Despite the benign start to our winter this year, January brought a midweek nor’easter which dropped more than 14″ of powdery snow over the region.
I love a good dumping of snow and this year’s blizzard did not disappoint: flakes fell furiously at a rate of 1-2″ per hour, the trees danced wildly as the strong surf roared in the distance. Sheltered comfortably in my home and warmed by the wood-burning stove, I worked remotely as the winds whipped the snow and pounded the windows of my home office.
By afternoon the storm eased. Before nightfall I grabbed my cross-country skis and glided down the driveway and to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on Cutts Island.
That is no country for old men. The young In one another’s arms, birds in the trees —Those dying generations—at their song, The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unaging intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress, Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence; And therefore I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall, Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, And be the singing-masters of my soul. Consume my heart away; sick with desire And fastened to a dying animal It knows not what it is; and gather me Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing, But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enameling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
My idea as an accompaniment to my summer riding this year is to photocopy random poems from my Immortal Poems of the English Language anthology received from Mom back in 1984 (I can’t believe this edition is still in print, same cover and all).
With a poem taped to my handlebars to keep me company, my aim is to spend time reading and reflecting while cycling the seacoast. As a kid I loved reading poetry, memorizing favorite ones. As an adult I find it difficult to make space for poetry, so why not carve out time while doing something equally rewarding. Or in our modern idiom: kill two birds with one stone, as it were.
So a couple days ago I cracked the volume to Yeats and thumbed to the intriguing title Sailing to Byzantium which starts “That is no country for old men.” Perfect for my first pedal of the season!