16 August 2012

August 2012

I’ve turned on the web-radio and it is playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. All is well, I know. Whenever I listen to Beethoven I am calm and enclosed in beauty.
As I complete my 65th year I discover an interesting return of habits that once defined my daily presence in the world. In my twenties and early thirties I dressed almost always in various layers on the top of which lay a vest purchased in some vintage-clothes department down in some emporium in Greenwich Village. Then, I sported long scarves that flowed as I walked, and I wore jeans with a 29 inch waist. On my feet I wore saddle shoes or white bucks. I owned a Nehru jacket that I wore with some pride. I ran 40-50 miles a week accompanied on Sunday mornings by a radio and Vin Scelsa, but during the week I trained mostly alone.
Over the years I attempted other styles and fashions, but today when I look in the mirror I see a very recognizable face now quite gray and well-creased and a torso adorned in a manner that remains layered: at present in sleeveless cardigans or full sleeved cotton sweaters that rest atop cotton sport shirts purchased mostly from the Back Rack at Land’s End Outlet Store. Replacing the scarves I wrap myself in a necktie, and on my feet I lace saddle shoes! I have received not a few remarks concerning this style of footwear, but recently, while strolling down Hennepin Avenue, I pointed out to Mitchell a display of shoes in a very fashionable shoe store window at the center of which were nestled saddle shoes. I was clearly, I noted proudly to him, several years ahead of the fashionistas. I wear a Nehru shirt purchased in India for me by my sister, and I receive the same interesting remarks concerning it as I did back when I sported the jacket. I no longer wear jeans with a 29 inch waist, alas.
I remember once commenting to David that what I loved about wearing overalls was that in them I felt hugged by my clothes. In my layers I feel nested; I do glide smoothly through the world in my blue/bone saddle shoes. Perhaps I dress as if I am listening to Beethoven: calm and enclosed, if not in youth, then certainly in warmth and even some beauty. I’m afraid I’ve lost the nerve to wrap about me the French scarvesParis being where they were originally purchased (perhaps it is that we won’t always have Paris)but I have of late shopped in the vintage clothes stores looking for the right vests.
I run many fewer miles, but most morning I head out on the trails sans Vinny and the radio, but almost always with my dear Gary. I have begun again to study in Talmud and learn anew to be not afraid to sit up straight and study.
I believe I am returning to a core self. Back then I read Thoreau, and I find myself now intrigued by a similar seclusion and dedication in the Monks of the Carthusian and Trappist Orders. The contemplative and alternative life that Thoreau offered me then has returned in my interest in the hermits of the religious orders, though I am drawn more to the Trappist communality and community  at Tibrihine than to the more severe seclusion of the Carthusians at Grande Chartreuse. The public world of scholarship attracts me still, but perhaps over the years its many layers have repressed some central fundamental aspect of myself. Thoreau had one chair for solitude, and two for companionship, and three for company.
Perhaps this process of aging means to slough off what has accumulated over the years under the pressures of a compromised (and compromising) public presence, and like the performing clowns in the circus, as I remove layers of clothes I discover beneath only older costumes, until finally I arrive not at nakedness but at some authentic sartorial expression. I feel me. When Thoreau brought his clothes into the tailor for repair he was told that ‘they’ don’t wear this fashion anymore, and Thoreau answered that he was not ‘they,’ and he preferred his fashion to theirs. Like Bartleby, perhaps, I am today more inclined to prefer not to.
In his journal Thoreau wrote, “We linger in manhood to tell the dreams of our childhood, and they are half forgotten ere we acquire the faculty of expressing them.” Perhaps it is the task of aging to find those lost objects and shout them out aloud.
I wish myself a happy birthday and a good year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


16 August, 2012 07:20  
Anonymous Nehru jacket said...

This style was made famous by Mr. Nehru who wore this jacket with the collar slightly open at the front.

02 November, 2012 06:40  

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