Monday, January 14, 2008

spring and mall

In my student days so long ago, a poet-professor mentioned to me a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem that begins with a young girl, Margaret, who's seen crying over the falling autumn leaves. Having briefly described the scene, my prof. recited the poem's last lines, the revelation from the poem's kindly but unsparing narrator:

It is the blight man was born for,
Is is Margaret you mourn for.

I would not contend with but gently question that notion.

Do we collapse all loss down to our own mortality?

Or would we say that beyond the emotional imagination that we call empathy, that way we can see the signs of another's feeling and call it up in ourselves, our part is in others and the world around us and their part is in us?

Whatever self-interest or self-identity we have is not so unbound from the people, places and things around us. It is indeed tied to and contingent upon all that surrounds.

Or perhaps, given said connection & contingency, we "mourn Margaret" in the moment as we mourn the autumn leaves. Sentimental it seems to be, and is. But it's just as real for being so that we Margarets die in the falling leaves. We die with them as they fall, not just later on in our own inevitable demise. The things outside us are not so far outside us as to not be some part of us dying too, right then & there.

Well, we may share with dying things and living things both . . .

Anyway, lately I've applied said pathetic fallacy to the man-made ephemera of aging retail. After taking my mom on a nostalgia ride in the fall of '06 to what proved to be the ex-Walnut Mall, I did some googling and found the Walnut Mall entry at

Blundering around some more I lucked onto Anita's Sickmalls blog about old retail in the Hampton Roads (aka Tidewater) area of Virginia. All the entries I found there on long ago places I'd been to with my mom, my aunt, friends and cousins--I was excited. Relieved.

It wasn't all gone. Or it wasn't yet. Or there were pictures at least. Diagrams and clippings and listings and memories of others who'd been to these places.

And anyone could write in her or his own memories, info or observations.

Well, anyone with a Blogger account.

So I cussed a bit and got a Blogger acct. that I knew I'd never use again just so I could write in my own comments and be part of something remembered (in my mind, an amalgam of people, places and things), not forgotten.

But with a Blogger acct. and pictures of a red clay lot that used to be Walnut Mall (plus plenty other omnibus pictures not about aging retail), I said "okayfine--I'll be one of the last people in N. America to start a blog". And in that cheerful spirit I've been doing this and two other blogs.

Huffing and puffing outwardly in the work of it (I type v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y) like an aging man weary of raking leaves yet again. And inwardly jumping into the giant piles & crawling endlessly through the vast leaf forts of cultural mulch we see, fall into and rise out of.

No comments: