Monday, August 25, 2008

World Enough and Time

Andrew Marvel is the poet who wrote the line about not having "world enough and time" in My Coy Mistress. A memorable pick-up poem. But it's stayed with me in a much broader sense for I've known most of my life that I do not have world enough or time and when I feel I've wasted time on a something not worth it, I have pangs. I've been reading Anne Rice's Cry to Heaven, in fact I spent quite a few hours yesterday eager to get the end. She is very accomplished, her plotting never flagged. Her descriptions of Venice, Naples and Rome were redolent with reality. I believed her information about the world of the castrati 250 years ago. I admired her deft writing style. Why am I dissatisfied? Because it finally was a form of entertainment that was hollow of human meaning, everybody was very beautiful and the hero was incorruptible and noble. And I didn't really believe in that well crafted world at all. I could have been reading much better books.

Why have I been beating myself up all day? Because the older I am the less time I have and I don't want to squander it. I'll gladly give hours to real life people, even if I'mm bored, but I don't want to give those hours to books that leave me feeling I have lived more fully for knowing the characters.

When did this parsimoniousness about time begin? Maybe in college when I didn't have enough time. I took heavy loads of literature courses with lots of reading [and I read rather slowly] and I worked about 30 hours a week and had to maintain at least a B+ average to keep my scholarships. So I didn't learn to play bridge with friends -- I wasn't very good the few times I tired. I thought playing tennis would be fun -- if I got good enough to hit the ball, but that took practice and there wasn't time.

Then there was the young mother period. Back then only a few women were pursuing careers, the rest of us took our motherly responsibilties very seriously and devoted time to it. And children DO take time. Fortunately more than 50% of the time your own are incredibly beautiful and charming and smart and funny -- although there's a highish percentage of the time, much of it between 5 and 7pm and also between 3 and 5 a.m. when they are miniature demons from hell who cry, scream, whine, fuss, cling and will not be comforted by anything. Their care has to be combined with housewifely duties and maybe some community involvement -- for me increasing community involvement, virtually unpaid volunteer jobs. So there wasn't time for cross country skiing though I thought it would be wonderful. I made time for piano lessons and have never regretted a moment of practicing. Nor did I regret hours of yoga. There IS time when you make it.

So life has gone on, and always I grow more serious about how I spend that time and more determined to use it intelligently and purposefully. Yes, I allow myself long walks in the parks on beautiful days -- good for the body, good for the spirit. But more and more now I think of not working at a job -- jez! I'm old enough to retire!! And giving that time to writing, quilting, piano, exercise, reading good -- I mean really good, not always serious, of course but good, not genre books.

Okay, now I know a few things about castrati; I don't think I learned enough. So I'll go to my shelves of to-read books and choose another, a slimmer one, just for the change of pace. And there's a wonderful poetry anthology beside the bed, I'm discovering many find poems I never read before and some I have. At the end of the day, I feel I've put some lovely images, sincere thoughts, beautiful use of language into my mind. I love reading, but, yes, I have to be picky.

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