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When the movers arrived to pack our things, Mary discovered she couldn’t bear to watch their apparently impulsive and chaotic desconstruction of our apartment, so she grabbed a book, any book, and went down to the lobby to read until they A Bacward glancecompleted their work. Her book, she discovered, was Edith Wharton’s A Backward Glance, and the first page “spoke” to her—and to me later when she showed it to me. Wharton begins by saying she used to think “There is no  such thing as old age: only sorrow.” But she learned with the passing of time that it was not only sorrow that produced old age.

The other producer of old age is habit: the deathly process of doing the same thing in the same way at the same hour of the day after day, first from carelessness, then from inclination, at last from cowardice or inertia. Luckily the inconsequent life is not the only alternative, for caprice is as ruinous as routine. Habit is necessary: it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.

So we are going to make new habits lest the trail turn into a rut. Winston Churchill once said, “A change is as good as a rest.” I’m counting on it. But I know not everything will change.

Words are always changing like the weather,
And so are we.
And yet the language holds itself together.
And so do we.
We aren’t the people that we used to be.
But you’re still you, my love, and I’m still me.

 

Right now Mary is immersed in the lives of Victorian women and will probably be mostly writing on what it would have been like to have been one. My posts will be about poetry, memoirs, biographies and other efforts to summon hints and echoes from the past.