Saturday, August 25, 2012

Talking About Time


Between the last time I wrote and today, I have had a birthday, as you know. Indeed, your modest acknowledgement was my favorite gift, because I did not expect it. Last year I did not hear from you at all, and I've never known why--most probably, you did not know when it was until afterwards, and did not realize that a belated "happy birthday" would have mattered to me. We humans are complex creatures who so easily read each other wrong, and I know I tend to read others wrong more often than most.

Presents are still arriving by mail, and today I got the time of day in a very different way; my father and step-mother have sent me a watch. I asked for the watch, and now that I have it, it turns out to be a nice watch, grey and elegant-looking, and it now informs me that it is twelve twenty-two PM. A useful thing to know. With the watch came a poem from my Dad--I think I told you he is a poet? He is. And so, over the years have come poems, sometimes about me, occasionally addressed to me, more often simply sent in my direction for my edification and enjoyment. It is strange to think that there are people whose daddies are not poets, but I suppose your daughter must think it strange that not all daddies are birders. We are all so shaped by initial conditions....

Anyway, so there is this poem, which is probably my second-favorite gift, being also unexpected, and so deliciously just for me; a whole poem! And it is mine! The poem is a riff on the word "watch," and also a riff on the concept of cost, as I'd asked for a "real" watch, one that was not made by sweat-shop and is therefor not cheap. Unfortunately, according to this poem, such watches are now hard to come by, so this one bears some kinds of costs and not others.

Talking about time.

This riff on a watch reminds me of a song I've been singing to myself on and off for a few weeks now.  I couldn't remember the title, but I'd thought it was a Don McLean song from the American Pie album. It begins;

When I talk about time, no answer do I gain.
Reading between lines brings only this refrain;

ooo ooo ooo ooo.

I was singing this song today, and I wanted to write about it, but singing it through I kept getting only two verses and it felt as though there should be three. So I hied myself to the internet to look up the lyrics.

But they were not there. I couldn't remember the title, but I thought I knew the album and the artist...and all the songs listed for American Pie were different songs, others that I am familiar with and would not have confused with this one: American Pie, the title track itself;  Starry, Starry Night, which inspired a major spiritual idea for me years ago; The Grave, which is chillingly awesome; Till Tomorrow, which is perfect to listen to during a bad break-up, of which I have had two...and on and on. But no talking about Time, the "entity that no one hears and no one sees."

I got desperate; had I imagined the song? Had it vanished, been sucked up in some Orwellian edit of the cultural universe? Whenever I am confused, I have a disturbing tendency to wonder if perhaps the laws of physics have changed before it occurs to me to wonder if perhaps I was wrong. Finally, I found it; the song is called Between the Lines, and it is not a Don McLean song at all. It is a Schooner Fare song, written by Tome Rowe. And it does, indeed, have a third verse.

The problem is that it looks as though I'd remembered the first two verses wrong. Particularly the passage listed on the band's website as follows;

Love is the power and might that gives me sight
makes me fight my way closer to you.

Fine enough, but what I remember is;

Love is the power and might that brings me sadly
to fight my way closer to you.

Do you see what a difference that makes? Like, ok, love motivates the singer to fight for the beloved, that's not a new idea, but to fight sadly? It's almost as though the singer regrets the necessity of fighting, or perhaps he must fight through sadness, or maybe he becomes sad because he is fighting, because love makes him enter sadness he might otherwise stay out of.

And that's how it works, isn't it? I mean, Romeo and Juliet aside, the big problem with love is not some outward problem, but the fact that none of us really want to do it. Who wants to give up fantasies and expectations and self-interest in order to really get to know someone else? That's what must be fought against. That's sad on so many levels.

But all of that is expressed and embodied by a lyric I appear to have miss-heard. Did I misunderstand the essence of the song? Or is it possible the brilliance I thought I heard is quite real, but it is actually mine?

So, I'm thirty-five now. Most of my friends are at least twenty years older, for whatever reason, so I get a lot of "you're so young!" but 35 seems quite venerable to me. Numerically, I am undeniably, certifiably, and reliably grown-up. And I evidently have all these grown-up thoughts about love and time and so forth. And yet my actual birthday found me in such a good mood that I bounced with excitement and sang wavering bits of random song in the sunshine. You've have thought I was five, watching me, except for my height and my wedding ring. I am more childlike now than when I was a child, in some ways.

The course of Time does not run smooth.

-best, as ever, your friend,

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