Sunday, October 2, 2011

Of Time and the River

"All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."
--Thomas Wolfe

I was 18 when I read Thomas Wolfe's wonderful Look Homeward Angel, a book written in a passionate, gorgeously poetic stream of consciousness style that I found absolutely thrilling. This morning I tell myself firmly I must get a copy of the book this winter and read his chronicle of "the strange and bitter magic of life" again.

Put it on your list, Gaea says that one inner voice. Yes, another voice within replies. I imagine you have various inner voices too.

It was Thomas Wolfe's writing that inspired Jack Kerouac to start writing. Kerouac later abandoned Wolfe's romantic style to forge his own version of stream of consciousness chronicles. Now Kerouac is much better known. Such are the vagaries of literary fashion.

Incidentally, I mean Thomas Wolfe who is often considered one of America's great mid-century writers, not Tom Wolfe the journalist known for Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Bonfire of the Vanities.

I never read Thomas Wolfe's second book Of Time and the River, but that did not stop its title from dancing into my mind this morning as I was musing about how quickly the summer streamed by-- and how quickly the years have streamed by.

This is a recurring topic of late. And it's perfectly natural that as one ages, one sits by the river and contemplates the flow of time.

Now it's autumn already. It's 2011 already. I am 70 already. Protesters are occupying Wall Street, the president of Brazil postponed (hopefully forever) flooding a huge swatch of the Amazon rainforest and we are in the midst of gigantic global, political and economic changes. These are the times we live in.

So of course it is a perfect time for an ancient Japanese poem about autumn.

The hanging raindrops
have not dried from the needles
of the fir forest
before the evening mist
of autumn rises.
--the monk Jakuren

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