This morning was a morning of unexpected beauty. The sun was an incredible, radiant red, washing the sky in pinks and oranges. The trees and bare fields stood stark against those flaming colors, silhouettes of cold and quiet.
As I drove, I crossed paths with a ribbon of blackbirds, stretching for nearly a mile before I diverged from their course and lost them. They reminded me of one of my favorite lines:
There was an aviary in my heart but without any owls or eagles.
Fittingly, that’s from Dylan Thomas’ “The Crumbs of One Man’s Year.” I often feel an aviary in my heart, though I believe a veritable parliament of owls has taken up residence as well.
My two favorite ‘crumbs’ from that story are here:
I was walking, one afternoon in August, along a riverbank, thinking the same thoughts that I always think when I walk along a riverbank in August. As I was walking, I was thinking – now it is August and I am walking along a riverbank. I do not think I was thinking anything else. I should have been thinking of what I should have been doing, but I was thinking only of what I was doing then and it was all right: it was good, and ordinary, and slow, and idle, and old, and sure … There were trees blowing, standing still, growing, knowing, whose names I never knew. (Once, indeed, with a friend I wrote a poem beginning, ‘All trees are oaks, except fir-trees.’) There were birds being busy, or sleep-flying, in the sky. (The poem had continued: ‘All birds are robins, except crows, or rooks.’) Nature was doing what it was doing, and thinking just that. And I was walking and thinking that I was walking, and for August it was not such a cold day. And then I saw, drifting along the water. A piece of paper, and I thought: Something wonderful may be written on this paper. I was alone on the gooseberry earth, or alone for two green miles, and a message drifted towards me on that tabby-colored water that ran through the middle of the cow-patched, mooing fields. It was a message from multitudinous nowhere to my solitary self. I put out my stick and caught the piece of paper and held it close to the river-bank. It was a page torn from a very old periodical. That I could see. I leant over and read, through the water, the message on the rippling page. I made out, with difficulty, only one sentence: it commemorated the fact that, over a hundred years ago, a man in Worcester had, for a bet, eaten, at one sitting, fifty-two pounds of plums.
It was a shooting green spring morning, nimble and crocus, with all the young women treading on naked flower-stalks, the metropolitan sward, swinging their milk-pail handbags, gentle, fickle, inviting, accessible, forgiving each robustly abandoned gesture of salutation before it was made or imagined, assenting, as they reveled demurely towards the manicure salon or the typewriting office, to all the ardent unspoken endearments of shaggy strangers and the winks and pipes of clovenfooted sandwichmen. The sun thrilled, the buses gamboled, policemen and daffodils bowed in the breeze that tasted if buttermilk. Delicate carousel plashed and babbled from the public-houses which were not yet open. I felt like a young god. Removed my collar-studs and opened my shirt. I tossed back my hair. There was an aviary in my heart, but without any owls or eagles. My cheeks were cherried warm, I smelt, I thought, of sea-pinks. To the sound of madrigals sung by slim sopranos in waterfalled valleys where I was the only tenor, I leapt on to a bus. The bus was full. Carefree, open-collared, my eyes alight, my veins full of the spring as a dancer’s shoes should be full of champagne, I stood, in love and at ease and always young, on the packed lower deck. And a man of exactly my own age -- or perhaps he was a little older -- got up and offered me his seat. He said, in a respectful voice, as though to an old justice of the peace, ‘Please, won’t you take my seat?’ and then he added – ‘Sir.’
I’ve been anxious lately, feeling the weight of responsibility and an overwhelming tendency to apathy. I hope it passes with the year. I hope the year passes with little to remark upon. Last year’s finale was glittery, hollow, and not a little frightening. This year’s will be quiet and inevitable, and that’s all.