The Interval Between

“A mightier hope abolishes despair.”   Emerson

The queue is long and crowded beneath the red glow of the exit sign. The door to the other side is locked. Auld Lang Syne is seen tuning up the band and chilling the champagne. Everyone wants out of the year 2020. Nobody’s looking back for good reason, reminiscent of L’Amour’s words:

     “Behind me a noose hung empty, and ahead the country is wild.”

It’s the week after Christmas, or ‘holidays’ if you’re part of the alchemist crowd that mixes Jesus with Visa and gets Santa. Hopefully you dodged the dictates of the cancel culture and social injustice police who mandated all celebrations be equal and diverse.

The frenzy is over. The guests are easing out and the perfect evergreen’s career had ended.  All that remains are desiccated needles scattered on the floor. A pretty good metaphor for ‘the year that wasn’t.’ 

Years come and go, flourish and fade. Omar Khayyam’s rubyaivat saw it this way:

“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.”

2020…it was what it was. We survived.

This ‘tween week might bring mild anxiety, especially if the what-ifs of tomorrow cloud the way. But in the waiting it’s possible to experience a measure of peace.

Negative thoughts have no place in these remaining days of reverie. I pick up a couple books my children gave me. Books, like socks, are utilitarian. Who couldn’t live without reading “Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life?” I flip through it, imagining myself a martini-sipping CIA operative, living in intrigue and saving the planet from the curse of fossil fuels.

The book is a compendium of tricks and secret weapons designed to prepare one for dangerous situations like political protests. It describes everything from hat pins to a monkey fist key chain, household items to extricate you from deadly encounters and maim any malefactor. Oh, it also comes with a hand cuff key, handy if you’re detained by TSA goons because your eyeballs inadvertently match those of a bearded fellow in the next aisle who keeps winking at you. Everyone is suspect these days.

Another book, ‘100 Deadly Skills,’ describes techniques for eluding pursuers, evading capture and surviving random confrontations. It includes directions for converting the words of the NYT’s into renewable green energy and receiving carbon credits in the process. But like most gifts, the novelty soon wears off.

COVID notwithstanding, on the coast the sun offers promise of better days. I consider another salt-water baptism, just in case. A quick plunge into the icy waters ought to wash off last year’s sins of omission and commission. Unfortunately, only the toes get the baptismal dip today. It’s as close to a cryogenic experience as I want to get.

Back in my chair I read poetry by T. S. Eliot while thumbing through the Christmas cards, everything from family biographies, pictures of people you don’t know and Hallmark cards from CVS.

Maybe you’re not into poetry. Pity. It’s a poor career choice anyway and can’t compete with Wall Street, a guitar or yard art. Poets are mostly morose, unwashed people with bad hair, I’ve observed. But at least Eliot’s fresh breath goes against convention.

Lines from ‘The Hollow Men’ are insightful and intriguing. He stretches to grasp the brief interspace between dreams and reality, between now and later:

“Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow 

Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow” 

Mystical lines, don’t you agree? If read in the context of the waning hours of the year, they offer us a message.

At midnight, this year 2020 will end forever. In the interstices of a millisecond the old will pass, the new will begin. Everyone gets the chance for a second wind. Perhaps it’s in that very instant when the Shadow falls and the choice is ours.

Wendell Berry’s poem puts it this way:

“I greet you at the beginning; for we are either beginning or we are dead.” 

What will 2021 will hold for us? We don’t know. It’s a mystery. But for the poet in us all, life is a strange, mystical romance if only we’re willing to embrace it.

* * *

     Happy New Year…it’s a new beginning. Live big!


Bud Hearn

December 31, 2020