A Lifetime Burning in Every Moment

Great Salt Lake, my birthland

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

–Excerpt from East Coker V, Four Quartets, by T. S. Eliot

I featured this T. S. Eliot excerpt on Slow Muse earlier this year, but its message is still resonating. I am short on words these last few days, so that is when you really have to rely on the wordsmithers, the geniuses of language to get you through until your own words return.

My languagelessness is about home, about the deepest connections we carry in our lives. I just returned from a week in Utah where I was at a gathering of my far flung family. During that one week another of our elders passed, a baby was born, rusty connections were rekindled, bodies were soothed in the hot springs in Idaho, Kouing Amans were devoured en masse, and an enormous feast brought all of us to table with an outpouring of mirth and gratitude at just being together. Maybe your family has mastered family reunionism, but this was a sweet and rare moment for an oversized (six siblings and nearly 40 nieces and nephews with all the accompanying significant others), opinionated and highly raucous family.

To quote Dean Young in Recklessn ess, some things must be made opaque to be seen.

6 Replies to “A Lifetime Burning in Every Moment”

  1. Ginny Connors says:

    Beautiful poem (or excerpt). Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. deborahbarlow says:

      Thank you for your comment Ginny. It is a poem that just keeps speaking to me all these many years.

  2. “Languagelessness”, what a great word!

    I get the feeling that we are not alone in our
    It’s not for lack of words.
    Words are shedding their skin;
    Shifting, looking for solid ground,
    Freeing themselves of an itchy pretense,
    That no longer fits,
    Reexamining their pot-bound roots,
    Yearning to go deeper.
    Draw up new food,
    Nurture a bulimic throng.
    -John Fairley

    1. deborahbarlow says:

      John, Thank you for this!

  3. I’m from a large and ever-more-far-flung family, and reunions are becoming fewer and more localized. Sometimes that’s a relief, but occasionally I feel wistful; we seem to gather more often for funerals than anything else these days, and our “homeland” (in the Midwest) seems distant to me. Your post brought back some memories. Perhaps my end is my beginning. Thanks.

    1. deborahbarlow says:

      Ann, this is such a fragile thing, these relationships. I have been through good times and bad. But it just keeps coming around, continually morphing and taking on new forms. Which is of course part of the mystery. Thanks for your comment.

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