When I was younger I used to write poetry, and some of it was pretty good. It was just like they tell you about: a thought or mood or phrase would suddenly erupt at the center of me, and there was nothing to be done but to sit down and work it out until it turned into a few stanzas at least.
Things were different then. I was lonelier, for one, and had more time to myself, to sit around and be overcome by things, for good or bad.
When I was about 15, during one of many summers I spent at my parents’ house with nobody and nothing much to occupy my time, I walked down to the park in the middle of the night under the full moon. There was a heavy fog, and I went
Wading as through the cloudy dregs
Of a wide, sparkling cup.1
It was an unforgettable night, even though now — now that I am used to having people around, and no longer feel quite so often the need to retreat — the thought of walking to the park by myself, in the middle of the night, with nobody around, sounds intolerably lonely. Is there anything wrong with that?
I also don’t sit around and get overcome by classical music anymore, even though there was a time when Rocky II2 would move me to tears, and Bach’s English Suites were like wandering through some byzantine labyrinth, and Bartok’s fourth string quartet was like a revelation from an underground world, deep and fiery as Bism.
Is that intensity gone, or is it dispersed? Have I truly lost anything — or is it more like Roald Dahl’s Matilda, where at the end she loses her psychokinetic powers because she’s no longer two grades too low, and the Trunchbull has been defeated, and Miss Honey has taken her in, and she can just get on with the quiet business of living?
I’m not sure, but it’s a good place to be. Sorry, Teen Self, but if it’s a choice between romanticism and the buoyant freedom of the ordinary, I’ll take the latter. And if (as I suspect) that turns out to be a false dilemma, so much the better.