Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Art of Losing

Here is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop:

One Art  
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
After: Holly trees uprooted,  plants removed - August 2011

"One Art" is one of my favorite poems; it’s by Elizabeth Bishop, who is one of my  favorite poets.

I am not a good loser.  When I lose an object, I spend hours searching for it, and more hours searching for it in my mind.  Many times, my mind gives me a mental picture of the lost item in its location, but many times, it doesn’t.  It is very difficult for me to let go of the search for the lost item.
About two weeks ago I lost the credit card sized ID card needed to gain access to many places in the large house where I live. I call this object my “flasher.”  My peers know this for another meaning and get a big laugh out of it when I say I need to get a new flasher.  Today I succumbed and went to the Security guy to get a new one.  But I have been searching for the old one for two weeks, expending untold energy on the search.

Losing loved places, as Bishop says, is much harder. I still live in this place which is no longer the “PH” ( Provincial House) and is now to be called “Holy Family House.” How long it will take me to remember it by that name, I don’t know.  Losing the names of places is hard, too.

I begrudge every tree that is lost to me, that is cut down by the grounds people both here and on the campus at the Mount. Today I mourn the loss of some of our old gardens on this property;the new grounds guy tells me they were old, worn out plantings, and the trees were diseased and had to go.  I myself feel like an old, worn out planting sometimes, too. 

I know that my vocation is tied up with the qualities of availability and mobility, and in many ways I am highly mobile but not so available as I once was. I think about Elizabeth Seton, one of my favorite models, and how many places she lost, and worse, PEOPLE she lost, during her short life. Those losses cost her dearly, but made her focus on the one Person she would not lose.

1 comment:

Marion said...

I think of that Bishop poem often. I memorized it the minute I read it many years ago. I think it's about life. After all, life is loss, no?

I hope you plant more Zinnias. They're one of my favorites because they're so easy to grow. I call them the crayons of the flower kingdom. :-)