the great arch of unimagined bridges
[As once the winged energy of delight]
by Rainer Maria Rilke
As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.
Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.
To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.
Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions . . . For the god
wants to know himself in you.
* * *
It looks like late-summer is already winding down, and although fall weather is still out of reach, the stress of the fall schedule is pawing at us. My day today was hijacked by a glitch involving Esme’s school registration. We visited her school when we came to St. Louis in June to buy our house. We even filled out a big packet of forms and congratulated ourselves on having done well. We thought that everything was, for the most part, in order, and that we would only need to provide a few more things to the school when we arrived. But something went wrong. Another new family moved onto our street and also registered a child at the school. For some reason the secretary got their address confused with ours. She thought that we decided not to move into our house after all and that another family had moved into it instead (even though they actually moved in several blocks down the street). It was an honest mistake but in the end when she didn’t hear from us, she threw away our paperwork, thus erasing us from the school’s memory. So naturally, we were waiting in vain for some kind of communication from the school and none was forthcoming. We did make several attempts to contact the school throughout the summer, but something always went wrong: either the offices were closed and there was no voicemail, or I was put on hold for twenty minutes and gave up, or we even went by in person and rang the security bell, but must have been unlucky in our timing because no one answered when we rang the security bell, even though they assured us later that they were “there all day.”
So after finally making contact yesterday with what I had come to perceive as an impenetrable fort and discovering the mistake, we are now scrambling to get everything in order before the first day of school, which is next Tuesday. Teachers were already assigned, but they will decide on a class for her before tomorrow so that she can go in the morning and meet her teacher. I’m sure it will all work out, but I just really dislike being in scrambling mode. I was hoping to avoid it this time around, since we did our fair share of scrambling to enroll Esme in kindergarten last fall. Serene preparedness, how did you eluded me once again?
I realize this is all tedious information. It’s just funny sometimes how the things that you anticipate being a hassle but hope won’t be a hassle have this way of turning out to be a hassle even if the odds could really go either way. Another recent example is this new printer we bought. I had this weird feeling before even opening the box that installing this printer was not going to be straightforward. Yes, printer installation is totally user-friendly and intentionally designed so that a fifth-grader can have success. I’m sure that there are people who work hard to ensure that printer set-up will go as smoothly and easily as possible for the general population. But I still had this feeling. Sure enough, something went wrong and I spent over an hour last night and another hour again this morning fiddling around with the installation. Contrary to the promises on the box the entire process was neither fast nor easy.
Again, I’m throwing out really tedious, uninteresting details about my life. I’m not entirely sure why.
But here is a more pleasant and in fact more important update. We had a visit from old South Bend friends Mike and Violet on their way from the Midwest back to Boston, and that was really nice. We all went to the pool and also to the Magic House, which is a kind of children’s museum nearby. They have two small girls like us and it was really nice to enjoy two solid days of good adult conversation running parallel to good kid interaction. Our girls were so preoccupied with having other kids to play with that they hardly blinked in our direction, and that was wonderful. The feeling of having guests in our home makes me happy. It takes me out of my own little world with its petty preoccupations and myopic horizons.
But now I am back in the thick of this interminable setting-up mode– setting up schools for my girls; setting up an office, and, well, an entirely new house and life. I opened up a book of Rilke’s poems today and remembered the existence of quietness, beauty, and the more aware and attentive way that I experience life when things are simply more settled, more homey. The contrast between my life as it is currently and Rilke’s poetry was keen indeed.
When home is an already-arranged place, and routine life is an already set-up arena within which I can move without so much thought about each little step, then, perhaps, there might be a day, or even just an afternoon when creativity and thoughtfulness can happen. But right now I am just trying to trust the process that life has me in, and this means trusting that the minutia of today is building a bridge toward some “bright and purely granted achievement,” something beautiful, like a poem, if not a Rilke poem. I am seeking that something that can happen only after the enrollment forms are filled out and all the necessary machines are hooked up and the files exist in the filing cabinet and the papers are filed in them, and the drawer is closed. When all is quiet, when nothing is tugging at me, when the entire morning is before me, when I can sit at my desk and write.