The poet John Ashbery died on Sunday.
So much that happens happens in small ways
That someone was going to get around to tabulate, and then never did …
I was going to get around to tabulate it. If I won the lottery (to which I never bought a ticket), I thought I might spend the rest of my life researching and writing an epic book about all the things that had happened in Chicago on a single random day—moments of great and small human drama that the city contained, without so much as burping it into the newspaper.
I would write about the 74-year-old woman (incidentally, retired from the last printing company on Printer's Row) who found a long-lost love letter from her late husband exactly two days shy of the first anniversary of his death. He wrote it while he was in the Coast Guard between wars. It was mostly about his daily routine, but there was one really romantic line about the shape of her nose, the exact words of which that she'd rather not be shared here because she wants to keep them just for her.
And three million other things like that.
Maybe you have time?
(Or as Ashbury wrote,
And today is Monday. Today's lunch is: Spanish omelet, lettuce and tomato salad,
Jell-O, milk and cookies. Tomorrow's: sloppy joe on a bun,
Scalopped corn, stewed tomatoes, rice pudding and milk.)
[Or as my own father Thomas Murray wrote in his book A Child to Change Your Life:
It seems to me that I must tell my children that the happiness of human beings is too often measured in unrealistic lengths of time—in happy years, or a happy life. I want them to realize that life is not lived in lifetimes or even seasons, but in sunny mornings and snowy afternoons, in picnics in the yard and on Tuesdays with the flu and in hours and minutes and in waiting for a child’s fever to break and sitting quietly with your husband or wife on a Wednesday night or picking up her dress or his suit at the cleaner’s. That if they can’t find happiness here they won’t find it next week or next month somewhere over the horizon, in the excitement of flying an airplane or climbing a mountain or accepting the honors of their fellow men or of kissing a strange new mouth.
I am going to tell any child of mine what I believe—that the clearest indication of a happy life are happy days and happy nights, that the clock, and not the calendar, will always tell her truthfully whether happiness is really hers.
I read that at his funeral, instead of a eulogy.]