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Familiarity and outdated associates

“Time means nothing to a ghost.”

Properly, that’s not at all times strictly true. Typically life will get busy.

Whereas we don’t want to set associates apart, even quickly, generally we should accomplish that with a view to attend to different issues. Nonetheless, the hall stays, the lengthy hallway of the acquainted, punctuated by varied doorways and shadows. After we do stroll it as soon as once more, it is sort of a area, totally different even whereas remaining the identical.

Familiarity itself might not be a mytheme like a tree or a shadow, however within the vernacular, it’s nonetheless a factor.

The acquainted could also be an outdated good friend or perhaps a group of associates, however it might even be far more than that. Pals are inclined to assist each other as a wall does a vine.

Clematis on the wall. Creator picture.

However familiarity itself is a presence, a being–one thing which is ‘there’ even when intangible. Familiarity’s high quality could fluctuate extensively. Issues, locations, individuals, and units of circumstances could also be endearing, charming, cozy, and likewise eerie, unsettling, and terrifying.

Pals usually appear to comply with sure tips. Pals typically forgive unintentional (and generally intentional) faults and trespasses. Pals join on a stage nearer to the bedrock of shared expertise and human heat. They might see one another as lovely. Even one who embodies a mountain of neuroses or character flaws could change into great by means of the lens of friendship. Connection could also be an ideal mix of creation and relation, curious and ever transferring.

Friendship’s familiarity permits room, making house for otherness in its inclusion. We rally beneath humanity’s unified flag. “She could also be x, however she’s our x!”

Pals share discoveries and secrets and techniques. Right here, Hamlet unexpectedly meets his outdated college good friend, Horatio, at Elsinore:

HORATIO Hail to your Lordship.
HAMLET I’m glad to see you properly.
Horatio—or I do overlook myself!
The identical, my lord, and your poor servant ever.
Sir, my good good friend. I’ll change that title with you.
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?—
MARCELLUS My good lord.
I’m very glad to see you. To Barnardo. Good
even, sir.—
However what, in religion, make you from Wittenberg?
A truant disposition, good my lord.
I’d not hear your enemy say so,
Nor shall you do my ear that violence
To make it truster of your individual report
In opposition to your self. I do know you’re no truant.
However what’s your affair in Elsinore?
We’ll train you to drink deep ere you depart.
My lord, I got here to see your father’s funeral.
I prithee, don’t mock me, fellow scholar.
I feel it was to see my mom’s marriage ceremony.
Certainly, my lord, it adopted arduous upon.
Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the wedding tables.
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
My father—methinks I see my father.
The place, my lord?
HAMLET In my thoughts’s eye, Horatio.
I noticed him as soon as. He was a goodly king.
He was a person. Take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like once more.
My lord, I feel I noticed him yesternight.
HAMLET Noticed who?
My lord, the King your father.
HAMLET The King my father?
Season your admiration for some time
With an attent ear, until I’ll ship
Upon the witness of those gents
This marvel to you.
HAMLET For God’s love, let me hear!

Hamlet 1.2.165-205

Horatio has include the guards to inform Hamlet about his father’s ghost strolling the battlements at evening. The dialogue walks us by means of greeting, assist, disclosure, the undertone suggesting the sort of quiet familiarity shared by associates. Hamlet protests towards Horatio’s description of himself as “truant”. Horatio quietly agrees with Hamlet’s evaluation of his personal mom’s hasty marriage ceremony following his father’s demise. “Certainly, my lord, it adopted arduous upon.” In friendship’s river, mutual regard flows by means of settlement and protecting sentiment.

The dialogue builds to the revelations about Hamlet’s father whereas it additionally tasks the benefit between the 2 characters, reflecting the comfy accord which so typically exists between longtime associates.

Naturally, associates needn’t essentially be ‘newsy’. Merely sitting in firm, ‘being’ with one another could also be sufficient. In friendship, familiarity could also be marked by togetherness with out expectation, with none must fill voids with dialog. Such quiet group is a part of human expertise, typically turning into central to the repository of our recollections.

We sit on a bench surveying our environment. Listening to the birds. Seeing our personal previous.

Huge is the literature of memoir, which can not assist however veer into memory. Frank Waters, the “Grandfather of Southwestern Literature” wrote his appropriately titled Of Time and Change in regards to the Taos Artwork Colony. Many well-known artists traveled to or by means of the realm. Individuals like Robinson Jeffers, Ansel Adams, H.D. Lawrence (who’s buried on a mountainside exterior of Taos), Willa Cather, and Aldous Huxley. Most haunting about Waters’ memoir, nevertheless, are his recollections of his associates, Mabel Dodge Luhan and her fourth husband, Tony Luhan, and the way they aged and altered because the Taos Colony instances got here to a detailed.

