On Missing Things As They Are

Last evening it was a young activist working to save the Sonoma County landscape. Today it was two men selling religion. Ever since our last Chihuahua went to doggie heaven, people can be at the door ringing the bell before I am aware they have come into the yard. It is always a surprise to see a person or two standing at the door. But when it’s Saturday morning and you find there a man and a boy dressed in coat and tie there’s not much surprise.

The man had a message to share with me. He reached into the heavy brief case he had set on the brick terrace, brought out a black leather-bound Bible and turned to Revelations 21. He stumbled a bit over the words as he read of the new heaven and the new earth, of the sea that had vanished, of how God would now dwell among us and would wipe away every tear. There would be an end to death and to mourning and crying and pain.

“That’s lovely,” I said. “Thank you for sharing that.” Then he wanted to give me a magazine.

“Oh, no,” I said. “No magazines.” Maybe I was too dramatic. He looked at me, drew his hand back from the briefcase into which he was reaching. I wished him and the boy a good day and closed the door.

No more magazines.

“We should open our house as a reading room,” my husband had said to me not ten minutes before they came. He was at the time sorting through the magazines with which he had covered the kitchen table. Some would go to recycling, some to the stacks. We keep a year of  gardening and travel magazines and health letters and consumer reports; some weeklies stack up until they start slipping off their pile. The rest get tossed, not because they aren’t relevant, but because, in spite of what Evelyn Wood taught us, we cannot read them all. For that matter, I might as well toss every one out after a month, because, as Robert Frost said, or surely meant to have said, you probably won’t go back there again anyway.

I have an actively-imagined life in New York City and so I go through every New Yorker before I throw it away, clipping poems and tearing out articles I want to read someday, saving stories by authors I like. The poems are filed, the articles and stories pile up in a drawer at the bottom of the desk into which I reach for something I can slip in my purse when I’m going to have to wait at the doctor’s office or the Toyota garage. The rest of the magazine may end up in my collage stack and I will watch weekend journal writers tell their lives with pictures from my fantasy life.

Newspapers are old before sunset and all but take themselves to the recycling bin. But magazines: they’re so slick and pretty and so filled with speculative reflections, penetrating analyses and critical reviews, with exciting new fiction and helpful ideas and clever cartoons and stunning photography, art, graphics, and appealing recipes. (Did I tell you I keep a year of Bon Appetit?) .

When my brother was a boy he went door to door selling Liberty magazines, for a dime as I recall. I borrowed his magazine bag one day, filled it with old Colliers and Saturday Evening Posts, and went up the street to knock on doors and sell magazines for a penny apiece, maybe. You could buy candy for that.

But I was not much of a sales person. When one old lady proceeded to look through every page of the magazine while deciding whether or not to give me a coin, I stood quietly on her porch as long as I could and then told her she could have it. I walked away from what might have been my only sale for the day. It was a formative moment.

A woman told me once she kept every one of my columns. “Hang on to those,” I said, “they’ll be worth a lot someday.”

“They’re already worth a lot to me,” she answered, more serious about my work than I wanted to acknowledge       

The selection from Revelations tells of a new order and assures us the old order will pass away. People in online publishing say the same thing. I know it’s here. Truth is, I would miss the sea, I would even miss the tears; just as I would miss on a Saturday noon sitting at the kitchen table with some time to myself, a sandwich, a cup of Earl Grey, and a new magazine that just came in the mail.

                                                                        —Donna Hardy, 2003

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One Response to On Missing Things As They Are

  1. Sheree Reels says:

    After losing my mother in law to lung cancer because of heavy smoking, any improvement in the technology to save more lives would be terrific. Any one that does not need to experience what our family members has gone by way of is doing the globe a terrific service to all.

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