Saturday evening, my wife Merry and I were getting ready to go to a retirement celebration for our friend, Shelly.
I had finished dressing, except for my black slacks. Because we have several cats, and because cat hair has an almost supernatural ability to find and cling to black wool pants, I usually wait to put on my dress slacks until we’re ready to go out. So, I was sitting on the cedar chest near my wife’s dressing table in my new, orange gingham shirt and underwear, watching her apply her makeup, and trying to gauge the right moment to take my vulnerable black slacks out of the closet when the thought came to me.
One of my favorite scenes in the Odyssey occurs in the moments before Odysseus slaughters the suitors who have overrun his palace, consumed his wealth, and bedeviled his wife and son. It is a moment of stillness when the King takes his bow into his hands, a bow that the suitors had tried and failed to string, a bow he and he alone is able to string, to draw, and to shoot.
Over the years, I have often thought of this scene and my own relation to certain possessions: the guitars I have owned for decades, the woodworking tools I inherited from my father, the chef’s knives that were my first purchase when I set up my first kitchen – tools I believe I hold with a relationship as unique, as personal, as intimate as the relationship between Odysseus and his bow.