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QUINTESSENCE

In Our Heads


Our lives were stored in our heads.
They hadn't begun, we were both sure
we'd know when they did.
They certainly weren't this.

We read, we listened to the portable radio.
Obviously this wasn't life, this sitting around
in colored lawn chairs.

- from "August," Louise Gluck

Today must not be a souvenir of yesterday, and so the struggle is everlasting. Who am I today? What do I see today? How shall I use what I know, and how shall I avoid being victim of what I know? Life is not repetition.
- Robert Henri

I have been rethinking a post that I wrote in 2011 on the tension between imagined life and reality. The fantasy in our heads and the truth. What we dream our lives to be in contrast with the ways they unfold.

In Louise Gluck's "August," her young narrator is confident she will be certain when "life" as she imagines it will spread in blazing technicolor across the white screen of summer days. Future selves dormant like ungerminated seeds within the ordinary hours. "Our lives were stored in our heads," the narrator observes, unaware life spools by even in the time spent imagining it. Can we not relate? How we grow lost in daydreams, absorbed in nostalgia, frequently swept to the banks by unbidden musings. "Today must not be a souvenir of yesterday," Robert Henri warned. For what would we have then but a hall of memories? Of recollections like mirrors, arrayed in an endless vision of the past.

We are now in the summer of another year. We may indeed sit in lawn chairs. But if we do so in the company of a friend, perhaps turn a page in a book, enjoy solitude in the pleasure of a favorite tune on the radio...it is all genuine, all everyday living. The ordinary hours produce the honey of life's busyness. Days to years rolling into a swell of gathered sweetness that rests in our hearts like morning dew in the throat of an iris.

This. This universe in the universe of one.

Beautiful. Ordinary. A summer of books, the radio, and colored lawn chairs.

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