Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finnegan, Begin Again

Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle. —Anna Quindlen

So it has been a full month - and a few days - since I have shared with all of you. And I am sure you know that this month has been filled with hard work, getting ready for the holidays, decorating the house, reading the scriptures, going to church, finishing gifts, wrapping things up, and planning celebrations.

Every time I thought about writing I realized that I had other critical priorities that needed to be attended to, priorities that were time sensitive. I just got things done in time, I tell you, despite my determination to have a more leisurely approach to the holiday preparation. So I resolve to do better next year.

Yes, I am already working on my resolutions, and you can see with me how successful I am in 2010. I will document them all here, for your review and comment early in January. I am also working on a complete statement of what I believe to share with you.

So though there has been a blogging break, now there is a new beginning, again. And of course, that got me reflecting on New Beginnings and the Future.

*** I remember from my childhood the song - Finnegan, Begin Again! The words - not necessarily the stuff of great poetry - but significant in reminding all, including the young, that occasionally everyone has to "begin again."

There was an old man called Michael Finnegan,
He grew whiskers on his chinnigan.
The wind came out and blew them inigan,
Poor old Michael Finnegan... begin again.

There was an old man called Michael Finnegan,
Ran a race and thought he'd winnigin
Got so buffed (?) that he had to go innigin
Poor old Michael Finnegan... begin again.

There was an old man called Michael Finnegan,
He kicked up an awful dinnigan
'Cause they said he must not sinnigan
Poor old Michael Finnegan... begin again.

There was an old man called Michael Finnegan,
He went fishing with the pinnican (?)
Caught a fish but walked it innigan
Poor old Michael Finnegan... begin again.

There was an old man called Michael Finnegan,
Climbed a tree and barked his shinnigan
Took off several yards of skinnigan
Poor old Michael Finnegan... begin again.

There was an old man called Michael Finnegan,
He grew fat and then grew thinnigan
And thus he died and had to beginnigan
Poor old Michael Finnegan... begin again.

The idea is that this song is loosely based on the James Joyce novel "Finnegans Wake," where one of the themes is about the Dublin hod carrier "Finnegan", who falls to his death from a ladder while constructing a wall. A series of episodic vignettes follows in the first section of the book, loosely related to the dead Finnegan, and at the section's end a fight breaks out, whiskey splashes on Finnegan's corpse, and “the dead Finnegan rises from his coffin bawling for whiskey and his mourners put him back to rest”, persuading him that he is better off where he is.

There has also been a TV movie titled "Finnegan, Begin Again," a comedy drama about a late blooming romance. In the story, Mike Finnegan is a 65-year-old news paper reporter writing a lonely hearts column. He meets a younger, recently widowed schoolteacher and their relationship blossoms. Finnegan Begin Again premiered February 24, 1985, over the HBO cable service.

So in honor of these considerations and in honor of the coming New Year, I have searched and looked and read and finally found something to share with you all - a "begin again" poem from the amazing Wesley McNair. Mr. McNair is a new poet to me, and in the first few poems I read he touched my heart and soul. They say that he "captures the leaping pulse of Americana and the Western World, and translates it to the page in dry, wry syllables." I say that as an older poet, he has a different slant on things that I very much appreciate.

So without further pause I give you The Future, by Wesley McNair, from his book "Talking in the Dark." (David R. Godine, 1998.)

On the afternoon talk shows of America
the guests have suffered life's sorrows
long enough. All they require now
is the opportunity for closure,
to put the whole thing behind them
and get on with their lives. That their lives,
in fact, are getting on with them even
as they announce their requirement
is written on the faces of the younger ones
wrinkling their brows, and the skin
of their elders collecting just under their
set chins. It's not easy to escape the past,
but who wouldn't want to live in a future
where the worst has already happened
and Americans can finally relax after daring
to demand a different way? For the rest of us,
the future, barring variations, turns out
to be not so different from the present
where we have always lived—the same
struggle of wishes and losses, and hope,
that old lieutenant, picking us up
every so often to dust us off and adjust
our helmets. Adjustment, for that matter,
may be the one lesson hope has to give,
serving us best when we begin to find
what we didn't know we wanted in what
the future brings. Nobody would have asked
for the ice storm that takes down trees
and knocks the power out, leaving nothing
but two buckets of snow melting
on the wood stove and candlelight so weak,
the old man sitting at the kitchen table
can hardly see to play cards. Yet how else
but by the old woman's laughter
when he mistakes a jack for a queen
would he look at her face in the half-light as if
for the first time while the kitchen around them
and the very cards he holds in his hands
disappear? In the deep moment of his looking
and her looking back, there is no future,
only right now, all, anyway, each one of us
has ever had, and all the two of them,
sitting together in the dark among the cracked
notes of the snow thawing beside them
on the stove, right now will ever need.


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