All of us who’ve been fortunate sufficient to have associates know such moments. Sitting with associates, or sitting with out them, and recalling them and others. Recalling what we did when and the place and the way it all was.

Shakespeare knew this too:

SHALLOW Ha, ’twas a merry evening. And is Jane Nightwork
FALSTAFF She lives, Grasp Shallow.
SHALLOW She by no means might away with me.
FALSTAFF By no means, by no means. She would at all times say she might
not abide Grasp Shallow.
SHALLOW By the Mass, I might anger her to th’ coronary heart.
She was then a bona roba. Doth she maintain her personal
FALSTAFF Outdated, outdated, Grasp Shallow.
SHALLOW Nay, she should be outdated. She can not select however
be outdated. Sure, she’s outdated, and had Robin Nightwork
by outdated Nightwork earlier than I got here to Clement’s Inn.
SILENCE That’s fifty-five 12 months in the past.
SHALLOW Ha, cousin Silence, that thou hadst seen that
that this knight and I’ve seen!—Ha, Sir John, mentioned
I properly?
FALSTAFF We’ve heard the chimes at midnight, Grasp
SHALLOW That now we have, that now we have, that now we have. In
religion, Sir John, now we have. Our watchword was “Hem,
boys.” Come, let’s to dinner, come, let’s to dinner.
Jesus, the times that now we have seen! Come, come.

Henry IV, half 2, 3.2.204-26

Typically our outdated associates have change into overfilled with themselves–the Zen teacup overflowing onto the saucer after which the ground. Nonetheless, we could indulge them, permitting them to talk on, whistling towards the wind, to speak it out.

Outdated associates needn’t essentially be human. Familiarity extends past the strictly human realm. Not solely could objects be associates, however they might be amongst essentially the most fixed associates now we have.

The outdated household teakettle. Creator picture.

In some ways, objects could also be extra reliable than human associates. They might be extra fixed and extra sturdy. The kettle by no means minds what sort of tea one makes. It by no means argues. It solely sounds a whistle when the water’s prepared.

Typically, in human phrases, the ‘auld lang syne’, the ‘outdated lengthy since’, could also be demons as a lot as angels. Lives are stuffed with vagaries and strangenesses. Annoying individuals. Inconstant. Traitors. Trespassers. The proud and sanctimonious. Why is pleasure the primary sin? As a result of it defied the Lord in scripture? Or as a result of the people who deemed it so discovered it essentially the most annoying sin of all. Nobody desires to hearken to that man who is aware of the whole lot. (Take observe you people, and ye ghosts.)

Typically, like the good Ralph Stanley, one senses the inevitable lateness of the hour.

Ralph Stanley, O Dying. Recorded in reside efficiency.*

Dying often is the biggest equalizer, the good peacemaker. The grave actually is a fantastic and personal place, Mr. Marvell. But, demise might also be, as Don Juan Matus supposedly mentioned to Carlos Castañeda, “the one smart advisor that now we have.”**

Maybe fancy too. Intercourse going hand in hand together with demise. The ever turning wheel of beginnings and endings.

Chloë No, it’s all due to intercourse.

Valentine Actually?

Chloë That’s what I feel. The universe is deterministic, all proper, similar to Newton mentioned, I imply it’s making an attempt to be, however the one factor going incorrect is individuals fancying individuals who aren’t purported to be in that a part of the plan.

Valentine Ah. The attraction that Newton ignored. All the best way again to the apple within the backyard.***

There are these instances in life after we return to outdated associates, outdated lovers, or outdated acquaintance for any variety of causes. To say one thing beforehand left unsaid. Voice a grievance. Apologize. Make peace.

Hannah What does it imply?

Valentine Not what you’d prefer it to.

Hannah Why not?

Valentine Properly, for one factor, she’d be well-known.

Hannah No, she wouldn’t. She was useless earlier than she had time to be well-known . . .****

Time at all times catches us. Outdated demise could instantly activate the lights on the brim of his hat and present us the empty home with chilly wind blowing by means of it. Typically we return too late. We miss the nick of time. It eludes us, and we founder. Then we hearken to what Hugh Laurie describes as “the minor key”–which is demise itself.

From A Celebration of New Orleans Blues by Hugh Laurie. 2012.

