, 2013), is followed by this: 

“I’d like it to remain somewhere ahead in my reckoning. But when that perfect day comes it will probably resemble the one last week. The western breeze had cleaned the sun and purified the light, which fell mote-less on the farm.” 

Note that Klinkenborg doesn’t confuse the day’s perfection with wealth, conquest, love or the grosser pleasures, perfection’s hackneyed attributes to the callow unimaginative. For him a breeze and sunlight qualify. At the beach in Galveston on Sunday, we had a hot wind that mitigated the humidity, and intermittent sun, but the breeze was tangy with brine, the waves subdued, our fellow beach-goers mostly quiet. They provided the scent of barbecue. The sand was buff-colored and fine. We collected shells and beach glass and I pulled a dead horseshoe crab from the water, holding it by the tail and chasing my ten-year-old, pretending it was one of the face-huggers from the Alien movies. 

My oldest son was married last week in New York City. My middle son is attending a computer camp with his best friend near Seattle, and in six weeks leaves for boarding school in Canada. A perfect day is not getting what you want but appreciating what you have. Klinkenborg writes: 

“These are pure-sun, western-breeze thoughts, steam rising from compost. But on the day I mean, it seemed like a toss-up. Either everything was sentient along with me, or we are all sharing a vital insentience. I sat in the shade watching the bees come and go in the sunshine a few feet away, a nectared, pollened, purposeful cloud. That was the kind of day it was.”

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