But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near–Andrew Marvel (1621-1678)
Before you think this post is going to be a downer, let me assure you it is quite the opposite. Allow me to explain…
First of all, the poem. Notice the poet’s dates. 1621-1678. This is a long time ago. How long? Shakespeare died in 1616, five years before Marvel was born, so 400 years ago, give or take. He wrote the poem sometime between 1640 and 1660 which is not very specific but still a long time ago.
Why does this matter? Because the poem, “To His Coy Mistress,” is Marvel’s attempt to persuade his girlfriend to have sex with him, showing that men haven’t changed much in the last four centuries. He begins by saying “Had we but world enough and time,/This coyness, lady, would be no crime” but “At my back I always hear/ Time’s winged chariot drawing near” so he’s “afraid” that he’s going to die before they have sex. Yeah, right. Sure he is.
However, I think about this poem a lot because I often feel afraid that I don’t have enough life left to do everything I want to get done. One of the reasons I have been trying to get fit and fix some other things that are wrong with me is because I feel the press of time to cram as much stuff as I can into the next 10-20 years. And I have a lot of stuff on my list.
What can be so pressing when my life is 1/2 to 2/3 done? Haven’t I done most of it already? To date I have achieved my most important goals and dreams for my life. I have a husband I love and two great, healthy sons. They are good people, good company, and achieving their own successes. We have made a beautiful, comfortable home together, and my husband’s hard work has made us as financially secure as anyone can be. I have been blessed with amazing friends, some lifelong (you know who you are!). I graduated college with 2 degrees–BA and MA–in English. I have been able to write several books, self-publish one, and see another produced by a publisher. I have been to some truly wonderful places–Alaska, England, Italy and Germany, to name a few–and been able to marvel at the exquisite beauty of God’s creation up close and personal. It has been a great life. What else could I ask for?
Shall I itemize?
Travel, lots of travel–We are fulfilling one of my dreams with a river cruise down the Rhine this summer. It may include a couple of days in Paris (Paris!) But there are smaller trips on my list as well: 1)to sit or walk on the beach and revel in the power of the ocean; 2)to sit on a screened porch in a mountain cabin drinking coffee and watching nature do its thing; 3)to go to Gatlinburg and stay in the Brookside Motel and listen to the roar of the Little Pigeon River; 4)to make Christmas trips to Gatlinburg, the Opryland Hotel, and the Biltmore House; and 5)to go to NYC, stay in the city and see a show on Broadway.
Writing and more writing–I’d like a true career as a full-time, or semi-full-time author. I’ve got a lot more stories to tell, and it takes me a long time to write a book. (Here comes that chariot.)
Music--I’d like to learn to play the piano, even though already my hands are not cooperating with typing. I want to study classical music, to learn to recognize composers, and to be able to identify instruments as they play.
Gardening–If I can create a garden in a small enough space so that I can control the fire ants (allergic), then maybe I can pick up where I left off after three trips to the emergency room (anaphylactic shock). Butterfly bushes, stargazer lilies,coneflowers, daisies, columbine, iris, etc, etc. Like a secret garden, but without the locked gate.
Cooking–I am a competent cook, but not really skilled. I would like to learn some more “professional” methods of cooking, and be able to produce great meals to share with friends. Imagine a small group gathered around the candlelit dining room table eating something beautiful and delicious off our wedding china.
Wine–This one goes with the last one. I would like to develop a palate that can tell the difference between a chardonnay and a pinot grigio, or a merlot and a cabernet. I don’t care to be a snob. I just want to know what the difference is and find out what I like.
Reading–Oh my God! Do you know how many books have been published since I read with any regularity? I am so far behind, I’ll never catch up. I could start reading today, do nothing but read for the next 20 years, and I would never read everything on my list. And what about all the books I don’t know about, but should? I’m breaking out in hives just thinking about it.
I’m starting to get a little verklempt. Take deep breaths, deep breaths. It’s ok. One thing at a time, one day at a time.
Except for that damned chariot…