Today this is not a boring watercolor blog. Today this is a fascinating philosophical blog in which we ponder new furniture, cats, and the randomness of life.
What got me thinking about new furniture and cats (it’s a twofer) is because, as you read last week, we got two new couches delivered to our house here on the north shore of Long Island, and the cats immediately made themselves comfortable:
Right. The upholstery of these couches (a fashionable tweed in shades of gray with contrasting piping) will never see the light of day as long as this herd is in residence. We will remove the sheets when we entertain ..wait…I’m laughing too hard … because we “entertain” about three times a year … right: When we entertain, the sheets and the cats will be banished and it will appear, to all who enter, that Top Cat and I live a normal life with furniture fit for grown ups and a not-crazy number of pets. Keeping up appearances, and all that.
So far, the couches are just couches, and not the catalysts for a great change in life like my previous couch experience. That’s OK, I can be patient and let life unspool itself on its own terms but this I know: my choice of couch has put something in motion.
So, with notions of unforeseen consequences swirling in my head, that’s why this old review in the New York Times (I’m catching up on my reading) from May 7, 2017, resonated with me. The cover story is about Penelope Lively:
The British novelist Penelope Lively is fascinated by contingency — the idea that an entire life is shaped by small decisions that seem inconsequential at the time. In 2005, she published a sort of anti-memoir, “Making It Up,” in which she imagined all the different directions her life might have taken. What if she’d become an archaeologist? What if she’d married an American? What if she’d had an illegitimate child? Sitting in an upstairs room at her London house at the end of March, she said she still thought this way. “I have six grandchildren, in their early 20s,” she said, “and I look at them now and think they’re making the sort of decisions that are going to determine the rest of their lives. It’s quite alarming. But mercifully you don’t know that at the time.”
Does this strike a chord with you? Does this make you look back, and review your 20s, and speculate on the small choices that you made back then that had lasting, monumental repercussions? Because it did me. And I already knew the exact point when my life took off on a trajectory that, at the time, I was completely unaware of.
It was in 9th grade, when I decided that I was going to learn French in high school. I was pretty good at it, and then I went to Paris, and traveled in France, and picked up a lot more language, so that by the time I was 30 I was fluent. And my being able to speak French has totally changed my life, not least because back then, when people knew you spoke French, they assumed that you were far better educated, and not the hick that you actually were. I have leveraged my French language skills into life experiences that were far, far beyond my imagination back when I was a 13-year-old picking courses at Upper Moreland Junior High in Willow Grove, PA. All the way to West Africa, Buenos Aries, and Giverny.
I wonder if you, too, Dear Readers, looking back, can pinpoint a moment when you stepped down the road less travelled, chose the prize behind Door # 3, listened to your heart and not your head, or listened to your head and not your heart, and that — as the poet said — has made all the difference.
Today’s musings are dedicated to our Dear Reader Alex, who is at a crossroads. Which is a pretty cool place to be when you are at a time of life when you thought that crossroads were something that only happened when you were too dumb to know that you were at a crossroads.
What’s your story? If it wasn’t taking French I in 1969, what was it?
In the meantime, I was at the gym and this song came up on the huge video/speaker system and I loved it…although I was doing bicep curls at at the time and hating it, and this song gave me the oooopmph to pull through. These guys are new to me — are they new to you?
It also struck me as pertinent to this conversation (except for the contortionists in the video what is up with that?) that, When You Are Looking for A Way, Everything Becomes a Path (Alex, You Are Thunder):
Have a great weekend, everyone. Next week, we will have to discuss Kirra’s sabbatical to study music in Salzburg !!! and Elizabeth decamping to Morocco !!!…all you Dear Readers have such interesting lives!!!