Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 2009 / 4 Mar-Cheshvan 5770
Heaven Arrives, Or: Ecclesiastes on a Bicycle
By Paul Greenberg
The old boy walked his bike out the door of his house in
He felt it, but he couldn't believe it, not at first. It had been summer for so long and, strangely enough in these latitudes, not much of one. He tried to remember the last time he'd heard the standard greeting in these parts, "Hot enough for ya?" He couldn't.
Now it dawned on him he might need a thin jacket for his morning ride around the neighborhood. What a relief: October, real October, had finally arrived. A little early even, but all the more welcome for that. October in these latitudes would give Heaven a run for its money and then some.
The sun shone off the leaves, which hadn't really begun to turn yet but were already falling off, dotting the yard and starting to invade the oddest corners of the house. How do they do it manage to infiltrate in such numbers and in so many places … it was a mystery to him. But it happened every fall. He didn't mind picking them up, not yet. They were still a minor novelty a welcome, wistful sign that the seasons still changed. Some things were right with the world.
He knew it'd been fall for some time up in the northern part of the state, and that it still hadn't quite arrived down in the South. Last time he'd taken US 65 through southern
Men still make the mistake of assuming the future will be but a projection of the present. If we paid more attention to the past, we might know life is just full of surprises, some of them less than pleasant. Why do we think of peace as the natural state of things and war as an interruption, when it could just as well be the other way around? Why do we speak of the Thirty Years War and not the Thirty Years Peace before or after? Or the historic Civil War and not the historic civil peace?
Those who built the high house at Lakeport could not have foreseen the devastation about to come. In the 1850s, cotton was bringing an average
Stand on the riverbank and look away, look away. You can almost hear the fiddle music, the laughter of the young of all ages. Nothing is ever lost, certainly not in these parts. The pride that goeth before a fall was at high tide in 1859, like the stock market in 1929. Or 2008.
The high, two-story house set in the midst of the cotton fields is testament to the Delta's long-ago prosperity and promise of still more, with its 17 high-ceilinged rooms, two-story portico in front, the tapered white columns, the eleven-foot-high wood-paneled doors, all supported by great cypress beams from the adjacent wetlands, complete with a 26-foot-long entry hall. … What grand entrances must have been made there.
How could its master, the good
The tax rolls from 1860 to 1865 tell the story: from pride-and-plenty to nothing-to-declare. Now, with the grand house restored after many years of neglect, you can almost see the ghosts in their pre-war finery out for a stroll, taking in the last, lost hopeful air of a long-ago October….
Things change. And change back. Today fall had finally arrived in
All was perfection and yet … it wasn't. He should have been delighted. And he was, but only in an abstract way, the way you are when you know how you're supposed to feel but don't, not really, not all the way through. He should have been refreshed; instead he was resentful.
It took him a moment to understand why. It wasn't the coming of fall he resented; it was the passage of time unrecoverable time. The sun shone, but for a moment mortality had cast its shadow. The beauty of the physical world in its new aspect only brought the old truths home: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. … How he was going to miss all this.
Once he had put the feeling into Ecclesiastes' words, it was gone. Resolved. Now he was free to enjoy the brisk air, the good feel of the jacket on his back, the old neighborhood all new again in the cool air. And off he pedaled. For there is nothing better than to enjoy the now. Just as The Preacher in the Good Book had advised. The bountiful now is all we've got, and it is more than enough. Certainly this time of year in
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© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.