Melancholy

Here’s another post from my defunct writers blog,
and it is updated and edited with permission of me.

If you’re a fan of the recent James Bond movies, then you might recognize “The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838” from the movie “Skyfall.” Historically, this JMW Turner painting depicts the final journey of one of the last fighting ships from the great Battle of Trafalgar. The scrapyard is dead ahead, where this good ship’s tales of high-seas bravery and victories will be ground to sawdust under a junkyard saw. The fitters will remove the copper and brass fittings, and the wood will find many destinations, including being part of a wedding present to King George V. Most of the hull and decks will be sold to shipbuilders and carpenters for houses.

Symbolically, it speaks of the passage of Britain from the Age of Wind to the Industrial Age, with the smoky tugboat towing the majestic sailing ship to her fate, her sails furled and lashed, her time to defend the Crown against Napoleon and other ne’er-do-wells at an end. To the right is the setting Sun, perhaps mocking the historical metaphor that our mother star does, in fact, set on England. The artist, Mr. Turner, said the painting and ship spoke of his own life, a youth lost forever, inevitably replaced by old age.

This last part appeals to me because one of my kids is 33 today, when I can distinctly remember the circumstances of their birth like it was literally yesterday, so I’m feeling a bit of the setting sun myself. It doesn’t helps that things that were easy are now a tiny bit harder: remembering a phone number, calculating a percentage, recalling what I was doing a week ago. I don’t go into a room and forget why I was there. Instead, I go to a web site and forget why it’s on the screen, if only for a second.

Like others, I’ve tried to push back the tides of time with my hands with some effect, though the reminders are there every day. The trite phrases from new acquaintances are the best; “You look good for your age,” and “I can’t believe you’re a grandfather,” are a particular favorite. To be honest, what else can they say? “At least you’re not old enough to be dead!”?

All of this is inevitable, I suppose. We want to get older, but we don’t want to age and break down along the way. Rather silly if you think about it. No worries. I’ve still a list (not a bucket list!) of things I want to accomplish while I can still pee without an adult diaper. What’s on the list? Depends (ba da bump). But seriously, folks, I want to push some decent writing on you, kiss my partner under a full moon in a faraway land, and maybe even get a tattoo. Why not? George Bush (#41) was jumping out of planes for decades after his presidency. Why can’t I take a big leap, too?

In the meantime, listen to an old man: find what you love and love what you’re doing long before you sail away from the setting sun like the HMS Temeraire there. You’ll never work, and you won’t wake up like I did and wonder what happened to the lost days. And have some fun along the way, too.

“Perhaps, where the low gate opens to some cottage garden, the tired traveller may ask, idly, why the moss grows so green on its rugged wood, and even the sailor’s child may not answer nor know that the night dew lies deep in the war rents of the wood of the old Temeraire.” John Ruskin, English art critic.

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One reply to “Melancholy”

  1. Lydia says:

    This was such a good post. I wonder why time seems to speed up so much as we get older?

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