Accidents of Birth

Fraction 5 of 25

This is what I was really meaning to say when I started 25,000 Dawns, but William Meredith has said it so much better. And oddly, the photo today has a variety of accidental birth images, though it’s obviously just me in the machine.

The gale has blown through, leaving Wellington misty and lovely this dawn. My belly is a little bruised where the capsule went in but not painful at all. Nearly everyone from my little company has gone home, leaving just Keith and Wendy and me in my study working away at the next book project. I’m trying to find the rhythm of this period of hospital trips and open days at home. Here’s a poem that should help us all find ourselves, just a little.

(Thanks for this poem to Carol DeLoach who has a mailing list where she sends out a poem each day. Every dawn they bring me pleasure and gratitude. You can sign up here)

Accidents of Birth

William Meredith

Je vois les effroyables espaces de l’Univers qui m’enferment, et je me trouve attaché à un coin de cette vaste étendue, sans savoir pourquoi je suis plutôt en ce lieu qu’en un autre, ni pourquoi ce peu de temps qui m’est donné à vivre m’est assigné à ce point plutôt qu’à un autre de toute l’éternité qui m’a précédé, et de toute qui me suit. (Pascal, Pensées sur la religion)*

The approach of a man’s life out of the past is history, and the approach of time out of the future is mystery. Their meeting is the present, and it is consciousness, the only time life is alive. The endless wonder of this meeting is what causes the mind, in its inward liberty of a frozen morning, to turn back and question and remember. The world is full of places. Why is it that I am here? (Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House)

Spared by a car or airplane crash or

cured of malignancy, people look

around with new eyes at a newly

praiseworthy world, blinking eyes like these.

For I’ve been brought back again from the

fine silt, the mud where our atoms lie

down for long naps. And I’ve also been

pardoned miraculously for years

by the lava of chance which runs down

the world’s gullies, silting us back.

Here I am, brought back, set up, not yet

happened away.

But it’s not this random

life only, throwing its sensual

astonishments upside down on

the bloody membranes behind my eyeballs,

not just me being here again, old

needer, looking for someone to need,

but you, up from the clay yourself,

as luck would have it, and inching

over the same little segment of earth-

ball, in the same little eon, to

meet in a room, alive in our skins,

and the whole galaxy gaping there

and the centuries whining like gnats—

you, to teach me to see it, to see

it with you, and to offer somebody

uncomprehending, impudent thanks.


*I see the terrifying spaces of the universe that enclose me, and I find myself attached to a corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am more in this place than in another, nor why this little time that is given me to live is assigned me at this point more than another out of all the eternity that has preceded me and out of all that will follow me. (Thoughts on Religion, Blaise Pascal)


5 thoughts on “Accidents of Birth

  1. Jennifer! Love the poem! (though I won’t believe that “William Meredith has said it so much better“).
    When I started to write a response to your previous post I felt a sense of hopelessness permeating your writing about where will we all be in a month’s time. Your faith in a viable future appeared to have been shattered: rarely do we peer forward … and find we have no way to imagine what life would look like in a month.
    Some time ago you wrote perhaps the thing I’ve lost most is the sense that I am controlling my destiny right now. That made me grin, because it’s the same realisation that confronts me every day too!
    I like today’s post, and can almost picture you and Keith and Wendy working away on the next book project. Perhaps that will last the month.
    Loving thoughts to you all! Maurice

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Maurice. You and Zoe have been in my thoughts each day. Your question about hopelessness has also obviously been on my mind. I don’t feel hopeless, happily (except for our world) (not that that’s such a small exception!). But I do notice that my entrained thinking that I’ll know something about how the next month goes is challenged by this month, when I really really don’t. I hope you and Zoe are holding up well in the storm.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Jennifer, and yes, we are weathering the storm — there’s really no alternative, is there? Patience in this is not Zoe’s strong suit, and she protested when the surgeon said “early February“, asking him “why not this month?“, which made him grin. She finished work on Friday, in readiness for the next step, and is mostly optimistic.
        Yes, this has been a challenging month, but I’m heartened by the pushback evident in such actions as the Judge Ann Donnelly ruling. Next month, I suspect, will bring its own surprises, but hopefully we’ll be walking together our various paths to recovery! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. And just earlier today I was listening to something on the radio about one the Catholic saints (one that had a bent toward philosophy but in my politics cluttered brain I cannot remember at the moment), who said that time was an illusion and that all there is for us to ponder is the “now”, or something to that effect.

    It has been said in so many ways. And so often we cannot fathom the profound truth of it nor the massive and awesome mystery of how we come to be here, in this manner, in this corner of a universe that renders us insignificant in spite of our ability to perceive the existence of it all.

    For me it is frequently a shattering set of tandem realizations, which both delight and perturb me greatly.

    I survived a truly dangerous river accident and a multiple roll-over car accident unscathed for the most part. I have perhaps nipped a deadly cancer in the bud. I have confronted the death of my a key portion of my identity at the end of a long marriage. Each one pushed my face into the present. And, I am better at staying present daily now. But your notes call me up short to notice again, each and every time.

    Liked by 2 people

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