We Fray Into the Future
A note of thanks
As the year draws to a close, I wanted to note with gratitude that it has been a good year for the Convivial Society. There are three times as many of you signed up for the newsletter as there were this time last year. I owe much of that growth, of course, to my mid-summer appearance on the Ezra Klein Show, but I’m also grateful to all of you who’ve taken the time, in any number of ways, to recommend the Convivial Society to others. As far as I can tell, the majority of new subscribers ordinarily come from readers sharing the newsletter directly with others. So thank you. In an age of information superabundance and endless content, I remain genuinely humbled by the fact that so many of you out there read what I write (including the absurdly long posts!) and find it helpful enough to pass along to others. It’s continued to be a pleasure to write the newsletter, and I look forward to continuing to do so in the year ahead.
As a reminder, through the end of the month you can still support my work here by signing up for a year’s subscription at 30% off the usual rate. This comes out to about $30 for the year. My model here has been and will remain a patronage model: support the work if you are able, enjoy it in any case. No customers, only patrons. No paywall, only writing that is freely available.
And, of course, you’re more than welcome to become a paid subscriber at the usual rate as well. Also, some of you gave gift subscriptions this month. I hope my gratitude was matched by that of the recipients! I never think to mention it, but, should others of you be so inclined, here’s the link:
I’ve succumb to the year-end list impulse. In case you might have missed some of these, here are some notable posts from 2021. Somewhat surprisingly to me, the last installment has gotten the most views of any post of the year, and is second only to the zoom fatigue post from 2020.
The title of this brief installment is taken from one of my favorite Richard Wilbur poems, “Year’s End.” Naturally, the poem comes to mind near the end of each year, so I’ll share it with you today.
Now winter downs the dying of the year, And night is all a settlement of snow; From the soft street the rooms of houses show A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere, Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin And still allows some stirring down within. I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell And held in ice as dancers in a spell Fluttered all winter long into a lake; Graved on the dark in gestures of descent, They seemed their own most perfect monument. There was perfection in the death of ferns Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone A million years. Great mammoths overthrown Composedly have made their long sojourns, Like palaces of patience, in the gray And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii The little dog lay curled and did not rise But slept the deeper as the ashes rose And found the people incomplete, and froze The random hands, the loose unready eyes Of men expecting yet another sun To do the shapely thing they had not done. These sudden ends of time must give us pause. We fray into the future, rarely wrought Save in the tapestries of afterthought. More time, more time. Barrages of applause Come muffled from a buried radio. The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.
This won’t be the last you’ll hear from me this year. There’s one more post scheduled before the end of the month, which will pick up on some of the themes of the last installment.
Until then, all my best. May a good measure of peace and good health find each of you.