Summer is almost gone and it seemed as if it had barely started. I hate when time moves forward that way. Sometimes, I’ll turn off the t.v. and the computer, put down all the books, magazines and news papers and watch the sky as it slowly rumbles by, because I want to feel what Slow feels like, I want to feel like I had an experience, I want to delay the inevitable. I want to look back and say, “Man, what a long week I had,” so that I can feel like I lived my life instead of hurried through it.
We all want to get to the end of the work day, so we speed through as much as we can, get in and out of the dry cleaners as quickly as possible, but to do what? To go see a movie? To spend more time with your anxious, busy, home-work doing, piano-lesson-taking children? To do what? That’s the real question.
I had a friend in school who said that the best friends can just sit together and say nothing and do nothing and it’s the best time they ever had. I think that that’s true. I’ve often come away from experiences feeling exulted, telling everyone that it was the best time I’ve ever had. They ask what I did and I have nothing to say. Sometimes it’s because I went biking, that is to say, I rode around aimlessly for hours, not really looking at anything, not really talking to anyone and accomplishing nothing at all. Maybe I did stop and talk to a stranger. We talked about nothing, learned nothing new, no connection was made and we went on our way, yet I’ll always look back fondly on that conversation as something truly cherished.
Summer is kind of a nothing time in the industrial world. It used to be a time to plow the fields, care for them and then take them in. If I were a farmer, I’d be planning right now how to coordinate the harvest. But I’m not. Summer is now an idle time, not many celebrations and, often, few familial obligations. It’s now just a time to experience the sun and lazing about before we have to wrap up and get ready for the fight that is Winter.
I like this poem as an end of summer poem, because it seems slow moving and natural and quiet. It is about Virginia (the State, not a person) and it takes its time moving through the landscape of heat and rivers and white trees and mocking-birds. Sounds summer-y to me. But it’s also a reminder that a poem isn’t to be rushed through; it’s an experience to be moved through carefully and slowly, at least if there is any value to be gained at all.
Perhaps this should also be true of Summer, of the world at the office, at the dry cleaners, at the movies, time with your kids, or any where else you are currently speeding through.
by T.S. Eliot
Red river, red river,
Slow flow heat is silence
No will is still as a river
Still. Will heat move
Only through the mocking-bird
Heard once? Still hills
Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees,
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay. Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me:
Red river, river, river.