Wednesday, August 05, 2020

'These Days Are Best When One Goes Nowhere'

“These days are best when one goes nowhere,
The house a reservoir of quiet change . . .”

David, my youngest son, was issued his driver’s license on Monday and took his first solo drive that evening – two miles to his Boy Scout meeting. He is soon to become an Eagle Scout and later this month will return to his boarding school in Ontario, after remaining for two weeks in quarantine at a Canadian friend’s house. The irritating irony of getting his license at age seventeen in the midst of a lockdown, with almost nowhere to go, is not lost on him. Youth means motion. Stillness is death. In adolescence, humans behave like their less highly evolved cousins – cats and butterflies, for instance – and are seldom motionless. I can sit by the bay window and read for hours.

The lines quoted at the top are from Charles Tomlinson’s “Against Travel,” collected in Jubilation in 1995, the year he turned sixty-eight, as I will in October. An old man’s poem, written without protest, with calm resignation. I’m happy not to drive and look forward to the day when I no longer have to. Each week, the library and physical therapy are my only scheduled outings. Such a contrast with my younger days when there was no place on Earth I would not have wanted to visit at least once. I’ve lived in five states, spent time in eight foreign countries, and have no desire to move. My journeys are inward, often with a book as passport. Tomlinson closes “Against Travel” with these lines:

“Then the window pane
With a tremor of glass acknowledges
The distant boom of a departing plane.”

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