Since I can remember, which to be fair is only since about the age of 6, I have so enjoyed having older friends. High on the list of both options and favorites included my parents' friends, and even my Nanny's. I attribute this to never quite feeling like I fit it with peers my age, finding comfort in those who'd lived a bit longer, made it through various gantlets (who else wonders about gantlet versus gauntlet? See below for a deeper-in-brief understanding.), and shrugged aside what no longer mattered or should.
Being that I am nearly 42, I cannot for the life of me recall why I started this post this way. I mean, it's all true, but where was I going with my older-friend (discussion)? And why, after nothing more than a question from Jack regarding (a fifth) dinner, have I forgotten my direction?
I attribute this both to being nearly 42 and to having been home with a sick'ish child for two days while also being in the midst of our renovation and having a 3rd grade class play to attend to. Plus trump. He's generalized anxiety at its worst. Robert Reich, who I heard speak last night, feels we have much work to do but also should feel lots of optimism. We must get back to the common good, the unwritten moral obligations we each feel for others, for those are the threads that bind. Here's hoping.
In any case, good reading.
There is always too much good reading to ever actually complete, but, if you love being swept away in deceptively simply observation of places and people, I beseech you to make time for Karl Ove Knausgaard, a Norwegian writer who lives in a tiny town in Sweden.
I suspect that being friends with KOK would be difficult. He seems quite the artistic dervish really. Naturally, he is ruggedly handsome, perennially windswept and tan. And he smokes. But I am besotted by his writing, by his ability to see where he is and make you feel that you, too, are there. Smelling what he smells, meeting who he meets, smoking as he smokes.
He first came on my radar three years ago, when he published in the New York Times a masterful travelogue/essay/memoir-lite about travel through North America. He managed to traverse some epically barren places, but my god did I shortly want to go where he had gone. To see the combination tub-shower-wall that seemed it couldn't have fit through the door but also couldn't have been crafted in that room. To experience the silence and space and immense rurality of some of the places he visited. In the country that is my home, and in the one that is my immediate northern neighbor.
That piece stuck with me, not least because I consider myself nearly hampered by my observations but here was a writer making beautiful of it. And then I read about his enormous, multi-volume autobiography, and picked up "Autumn." The Guardian loathed it, considered it twee and horrid, but honestly, I loved it. I love the way he describes a wall or a spill of blood or a church or authenticity and the way we all search for and are drawn to it. Is KOK self-indulgent and dramatic? Maybe. But is his eye impeccable and is his hand deft? Without a doubt.
And then, last Sunday, this roguish Scandinavian took us to Russia via not enough pages in the New York Times Magazine. Not having read Turgenev's “A Sportsman’s Sketches," (1852) I can, nonetheless, feel I understand that which Knausgaard remains drawn to: "modest, aimless" stories that manage to portray so much, perhaps even the whole of the story.
There is something utterly magnetic in Knausgaard's rendering of place. Something completely authentic and crucial. Something essential. The everyday. Life.
I can imagine that for some such writing is mundane. But to me it is magical. And while I in no way want this to seem aggrandizing, I wonder if the magical in the mundane is maybe what can get us back to a truer sense of the common good.
What if we first met each other as teammates? For example, my kitchen renovation. I need a team and I have one. My team is young (30s) and old (70s). They speak English and Spanish in varying degrees of fluency, and no, that doesn't wholly map with age. They are from this country and beyond. They live in cities and they live so much farther out. They are single and they are married. Some are grandparents, some are gay. I do not know where their political affiliations rest, but I do know that all of us respect the others' talents and that each of us can and do work toward a common end. We share a bathroom and a microwave, a lunch break and many hours. I watch videos of their children's musical concerts, I see photographs of their grandbabies, and I hear the woes that teenagers and college freshman bring. I think that were something horrible to befall us here, we would keep each other safe, even if that meant risk.
That is the pattern that has been revered, never completely was, is not, but could be. It is what writers like Knausgaard are drawn to and record, it is what Reich implored us to bring back, and while I still don't totally know why I started writing about older friends, I wonder if that thread is related. What we keep and what we shed as we age and our values come together and focus.
Oh, and even though I did just find termites in our deck (FFS), our kitchen is coming along swimmingly, thank gawd. The two far left cabinets in the second picture will have glass fronts too- coming...