They will not see me, living out of sight down the hill, the white-robed army of monks at prayer, the makers of incense and beds and meals with the smell of God about them.
They might feel me step into their pilgrimage, balancing between the jagged and the smooth stones, paying homage to the rock borders that turn me closer in, farther out, maddeningly away from the center.
This is no way to live a life. How many times have they made these very turns in their cloister, no labyrinth to guide them but only the vague inner nudge?
It is the place where tortuous and torturous merge. I take half an hour; they use half their lives. And for what? A pile of rocks in the center, a single life well lived?
The question, maybe, gives us pause. It does not stop that inexorable pull, like undertow sent to immolate a swimmer beneath the waves,
or the ineffable peace that spreads with every step.
A friend of mine has an idea for teaching youth about sex: have them view one of those graphic birthing videos that the hospital has for first-time parents, the kind that shows the crowning and the afterbirth, the agony and the joy. The kids will get the idea.
Up north, my wife, Felice, slipped away with emphysema, and my work cruised on without me—accounts balanced, mortgages afloat. My sleep done down here in Florida, I stand looking out a darkened window no one’s looking in. The morning paper never comes too soon with its rites of scandal and opinion. I finger my few stocks’ shifting fractions, consult the weather map’s puzzle,
while the percolator gurgles and sighs. I wait for the light, wait for that moment when Felice appears, pouring my cream, easing my bitterness by asking, “Where will you go today, and who will you carry?”
The diaries of World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon have been digitized and made available to the public by the University of Cambridge. Sassoon, a British soldier, was quickly disillusioned by the war and became an outspoken war critic. His diaries feature poetry, prose, and drawings and include his 1917 antiwar “Soldier’s Declaration,” which got him committed to a hospital for the duration of the war. He described the first day of the Battle of Somme as a “sunlit picture of hell” (BBC, July 31).