Dust

One of Roger Ebert’s post-it notes to Chris Jones

“If I can’t speak, that makes me write with ferocity.”
One of Roger Ebert’s post-it notes to Chris Jones

1.
I was sad when I learned a few days ago that Roger Ebert died. I didn’t always agree with him, but I respected his views. I think he’s one of the few critics I read because I’m interested in what he really has to say. I believe he has deep and genuine love for films, that’s why I continue reading his review of something I really love even if he hates it, or vice versa.

I’ve been following the outpouring of grief from people who knew him. I am most touched by how they remember him as a writer. When Ebert lost his ability to speak, he clung to writing as a lifeline:

“When I am writing, my problems become invisible, and I am the same person I always was,” he told Esquire magazine in 2010. “All is well. I am as I should be.”

His credo in judging a film’s value was a simple one: “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions never lie to you.”

Roger Ebert Dies at 70; a Critic for the Common Man by Douglas Martin, from The New York Times

2.
From his memoir, Life Itself:

“I was born inside the movie of my life. The visuals were before me, the audio surrounded me, the plot unfolded inevitably but not necessarily. I don’t remember how I got into the movie, but it continues to entertain me.”

“One of the rewards of growing old is that you can truthfully say you lived in the past. … In these years after my illness, when I can no longer speak and am set aside from the daily flow, I live more in my memory and discover that a great many things are safely stored away. It all seems still to be in there somewhere…You find a moment from your past, undisturbed ever since, still vivid, surprising you. In high school I fell under the spell of Thomas Wolfe: ‘A stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.’ Now I feel all the faces returning to memory.”

“When I write, I fall into the zone many writers, painters, musicians, athletes, and craftsmen of all sorts seem to share: In doing something I enjoy and am expert at, deliberate thought falls aside and it is all just there. I think of the next word no more than the composer thinks of the next note.”

“If you pay attention to the movies they will tell you what people desire and fear. Movies are hardly ever about what they seem to be about. Look at a movie that a lot of people love, and you will find something profound, no matter how silly the film may be.”

— Roger Ebert, via RIP, Roger Ebert: The Beloved Critic on Writing, Life, and Mortality by Maria Popova, from Brain Pickings

3.
Thoughts yesterday while I was cleaning: this is the dust of everyday life. My life.

4.
“How terrible it is to love something that death can touch.”

I keep seeing that everywhere but so far can’t find whom I should really attribute it to. At most, I could see photos upon photos of tombstones, with this inscription. Something to think about; a note, for the future.

5.
From Books Do Furnish a Life by Roger Ebert:

“What do I really need that isn’t here in this room?” I asked. “Its dimensions are a little more than twice as wide and deep as I am tall. I don’t know, maybe 150 square feet? Here I have the padded wood chair in which I sit tilted against the wall, my feet braced on my straight desk chair. I am holding the three-inch-thick Paul Hamlyn edition of Shaw’s complete plays. This room contains: A wood single bed, an African blanket covering it, a wood desk and its gooseneck lamp, a small dresser with a mirror over it, my portable typewriter, a small wardrobe containing my clothes, a steamer trunk serving as a coffee table, and two bookcases, filled to overflowing. What more do I actually need?”

6.
Four hours into my cleaning, I forget why I began this in the first place. I sit in the middle of all of it, and I wanted to disappear.

7.
Ebert wrote: “We’re all dying in increments.”

8.
I wipe the ledges of my shelves, sweep under the mattress. Lift up boxes of books, rearrange stacks. Everywhere I look: dust.

In the beginning, in the end, all I’ve ever been—all I’ll ever be, I suppose—is dust.

Good morning, M.

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3 thoughts on “Dust

  1. Don’t know how links will appear in the comments section, but you should really listen to “Holland” by Cold Specks if you don’t already know it.

    I thought of it immediately when I read your post this morning.

  2. The Present by Jane Hirshfield

    I wanted to give you something —
    no stone, clay, bracelet,
    no edible leaf could pass through.
    Even a molecule’s fragrance by then too large.
    Giving had been taken, as you soon would be.
    Still, I offered the puffs of air shaped to meaning.
    They remained air.
    I offered memory on memory,
    but what is memory that dies with the fallible inks?
    I offered apology, sorrow, longing. I offered anger.
    How fine is the mesh of death. You can almost see through it.
    I stood on one side of the present, you stood on the other.

    • I read this poem from Knopf, too, sent to my inbox. But it is always worth rereading. Thanks. And for the song, too, because I didn’t know of it. Also the video took my breath away.

      T.

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