The beginning and end and midpoint of times

June 22, 2009

Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.

– Hippolyta, I.ii.8-12

Yesterday I finished Infinite Jest, but I think it’ll be awhile before I can form a full opinion of it. Parts of it are brilliantly funny, but it’s a long, long book and even the footnotes have footnotes.  There is no real ‘end’ to speak of, and several things are left unresolved. Wallace’s writing style is infectious. Last night I was drifting in and out of twilight sleep while trying to make sense of the book, and found that I was doing it in his long sentences and characteristic expressions (cf, “the howling fantods”).

I’ll probably be revisiting the book every so often, since it very definitely seems like the sort of book in which you discover (or re-remember) new things at each go-round.

Work is slowing somewhat as we reach the end of this quarter. The technical stuff is pretty much done and the various teams are in closing mode. My job, at this point, is to answer any remaining little questions but mostly to stay out of the way and let the account managers manage accounts. July begins the next quarter for us. The circle of life continues.

We had a very good Father’s Day around here – strawberries and homemade pastry (!) for breakfast, Mass, a long day on the couch reading (see above), burgers on the grill and pie for dessert. We played with the cat, watched fireflies and tried to stay cool.

Our oldest girl is traveling with her grandparents out west to Colorado and Iowa. She seems to be having a good time, but is calling home every other day or so. Make of that what you will. Her brother will be going with the other grandparents out to the Arkansas/Oklahoma/Missouri quadrant next month and is looking forward to that, since most of that time will be at the lake. The others are flitting to and from friends houses and generally having a pretty good time of it all. One of them opines aloud that since we have a dog, a cat, two rats and a handful of fish, the time is ripe for a chinchilla; these wonderings generally go unremarked-upon.

Smallest girl and the cat chase each other around. The baby is starting to eat a bit of cereal, and the dog abides.

The garden is doing quite well. The tomatoes that I thought were dying have actually come back quite strong. I pull them off as they start to blush and we stick ’em in the kitchen window to finish off. The real success story, in terms of pure vitality, are the zucchini plants which have complete taken over their part of the patch and are on the verge of swallowing up the two squash plants. Whatever it is that cucurbits need as regards soil, sun and moisture, we seem to have it.

Most of the sunflower seedlings got eaten by the rabbits, as you may recall. A few managed to survive and one of them is topping out at about six feet tall. It’s got a nice looking bud forming in the middle, and everyone’s looking forward to see it gyrate slowly as it follows the sun.

Speaking of the sun, I got some celestial geekery in on Father’s Day, since it fell on the summer solstice this year. It was plenty bright and hot, and I made the most of my day off by parking it on the couch to read and recover from the prior day’s bike ride and a little niggling head cold that we’re passing back and forth. Right sunset, something along the horizon formed a very nice crepuscular ray pattern in the sky. Whatever it was cast a long shadow in the sky that went right down to the horizon, which was ultimately obscured by trees and houses.  I’ve never noticed it before, so maybe it only happens on the solstice. This would be nifty as can be, and I’ll be looking for it next year if the weather is clear enough.

The quote at the top is from Act 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I dropped it in here because we’re about 2 days from Midsummer and also because we’re in a new moon as I write this, so it makes good lunar sense. Little by minuscule little, the days are getting shorter. They’re not going out quietly, mind you. It’s well nigh 100 here today. But they are starting to diminish, to decrease a little. In a sort of celestial liturgy, the days begin to decrease with the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, who also had to decrease. The days will shorten, and night will fall, and it will keep falling until the next Feast of Nativity, when the rising sun retakes the sky and the daylight wins again. The shadows beneath the trees, moving in slow arcs across the ground, the analemma, solstices and equinoxes, the

…organization of the universe and the force of its elements, the beginning and the end and the midpoint of times, the changes in the sun’s course and the variations of the seasons. Cycles of years, positions of the stars, natures of animals, tempers of beasts, powers of the winds and thoughts of men, uses of plants and virtues of roots – such things as are hidden I learned and such as are plain; for Wisdom, the artificer of all, taught me.

These things all play out, for me, in the ever-changing shapes of light and shadow on the ground, the thick green smell of the countryside in its peak and the slow wheeling of the sun, moon and stars. They’re a slow celestial liturgy – majestic and quiet, and but sometimes also silly. Chesterton noted in Orthodoxy that joyous repetition is the delight of a child’s game. The thing repeated (“Do it again!”) is done for the sheer happiness of it, whether it’s making a funny horse noise to amuse a three-year-old or creating thousands of little daisies on a roadside. He may have made the mountains and set limits for the ends of the sea, but He also seems to be quite fond of thistles and goldfinches, at least around here.

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.


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