The Private Intellectual
Ecclesiastes-Based Real Estate Advice

Thursday, May 16, 2013  


While cleaning my Augean Stable of personal papers, I came across a poem of sorts that must date from my first year at the University of Chicago (my third year of college):

Every day I cooked breakfast.
I was up long before the sun, making biscuits
Sausages, waffles, hash browns.
I cut up fruit, kneaded dough, cooked grits.

She never came to breakfast, and that made me sad. I worked so hard!
"I can't get up that early," she said.

So I brought breakfast to her room.
Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream,
Pancakes with syrup and scrambled eggs
Biscuits and sausages with gravy.
She at the food slowly and smiled at me.

Every night, when I was about to fall asleep over my books, she shook me awake.
"Let's go to the reservoir."

We skipped stones on the water
Under the moon.
Then I would go to bed, and wake up, and bring her breakfast.

And now I can't look at fresh strawberries
Or biscuits rising in the oven
Or a stone skipping across moonlit water
Without thinking of her.

I remember my awkward stabs at verse, few as they have been, with painful clarity. The only interesting thing about this little scrap of juvenilia is that I can't remember writing it. Who was it about? I don't know, not that there were many candidates around March of 2001. Was it about a person at all? Maybe it was an abstraction, like Poetry or Philosophy? I was probably re-reading Boethius at the time, so that's possible. I was working as a cook, but only making dinners. Why was breakfast on my mind? My last encounter with a reservoir had happened two years earlier at Deep Springs, and I don't recall skipping stones into it.

One of the good reasons for writing as much as you can think to do it is that you can surprise yourself in this way. The answers to the questions this doodle raised for me when I found it, a dozen years after writing it, would only diminish the interest it holds for me. We experience more things and think more thoughts than we can ever write down, and we can write down far more than we'll ever otherwise remember. Our lives as we remember them are composites into which even those things we might preserve in our minds do not always fit and do not thus always find a place. At the time, though, it would be very curious to think, "this is a rather dreary and lost time of my life in which I will write some undistinguished poetry before becoming a Christian." Stashing some artefacts about can help you to have a little compassion on, and a little curiosity about, those past selves whose chief duty was to become you.

posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 12:20 AM
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