Nothing Gold Can Stay

Yesterday, I did everything I wanted to do and nothing I didn’t.  I got the phlox planted and replanted the herbs that failed to thrive (yes, hello, 30 degree, I am not happy to see you coming) which I will probably end up replanting again in a couple of weeks.  I took pictures of all the stuff going on in the yard and I lounged in the hammock.

Today, I want to do a little garden dirt breaking up, see some friends, and go to the grocery store.

And, behold, that is what I’m doing.

I’m going to admit that, it makes me nervous.  Can you have this much good fortune without having to pay the piper at some point?

I think that it’s right here where I have the hardest time letting go of my Christian beliefs and trusting in the knowledge of my ancestors and I think it’s because there are two very different ideas with a lot of overlap going on.  I do come from a line of people who do seem to have a hard time getting the things they need in order to be happy (and I use “things” in its broadest sense, because though some of us are very materialistic, others of us are not) and being able to hold onto the good things we have.

The Midwest Protestant in me says two things.  1.  Don’t go enjoying these good things too much because showing any enjoyment of anything is a sure signal to God that it’s come to mean too much to you and he must take it away.  2.  Enjoying the good things in your life when others are so miserable is bragging and showing off.  Which is unseemly.

The Heathen in me says that yes, of course, families can have a kind of fortune.  And once you understand that fortune, you can work to modify it by getting into right relation with your community–seen and unseen.  So, good fortune can be worked at and does, when lost, slip away for a reason other than just a jealous god who needs you to be miserable here so that you will aspire to be with Him there.

Still, on weekends like this, I am torn.  My first reaction is to try to not enjoy it too much, to not be unseemly, to not get into a situation where I need comeuppance.  But the thing I’m trying to understand in my heart is that enjoying it and being open in my enjoyment without fear of having it stripped from me is the proper response, the one that fosters better fortune.

5 thoughts on “Nothing Gold Can Stay

  1. The concept of unseemly-ness is reminiscent to me of a kind of guilt, one put upon someone for having reached beyond his or her station. But then there are the actual definitions of unseemly: 1) unbecoming, and 2) inappropriate, and neither carries this implication, so perhaps I’m just reading the Puritan Christian influence of your context.

    I understand the metaphor of pleasure as a stolen treasure, but I don’t understand the feeling that makes the metaphor appear an appropriate model for human experience. When I think about pleasure connected to suffering, I don’t think that it’s always a causational relationship. I think that one depends on the other for its definition; we must experience each fully to know the other. If a Christian god demands human suffering it seems to me that the pleasure must also be equally demanded. This is just to say, call your pleasure good fortune if you wish, but don’t diminish its experience by looking over your shoulder for the suffering–it will come all on its own and the memory of today’s happiness can buoy you when it does.

  2. I remember reading the book of Job when I was a kid and freaking out because I thought my little elementary school life was so happy that the devil would ask God to test me and kill my whole family and pets and make me break out in painful boils and all my friends abandon me. There should really be rating systems for books of the bible when you’re a young reader.

  3. Of course I understand completely what you mean. But in the intervening years since I left my first home it has occured to me that there is a special fortune that comes with finding your Land. Call it ‘hearth fortune’.

    I don’t know if everyone is specially attuned to this, but it’s the foundation of what they now call–ludicrously–the “american” dream. Like no one dreamed of a homeland or cultivation before this country and its Levittowns. The God of the Hebrews knows about it. That God promised land to Abraham and his descendants. A specific land. That God led those decendents to that land. Over and over again the Earth and its relationships with us is part of the sacred texts of almost every major religion that I can think of.

    So I think when you find the Land that is meant for you and you develop a sacred relationship with that land you have a type of fortune that exists apart from vacillation. We’ve lived on this land for 10 years–9 of them were hard and bad and filled with much grief. But the act of having a shelter here, of trees and vines we planted, gave me a fortunate peace.

    I think much of what we were taught about God in the Midwest churches was filtered through the understanding of farmers. They knew that drought haunts every full harvest and that worms are always in the dust, ready to destroy the crop. But they were so busy reminding us of those warnings they forgot about the blessing of the Land. That the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

    That Christian God who hampers your Joy is a misunderstanding propagated by those who sought joylessness. I’m grateful that in the years since I left home I’ve found the Christian God who grants an unwavering joy, and I’ve learned the new lessons about how that God feels about that God’s creations.

    I know you and the Christian God have parted ways. I still think that the Joy of hearth fortune is yours as you make your home on the land meant for you and commune with the land through your work.

    Pardon my rambling. I’m in a God and Nature sort of frame of mind.

  4. You know, I don’t see your #1 as specifically Midwestern, or specifically Protestant. Of course, I grew up with a father who would take things away if we enjoyed them too much, unless they were things he had told us to enjoy.

    But as for your #2, I think there is also a fellow-feeling we all develop (oh, we don’t all do anything — that most of us humans develop) from our own hurts and losses, that wants us not to flaunt good fortune in the faces of those who lack it. And this is a time when an enormous number of people, known to us or not, do lack the good fortune of feeling that they get to do what they want. The trick is finding the line between enjoying and flaunting. And I really don’t notice you saying “nyah, nyah” to others a lot.

  5. I’m always waiting on something to screw up… must be the Southerner in me – or my Irish roots. I have no other explanation… I need to be more optimistic.

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