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February 6, 2012

We had a whirlwind weekend and were awoken by wailing cats before dawn.  After being shut up in the house for most of two days, our inside/outside cats were too restless to stay on our bed in their usual places–one on Ron’s pillow, one at my side, one at my feet, and one on the blanket on top of the chest at the foot of the bed.

Walker was playing in another chess tournament. He had one last weekend at a Holiday Inn downtown in Columbus. This weekend and next he is playing in his first “invitational,” which is held in a conference room at a law office in Columbus.  I dropped him off on Saturday morning for his 11 am game with money in his pocket and a phone to use if he wanted to see me before his 5:30 game began.  These games last an average of three hours, so I went to the movies and saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I knew (having read the book) would be a sad but appropriate movie for a chess mom.  After the movie, I got a text that Walker had lost his game, so I went over to the law office and took him out for our traditional consolation, two desserts (he had Italian cream cake and apple crumble).  During his 5:30 game I went to see another movie, and then he won his game and we got to head home at 9 pm.

Sunday I had company for the waiting game. Ron and I dropped Walker off and went out for brunch.  We got tickets for The Descendants, and then Walker texted me to say he’d already won his game, in about an hour.  We went over and picked him up and took him to the movie and out to lunch with us, delivering him back at 5 pm for his next game.  Figuring we’d be there for at least 3 hours, we settled in at Panera to skype with Eleanor and read our email, and then Walker texted us again after only about an hour, saying he’d won and we could go home.  So it was a better weekend than I expected, especially in terms of the 5 pm games that sometimes last for six hours.

Now it is Monday morning, and we haven’t read much of our email.  We’re back to ordinary life, which looks frosty and gray as the light increases under the cloud cover.  Our old cat Chester made a puncture wound in my arm, when I had it too near the edge of the bed where he uses his claws to climb up (having gotten too weak in the last month to leap up, as he is used to doing). It makes me think of John Koethe’s poem titled “Chester,” which has an epigraph that follows on my last week’s musing on a Wallace Stevens poem:

“Wallace Stevens is beyond fathoming, he is so strange; it is as if he had a morbid secret he would rather perish than disclose.” –Marianne Moore to William Carlos Williams
Another day, which is how they usually come:
A cat at the foot of the bed, noncommittal
In its blankness of mind, with the morning light
Slowly filling the room, and fragmentary
Memories of last night’s video and phone calls.
It is a feeling of sufficiency, one menaced
By the fear of some vague lack, of a simplicity
Of self, a self without a soul, the nagging fear
Of being someone to whom nothing ever happens.
Thus the fantasy of the narrative behind the story,
Of the half-concealed life that lies beneath
The ordinary one, made up of ordinary mornings
More alike in how they feel than what they say.
They seem like luxuries of consciousness,
Like second thoughts that complicate the time
One simply wastes. And why not? Mere being
Is supposed to be enough, without the intricate
Evasions of a mystery or offstage tragedy.
Evenings follow on the afternoons, lingering in
The living room and listening to the stereo
While Peggy Lee sings “Is That All There Is?”
Amid the morning papers and the usual
Ghosts keeping you company, but just for a while.
The true soul is the one that flickers in the eyes
Of an animal, like a cat that lifts its head and yawns
And stares at you, and then goes back to sleep.

That poem captures my feelings this morning.  I think it’s a Monday feeling, especially in February– “the nagging fear/Of being someone to whom nothing ever happens”–while on the long drive home over snow-rutted rural roads, my fear is of being someone to whom something might be about to happen.  It does seem, as one of the characters says in the movie Elizabethtown, “Trust me, everybody is less mysterious than they think they are.”

All day long, now, the cats will be taking short trips outside, assuring themselves that nothing has happened, that winter still has us in its grip. Is your “true soul” also turned down to a flicker right now?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    February 6, 2012 12:17 pm

    Yes. It’ll flame back up at the end of March. Until then, Pokey will be in and out, in and out, testing whether the weather’s enough to keep him out, keep him in. February is a treadmill month.

  2. February 6, 2012 8:37 pm

    Do you know how much I love it that Marianne Moore is talking to William Carlos Williams about Wallace Stevens? That is the best part of this poem, I think.

    • February 7, 2012 6:21 pm

      It is good. They are not the kind of poets I think of as gossipy, although I’ll bet most poets are. Give one of ’em a drink and he’ll start in about the yellow fog.

  3. February 6, 2012 8:46 pm

    Having learned more about chess recently, I’m quite impressed with Walker’s experiences!

    • February 7, 2012 6:22 pm

      Walker smells of chess. His very flesh is permeated with it.

  4. February 7, 2012 10:28 am

    Recently, I noted on the FB page of we 1980’s College attenders that “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” was a good definition of our time there.

    • February 7, 2012 6:24 pm

      To use a phrase from another movie, I do not think that means what you think it means!

  5. February 7, 2012 11:43 am

    Ah, poor Chester. Did you let him dig in enough to actually get the benefit of you as a climbing aid? (Cat leaps into my lap right after I type that question mark. I’ve never lived with an older cat, family cat got old after I left home and this relative youngster is my first since.)

    • February 7, 2012 6:26 pm

      I did, in fact, let him because I WAS ASLEEP! We lift him into our laps now when he comes around, because otherwise he’ll try to climb our legs.

  6. Elizabeth permalink
    February 7, 2012 3:20 pm

    It’s not winter that’s crushing me, it’s where we live 😦 and I cannot wait to no longer live there. So I guess my winter may last for months yet.

  7. February 7, 2012 6:28 pm

    I guess you’d better imitate a cat and cultivate blankness of mind, or at least what looks like it.

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