Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Art of Losing

Feeling much better but it has taken a while. Didn't get back to work until the middle of the month and have definitely been pacing myself since. Jam Factory Knitters, I will come and see you again soon! There's a sense of time lost since that moment in the week before Christmas when I went under with my lurgy. For a while I just lay there and groaned and even when I began to feel better I still found myself spending an inordinate amount of time in front of the TV. Now I'm having to wean myself big time off repeats of House and CSI. The evenings are lighter and it's time to come out of hibernation. And the time hasn't been completely lost, of course, because I have been knitting - cables for my course and a baby jacket for a work colleague who has just started her maternity leave.
I've been musing on losing things this week because I seem to keep strewing my possessions about the place. I managed to leave a favourite scarf behind after the AGM of the Oxford Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, practically my first social outing of the year. And then, dashing between trains that were running late, I left behind a very useful hat and a pair of gloves. Fortunately, someone picked up my scarf and we were reunited, although not before I had a few choice words to say to myself about not keeping track of my stuff.
To err is human, however. After the pre-Christmas gathering of JF Knitters at my house, I was the richer for one black scarf, a cable needle and a box of stitch holders and markers. (If they are yours, please reclaim!) And I was once fortunate enough to meet the famous "Historian of Ideas", Sir Isaiah Berlin, who left his hat behind in my office. When his wife came to collect it, she said that it was deeply psychological and meant he wanted to meet me again. It was a nice thought, but I think he just forgot his hat!
Elizabeth Bishop, an American poet, wrote a wonderful poem, a villanelle, called One Art, which starts: "The art of losing isn't hard to master;/so many things seem filled with the intent/to be lost that their loss is no disaster.//Lose something every day. Accept the fluster/of lost door keys, the hour badly spent./The art of losing isn't hard to master.". If you don't know it, I highly recommend it. If it's not my favourite poem, it's certainly in my top ten. I really like the rhythm of the villanelle form and the way Bishop uses it in this poem. Laying out lines of poetry is not unlike creating rows of knitting as the Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis, has observed.
Bishop's poem goes on to talk about losing houses, cities, rivers and continents. "I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster". Nor is loss of love, she concludes, although it looks like one. It's as if she's saying I can take that one on the chin too, although perhaps she doesn't convince is. Musing on all of this while the television screen has been full of images of the people in Haiti who truly have lost everything, it's hard to get too worked up about the odd hat, scarf or glove.