Intimations of Mortality

If the title of this blog seems familiar, you are partially correct. You are thinking of William Wordsworth‘s Intimations of Immortality from “Recollections of Early Childhood.” His poem begins:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, / The earth, and every common sight, / To me did seem / Apparell’d in celestial light, / The glory and the freshness of a dream. / It is not now as it hath been of yore:-

“It is not now as it hath been of yore.” Yes. You may remember First Corinthians 13:11: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Sara Scuderi

Sara Scuderi

If you are “putting away” Intimations of Immortality, it stands to reason that as you mature, you are left with Intimations of Mortality. I am thinking along these lines because of a DVD that reached out and grabbed me as I was browsing in my local library. II Bacio di Tosca, Tosca’s Kiss was the DVD. According to the notes on the case, the movie was about the residents of the world’s first nursing home for retired opera singers founded by Giuseppe Verdi in 1896.

I was immediately enthralled. I was thinking of myself and also of my opera-loving friends who can be counted on to drive down the mountain for every screening of The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD. I was excited to have found the movie: I vowed to watch it last night and pass the DVD on to friends today

Or maybe not.

Listening to the retired opera singers reprise the arias that they sang to standing ovations, looking at scrapbooks of their glory days, watching the retired prima donnas preen in their furs, but noting their tremors and canes and bodies on the verge of betrayal, my emotions swung between joy and sorrow. And in the end, I was left with intimations of mortality.

Tosca’s Kiss is bittersweet. I picture small, red, bittersweet berries, shrivelled at this time of year, hanging on for dear life despite being battered by the wind and snow.

The wind and snow and ice here in Westcliffe also hangs on. Last weekend I went “down below” (a drop of some 3200 feet) to the Pueblo Reservoir where we hoped to spot bald eagles. Some 1200 bald eagles winter in Colorado. The relatively mild winters, the fish and the ducks draw them to Pueblo over the winter – come March they will fly north. The official Lake Pueblo Eagle Days are this coming weekend, February 1-3.

Lake Pueblo

Lake Pueblo

But we jumped the crowd. The setting was serene. We only spotted five eagles. But given that at one time the bald eagle was listed as endangered, we were thrilled to see what we saw. The ice had given way to water, and the contrast between the ice and water… the play of light on the icy water was beautiful.

I immediately thought of one of my favorite paintings at The National Gallery. I couldn’t remember the title or the artist, but looking at the layout of the first floor, I knew to look in room 44, “Beyond Impressionism.” What did we ever do before computers? (When I die, throw my computer in the grave with me. I don’t want to go anywhere without it.)

Lake Keitele, north of Helsenki, by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1905

Lake Keitele, north of Helsenki, by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1905

And so my mouse and I scrolled through the paintings in room 44, and sure enough there it was. Not only did I find the painting, but I found my favorite Channel 4 newsman, Jon Snow. Featured in a three-minute podcast, Snow talks about his favorite National Gallery painting. We like the very same painting! I am thrilled. (I’ve always thought that Jon and I shared something special!) If you have an interest, take a listen.

Looking one more time at the DVD case, I noted a review of Tosca’s Kiss by The Christian Science Monitor. “This is one of the most insightful, life-affirming, and just plain entertaining movies ever made on the subject of old age, music, and the capacity of art to uplift and sustain the human spirit.

We can dither over Immortality vs. Mortality, but we cannot disagree on the capacity of art to uplift and sustain. Tomorrow I pass the DVD on to another music lover.



Writers’ Prompts:

  • Going back to the First Corinthians quote, what childish things have you put away in your maturity? What have you gained? What have you lost?
  • Write a piece in which something cherished in childhood is lost.


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.
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2 Responses to Intimations of Mortality

  1. Sherry says:

    can I watch it – can i please, pretty please??? Sound intriguing – I’ve never heard of it.

    • timeout2 says:

      Certainly! I can’t imagine thatthe DVDwill be checked out all that often. I’llbe sure to pick it up and have it with me at our next meeting.


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