Good-byes Without Conclusion

For years I’ve dithered.  Which do I prefer? London’s frantic pace or rural Colorado’s remove? As my husband and I have moved back and forth between England and the United States, having the best of both worlds has been a blessing: just when I’ve had enough of theatre and galleries and the buzz that comes with being the only person on the bus speaking English, the only Westerner in the kabab shop, the only woman walking home alone from the Tube at midnight, I leave for Colorado where I chafe at the homogeneity of small town life.

There is something to be said for the anonymity of life in the city. It is quite lovely to be in the midst of strangers who know me not and have no desire to make my acquaintance. In contrast, small town life is exceedingly small – I know (think I know… do I know what I think I know?) my neighbors. Likewise, my neighbors think that they know me. I think I’m transparent, but that is my view of myself. My neighbors might think me quite the studied chameleon. It is not that any of us know our neighbors well; rather it is our thinking that we do. And our “thinking that we know” gives us the security of a well-worn blanket smelling of sleep.

I have had a hard time adjusting to London this September 2012. Knowing that I should make the most of my time here, I am dutifully doing music, museums and theatre…  re-visiting my favorite places like I know I should, but there is not a lot of pleasure in going through the paces. I feel compelled to make the best use of my time, but my heart isn’t in it.

Last week at The Royal Academy, I saw an exhibit of the Impressionists – on loan from The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. This week I returned to the R.A. to see the exhibit of Bronzes. Both shows were intellectually challenging, but I found myself thinking more than feeling.  I thought that I recognized the screaming bronze sculpture featured on the promotion poster, but I was mistaken.

Massemiliano Benzi, 1705
after Bernini’s “Damned Soul”

What I thought I recognized as a Bernini (1619) was not Bernini, but a 1705 Massimiliano Benzi impression of Bernini’s “Damned Soul.” (If commenting of Edvard Munch’s “Scream” in last week’s blog and now commenting on Bernini’s  and Benzi’s “Damned Soul” has you worried about my mental health, not to worry. I am fine. Writing is a great antidote to depression.)

That said, I have been haunted by that famous Samuel Johnson quote: When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” Am I tired of life? I needed to know the context of the quote.

The context is as follows: Johnson (he who wrote the first English dictionary) was talking to William Boswell, and Boswell was wondering whether his affection for London would wear thin should he forsake Glasgow, Scotland and choose to live in London full-time. Samuel Johnson’s had no doubts: “Why, Sir, you will find no man at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

William Boswell was not about to let Johnson have the last word. To that end, Boswell proposed that he and Johnson take a 83-day rural tour. The year was 1773. Both men wrote a travel book based on that tour. Johnson wrote Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland and Boswell wrote Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. (Both travelogues are included in Johnson’s “Journey” which is available from Amazon, used for one pence plus shipping.)

I look forward to reading both books. Meanwhile…

Just prior to leaving for London, I learned of a friend’s death. “Friend” is too strong a word. He was a neighbor. Some thirty-plus years ago, when we each were building our owner-built homes, we would visit one another – would walk through the sage and cactus of the vacant acres between our building sites to admire the exceedingly slow progress both families were making.

He was an artist, an art teacher, and a local historian. He was a good man. And now he is gone. I missed his dying. I missed his funeral. I never said “good-bye.” I try to remember. I saw him last in the Penrose Library. We talked for some time… I left thinking that we should make a date to invite his to dinner… that was… a year ago… maybe it was more. We never had him over.

I am haunted by the funerals of family, friends, and neighbors that I have missed while living in London. It is too late for those funerals, but there will be more.

It is time for me to get off the fence of living in two countries; it is time for me to go home. When you think about it, friends and family are all we really have, and we should enjoy and support them while they are with us… while we can.

A hometown friend wrote to me yesterday. He wrote of how he watched an eight-point buck under our poplar tree… how the buck “cautiously/casually” walked up the block a couple of houses and stood in the shade before ambling on… how he had seen at the grocery a man on horseback who looked like he had ridden out of the mountains to stock up for winter… how he had hiked up to South Colony Lakes and seen the aspen, gold-leafed and in their prime.

What makes me think that “going through the paces” in London can match the immediacy of living life at home?

My mind flashes to an exhibit I saw this week at the Haunch of Venison gallery. I had stopped to see Nathan Coley‘s exhibit: “A Place Beyond Belief.” Of particular interest to me was a room full of tombstones. Some were horizontal; others were leaning against the walls. All had the names erased. Quoting the catalog, the installation “asks the viewer to imagine whose “dearly beloved” may have been forgotten while providing a blank space for them to project a name of a loved one in its place.”

Easily done.

I’m coming home.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Good-byes Without Conclusion

  1. sdembosky says:

    Come home Mums. Sun yourself in the garden.

  2. Liz says:

    I’m going home soon too. It is the place where I have felt such a deep love of the land that it made me understand the meaning of the phrase. See you soon.

    • timeout2 says:

      Yes, Love of the Land – almost a physical thing – far removed from any intellectual connection. Glad to hear that you are returning home too – that you were not swayed by the charms of life back East. xo

  3. mindfulcat says:

    Your blog brought to mind a poem I’m working on entitled ‘This Rain’ and begins with “is like Vancouver rain/falling on the ceder/the cherry blossom and the Arbutus tree…”. I want to go back home too. I wanna go back to Texas. The fact is, I’m homesick for B.C.’s spaciousness – the rain forests & family. Yes.” love of the land…far removed from any intellectual connection.” Beautiful blog Doris; poignant and resonates deeply with me today & a lovely autumnal photo you’ve pinned up. You write very well, articulating the personal and the universal with ease. I’ve often thought of that phrase “when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.” Yes, but, and, perhaps just a certain way of life. Your writing/sharing about your experiences of London’s art Galleries and more over the years has been enriching for me. Fabulous that you have been to the Munch exhibition at the Tate recently. I thought Munsch’s sky, like the romantic poets, was indicative of his internal state as well. Before leaving London though, perhaps I should take Boswell’s & Johnson’s 83-day rural tour…on a Vespa scooter. Sacred is the ‘aspen, gold- leafed in their prime.’

    • timeout2 says:

      Thank you, Catherine, for reading. Let me know when you are up for the Vespa trip. I’ll be there. Did I mention that nearly half of the Boswell/Johnson trip was spent on the Isle of Skye? I love Skye! Traveled by Postbus – an experience in itself – dropping off milk here… passing on a message there… a sense of community that was threaded through by the postman who would stop and visit should the woman at the gate want a chat. Not a Smart-phone to be had. We will have a wonderful time. We may have to take shelter in a pub or two over the 83 days, but I think we are both waterproof! xo Doris

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s