Posts Tagged ‘Milosz’

Beau temps, beau temps – The Season begins again

Monday, September 27th, 2010

In his poem, A Mistake, Czeslaw Milosz describes an attitude he had of nihilism. He allows himself to indulge in a sense that life does not mean anything in itself and is just a lead-up to death. But then he notices a paraplegic in his village, who is wheeled from the sun into the shade, and back again, according to the weather. The paraplegic notices the world around himself and whispers, in some wonder, “beau temps, beau temps.” Good times. Good times.

As I rushed around last week in the maelstrom of the beginning of term, I kept thinking those words: beau temps, beau temps. My life, since the age of five, has largely been structured around “the season.” Most of the time, it has been the school year, which begins in September and really, even now for me, goes until June, through the last of the grading, re-grading, resolving petitions and academic offenses, reporting on the year and culminating in the hiring process for the following term. July slows down – I vacation. People around me vacation. Then August picks up again, but September really accelerates into the pace of the year.

The “season” of theatre, dance, opera and music also begins. This year, we have already purchased tickets to some of the most exciting dance and opera events: lots of Balanchine as well as other choreographers such as Crystal Pite and Twyla Tharp. Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice, John Adams’ Nixon in China and Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. Lots of modernism, works you do not get to see often – though there are plenty of the old stand-bys such as The Magic Flute, but we are not going to that this year. We have enough to look forward to with the new stuff. Beau temps, beau temps.

This morning I was reading The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams and in it, before one poem, he includes a note to his mother, to whom he sent the work, hoping she would like it better than some of his other, more obscure writing. “Art is a curious command,” he writes. “We must do what we are bidden to do and can only go as far as the light permits.” As the school year, the season, begins again and I get caught up in my busy and hectic schedule, I am appreciative of what “the light permits,” from shade to sun to shade again, nature and art, the good times “as long as,” as Milosz puts it, “time is time at all.”