I’ve lost some books and I’m upset about it. It’s all because of a move. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. But every time I move, I lose things. I hope you book lovers will commiserate with me about the lost books, not that you don’t have anything else to read. You’ve got your own books, after all!
But first, about the move. Oh, the move!
I’ve relocated to a tin house. I have poison ivy — or maybe it’s poison oak. And yesterday, I opened the shed door to let out the dogs — and a snake crawled in and hid under the washing machine. The traffic is intense, the weather is still hot and humid. Yes, this must be Florida.
Oh, Lost! As Thomas Wolfe might say….
I’ve moved now and then. Yes, indeed. For a guy who spent the first quarter century of his life in one little gray house, I can say I’ve moved a great deal. Heck, in the last three years, I’ve moved — either temporarily or lock,stock and barrel — five times. Often back and forth to and from Florida. To and from that Land of Sunshine, written about previously in this blog. I’m still second-guessing or — far more enfeebling — lamenting, even mourning over this recent move. But I’m HERE, so I’m not going to keep going THERE. How tiresome!
A long-deceased college English professor of mine name Ruth Lotteridge cheerfully blurted out resignedly one morning that we were all probably neurotic, like her. This was before leading us in the study of Shakespeare. ‘If such-and-such and so–and-so is true of you,’ she said, ‘and if you have such-and-such frets and obsessive concerns, don’t worry, you’re just neurotic.’ That’s what she said, more or less, and we all laughed, nervously, believing she was right about herself, and, probably, about some of us. We were Hamlet, endlessly, violently waffling, possibly to the end.
Misery doesn’t always love company, or having a spade called a spade. By the way, Professor Lotteridge once flew home to Washington state over the Christmas break and, being a beloved (neurotic) workaholic, took our final exams with her to read and grade. Never any Florida-like leisure for that woman! Upon her return to Boston, she informed us with amused irritation that the bungling airline had misdirected her luggage — and our exams — to Tokyo. The poorer scholars among us were neurotic enough to wish they’d stayed there. Stayed — lost!
But, enough! When it comes to moves — wherever you go, there you are. I don’t know who said that, but I repeat it here approvingly.
So, yes, I’m in Florida — again. Indeed, I have ‘been here, done this’ repeatedly over several years Not so much for weather as for work or finances; for the alleged ease of living (now a myth); for the false “geographic cure.” Enough! What’s the point at this point? The first move here remains most memorable, pulling a UHaul down 1-95 with my aging Dodge Dart back in September, ’79 to take a job in TV. It changed my life in assorted, complicated ways, personal and professional. Moving will do that. Maybe that’s why we do it.
I’ve gone from Blue Heron Drive in Lancaster, MA ( how beautiful!) to Lot 46 in Largo (how ugly!). It’ll get better. Everything will be okay, one day at a time. I’ll stay long enough to have the leisure to write a lot and see a lot of old friends. Like good old Professor Lotteridge, I shall work hard and a bit neurotically and obsessively. And go to the pool occasionally.
And I just opened the electric bill. $173. It would have been $200 in Massachusetts. I’ll take my blessings where I can find them, and my $27 savings.
But those missing books!! I can put no price on them. Nobody else would want them. There were three other people’s furniture on the big 75-foot moving truck. That’s the economics of how the big moving companies must do it. I hate that! I almost wound up with a table that was supposed to go to a woman in Orlando. It went back on the truck and hopefully back to her. Maybe she has my books, in a small book box clearly labeled WAYLAND in bold black Sharpie letters. (The driver is checking.) But things lost on moves, for some reason, often don’t get recovered. ( Well, that’s not exactly true. There was a box with lampshades in it that was missing. It came back. I should have put important books in that box.)
And now, I no longer have on my bookshelves the entire opus of the recently canonized literary and theological giant Saint John Henry Newman. He’s essential (thought often difficult) reading for me, and not easily available at the public library. Nor do I have my dandy translation of Saint Augustine’s City of God. I can get that work at the library, but I really liked this translation in handy paperback form — to own, not borrow.
And I’ve lately realized that I don’t have my hardcover Collected Works of Franz Kafka, either. (As you can see, I’m a wildly eclectic reader.) The latter book has been with me forever. I loved dipping into it — and into The Hunter Gracchus. Of course, you’re probably thinking maybe the woman in Orlando did, in fact, get the box and, being curious, ripped it open and is now delightedly reading Newman…..No. Not likely. My books have gone to the equivalent of Tokyo; to somewhere in , as Scott Fitzgerald might put it, “that vast obscurity beyond the the city where the dark fields of the republic roll on under the night.” (Yes, my copy of The Great Gatsby made it!)
Of course, there’s also always the hope, though rapidly fading, that the books are hiding somewhere in the “vast obscurity” of these four walls. (Maybe the snake is nesting among them in the shed. The symbolic irony of that is abysmal, as in deep. Yes, I have my Bible. Three of them.)
And now, finally, the hammer blow: I’ve lately realized my fat, ancient volume of the works of the poet Francis Thompson is also — gone! Thompson, the long-suffering, sanctified laudanum addict and mystic, author of “The Hound of Heaven” ( “I fled him down the nights and down the days and down the labyrinthian ways of my own mind….”) That’s a book I found years ago while browsing in a barn full of books on Martha’s Vineyard — I place I’d never have expected to find it.
It was Thompson — that devout, gifted soul — who penned the impassioned essay in support of the works of the atheist Shelley over against the neo-pagan prettiness of Keats and the rest of that Romantic crowd. It drew the attention of my late — and lamented — mentor and friend, Rev. John L. Donovan, who once took the volume in hand and read to me its rhapsodic opening paragraph:
The Church, which was once the mother of poets no less than of
saints, during the last two centuries has relinquished to aliens the
chief glories of poetry, if the chief glories of holiness she has
preserved for her own. The palm and the laurel, Dominic and Dante,
sanctity and song, grew together in her soil: she has retained the
palm, but forgone the laurel.
Wonderful! That essay was in that book. Oh, lost!
POSTSCRIPT: I’ve deliberately and selfishly omitted the suffering and mourning — greater than mine — of my companion Diane who’s move-unhappiness has included being bumped from behind in the terrible traffic and twice going to the ER for an infected leg wound after stepping in the dark on one of those long spike-like needles in a rotting palm frond. ( I never wanted this for her.) And she desperately misses her northern friends. She has made this place a home, nonetheless, civilizing this tin house. But the snake in the shed somewhere under the washer and dryer means I might have to do the laundry from now on — which is fine with me. It’s about time. ( And no matter what that snake says, I ain’t eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree. My multitude of sins already have me laboring over laundry and other matters by the sweat of my brow — so I ain’t biting that apple — again. He’ll have to go tempt another sinner.)