It was years ago when

Jan 06 2002 Kelly Norton
It was years ago when I first read the opening to Look Homeward, Angel. I was seated under lamplight in an old armchair that was egregiously deposited in my mom's carport several years prior by a great-aunt who having run into an embarrassing bit of trouble had decided to flee to Texas and start anew. It was rumored to have come into the family when one of my primogenitors rescued it from the garbage pile of a rather affluent household. After a nice reupholstering, the chair put an end to its nomadic life and became a nice addition to the living room, and consequently, my preferred chair for reading. It is astounding that such a beautifully hand carved chair would suffer so unsettled an existence. Though its original state, upholstered in orange vinyl, probably did much to prolong its neglect and wandering. But, it had been given a covering much more becoming when I adopted it as my reading chair. And that's where I read one of the greatest openings in Literature. I will admit that other works have made their initial introduction very memorably, some immensely inspiring, but few have ever compelled me to lay the book down and pace about the room. There is something in the rhythm of those four opening paragraphs that resonates, and from time to time, when life is lacking, I go to the bookshelf, pull it down, and relive it:

    "A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough; but one that leads from Epsom to Pennsylvania, and thence into the hills that shut in Altamont over the proud coral cry of the cock, and the soft stone smile of an angel, is touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world.
    Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.
    The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse when unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.
    This is a moment:" (Thomas Wolfe)