Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Familiar

"Look", I said to the pianist this morning, "There are a flock of American Widgeons that have returned. They weren't here yesterday." They are the first returnees of our winter ducks and you can practically set your calendar by them! What is it about the familiar that is so comfortable? Expectations met! The orb is turning as it ought! November is such a black month but the dark,wind, and cold is familiar. The Widgeons tell us it is good to be here! They say, "This is where we choose; this harbour and you, are familiar. You can rely on us and the Buffleheads and the others that return for the winter to sooth your familiars." The older one becomes, the more familiars one has that are available to the mind and the more they become of value. Breaking new ground, on the other hand, is crucial for the young: creating familiars for themselves, though they may not know it at the time. Years ago I had a white cable-knit sweater that I really loved. I wore it a lot, and particularly on my boat with my captain's hat and a scarf: it became my joie de vivre! It was my statement! As it was in frequent use, it became frayed, baggy, elbow thinned, a bit stained, and after multiple washings the pianist chucked it in the bin to discard. I retrieved it and continued to wear it, adverse comments notwithstanding! It was a familiar and I still felt a certain jauntiness it imparted despite its disagreeable appearance. After all, I was the author of its decrepitude and I owed it. My efforts to prolong the life of my cable-knit came to an end when the pianist had finally had it with washing it, trashing it and having it repeatedly retrieved. One day she washed the algae and mold off the greenhouse floor with my treasure. It was a dirty grey-green! It was like the day my aunt took away my blanket when I was three. Another familiar bit the dust and I needed to break new ground again!

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