Emerson said, "All forms are fluent," and I have left the tangled branches of my park behind, the arches of my bridge, for a view of Virginia from my topmost floor. The park was never mine, of course, nor were the magnificent, inscrutable arches of that bridge beyond my windows. But in the course of three years' living in the apartment I have just left, they were part of my landscape, and became part of me--or I of them--and I loved them. I miss them the way one misses the past that has been lost, taken or thrown away, the past as irrevocable as it is irretrievable: one misses it, mourns it for a time before finally allowing it without loathing or longing--respecting it, in a word.
Now I have moved. The painters are even on this New Year's holiday preparing the empty apartment for its next tenant, and I look forward to greeting some familiar object with fresh surprise as it emerges from its wrapping and, rather selfishly, to eating the chocolate mousse brought just moments ago by a neighbor and co-worker, who threw in a little moral indignation when he found me smoking still. (He had quit 36 hours before.) Nonetheless, it was a considerably more welcome greeting than the parking ticket given by the police the day I moved. So on New Year's Day I sit alone in a new house, amidst sawdust and paint cans and stepladders and what seems like a thousand cartons, to begin, yet again, a new life. I face another park, not wild like the urban forest I left; more a city square than a park. I like to think it is fitting, as the arches of my bridge, now crossed, were fitting. It is not yet mine, though I shall eventually, bench by bush by tree, appropriate it, and probably soon enough, along with the view of Virginia.
The house, however, is mine, at least in title, in a way the apartment--a transitional space between houses-- never was and never could be. To make the house truly mine, to learn its creaks and quirks, to exorcise the spirits of its past and replace them with my own, will take a while, longer than it takes to find the 1982 calendar, which I hope will turn up soon, along with the photographs I cherish of the dead or missing, the crystal of quartz I picked up outside a ruined crusader's castle in Lebanon, and the words of Emerson.
The words were cut from a calendar two or three years back and taped to the wall above my desk. Where they are now is anyone's guess, though somewhere in this new house, I am sure--somewhere in the packing boxes that surround me or the shopping bags into which the litter from my desk was swept in a last rush before the encroaching movers (who managed to get a large piano up a narrow flight of stairs unscathed but break the typewriter on which my living depends.) Emerson's words will emerge one of these days and return to their small honored place on this wall, in another room with another view, to remind me that the seeming permanence of my new estate is transient as the others I once thought solid and unchanging as stone. But even stone erodes with time and weather.
"All forms are fluent." I could not toss out Emerson's words with certain other mementos of the past: the jar of old cigarette butts from the Smokenders course I passed (then later failed), the magazines from 1978 saved to read for reasons now forgotten, the struggling plant from several birthdays back that never liked me nor I it, the dust balls from behind the bedroom door--tattered remnants of my past that, unlike the past itself, could be abandoned. A lot was buried or burned this past week, though more was carried with me, physical and spiritual baggage that might better have been shed, but could not be. One move, the Russians say, is worth three fires.