We at all times inform ourselves that we are going to name. We are going to stumble upon them. We are going to drop a line, a textual content, an e-mail. Tomorrow. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Properly, you already know the remainder. We stand by the grave in solemn garments whereas Hamlet jumps in. Ophelia has gone. Floated away, wreathed in blossoms singing snatches of outdated songs. Ultimately, Horatio alone is left to inform thee. But, even by means of time’s flip of the screw the acquainted endures.

Unusually, oddly, peculiarly acquainted. Familiarity wears any variety of faces. It seems in any variety of guises. It could come up in real friendships precipitated from an unique enmity just like the fox and the crow. They might be a familiarity of time, cast out of historic recollection.


Up and down the excessive woods, up and down the low,  
Should ‘a’ gone a-hunting morts of years in the past;  
When the beaver whistled, when the aurochs ran,  
Should ‘a’ been a-hunting when the world started.     

For I half bear in mind (tusk on kingly tusk)  
How I’ve seen the mammoths transferring by means of the nightfall,  
Mammoths all a-marching, horrible to see,  
By means of an terrible oak-wood glooming ghoulishly.     

Shadows enormous and furry, because the day was finished,  
In some way I bear in mind, strolling one after the other,  
Bulls grotesque and solemn pulling boughs in halves,  
Operating ‘neath their moms little fool calves.     

Lumping by means of the oak-swamp, huge and dim and grey,  
I've watched the mammoths go at nightfall of day;  
By means of the quaking hole, by means of the tree-trunks stark,  
Gleams of mighty ivory breaking apart the darkish.     

That’s the best way I dream it, that’s the best way I do know,  
Should ‘a’ gone a-hunting years and years in the past,  
For I’ve seen the mammoths—‘tisn’t you that would—  
Transferring like cathedrals by means of a dreadful wooden.*****

Most frequently, associates are cast from communal expertise. Shared sentiments and delight could bond us collectively. The burden of time could also be ponderous. However it might even be vigorous and social. Time’s winged chariot could repeatedly supply us new wonders.


by Langdon Smith (1858-1908)

 Whenever you have been a tadpole and I used to be a fish
   Within the Paleozoic time,
 And aspect by aspect on the ebbing tide
   We sprawled by means of the ooze and slime,
 Or skittered with many a caudal flip
   By means of the depths of the Cambrian fen,
 My coronary heart was rife with the enjoyment of life,
   For I liked you even then.

 Senseless we lived and senseless we liked
   And senseless finally we died;
 And deep within the rift of the Caradoc drift
   We slumbered aspect by aspect.
 The world turned on within the lathe of time,
   The new lands heaved amain,
 Until we caught our breath from the womb of demise
   And crept into life once more.

 We have been amphibians, scaled and tailed,
   And drab as a useless man's hand;
 We coiled comfy 'neath the dripping timber
   Or trailed by means of the mud and sand.
 Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed ft
   Writing a language dumb,
 With by no means a spark within the empty darkish
   To trace at a life to return.

 But comfortable we lived and comfortable we liked,
   And comfortable we died as soon as extra;
 Our types have been rolled within the clinging mildew
   Of a Neocomian shore.
 The eons got here and the eons fled
   And the sleep that wrapped us quick
 Was riven away in a more moderen day
   And the evening of demise was handed. 

 Then gentle and swift by means of the jungle timber
   We swung in our ethereal flights,
 Or breathed within the balms of the fronded palms
   Within the hush of the moonless nights;
 And oh! what lovely years have been there
   When our hearts clung every to every;
 When life was stuffed and our senses thrilled
   Within the first faint daybreak of speech.

 Thus life by life and love by love
   We handed by means of the cycles unusual,
 And breath by breath and demise by demise
   We adopted the chain of change.
 Until there got here a time within the regulation of life
   When over the nursing sod
 The shadows broke and the soul awoke
   In an odd, dim dream of God.

 I used to be thewed like an Auroch bull
   And tusked like the good cave bear;
 And also you, my candy, from head to ft
   Had been gowned in your wonderful hair.
 Deep within the gloom of a fireless cave,
   When the evening fell o'er the plain
 And the moon hung pink o'er the river mattress
   We mumbled the bones of the slain.

 I flaked a flint to a innovative
   And formed it with brutish craft;
 I broke a shank from the woodland lank
   And fitted it, head and haft;
 Than I hid me near the reedy tarn,
   The place the mammoth got here to drink;
 By means of the brawn and bone I drove the stone
   And slew him upon the brink. 

