Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: After the End of the World

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

After the End of the World

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We’re still here, all of us, the faithful penitents and the scoffers, along with the doers of saintly deeds and the usual assortment of sins. Doomsday came and went. And here we are still, all our flaws intact.

Actually, the end of the world--originally scheduled for last weekend and now apparently postponed until October 21--had taken me by surprise. I’m not among those scheduled for rapture, so I had missed most of lead-in preparations. But as the fateful hour neared it became harder to ignore. The man next to me in the supermarket checkout line was saying that he didn’t want to be buying his groceries when the world ended. “I want to be in a better place,” he said. Hmmm....a better place? What if.....?

Since the day was sunnier and warmer than it had been in weeks, Dr. D. and I spent much of it in the garden. We tilled the soil, we sowed for the future, or at least for the next couple of months. Earthworms in generous numbers were there to help. A cardinal was sitting on her nest outside the kitchen door. The peaceable kingdom in the middle of Cambridge.

We were having some computer problems but, as often happens, they seemed to be resolved after we switched off and restarted. Which is kind of what the End Of The World day did, too, switched us from the mildly unconscious to the noticing mode. The next morning the bone-chilling drizzle was back, but we had pleasant things to do. It was good.

A couple of years ago I was asked to be among a group of poets responding to the question “Why do I write?” And, in the way writers find they are sometimes surprised to see on the page what it is they think, I was a little taken aback to find myself saying that I write to notice. Noticing is in relation to daily life the way poetry is to prose--a heightened state. Isn’t noticing what we do when we love? So here I am in a week when the world is not gone. Perhaps, in Wordsworth’s words, it is too much with us. Certainly we do lay waste our powers, frittering away the minute by minute building blocks of our lives. And whatever stops us in our tracks and makes us notice just a little more is a good thing.

The Last Day came and went. The faithful have much to do, picking up the shattered pieces of their belief, some of them now trying to find new jobs and rebuild the savings account. But we who never thought it was going to happen anyway have an unanticipated chance at a kind of redemption ourselves. Maybe it did make us think even for one nanosecond, “what if....” This week the world goes on, complete with its misery, injustice, poverty, oppression, and natural and human-caused disasters in place. But also with its possibilities.for good still standing, unscathed. And we can look around and notice what possibilities exist, in our own little worlds and in our large, shared one. So maybe, we are, after all, in a better place.

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