When I was young and transient, I had a ritual of sorts whenever I settled into a new place. I wrote, or typed out, Theodore Roethke’s poem, “The Waking”, and I pinned it above whatever would serve as my desk in that place. Its opening stanza was a daily reminder:
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.I learn by going where I have to go.
1 (of cloth, clothing, or soft furnishings) becoming thin and tattered with age
1.1 (of a person, building, or room) poor or shabby in appearance.
‘we huddle round a cassette deck in a threadbare rehearsal room’
1.2 (of an argument, excuse, idea, etc.) used so often that it is no longer effective.
‘the song was a tissue of threadbare clichés’
I thought of my eyes, taken for granted all these years, and the retinas, never thought about much at all. Why would you think of them anyway? But now they are, well, old. The vitreous in my eyes is pulling away from the back of my eyes and causing the retinas to tear. As favourite old jeans tear, or ancient sheets. I am holding myself this morning the way I’d hold a fragile cup. We were all threadbare in the ophthalmologist’s waiting room: the woman with the orange hair, the man who fell asleep in his chair, the other man with his cane, the woman wearing a surgical mask, and me. That poem I know by heart could be a solace now, not “a tissue of threadbare clichés” but something to be carried again as an amulet. It might be time to type it again, or copy it out by hand, and put it where I can be reminded of its guidance:
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.What falls away is always. And is near.I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.I learn by going where I have to go.