of dogs, dreams and high school poetry

I can still picture “Igor Pugachev” in my mind, though he has likely been dead more than twenty years. I do not recall his real name, but as guest speaker, he introduced himself jokingly that way once in Oscar Morales’ high school Spanish class. Poetry and something about his origins in Madagascar are all I remember; after all, it was a memory from forty-four years ago. With slumbering dogs at my feet this morning, Google helps me find the poet Igor recited, from two lines in Spanish I remember. The poem is ” la vida”.

Pedro Calderón de la Barca
“¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño:
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son.”
“What is this life? A frenzy, an illusion,
A shadow, a delirium, a fiction.
The greatest good's but little, and this life
Is but a dream, and dreams are only dreams.”

It is ironic that the sixteen or seventeen year old youth I only imperfectly recall, crafted a fiction of whom I wished to become. Reading literature of mariners, exploration and adventurers, and hearing family history from aging relatives, I went off to join the Navy. Now, at sixty-one, an old Navy Chief, a married man of twenty years, and a grandfather, that youth’s dreams are so dull in comparison to the accumulated experience of four decades.

How shall we recall this year? As 2020 ends, the year, for many, had little good in it. I am not alone in some aging relatives and acquaintances who passed away this year. Or know some who have been made deathly ill by the virus. Others who have lost work and are struggling. However, I know others, who in comparison to years past, are doing far better in spite of the turmoil.

Secure in my faith, while in this fiction of life, is the time to do the greatest good with what I have been given. We all should. After all, a Seventeenth Century Spanish poet’s dreams, or in truths passed along from Scripture, we are “… mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14, NIV)

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