It’s a misty day today here in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, and when I went running around the giant lawn at the Military Museum, it was to the accompaniment of a few drops of rain. This was the last time I’ll run at the museum, and I’ll miss it, with the view of the long green ridge that the village leans up against, the church steeple set against that ridge, and the creek and wildflowers that separate the museum from the lawn where I run. From the cafe where I’m sitting now, I see that they are setting up an old car show over there on the lawn.
I have a philosophy that I’ve lived by for years: a brave life is better than a safe life. I can’t definitely say if that’s true, but I couldn’t live otherwise. To always choose the apparent safe option, to live without taking risks, even frightening risks, would feel like death to me. I’ll take my chances on keeping my arms open to life, even when it smacks me.
In three days, if the plan works, I’m moving down to Washington, DC, where I have a place to live in Rockville, Maryland (which is sort of Washington). If the plan does not work, I’ll still go soon, but I’ll be held up by the fact that my car is in the shop. I also have an old car, not the kind you display at car shows, but the kind you tow to a mechanic now and then.
I’m sad to leave here, and as long as I’m still in this pleasant valley my melancholy focus is on the ending of my current life. At the same time, I gladly anticipate the opportunities of the city, and once I get to DC, along with adjusting to all the routinalia, I’ll focus on how exciting it is. Maryland will be, by the way, the fourteenth state I’ve lived in.
My current apartment, up the side of that green ridge, is on Torrey Lane. A couple of years ago, on a snowy day, I wrote a poem about it, so for my last blog entry in Pennsylvania, I’m putting that poem in here.
I am startled by this day.
When I finally go outside,
standing by the open car door,
I cannot move
from feeling the day in front of me.
I’m transfixed by sunlight on the snow,
the shadow of one building on another,
and trees beside them.
A flock of birds dances a hundred patterns
in the air beyond the trees.
For two minutes I don’t move,
feeling the cold air on my face.
There must have been a bright morning like this
in a meadow in southern France,
when Julius Caesar emerged from his tent
and noticed the light.
On such a snowy morning
in Cracow, Poland,
Copernicus must have stepped into the street
to see birds flying over the buildings.
And surely there was a clear cold morning
in Camden, New Jersey,
when Walt Whitman stepped outside
before bending down to talk to a child.
Caesar then turned to consider the Gauls,
thinking of where to mass his troops,
and altering European history.
Copernicus looked up at the sun,
seeing a new universe,
and changed the location of the world.
Whitman rose up from his conversation,
his mind already composing lines about children,
and changed the course of American poetry.
I am not changing history, or the world, or even poetry.
I am only getting in my car to go to the gym,
to live my common life.
But in an unexpected moment of clarity
all I need
is snow in bright sunlight,
a cold wind on my face,
and a flock of birds
dancing a hundred patterns across the sky.
* * *
And it’s time for me to walk back through the village and up the ridge, to do some more packing. A new life is waiting.