Monday, August 22, 2005

Coffee in My Favorite Cup

I live a privileged life. When the Baron is home, he brings me coffee in the morning, opens the curtains so I may see the Heavenly Blue morning glories, and gives me the cream of his morning reading. Sometimes it is Mark Steyn, sometimes Charles Krauthammer or Thomas Sowell. But mostly, it's James Lileks because the Baron believes one ought to start the morning with caffeine and a well-turned, curmudgeonly phrase. Aside from saying one's prayers, he's right: Mr. Lileks is a wonderful way to start the day.

The Baron first ran across one of Lilek's books -- I remember the title had something about a "nervous man" -- years ago in a little wayside junkshop on the road to nowhere here in the Back of Beyond. He came home with it, pleased at finding a new writer of quality and chortling at Lilek's 'take' on things. No wonder, since it was very much his own curmudgeonly world view, though said with more acerbity. The Baron is not acerb.

So. Here it was Monday morning. The Baron's Boy had been delivered back to school the day before. I would say that "thus the house was strangely quiet," but in our round relay, most days I would have, in turn, delivered coffee and Lileks to the Baron's Boy after arising myself. Like his mother, the BB does not really believe in mornings, even in the face of evidence like the presence of his body at 8:30 classes. Thus not hearing him stirring did not yet make me realize he was Back At School and would not be in need of coffee now. Amend that: not in need of coffee delivered by his ancestors.

At any rate, my motherly intuition, which works overtime (though the Baron had mother's ears. He's the one who hears them come in at night), could feel the absence of the Boy. And the wee one, Liam, was now safely recovering from his trip back to the hospital for jaundice (they put him under lights and made him wear tiny sunglasses), so I wasn't needed there for the moment. These events -- or their cessation -- left me feeling rather...Septemberly. As though the leaves might have curled and fallen while I had my back turned.

Sure enough, when I stepped outside to let in the cat, there was a cooler, drier, most un-August stirring in the wisteria. All those humid mornings were suddenly past. It was startling enough to call the Baron out to witness the change. We were both silent and respectful witnesses to the sudden and unpredicted passing of the Worst of August.

Then I sat with my coffee in the old metal shellback chair, the one I'd let the wisteria grow over in hopes of taking a picture of the Baron's Boy with voracious green curlicues growing all over him and whatever book he was reading. Somehow the summer flitted by and the picture never got taken. So I pushed the carnivorous vines aside and sat on the cool metal chair to drink latte and read James Lileks. A small piece of paradise.

No wonder the Baron calls this place Eden.

The beginning of Lileks' essay is reminiscent of Billy Collins. So I took liberties with both of them and created this pastiche/homage with Lileks' words mostly verbatim (not quite close enough for government work, but there are poetic licenses to be given out here):

"I’m not ready for summer to leave."
Whenever you say that…suspect it’s already on the way out.
Summer doesn’t leave like a dinner guest.
It never folds its napkin, declines the last cup of coffee.
It never pushes its chair back or jokes about the time.
It doesn’t linger at the door,
Nor does it wave as it heads down the stairs.


Summer is the tall pretty woman at the party
The one who was here before but isn’t here now.
You look up, look around; she was over there,
Talking to the tall dark man just a moment ago.
Or ten minutes. Whatever. She's gone.
It’s a great party; you don’t notice.
But an hour later there’s a hole in the room.
They changed the music; dissipated the momentum,
Re-tuned the rhythm.

Summer never says goodbye, tra la.
You say goodbye to it. You decide when
It ends — your appraisal of the five o’clock sun,
Perhaps the faint chill at sunset,
The leaves that spatter the lawn in surprise.

These things mean nothing.
In a week the noon sun will boil you dry,
The night will be humid again.
Summer will feel eternal.

If you'd like to see the original go here. You will also get to ponder the pleasures of collecting things, which I must take on faith is a pleasant occupation. For me, *things* are to be given away, used up, done without.

I was born too late. Or perhaps it is merely that my European mother's lack of irony and her Depression-era upbringing has left me with ghosts scratching their heads in puzzlement over Mr. Lileks' appreciation of minute moments of mid-20th century drek. He has a strange nostalgia for a time he didn't live in. Some people have that same sense regarding the Civil War. Thus they keep Confederate banknotes in the top drawer just to have on hand. Personally, I am so moved by things medieval, but one doesn't find them in junque shops or someone's basement. Not on this continent.

Meanwhile, I must hope that Mr. Lileks and Mr. Collins consider my pastiche the compliment it was intended to be. If Lileks had moved a bit less in his intra-uterine life, he too might have been the Poet Laureate. But that would've been our loss.


At 10:47 AM, Blogger Bill said...

You captured a feeling I can still remember from thirty years ago or so. At the time I was commuting an hour each way through Indiana countryside every day. I became very attuned to the seasons, and knew to the day when Spring was here, Summer, Fall, and Winter as well. But one day I went to work and felt it was a full Summer day, and the next day that Summer was gone, and for some time, and yet had no feeling of transition at all. As if it just suddenly happened in an instant.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Dymphna said...

Summer may be the only season that does this to us...autumn transits into winter and winter, in turn, seems a more gradual descent; February is *never* sudden.

Spring seems to take forever, though there are some parallels of suddeness -- e.g., the unexpected smell of fresh earth when the ground starts to thaw.

Autumn is special, though. With its adumbrations of decline in the midst of beauty. Our awareness is heightened with each passing year.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Autumn is my favorite season. I have written more poetry during and about Autumn than any other season. I think it is the color more than anything. However, truth be known, I do get into the dying bit as well. Probably the depressive streak in my personality.

I like Winter, and Spring can be quite pretty, but literally pale beside Autumn. And I have only liked one Summer since I have been an adult, and that was after a winter so cold (for two weeks in middle Indiana, the high for the day was below zero.) that it took to July to not feel frozen.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

This week, I have felt autumn in the air. Other than the leaf-raking, autumn is the best time of the year.

I always know that the time for go back to school (I'm a teacher) nears when I hear the crickets. Have you noticed them lately? This year, their chirps came earlier, I believe.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

We have so many trees that we rake from November to February. Or so. It's wonderful exercise. And there is something zen-ish about clearing out one small area and then moving on to the next.

As for crickets...unfortunately, in my mis-spent youth I abused my hearing and it has diminished sooner than it might have otherwise. So I hear crickets all the time. Rather pleasant actually. Unless you're trying to hear what someone is saying.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...


"The bare, ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sing" gives rise to the depressive in anything self-conscious enough to be aware of death...

Worth it, though.

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I used to like raking leaves, in the days when my work obligations were so great. Also, we used to burn them, and there was something satisfying about that--including the marshmallow roasts. Now, the county truck comes by and sucks up the leaves.


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