My cat Lester and I have settled into a contented late autumn routine. Nearly each weekday we sit and enjoy the sunset. He has a good view of the street below and I can see the surface of the water from my favorite chair. I always crack open the window a bit and can sometimes hear the remaining geese calling as they gather on the water surface. I always feel nourished after a few quiet moments of watching the light fade.
I’m contemplating the ideas in a book rich with poetic imagery about houses — The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, first published in France in 1958. The author started his career as a philosopher of science and ended it as a philosopher of the imagination! It’s a slow read, which is fine because I underline many passages, savor them, and then go back to them weeks later. I opened the book at random this morning and came across these gems …
“If we have retained an element of dream in our memories, if we have gone beyond merely assembling exact recollections, bit by bit the house that was lost in the mists of time will appear from out the shadow. We do nothing to reorganize it; with intimacy it recovers its entity, in the mellowness and imprecision of the inner life.” (p.57)
In pondering the qualities of cottage vs. the “manor,” Bachelard muses, “To sleep well we do not need to sleep in a large room, and to work well we do not have to work in a den. But to dream of a poem, then write it, we need both…Thus the dream house must possess every virtue. However spacious, it must also be a cottage, a dove-cote, a nest, a chrysalis. Intimacy needs the heart of a nest.” (p.64)
Then I think of my sister’s house, which always stirs me to daydream and remember.
My mother’s brother Joseph William Thornton enlisted in the 82nd Airborne, 505th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment) when he was 19 years old. He jumped into Normandy on June 16, 1944, according to the Purple Heart presented to my grandparents. My mother used to talk about how Joe loved the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula where he would go camping with his best friend, and about how he wouldn’t shoot a deer, though his buddies were hunters. She said that the song of the Mourning Dove always reminded her of Joe. Since mom connected the memory of Joe with the dove, I always think of him when I hear that soft, mournful coo, most prevalent here in early June.
44 years later, my son Ross was born on June 6th, 3 weeks ahead of his due date, his birth reinforcing that this date will never be just an average day to me! He turns 21 today, a fine young man making his way in the world!