Sunday, 10 October 2010

The present is a divine present

The afternoon sun casts a silver glow across the sea at Skerries today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

At the beginning of the weekend I posted on my Facebook page a video clip illustrating Constantine Cavafy’s poem, An old man:

Ένας Γέρος

Στου καφενείου του βοερού το μέσα μέρος
σκυμένος στο τραπέζι κάθετ’ ένας γέρος•
με μιαν εφημερίδα εμπρός του, χωρίς συντροφιά.

Και μες των άθλιων γηρατειών την καταφρόνια
σκέπτεται πόσο λίγο χάρηκε τα χρόνια
που είχε και δύναμι, και λόγο, κ’ εμορφιά.

Ξέρει που γέρασε πολύ• το νοιώθει, το κυττάζει.
Κ’ εν τούτοις ο καιρός που ήταν νέος μοιάζει
σαν χθες. Τι διάστημα μικρό, τι διάστημα μικρό.

Και συλλογιέται η Φρόνησις πως τον εγέλα•
και πως την εμπιστεύονταν πάντα — τι τρέλλα! —
την ψεύτρα που έλεγε• «Aύριο. Έχεις πολύν καιρό.»

Θυμάται ορμές που βάσταγε• και πόση
χαρά θυσίαζε. Την άμυαλή του γνώσι
κάθ’ ευκαιρία χαμένη τώρα την εμπαίζει.

.... Μα απ’ το πολύ να σκέπτεται και να θυμάται
ο γέρος εζαλίσθηκε. Κι αποκοιμάται
στου καφενείου ακουμπισμένος το τραπέζι.

An old man

At the noisy end of the café, head bent
over the table, an old man sits alone,
a newspaper in front of him.

And in the miserable banality of old age
he thinks how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, eloquence, and looks.

He knows he’s aged a lot: he sees it, feels it.
Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.
So brief an interval, so very brief.

And he thinks of Prudence, how it fooled him,
how he always believed — what madness —
that cheat who said: “Tomorrow. You have plenty of time.”

He remembers impulses bridled, the joy
he sacrificed. Every chance he lost
now mocks his senseless caution.

But so much thinking, so much remembering
makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,
his head resting on the café table.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

Surprisingly, a Facebook friend posted in Greek: καλά ότι δεν ήταν μια ευτυχισμένη σκέψης για την ημέρα (“Well that’s not a happy thought for the day”).

Oh, but it is! It is important to seize the day, to take the opportunities we’re given, to enjoy God’s gift of the present as a divine present.

This morning, I was in Christ Church Cathedral for the Cathedral Eucharist; the celebrant was the Revd Garth Bunting, and the preacher was the Revd David McDonnell, while the setting was Eucharist setting was Stanford, in C & F.

After coffee in the crypt, four of us went to lunch in La Taverna in the Italian Quarter on the other side of the river. And then, it was out to Skerries, for coffee in the Olive and a walk on the beach with friends from Balbriggan I have not seen for eight or nine years, even though we’ve kept in touch on the ’phone and at Christmas each year too.

Despite the promises of warm sunny days, the easterly breeze is still blowing hazy cover along the coast. There was a shine off the water as we walked along the strand, up around Red Island, back around the harbour and along the North Strand, and back out onto the South Strand as far as the steps at Holmpatrick.

It was warm, despite the immediate lack of direct sunshine, yet the silvery reflection from the water made it a very pleasant afternoon that seemed to stretch beyond all expectations for such an advanced stage in autumn.

After lingering a little longer in the glow of the silver waters, I eventually dropped into Gerry’s for the Sunday papers. It was six when I left, and headed back though Rush.

The setting sun on the M50 this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Out over Rogerstown Estuary, there was haze that looked almost like a Celtic mist, and then as I headed towards the motorway, there was the sun, like a golden orb, handing delicately as it cast a glow across the fields of Fingal. It finally started to set at 6.30, but by now it was like a red Mediterranean balloon, casting purple shades across a sky that appeared grey only a few hours ago. It only took five minutes to set. Five minutes later I was home.

Unlike the old man in Cavafy’s café, I had no regrets about this day; indeed, after Friday’s walks on the beaches of Kilcoole and Greystones and the added joy of picking blackberries, I have no regrets about how I have spent this weekend. I am enjoying the years while I have strength, and eloquence. I may have sarcoidosis, but sarcoidosis does not have me, and I continue to enjoy these beach walks and to draw strength from them.