Thursday, February 7, 2013

We interrupt this blog post to bring you The Continuous LIfe

Painting by Mark Strand

Does it sometime feel like life is repeating itself? You load the dishwasher; you unload the dishwasher. You put your makeup on in the morning; you wash it off at night. You lose your keys, your glasses, your phone; you find your keys, your glasses, your phone. You write a blog post; you write another blog post . . . Sometimes the continuous life feels like numbing monotony, other times reassuring predictability. One thing we know at Second Lives Club, it is important every so often to stop and appreciate what we have as well as figure out what we can do better. So, after a GenFab dinner with other midlife bloggers tonight –(website launching soon, bookmark this link)—Maryl and I are going to take a few days off and a hard look at what we’re doing here. How’s that for a cosmic question? But first a favorite poem from Mark Strand to sustain you while we're away.

Hudson River Park fish pond

Mark Strand  is one of my favorite poets and The Continuous Life is one of  my favorite poems of his. It must be a favorite of others New Yorkers too because its opening lines are engraved around the fish pond in Hudson River Park where my children used to play (and one time swam!!!) In The Continuous Life, he addresses readers--parents in particular--and offers them advice on what to tell their children to expect from life. And, he tells himself --and us-- to plumb the chaos and emptiness of human life to discover the meaning in the mundane and the strength in love.

The Continuous Life by Mark Strand

What of the neighborhood homes awash

In a silver light, of children crouched in the bushes,

Watching the grown-ups for signs of surrender,

Signs that the irregular pleasures of moving

From day to day, of being adrift on the swell of duty,

Have run their course? Oh parents, confess

To your little ones the light is a long way off

And your taste for the mundane grows; tell them

Your worship of household chores has barely begun;

Describe the beauty of shovels and rakes, brooms and mops;

Say there will always be cooking and cleaning to do,

That one thing leads to another, which leads to another;

Explain that you live between two great darks, the first

With an ending, the second without one, that the luckiest

Thing is having been born, that you live in a blur

Of hours and days, month and years, and believe

It has meaning, despite the occasional fear

You are slipping away with nothing completed, nothing

To prove you existed. Tell the children to come inside,

That your search goes on for something you lost—a name,

A family album that fell from its own small matter 

Into another, a piece of the dark that might have been yours,

You don’t really know. Say that each of you tries 

To keep busy, learning to lean down close and hear

The careless breathing of earth and feel its available

Languor come over you, wave after wave, sending

Small tremors of love through your brief,

Undeniable selves into you days, and beyond.


  1. Thank you for this — it so accurately reflects my own thoughts lately about embracing and loving life, even- especially - the most mundane details.

    1. Embracing and loving life is our work now. I appreciate the mundane--have you read "peace in every step"--
      but every so often I like to escape duty for delight or even decadence for a day.

  2. Carrie, I have visions of Groundhog Day (the movie) all the time. Looking forward to your cosmic answers.

  3. Brings to mind another favorite poet's oft-quoted but apt line-"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver

    1. I too am a fan of Mary Oliver. Words like "wild and precious"--her delirious descriptions--are the reasons
      I return to her poems time after time. Just bought her new book but of course have forgotten the name
      but I know the word morning is in the title.

  4. 2E,

    Life becomes especially mundane, repetitive, closed and laborious in winter. It's important by middle age to know how to deal with it Gracefully and to hold on to the fact that spring is not far away.