Friday, September 30, 2011

Annus Mirabilis (Remarkable Year)

It was a very good year. I suppose everybody has one. Mine could have been in 1939 when I was six. I could see Dick running to Jane on the page from the words alone; imagine 2 plus 3 equal to all the fingers on my right hand (my left hand came years later). Presumably I had stopped wetting my bed. I realized that Graham crackers tasted better than Uneeda Biscuits, that those puree marbles jingling in my pocket were important but not as important as the FDR buttons on my beanie. Maybe it was also the year I realized, while playing ring around the rosy, that girls were different than boys. My Annus Mirabilis year and I’ve been going downhill ever since.

1905 was Albert Einstein’s year. He published four rather game-changing articles including the one that gave us the E equals mc squared formula. I’ve never bothered to verify this nor for a minute doubted it. There are certain pronouncements in science not to be quibbled over even if he came up with it while doodling one day to break the tedium of his job in a Swiss patent office. I accept that it changed our views on space, time, and the fundamental nature of matter; though in all honesty I don’t know that I ever had any views on the subject. People like me don’t know how anything works; we rely on people who do. And they’ve done well with it all, giving us wireless communication without which life is unthinkable.

It is said that Einstein came to his revelation about the motion of light and connectivity of time and space in the middle of a conversation with a friend. I have also noticed my mind wander while half listening to friends but it has never landed me in the fourth dimension. He showed that light does not travel in continuous waves as physicists had believed. His theory of Relativity overturned what had been understood about the nature of existence and how the universe operated. It was enough to have his hair turn white and be un-comb-able; living proof that space and such are not absolute. And let us not split hairs over that.

John Keats’ Mirabilis year was 1819. He produced his Odes to a Nightingale, Grecian Urn, and to Melancholy (in 15 days), along with Eve of St. Agnes and La Belle Dame Sans Merci. These comprise the most remarkable poetry ever written in so short a period. It was as if he knew his days were numbered. He wrote under the spectre of his brother’s death and the spell of his love for Fanny Brawne. He had the fever of a creative mind whose reach extended back to the Elizabethans yet seeded modern poetry. Even as his tuberculosis took hold he sang in full-throated ease.

As an observer of the figures on the urn he became the thing observed, teased out of thought. In his Ode to Autumn, written in September of that year, his words became music. This was said to be the consummation of his Art. He rejected the fixity of his social status and of his selfhood. He had defined and embodied the liberated imagination. As Stanley Kunitz put it, Art emerged as a new kind of secular priesthood…making no concessions even to its own congregation.

And to think, he came to all this after becoming an apothecary-man. It makes me wonder if those years in Pharmacy school weren’t altogether a waste. Considering Einstein’s Relativity and Keats’ Romanticism I now want to claim 1980 as my remarkable year. It was the beginning of my Life Part Two. In March I bought my own pharmacy, in June my poetry was being published and by October I had met Peggy.

Being my own boss brought me no riches but a modicum of empowerment and I could welcome the muse in between labels. That summer I co-founded the Valley Contemporary Poets Series and found myself doing poetry readings at venues around town. It was at one that I first met Peggy; the confluence of two bodies moving through time and space and a life beyond measure. Dick and Jane meeting at the speed of a great idea finding a habitat on a Grecian Urn.

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