Views from Annie's Cabin

miscellaneous musings on aging and living and loving

Midnight Serendipity

on November 9, 2015

Well, another interesting night unfolded last night.  Lots of rain, windows open, steady drummingIMG_2161 of water off the eaves and the incessant background roar of the rising creek waters.  I punched pillows and tossed and turned and discombobulated both husband and dog, so ultimately just gave into my own restlessness and threw on my faded old sweats and trundled back to Abbey—-Abbey the Book Barn— always my sanctuary, always my midnight cocoon.  And once I accept the fact that I’m wide awake and up for the duration of some unknown stretch of time, then I relax and look around and say to my books, now which of you all are gonna jump down and keep me company tonight?  And this evening, the first book that jumped off the shelf and into my hands and found me curled in my sagging blue reading chair, was Alexander Woollcott’s compendium of readings for men in the Armed Services—from 1943.  My father’s own copy, it bore a bookplate from Southern Bell (“Ma Bell” he used to call her), which reads:  “Your Company hopes this book will serve as a reminder of our appreciation for the job you are doing and of our eagerness for the day when you will return to us.  Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co., Christmas 1943.”  And the free front end paper bears my father’s own inscription, in his handwriting, so uniquely his own and one which never fails to make my heart jump when I see it.  So I held the book, studied the book, tendered the book.  And then read a few passages—some Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, some Thoreau.

And Thoreau reminded me of Jane Kenyon (who’d kept me company a few long nights ago), and a line from one of her poems (“It was/the author of Walden, wasn’t it/ who made a sacrament of saying no”) so I pulled a 1937 Modern Library, Scribner’s edition of Walden and Other Writings of Henry David Thoreau off the shelf.  A nice weighty volume, perfect fit for the hands and lap.  A real nice feeling book.  And wandered around the woods with Thoreau for a while, soft lamplight sitting in for evening starlight.   And while I like Thoreau, would like to step back to 1845 and share a walk with him at the Pond, he’s prone to indulge in what’s known in the colloquial parlance of today as TMI (too much information!).  But he had a passion for wise and honorable living which I admire—and always learn from.  A moral philosopher with plenty of time to think and codify his thoughts into his own moral philosophy.  A man, too, with his own spirituality…….

So I read his chapter on “Walking” and took it to heart.  I’m that much of a hermit myself.  Then I dipped into the chapter on “Visitors” and loved it even better than the one on walking.  It made me smile.  “I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”  Aha!  pretty sensible…..but then he frets about the problem of society being “so close” to him:  “One inconvenience I sometimes experienced in so small a house, the difficulty of getting to a sufficient distance from my guest when we began to utter the big thoughts in big words.  You want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port.  The bullet of your thought must have overcome its lateral and ricochet motion and fallen into its last and steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it may plow out again through the side of his head….I have found it a singular luxury to talk across the pond to a companion on the other side.”  WOW, how did I not know—until the midnight hours of a lonely old night—that young Thoreau possessed a practical sense of humor?!  He and I will indeed take some more leisurely strolls through Time…..(I love his “big thoughts in big words”!)

But I laid  him down with thoughts of his lonesome spirituality still curling around the edges of my mind.  And sat with the comfortable book in my lap, and thought about a man living in such self-imposed isolation and how, in so doing, he becomes intimate with his own sense of spirituality.  Which led my eyes to wander over to the piano at my side where the light shared between keyboard and reading chair shone onto another one of my old favorites, J. W. N. Sullivan’s Beeethoven:  His Spiritual Development.  So I pulled it down from its sitting place (nestled in with Chopin’s Letters) and browsed around its thoughts and philosophies a bit.  This is one of the books I’ve always kept in my car against the unexpected traffic delay or long post office line; Shakespeare’s Sonnets is another one.  But Sullivan’s tracing of Beethoven’s spiritual development through his music compositions is a real tour de force–-yet quite approachable for a lay musician, although the book is best read while listening to the music; that way you can link the words and the mounting power of the music together and then it’s like—WOW, I see! Thank you!  But last night I was captured by a phrase that Beethoven had copied out in his own hand and framed and kept permanently on his desk:  “I am that which is.  I am all that was, that is, and that shall be.”  A bit of Eastern mysticism overlaying or intertwined with good old fashioned Catholic and Anglican credos.

**  **  **

Well, such was my SERENDIPITY on a rainy old night long past midnight.  The unexpected pleasure of one thing leading delightfully to another in the unstructured course of events, resulting in that ultimate comfort of after-midnight friendship:  Me and My Books.

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One response to “Midnight Serendipity

  1. Jean Ohmsen says:

    I could read your words and thoughts all day long, what a gift you have. Love you, Jean

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