 Loud I howled by means of the moonlit wastes,
   Loud answered our kith and kin;
 From west to east to the crimson feast
   The clan got here tramping in.
 O'er joint and gristle and padded hoof
   We fought and clawed and tore,
 And cheek by jowl with many a growl
   We talked the marvel o'er.

 I carved that struggle on a reindeer bone
   With impolite and furry hand;
 I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
   That males may perceive.
 For we lived by blood and the fitting of may
   Ere human legal guidelines have been drawn,
 And the age of sin didn't start
   Til our brutal tusks have been gone.

 And that was one million years in the past
   In a time that no man is aware of;
 But right here tonight within the mellow gentle
   We sit at Delmonico's.
 Your eyes are deep because the Devon springs,
   Your hair is darkish as jet,
 Your years are few, your life is new,
   Your soul untried, and but --

 Our path is on the Kimmeridge clay
   And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
 We've left our bones within the Bagshot stones
   And deep within the Coralline crags;
 Our love is outdated, our lives are outdated,
   And demise shall come amain;
 Ought to it come right now, what man could say
   We will not reside once more?

 God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
   And furnish’d them wings to fly;
 He sowed our spawn on the planet's dim daybreak,
   And I do know that it shall not die,
 Although cities have sprung above the graves
   The place the crook-bone males made battle
 And the ox-wain creaks o'er the buried caves
   The place the mummied mammoths are.

 Then as we linger at luncheon right here
   O'er many a dainty dish,
 Allow us to drink anew to the time whenever you
   Had been a tadpole and I used to be a fish.******

After we measure time on a geologic scale, it provides one other dimension to our perspective.

Whereas literature could also be acquainted, it might even be our good friend. David Shields mentioned, “Nothing can assuage human loneliness. Literature doesn’t lie about this — which is what makes it important.” True sufficient. Shut associates could assuage our loneliness for a time. Horatios could talk about our defining moments with us, and their enter could assist refine our character. There’s the outdated thought that if it weren’t for my associates who lend me character, I’d don’t have any character in any respect. Maybe that’s true as properly.

Outdated associates could take many types. Favorite locations, even when they might be gone from our lives, might be formative.

Paddlerest. Creator picture.

Typically favorite conveyances–whether or not by land,

The Pashley. Creator picture.

or by water.

Paddles at relaxation. Creator picture.

An outdated quantity could also be expensive due to content material, due to sentimental affiliation, or for each causes.

Grandfather’s Shakespeare. Creator picture.

To a cook dinner, outdated associates could even take the type of a favorite kitchen software or a favorite pan. A recipe, or perhaps a seasoning mix–particularly when it’s one’s personal.

Ghost mix. Creator picture.

The sphere adjustments while remaining largely the identical. We aren’t right here all that lengthy. Only a second between dawn and sundown. That incessant dying of the sunshine.

Sundown area. Creator picture.

We’re a tide, our human expertise marked with the ebb and circulate of the acquainted round us. We transfer and sow and reap, and we’re sown and reaped in flip, the identical outdated area but ever altering. Within the tide of time, we tread what water we are able to whereas always dropping floor.

Typically life will get busy, and generally being in contact should be put aside for a time. But familiarity abides, as do outdated associates–and affected person readers. That presence stays, not solely being, however really being there in life and at this time limit. We stay grateful for these markers in our lives upon this sea. For whereas it might be true that familiarity could breed contempt, it additionally, ceaselessly, breeds content material.

*American bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley began taking part in banjo when he was 19 years outdated, and invented his personal fashion of banjo taking part in (Stanley fashion). His profession had a revival later in his life with a resurgence in recognition for quite a lot of his songs, together with O Dying, and Man of Fixed Sorrow–which have been featured on the soundtrack of the movement image O Brother The place Artwork Thou. Stanley died in 2016.

**Castaneda, Carlos. Journey to Ixtlan: the Classes of Don Juan. New York: Washington Sq. Books, 1991.

***Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia. a Play. (2000 repr. with corr.). London – Boston: Faber and Faber, 1993, p.97.

****Ibid, p. 101.

*****Punch, 1914. Verse included right here in dedication to RGL, who would know why.

******Sure, this has been quoted in earlier posts. It’s at all times price quoting once more in its entirety. Evolution is extensively obtainable on-line, and it’s reprinted in lots of anthologies like The Greatest Cherished Poems of the American Individuals, Hazel Fellerman, ed. Doubleday, 1936.


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