Thursday, August 23, 2012

Not the Golden Boy

Morning, and swallows dodge the power wires in their flickering hunt, zigzagging across the pale blue.

I am an old man this morning, with a straggly white beard and an enormous nose. My face blinked at me in the mirror, unrecognizable. How had I failed to notice that I had acquired an old man's nose? There it is, as plain as – well, as plain as the nose on my face. A great fleshy overhanging thing, anchored like a limpet on my nasal bones, breathing the sea water of the air, hairs poking out and waving in my breath, like the fronds of a barnacle that search underwater for sustenance. Was I born for this? Apparently. Over my nose, a jutting Neanderthal brow bristles and broods. And yet once, and not so long ago, I was a young man. And I'm still conscious – more conscious than ever, in fact – of reservoirs of power, agility, acumen. I do not yet have any sense of being on the wane. On the contrary, I feel fighting-fit and eager. But – and this is in sharp contrast to the young man I was – I feel nevertheless that I am in some sense a pawn, being moved in a game I don't understand.

I love the scene in The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf proposes that Frodo was meant to inherit the Ring, and suggests that this is a comforting thought; and Frodo replies flatly that it is not. I am, perhaps, given to magical thinking, but I derive no comfort from it. If this world was designed, it was designed for purposes that are unfathomable by us, and certainly far from my own. God as a nice dependable buddy is a conception fit for children and idiots. God makes the world considerably more menacing and incalculable, not less.

I swam yesterday, for the first time in a year at least, plowing through the water, registering the unaccustomed strain on tendon and ligament; delighting in the water, but not trusting it as completely as I used to. The crescent moon was barely visible: it hung between two fir trees, but seemed to appear and disappear on its own schedule. I was an old, solitary orangutan in my forest pool. The hair on my chest is quite white now. It readily took the dye of the setting sun: it was orange, not gold. I'm not the golden boy any more. I wonder what I am?


Murr Brewster said...

Every single thing you write flutters my barnacle fronds.

marly said...

Incalculable, indeed.

Jean said...

Mmm, yes, I know all these realisations (well, not the chest hair). Enjoy your time by the ocean.

Zhoen said...

Spent an hour talking with a doctor on Wednesday, and concluded that I am in rude good health, for the first time. Feel in the prime of life, pain, age and long grey hair included.

As for nose size,