Saint George’s Day. The patron saint of England. Shakespeare’s birthday. Also the day he died.
The reason I always remember the date, though, is because it was the birthday of someone I cared for deeply, many years ago.
Still do, though he’s long gone.
Have you ever met someone and felt instant recognition? As if you’ve always known them?
That’s how it was. Strange. Lovely.
During my two years of schooling back in England, I was required to study in depth two of Shakespeare’s plays, Julius Caesar and Macbeth.
Sixty years later, I can still recite just a few lines.
It’s not that I made an effort to memorize them.
Back then it cannot have meant to me what it now does, but somehow this particular speech of Macbeth registered and etched itself into my brain:
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
A trifle gloomy and I don’t feel more than usually glum.
In the hundreds of years since Shakespeare’s time, not much about the human condition has changed.
People speak of being “evolved”, as if we have become more civilized. We have not.
We make grand gestures with our United Nations and our War Crimes Court. What do they really accomplish?
Life is so short and we are gifted with a beautiful planet which we could spend our days discovering and nourishing.
Some people do.
Most of us get caught up in all manner of complications, the “strutting and fretting”.
God knows, I did my share.
To be fair, my heart told me I should be doing something different but simply graduating college, I had already acquired responsibilities, loans to be paid.
People to please.
Poor excuses, but at the time, I thought I would one day break loose and have time for something else.
The longer you stay though, the more you get inextricably tied up into the system of survival.
In the end I did break loose, abandoning a life that had become stressful and exhausting and meaningless.
Accomplishing the break was costly and extremely difficult in many ways, but there was only one thing that would have stopped me.
The 13 cats I was still responsible for.
There was never a chance I would have abandoned a single one and passing them on to another rescue organization was not an option I would consider.
Maybe there is truth to the belief that positive thought will bring results. In my mind I saw the cats being transported to New York. It was going to happen.
So, at the age of 70 I broke loose. Not entirely, of course.
There’s the house to maintain (for the now 11 cats!), the taxes and utilities. At my age and state of health, living “off the grid” would be hard.
But I have found myself living in a place of great beauty that gives me deeper satisfaction than anything in the material world ever could.
My life could so easily have ended without ever having the peace and contentment I now enjoy.
And for that I am extremely grateful.