Recently I read Things, a poem by Borges, that somehow had escaped my memory. Today while thinking about this blog I was going to write, I realized I had to include the poem (below in Spanish and in English). Its importance is vital to my life at my age of 79. I am surrounded by many things, many I believe valuable to me now. Who knows if they will be tad less tomorrow?
Las cosas – Jorge Luís Borges
El bastón, las monedas, el llavero,
la dócil cerradura, las tardías
notas que no leerán los pocos días
que me quedan, los naipes y el tablero,
un libro y en sus páginas la ajada
violeta, monumento de una tarde
sin duda inolvidable y ya olvidada,
el rojo espejo occidental en que arde
una ilusoria aurora. ¿Cuántas cosas,
limas, umbrales, atlas, copas, clavos,
nos sirven como tácitos esclavos,
ciegas y extrañamente sigilosas!
Durarán más allá de nuestro olvido;
no sabrán nunca que nos hemos ido.
Things – Jorge Luís Borges
My walking-stick, small change, key-ring,
The docile lock and the belated
notes my few days left will grant
no time to read, the cards, the table,
a book, in its pages, that pressed
violet, the leavings of an afternoon
doubtless unforgettable, forgotten,
the reddened mirror facing to the west
where burns illusory dawn. Many things,
files, sills, atlases, wine-glasses, nails,
which serve us, like unspeaking slaves,
so blind and so mysteriously secret!
they’ll long outlast our oblivion;
and never know that we are gone.
Some years ago as my Rosemary and I drove away from our splendid house and garden in Kerrisdale to visit our daughter Alexandra in Lillooet, I told Rosemary, “I have been thinking of hiring an arsonist to burn down our house while we are away. On returning we would be upset to find everything gone. But I believe we would feel an element of lightness in not being attached to all those material possessions.”
My eldest granddaughter Rebecca asked me when I told her about the arsonist who would I save if there was a fire and the whole family were in it. I told her that the first person I would remove from the burning house would be my Rosemary. I am not sure she understood.
While I was attending a Roman Catholic boarding school in Austin, Texas in the late 50, we were bombarded with the idea of having a vocation. This was Catholic speak to see if by any chance any one of us might think of taking on Holy Orders. I have to be truthful her to admit that I thought about it for some long five minutes. I knew that at any moment any of my Holy Cross Brothers could be ordered to go to a mission in Africa. I knew that in less than half an hour they would be packed and ready to go. This was because they owned little.
My game these days is to think what I would run into my burning Kits house to save.
I have narrowed it to three objects. One is my mother’s red Mexican shawl she brought back from Mexico to Buenos Aires in 1954. Its beauty was one of the significant reasons (I believe) why she, my grandmother and I moved to Mexico City.
The second object is my father’s 1940 mate (the gourd) and its bombilla. It has been with me always. I drink from it when Rebecca comes for a visit. A mate is so symbolic of the practice of sharing that I would never drink from it alone. When I want to drink mate I make what is called mate cocido in a French Press. I heat milk and the mixture (which resembles swamp water minus the crocodiles) was my daily morning staple in the two years I served in the Argentine Navy.
My Rosemary had to be represented. It could be a dress, a handbag or anything else that I see or remember every day now. But there is something about this Polaroid I took when we first came to Vancouver in 1975 that captures (not in the modern 2022 digital camera speak) her soul and what she was always to me and more so now that she is no more.