AND SO WE BEAT ON, BOATS AGAINST THE CURRENT….

“Most of the big shore places were closed now and the only light was the shadowy moving glow of a ferry boat across the sound…”

The beginning of the end — of Scott Fitzgerald’s narrator Nick Carroway’s closing meditation on Jay Gastby who’d come a long way to that “blue lawn”of Long Island to pick out “that green light” at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock….”He must have though his dream was so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, back there in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic roll on under the night.”

Not every word perfect, all from memory.

It is the day after Christmas. It’s all “falling action” in the story of this fraught year now.

Will this republic be pulled apart as it journeys into a new year and regime change? Can it sustain itself in the face of these atomizing forces? That’s how that keenest of observers, Joan Didion, exploring and writing about the scene in Height Ashbury in 1967 (that putative Summer of Love), diagnosed the entropic forces at work among the baby boomers nesting there – as a process of “atomization.” We are being reduced to our particulate parts as a nation, i.e. ground to fine powder. And it ain’t now, nor was it, really, in ’67, love potion or fairy dust.

I was, in fact, working in the mountains of California as a Department of Interior maintenance man during the summer 0f ’67, at a ranger station and visitor center where the Sequoia seed that could, over centuries, grow up to be the largest living things on earth, i.e., the sequoia redwood, was preserved under a small plexiglass dome that I polished daily. Nature, tall and redolent and mysterious and full of promise, was my companion. I would like to get back out there to my old workplace for nostalgic reasons — see again what I guarded during the Summer of Love as it raged in San Francisco Bay. See that enshrined seed that, under that little dome, won’t grow into anything — just go on, growing our wonder.

So (as Nick ends his bittersweet rumination sitting on that blue lawn looking off into the Sound of night) he declares that “we beat on ( then, in 1925, and now, as we head into this new year), “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. “

And we debark nevertheless, facing forward….tell me the alternative?

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