The receptionist uses updated language. To indicate “yes,” she says, “Correct,” or “Absolutely!” To say, “That’s good,” she says, “Perfect!” To say “I understand,” she says, “Got ‘cha!” She is young, attractive, poised, self-assured. She dresses to the nines.
Two familiar pieces of music took on new dimensions this week. In a well-done performance of Debussy’s “Reflets dans l’eau,” I heard some darkness, a suggestion of slight brooding. Was it the pianist and Debussy and I, or was it only my state of mind at the time, directly after intermission?
The concluding hymn, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” became a hymn I liked. At most worship services I’ve attended it’s generally an opening hymn, followed by announcements of activities of the church and perhaps a feeble joke about a college game of the weekend. Last Sunday, it ended a type of worship service designed for joyous celebration; in this context, the hymn revealed its full glory.
I re-read Ron Cowen’s Summertree, printed in the 1971, edition of Literary Cavalcade, a Monthly Scholastic Magazine of Contemporary Literature for Senior High School English Classes. The play is an anti-war play about a young man dying in Vietnam. Scenes are flashbacks to reveal the young man’s dreams about his career, his plans to marry and have a family, his conflicts in values with his father, his conflicting attitudes toward his mother and her priorities. I never taught it. As I re-read it last week, I realized again the power of the play, and I remembered Ted.
Ted was a student, a good student, in a senior English class my first year of teaching. He visited me after school one day and told me I should not be teaching the anthologized anti-war poems of Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, and Rupert Brooke. Doing so, he said, was un-American because we were at war. He was going to graduate in a few weeks and enlist to help fight Communists.
A year later he returned to school early in the spring. He said, “Those poets were right about war.” He told me that he hated himself for his experiences in Vietnam, that he was AWOL. They knew where he was, he said, and he would be arrested, probably later that week. I listened. I did not know what to say. I think I said something like, get some advice, take good care. Two days later I learned that he killed himself.
The heat and humidity of September are no less intense than at other times in the summer. They feel so, because we are tired of swelter. Come, Fall. Come, Autumn.
Thank you for reading. Enjoy the upcoming week.