Point of View: Longing for Lethe

So, it’s Henry and me and paradise will have to wait

    I would have been standing on line for an eternity in Chelsea today to experience 45 seconds of it in Yayoi Kusama’s “Mirrored Room,” but forgot, in my anticipated bliss, to get someone to look after our aging Lab, Henry.

    So, it’s Henry and me and paradise will have to wait. Actually, as I said to the Mary who sells best sellers down by the seashore, I am already in Paradise, having climbed up through the nine circles of the Inferno and up the seven terraces of the island mountain of Purgatory, “that second kingdom / in which the human soul is cleansed of sin,” in Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”

    To my Mary, when she asked the other day what I’d learned, I said there were at the summit of Purgatory two streams, the Lethe and Eunoe, its twin, the first for forgetting sad memories, the second for remembering only the good. “You have to be immersed in both,” I said, “and from the second you return ‘remade . . . prepared to climb unto the stars.’ ”

    And with that, I was off with Henry to climb — however slowly in each of our cases — unto my office at The Star.

    Another thing I’d learned in the “Purgatorio” I later told her was that it was Dante’s friend Nino Visconti who said, “How brief a blaze a woman’s love will yield / if not relit by frequent touch and sight.”

    I’ve had that 1985 desk calendar quote from Mother’s Day of that year pinned to my bulletin board ever since, and every now and then it serves as a goad when I remember to what extent, at times, I’ve fallen short.

    Forgetting to get someone to watch Henry today so that we could take a bus into the city was one of those times.

    Only embers were in the fireplace when I, reduced to uncharacteristic silence by my failure, my sin of omission, shuffled down the hall to the guest room to read, before going to sleep, the first canto of “Paradiso.”

    A pretty good approximation of it greeted me the next morning when Mary, ready for work, tapped me awake and said, reassuringly, “It isn’t the end of the world.”