Finding an old friend after all these years, sitting down for coffee with an ex-lover after an accidental meeting on the street, reconciling with a family member after a period of silence so long that neither of you can remember why your worlds went quiet, how lovely to know there are second chances.
The overlapping of love and laughter is perhaps all I really want from this life. I recently read the words of the poet W. S. Merwin who said,
“One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.”
What a haunting thought, “while there’s still time.” Yet most of us have been guilty at times of setting the woods on fire and letting the flames eat those we once slept or palled around with. We have even let the names of people once deep in our hearts just slip up and away like smoke.
Bumping into that unexpected second chance can be the magic moment that can define us, can let us see into the eyes of the stranger we have become to ourselves. Perhaps the opportunity can even allow us to go back and marvel about how we used to be and to get back on track. The second chance is just there in the shadow or in someone you think you know but they’re out of area and you’re not sure of yourself. Do you approach with the hope that you’re right and that your smile will be returned?
I recently nearly popped a vein by having someone I thought was lost not just wash up on my shore but come marching out of the water and up onto the beach to embrace me. The few days we spent together after years of silent absence were spent with delicious tastes in our mouths and almost continuous laughter. I am a hound by nature and my tail wagged while I was awake and my legs raced and twitched as I slept, much as my pups do when they’re bounding about or stretched out on the floor in sweet canine slumber.
Again, the grace of “while there’s still time” flows out and covers my feelings like a rich gravy that more than contents my hunger. It feeds me with a fullness of delight as well as of ease and well-being. My joy is only marred by thinking how close I could have come to have missed my opportunity. I could easily have been one of those who did not reach out to take the proffered hand, one who did not lift the receiver when the caller ID took the surprise away.
Some time back I had misplaced my wrist watch that I bought in Geneva nearly half a century ago. I had returned from a war and had tried to refresh myself with a wandering trip through Europe. The time of year was cold, in great contrast to where I had just been, and the shop window called me in to ask about the Longines watch with the leather band that had been spread out in such a seductive way. It has been my companion longer than most people and perhaps because of it, I am a bit preoccupied with time itself. It’s become my mechanical hour glass which I perhaps consult too often. As the years go by, I suspect the idea of the grains methodically dropping from the upper to the lower chamber has become too symbolic of opportunities that have slipped by.
When an old buddy just up and died a few years back, the shock of it kept me from putting my boots on for more than a couple of days. He went unannounced and with no fanfare. I felt I had been short-changed and I wasn’t happy that he had slipped out the back on me. I wanted the opportunity for us to smack each other about one more time, to make up a tall tale to see how long we could go without being called. It was a bloody bad show for him to deprive me of this enjoyment. But with the passing of time, we have made amends and I kind of see this man’s canine feet running in his big sleep.
Since I’ve always been the kind more inclined to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission, I’m grateful to have the chance to be welcomed home in that special embrace, to hear the laughter and kiss the smile, to touch the flesh and to mend the rag. I want to touch those lines around the eyes, to stroke the hand that once held mine, to hear the voice that calls my name. Second chances don’t always come round to surprise you. And sometimes when they come, your eyes are dimmed and not able to recognize their disguises.
So for me the best path is to take a clue from Andrew Marvell and to forgo any stumbling about in the darkness. Friends and lovers who are lost should be found. If we lose our wealth, we must retake our treasures, remember what has made us tall, and keep those closest to us in our warmest embrace. Let our better selves reach out and never forget. That once young face now wrinkled should be convinced and never doubtful that this old man of hers is her friend, and she his coy mistress. And despite “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” we should never pass up the opportunity to reignite the fires.
“…And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may…”