Twenty-four thousand one hundred thirty-seven days, by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack A. Urquhart     786 words

God ParticleLately, I have been thinking about the passage of time and how quickly our individual allotments pile up—and how meaningfully. Or not.

There is nothing new in this, of course. We humans have been obsessed with life’s transience since we first learned to count, bedeviled by the meaning and miracle of our existence ever since the first synaptic impulse to contemplate our navels.

Perhaps the difference today is that technology has exacerbated our metacognitive tendencies, accelerated the frequency and rate of our obsessions. For who, in this age of electronic gadgetry and Internet omnipresence, would deny that we have more ways than ever to track the passage of our lives, more information (far more than we might sometimes wish) to fuel our expeditions in Omphaloskepsis—to draw upon in contemplating the significance of being alive.

By way of personal example, I cite the compulsive introspection that this morning sent me surfing across several online “days of your life” calculation sites (here’s one of them) that can, in the blink of an eye, compute the length of time one has been out and alive in the world.

Here is what I learned—that, as of September 18, 2014, my life tally amounts to:

24,137 days—or,
2,085,457,994 seconds
34,757,633 minutes
579,293 hours
3,448 weeks
1,724 fortnights
887 lunar months
778 months
259 quarters
464 dog years
66 years
68.11 lunar years
16.53 Olympiads
6.61 decades
0.66 centuries
0.06613 milleniums.

These calculations exclude the normal nine months of human gestation. That means that if I subscribed to all the tenets of the various “Personhood Initiatives,” (I do not), I could add another 270 +/- days in hours, minutes, seconds, etc., to the various above-noted reckonings.

But it wasn’t the computational specifics—not any desire to know the exact number of days, hours, minutes, etc.—that prompted my Internet investigations. Rather, it was because I couldn’t help wondering how many moments—out of the nearly 2.1 billion seconds (it turns out) of my life to date—had retained a consequential place in memory? How many of them had carried the bulk and resonance of meaning? I couldn’t help wondering what that tally might say about the huge swaths of my life that have vanished into a black hole of lost time and recollection—and more to the point, what might such a tally imply about the relative meaning of my life?

Daunting questions, I’ll grant, and not ones likely to yield reliable answers. Nevertheless, this die-hard (hopeful pun intended) navel gazer decided to pursue an unscientific experiment in that direction.

To wit, I set about recollecting and denoting (via the scientific method of check marks on tablet paper) as many significant life events as thirty minutes and a faulty memory would allow. By ‘significant’, I intended a moment in time important enough to spring, specifics intact, readily to mind. For example, a first love, lost love, last love. Or more precisely, my spouse’s surprise marriage proposal after 14 years of togetherness (Friday, September 28, 2012), the first time I heard “Rhapsody in Blue” (June 1958, 4th Grade, end of school year concert), weeping over the last page of To Kill a Mockingbird (November 9, 1962), my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon (July, 1970).

The wondrous births of my children.

My son’s death; my mother’s sudden passing.

You get the idea.

So how many checks were on my list at the end of that half hour, how many ‘significant’ memories readily summoned?

Big drumroll: 118.

What might that signify, I found myself wondering post clumsily executed experiment? What if anything could be gleaned from a mere 118 recollected moments out of hundreds of millions?

That would be the gazillion dollar question, wouldn’t it? The one, that given the paltriness of my checklist, I wasn’t sure I wanted to waste anymore time considering. And yet, and yet…there was—no, there is—something that stands out for me in contemplating the significance of those 118 memories. And that is that every last one of them centers on a moment so beautiful, so joyous, frightening, heart wrenching—so mind boggling and compelling—as to have stopped time.

As to have overcome caterwauling distraction.

As to have revealed a God Particle of insight and intuition, an excitement of understanding that imparts mass and weightiness to everything else, a reaction that once begun cannot be turned off.

As when we apprehend (the first time, and ever thereafter) what a curse, and a blessing, and a never-ending mystery is love, is loss.

Is a sudden spring snow; is a Chopin Berceuse.

Is being alive.

Who knows, perhaps that is as much meaning, as much understanding—as much of any God—as some of us can hope to tally in 24,137 days.

Or less.

Or more.

Hopefully more.

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Haiku for My Son, by @jackaurquhart

For Dillon Tyler Urquhart
March 8, 1979—August 2, 2013
©2014 by Jack A. Urquhart

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DillonHaiku2 PM

 

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You Don’t Say, free verse by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack Andrew Urquhart

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People say the damnedest things,
people meaning, you, of course—
say you can’t stand your mother,
whose definition of trauma
is a frizzled permanent wave.

Say that your children’s lunacy
makes of you a mental slave,
that their pecuniary dramas
bore you to bankruptcy.

