Friday, November 16, 2012


Phillip Larkin produced a lovely poem, “Poetry of Departures.” Listen to him read his own poem at

Scan the article cited at the end of the sentence, then scroll down, and listen again to another person, Deborah Garrison, reading the same poem at

Delightful poem, isn’t it? Honest portrait of the itch that won’t be scratched without uprooting ourselves and discovering new terrain. The wise ones among us will count their blessings and stay put, but others among us will cry, “Full speed ahead!” and charge off for parts unknown.

I am in the process of doing just that. I’ve had an itch to live someplace other than Oklahoma with its gale-force winds blowing the hot, blistering heat against my face; its red cedar infestation stirring asthma and sinuses into full-flown attack mode; its redder than red voting populace; its churches that outnumber museums by the hundreds; its parochial, provincial, yet cowboy ways. My husband’s itch is more intense; he’s never lived elsewhere for even short bursts as I did during college and graduate school. He yearns for another life. No amount of anti-itch medicine has quelled that itch so we are off.

The house has declared war against me as I pull its guts from behind closet doors and try to fit them into bins, boxes, and bags. Forces heretofore unseen in the universe have besieged my troubled mind as the closing date for our new home grew from four weeks to six, then six to eight before landing upon a date 78 days from the day we made an offer. I hardly dare believe that it won’t be pushed back again. Like Stoppard’s version of Rosencrantz, I’ve begun to think of my new home as a “conspiracy of cartographers,” assigning a spot on the map to a place that never existed and never will.

I’ve also learned new cajoling skills as I plead and barter with movers, furniture stores, and insurance companies. I wonder if some doubt about my character and veracity creeps in upon them, but I am grateful to them for their kindness and considerations as they’ve changed dates and deadlines to match my needs. I’ve not found a Papa John or Robert Murray in charge anywhere.

Above all else, I grieve. As I wrap each decorating touch in bubble wrap and bury it in cardboard, I mourn the lost color, warmth, and welcome. With each print and painting, I weigh its value and usefulness as I am doing what many my age now do: downsizing. I will not have room for every one of the vases, prints, frames, pots, and what-nots that define my home as mine. These walls and rooms blush as I expose their bones for all to see. I dream of them as they once were.

I fear that the new 728 fewer square feet may never delight me as the greater, roomier home I’m leaving did. I fear the neighbors will not like me. I’m terrified that I am, indeed, leaving a life that is “reprehensibly perfect,” never to find that again. I lack the swagger required, but go, I will.

My husband and I will embark for a life we’ve not tested or tasted: a condo overlooking a lovely cove on a huge lake with lots of havens, harbors, and fingers. We’ll buy a boat and try not to sink. He plans to drop a fishing line into water, but it will lack bait and hook. He wants to contemplate and photograph beauty, both human and divine. He’ll make friends easily as he always does, and he’ll laugh as he tells his stories.

We’ll reinvent the people we’ve become, put on new clothes suitable for the place, and walk more than we do now. We’ll play board games because that’s what people on vacation do in inclement weather. We’ll sit on our deck and admire the changing light, the coming season and the one fading. We’ll live.

Yes, Mr. Larkin. We’ll make that “audacious, purifying, / Elemental move” and go to a place where no one knows our name.  We’ll shed this life, now “in perfect order” to sally forth and create another order. The notion sings its siren song to us, and we hasten to our end. We only hope ours is not a “step backwards,” but one very much forward.

Reading Challenge: “Poetry of Departures” by Phillip Larkin

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
It's specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said

He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you bastard;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me to stay
Sober and industrious.
But I'd go today,

Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo'c'sle
Stubbly with goodness, if
It weren't so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life
Reprehensibly perfect.

Writing Challenge:

Write a journal entry about an upcoming adventure or a move you’ve made.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics):

My husband is eager to make a new beginning. I am anxious to do so.

Both words, eager and anxious, describe emotions related to new beginnings. Eager has positive connotations while anxious has negative ones. A person who is eager looks forward to a change or something new; a person who is anxious merely hopes but does not expect the outcome to be pleasant.