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  • Elaine Fletcher Chapman

Sabbath #150

Today the temperature is a warm 25 degrees. Snow still covers the ground. This is my third or fourth beginning. The dog can’t settle down and neither can I. We have been to the field, walked around the yard several times. He keeps looking down the road. We come in the house and he walks from room to room, barking at the people arriving next door to the Presbyterian Church. I warm and rewarm my tea. I’ve been away from home for several weeks and our routine was interrupted. Perhaps we will both settle in a few minutes. It’s been that way since I arrived home last week from Vermont. Sleep patterns, reading, food, writing, yoga. I’ve cleaned, washed all the laundry, cleared off my desk, stacked the books I need to study for my winter obsession of reading Seamus Heaney. I made an ancillary reading list beginning with Steven’s The Necessary Angel, “the imagination presses” and Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace. I remember I have a copy of the Weil book and begin looking for it. I go to bookcase in the living room and can’t find it. Surprisingly, I remember where the book was in my old apartment, several moves ago. I return upstairs to my study and look through the poetry books to no avail. It simply cannot be found. This is not an infrequent problem. In the last several years I have moved my library no less than three times. It seems the book I need or want is always missing, dislocated. The quest for the missing book does not help me with stillness and focus. My mind wanders obsessively. Finally, I surrender to the lost book. I open The Spirit Level by Heaney and find a book review dated December 20, 1998 folded nicely, Digging Down : A collection by Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, plus a critical study of his work. December, 1998. Before all the moves began. Before the loss of my marriage and my house. Back when I read the Sunday New York Times every week. Back when I could go to my bookshelf and locate the book I wanted or needed, easily. I must admit my uneasiness or my dis-ease derives from knowing the time has arrived when I must return to a former time, a former routine, more disciplined.

When I was away, I woke early and wrote for several hours before breakfast, before greeting people, before speaking a word, before looking at email, before work. I wrote a poem everyday for two weeks. Several are keepers. I know I must begin. Tomorrow. Waking before light, before my husband of three years stirs, before the dog wakes. I must return to the level of engagement where I know where my books can be found, where my writing is steady when my mind is clear and I can hear what needs to be written. Yesterday I wrote in my journal, reveal what is known. Reveal what is known. Seamus Heaney died last August at the age of 74. In May, I turn 64. …So, sing on, / Dear shut-eyed one, dear far-voiced veteran, / sing yourself to where the singing comes from…

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