Lonesome Dove." Its pages went by in smooth succession: Reading it was like lolling purposefully in some summer hammock.
And it was a short step -- or so it seemed -- to the sequel called "The Streets of Laredo," which took up some of the same characters as "Lonesome Dove" and introduced some new ones. But about 200 pages in, I'd had enough and stopped reading it. I tried to winkle out what made me stop. The book was OK, but something felt as if it were missing ... or maybe I had just run out of old-west steam.
One of the thoughts that occurred to me was this: People are interesting when they plan and make efforts to accomplish, but once having accomplished or failed to accomplish, the eye and focus wanders away from the scene.
And maybe it's the same in life: What is yet to be done is full of lively, edgy sparks -- wrong turns, revived effort and the like; what has been done is dying embers even on the best of days. Living on the past is like a baby with a binkie ... pacified, perhaps, but diaphanous and, somehow, inconsequential. Even the aging accomplisher knows this.
Great accomplishment or small -- what is interesting is the willingness and energy to reenter the fray and, perhaps, move a cattle herd from Texas to Montana, or realize a dearly-desired dream that is "out there" rather than "back there."
Resting on these laurels is impossible, but more than that, it simply isn't very interesting. And the capacity to be interesting wanes together with a fading musculature and, more important, a mind that has been-there-done-that enough times so that lolling in a hammock, while lonely on occasion, is the only thing that works ... or doesn't.
I always wondered what happened after the guy and gal rode off into the sunset, what happened after some soaring victory or smithereens defeat ... what happened then? But when someone offers to tell me, the fact is -- even in my own life -- I'm not really as interested as I would like to be.
The best I can do is borrow someone else's words ... in this case, Dylan Thomas: "Time passes. Listen! Time passes."
Riding out of the sunset.