Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Snowflake Which Is Now and Hence Forever

Yesterday, appropriately enough for the last day of November, I was looking out the window and hearing Pooh's hum that starts:
"Oh the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily"
And then today, on the first of December, I woke up to snow. It started out as flurries, but right now it's coming down rapidly enough to make me hear the the Hogwarts Christmas music from the first movie.

The autumn of my underemployment is over; both the places I've worked since Walker was born were on the quarter system, and that means everything was finished by the end of November and we had a month before the next quarter began on the Monday after New Year's. So what would I have had at this point that I don't already have, besides the money? Fifty people who had read and discussed some of the books I think they ought to. More miles on me and the car. It would have been more of the last twelve years, never a culmination but just another beginning.

The first-of-the-season snowflakes falling outside the window are reminding me of the speaker in this poem by Archibald MacLeish, who is thinking about the mark he wants to make on the world:

The Snowflake Which Is Now and Hence Forever

Will it last? he says.
Is it a masterpiece?
Will generation after generation
Turn with reverence to the page?

Birdseye scholar of the frozen fish,
What would he make of the sole, clean, clear
Leap of the salmon that has disappeared?

To be, yes!--whether they like it or not!
But not to last when leap and water are forgotten,
A plank of standard pinkness in the dish.

They also live
Who swerve and vanish in the river.

No one gets reverence in his lifetime--at best, if he's devoted and also unbearably smug, he gets a show of it. But whether something lasts is always the measure of whether it deserves reverence, and there's no sense living only for the promise of eventual greatness. If there's one thing time off from my usual work has shown me, it's that the flurry of little efforts I usually put off when I'm busy can produce results almost as much as the bigger projects that usually have priority. Some snowflakes "swerve and vanish in the river" while others accumulate.

Are you making little efforts today that might eventually add up to something?

18 comments:

Harriet M. Welsch said...

It's more that I'm specifically thinking of the bigger things as the amalgamation of little efforts -- job applications, dissertations. I'm trying to do a better job at that.

FreshHell said...

Yes. I'm living on the promise of future greatness anyway. I'm hoping to be a published author before I die. Even if I don't, I have to keep writing anyway.

readersguide said...

Definitely the swerve and vanish type myself.

Jeanne said...

Harriet, amalgamation is not an entirely different metaphor, it seems to me...

FreshHell, at least you're not doing a deliberate Emily Dickinson, wrapping your manuscripts carefully and putting them in your dresser drawer.

ReadersGuide, I'm still fighting against being the swerve and vanish type, although I already admitted elsewhere today that I usually appear to be a plank of standard pinkness.

PAJ said...

Today at work I saw a small wall hanging with the following: I'd do great things if I weren't so busy doing small things.

Jeanne said...

PAJ, good wall hanging! Was this at the university?

Jenners said...

We had a very blustery day ... but no snow. However, my son and I were busy cutting paper snowflakes all afternoon. They were coming out really interesting!

And I've found that lots of little things often add up to big and amazing things if I can have the patience to build them bit by bit.

Jeanne said...

Jenners, yeah; I learned more patience when I had kids, but it's still not one of my best things!

xiao said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kittiesx3 said...

Apparently I had a lot to say on my blog this morning about this poem and your comment yesterday :-)

Jeanne said...

Elizabeth, it's interesting to see you on the other side of this issue so soon after being on the side I'm on right now.

Shelley said...

My one big effort is on my site. So thanks for the reminder that the moments that flash by every day (now!) are just as vital to me in their own way.

PAJ said...

Yes, Jeanne, the wall hanging was at the university.
Yesterday, my sister sent me a list of sayings, my favorite of which was: I thought I wanted a career. Turns out, I just wanted a paycheck.
I'm missing setting my own schedule and trying to cope with being over-booked because of commitments made to volunteer activities before I started working again.

Jeanne said...

Shelley, I like the word "vital" in this context; I think we're all trying to figure out what is vital and what is not.

PAJ, as I said to the high school theater teacher a few weeks ago, a paycheck helps justify some of the things you have to give up to do a job right.

Care said...

OH, this post brings tears to my eyes! You are a wise woman. (I almost typed 'you are so wise' but I didn't like that it rhymed)
Whenever people ask me what I do, I sometimes reply that "I am a human being, not a human doing." Anyway...

I wanted you to know that I ran across the word 'necromantic' in my current read and thought of you. :)

Jeanne said...

Care, I snickered at your "being, not doing" line after the second it took me to get the joke!

I think I have one clue now why Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness has been insisting I read the book you're currently reading (I had to get on Twitter and find out--it's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down).

Anonymous said...

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- Robson

Jeanne said...

Robson, I'll look into it. Thanks for your two cents.