Creeping conservatism

One thing I never anticipated about growing older is how attached I would become to ordinary possessions, how reluctant I am to replace things that genuinely need to be replaced. I tell myself that this is rational behavior: manufacturing is in a terrible state, that’s not my imagination! Whatever new thing I get will almost undoubtedly be worse. But, like, this perfectly ordinary pair of scissors that I’ve been using to trim my beard and mustache once or twice a week for the past 30 years is getting so dull now that it causes me actual physical pain, yet I still can’t bear the thought of replacing it. Fundamentally, I guess I just don’t hold with the passing of time. It’s wrong and I don’t like it.

The Yellow Clock

Every summer for 6 or 7 years when I was a kid — so effectively forever — my paternal grandparents came and stayed in the old tenant house, which I currently occupy. They had this brilliant mid-century electric wall clock in the kitchen that remained in the house, along with many of their other things, for decades. At some point it got broken, and the kitchen hasn’t felt the same since. Two weeks ago, as I gazed at the spot where it used to hang, a thought popped into my head: eBay! I typed in something like “retro art deco electric wall clock yellow” and there it was, only three items down. Some guy in Jersey Shore had one he’d found in a garage and was asking $35 bucks for it. Couldn’t guarantee it still kept good time. I didn’t care; instant purchase. Turns out it does! The kitchen looks right again, and more importantly, I think, I have an analogue clock that I’ll see every day to remind me that time is cyclical and intrinsic to the rhythms of the cosmos, not simply an endless procession of interchangeable seconds.

Pepys, uncut

Despite making erasure poems from the Diary of Samuel Pepys for more than a decade, I’ve always worked digitally and never actually owned or indeed opened a volume of the 1899 Wheatley edition, whose text I’ve been taking such liberties with… until now. Last night when I went to the monthly meeting of our local Audubon chapter for a presentation on orchids, a member who had attended my own presentation back in November, in which I’d mentioned my erasure project, gifted me the entire set! I was momentarily speechless. She said she’d been a book collector for many years but was now in de-acquisition mode and finding homes for all her treasures.

I’m beyond grateful. From a haiku perspective, there’s so much wabi-sabi in old books like these. For one thing, they seem never to have had a single reader in their more than century of existence: the pages in most volumes, though yellowing, remain uncut. (And no, I’m not going to mutilate them to make analogue erasures. My dad was a librarian. He’d come back to haunt me! I’ll use photocopies if it comes to that.)

I record this here as a reminder to myself never to say no to local gigs, no matter how much they might cost me in nights of lost sleep. As Qoheleth says: Cast thy bread upon the waters.