Sometimes when I’m sitting outside, and nature’s gold slips behind the clouds, there comes a sudden hush. No bird songs wrap the air. No frogs croak. No cicadas harmonize.
Such reminds me of my favorite Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
I was first introduced to this poem when Ponyboy Curtis read it in the teen novel The Outsiders. I identified so completely with its every word that I memorized it.
And Ponyboy Curtis is still one of my favorite literary characters of all time.
Growing up, I was Ponyboy Curtis. A sad girl trapped in the wrong world by circumstances. Hanging on to written words for salvation.
Ponyboy and Johnny Cade walked around town while the Socials drove Mustangs. Times were different when I was in school: the Gators (called that because of their Izod raiment) drove BMW’s and Alpha Romeos rather than Mustangs. Nevertheless, I thought that Mustangs were the car.
My favorite line of The Outsiders occurs when Johnny says to Pony, “Mustangs. They’re tuff.” I’m still a freak for Mustangs.
After studying Frost’s poem for a while, Johnny reveals his interpretation to Pony and tells Pony, “Stay gold.”
This is no easy task. When you know what it is to be gold, only then, you’re not. It’s impossible to be gold when you know what being gold is. This is the paradox hidden in Johnny’s advice to Pony.
Even so, Johnny believed that every day’s green begins anew as gold. So every day is a chance to see the gold again, even when you know it can’t stay.
I want to be the type of person who believes this, too. Like Johnny. But I need a little help.
Jean-Paul Sartre knocked my thick head when I read Nausea. (I still re-read it now and then when I feel myself slipping again.)
His Antoine reveals that moments are only moments, and time cannot be reversed. Though we cannot control the passage of time (or losing the gold), our perception can link past to present in the manner in which we choose. We can change nothing except our own perception. So in essence, we can stay gold if we perceive a moment as such. We control whether or not privileged situations become perfect moments. Perception.
As the breeze caressed my face on a hot summer’s evening, I looked up and saw the tawny face staring back at me from a distance. Would I have recognized this perfect moment without Jean-Paul, Robert, and S.E.? I wonder. Writers – they make being alive ok.
This is why I read what the writers have to say.
Doctors may save lives, but writers – they save souls.
I feel the need to take a break from the twenty-first century, my friends. I will be off-the-line for what remains of this swiftly passing summer. See you in another month or so. (Ok, maybe I’ll get on-the-line to peek at your life-affirming sites from time to time.) xo