Wasted Again

Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted;
If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning
Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment;
That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.

Evangeline – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My mom has vascular dementia, she often doesn’t know what day it is and can’t complete thoughts or sentences.

But her intellect remains formidable. We were talking the other day and she asked, apropos of nothing, “What do you know about Evangeline? Do you know why Longfellow wrote it?”

I had to admit the only reason I knew about Evangeline was because James Lee Burke frequently mentions her in his Dave Robicheaux crime fiction stories. [1]

After that conversation I stopped at the Peabody library in Columbia City [2] and checked out a Longfellow collection. I plowed through the dense, almost impenetrable to me, 19th century text and came across the gem that I quoted at the start of this post.

We’ve been talking a lot about fountains these days. Son Josh has done a jaw-dropping amount of genealogical research and relevant to this post our family name [3] can be rendered as “to the fountain.”

The words of a long dead poet, dredged up who knows why by the tangled synapses of my mom’s mind, through a good public library, to my son’s genealogical research.

These things flow by and through me. I’m a baffled conduit of wonder.

1. I didn’t admit that I thought Wordsworth wrote Evangeline. One of my great regrets in life was that I pursued a technical rather than a liberal arts education.

2. Public libraries are a treasure. I’m filled with hope every time after I visit one.

3. Zumbrun. Are you paying attention?

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