 

 

Say you’d like to weed them—????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
these bush-league blossoms—
from the rose garden
of your verdant dreams.

Say anything, in fact,
to blunt the prick and prickle
of these thorns in your side.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????You don’t say
truth, of course:
that love is petulant
as a posy,
flagging and flowering
to the whims                                                           of temperamental climate;
that devotion can be cruel
and constant,
one day nurturing as a spring shower,
all drought and idle threats
the next.

 

You don’t say
the worst is complete conceit,????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
not a ghost of a chance
you’d follow through.

And so, your words
come back to haunt you—
every shade of hubris
every bald-face lie.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????You don’t say
it serves you right,
damn fool!

To think that you
could make a master gardener,
to think that you
(of all people!)
could coax bouquets
from a briar patch.

            ***

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Surrendering to Cliché, free verse by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack A. Urquhart

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One after another, they fall—
chestnuts
from the hospital bed,
the utterances of old age:
“ ‘Beats me, how time
gets away,”
she crepitates,
this crisp
of sun-dried human being,
this wisp
of ossified womanhood.
“In my mirror this morning,
a face like flotsam,
a stranger,
half-dead;
eyes hard 
as driftwood.
Not me at all!”

And indeed!  You remember
her washed away glory,
her once-upon-a-time
top-down glamour,
movie-star tresses
frothing,
wind wafting from an Olds
Super Eighty-Eight.
Yet even then, some hint
Of a battle born state;
some white-washed
mysterious loss
never to be mentioned?

How you ached
to be like her then.
And now, you are:
same hawkish profile,
and withered smile;
same hypothermic eyes
benumbed
in their hollows.
“Yes,” you concede,
considering your own
unspeakables.
“We’re changed by our lives,”
you prattle,
surrendering to cliché.
“Changed into someone else.”

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Pheromones, free verse by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack A. Urquhart

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Is it ‘cause of them?”
my daughter asked,
setting aside her dolls,
her Pretty Ponies
with their rainbow manes.
Those fairymoans?” she stammered,
wide eyes the color
of sunset canyons.
“Is that why—
why you want to be
with him?”

Embarrassed, unrehearsed
for sudden exposure,
I must’ve betrayed myself
by patronizing smile.
Because she cocked her head,
assumed an I’m-not-a-baby
arms akimbo stance.

“Mom says so!” she blurted,
pitching me a sideways glance.
“Mom says you can’t help it,
that it’s a magic spell—
those fairymoans,”
my daughter flared.
“Says they make you come running.
Just like a puppy dog.”

Shocked by her savvy,
I must’ve barked in response:
Do you even know what that means?
Because she came to me then,
shoulders squared to the burden.
“ ‘Course I do,” my daughter sighed,
squirming into my lap,
not such a big girl anymore.
“It’s ‘cause they have a bad hurting inside,”
she said, eyes brimming at the notion:
“those fairies.”

This was long ago,
but I remember I wanted to cry.
Yes, that’s right, I think I said instead.
Some of them do.

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Queer Science: free verse by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack A. Urquhart????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Do you know Einstein’s Law
of Photoelectric Effect—
how electrons can lose
their metallic bonds,
become sub-atomic emissions,
spun solo into space?
Well, neither do I.  Not really.
Only layman’s knowledge.

Just enough to speculate,
to guess how P.E. might explain
the way it was with us:
how I couldn’t keep a “natural” orbit,
couldn’t defy nature
(much less Einstein!)
to keep metal-mighty and mated
to you.

Ironic, don’t you agree—
the alchemy of attraction?
How all that’s required
is a bundle of bright.
How a tiny photon
shed just right,
can break the mettle
of a man.

That is the thing
I can’t get past:
how Albert got us right,
how it was light
that parted us
just enough of it
to shatter ironclad bonds,
send electrons reeling.

Quite the matriculation, that—
to be so suddenly freed,
thinking how alone I’d be,
thinking how unlikely:
the queer science
of like attracting like.
But then I never was any good
at chemistry.

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“March”: a poem by @jackaurquhart

March


(Some free verse … for my son, Dillon)

March

You were tardy aborning,
a day late and mad
— —as a March hare;
it took a suction cap
to coax you
into the world.

Pushed to fight or flight,
a blood-slick wild thing,
you came roaring,
and wailing,
raising a ruckus
to life.

It was storming
that afternoon,
the month of March
blowing up a blizzard,
the foothills whipped
blinding white.

I remember your shock:
how you grimaced
through the introductions,
how you blinked
against the merciless
light of day.

I remember your ruddy fists, too—
duked and flailing
before a wizened face—
as if you expected it:
the hard fight
to follow;

As if you understood: 
that you would go out
— —like a lamb;
that everyone here
begins a death march
aborning.

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