“In the meantime, There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair, Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem From insignificance. The happy morning is over, The night of agony still to come; the time is noon: When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing…”
- From “For the Time Being” by W. H. Auden
In this excerpt from his poem “For the Time Being,” W. H. Auden speaks of the time between: those days and minutes and hours when we live between the major events of our existence.
The time between is the time you spend in the car between games and events when you’re serving as a taxi ser-vice for your kids. The time between is the unceremonious dinner after dinner that your family shares, aside from the great turkey dinners and holiday feasts. The time between is the day upon day that you spend working, waiting for your escape to the beach or the mountains or simply your own back yard. The time between is when you’re waiting for your tea to steep or coffee to brew, when you pick up the paper or rake the leaves or shovel the snow.
We’re filled with gratitude, or we’re reminded of it, when the major events come: holidays, weddings, births, deaths, wins and losses, promotions, tournaments, cruises, transitions. We’re grateful that we have so much: love, warmth, kindness, food, material things, opportunities.
There are gifts that aren’t about the highs and lows of life: miracles for which we can be grateful at any time.
But in the dull times, the time being in which we spend so much of our days, gratitude doesn’t usually come first to mind. And so Auden tells us that even during these in-between times, we must practice our scales of rejoicing.
For the time being, he tells us, life goes on, life moves forward, there are bills to be paid and verbs to learn. And for the time being, in these moments-between, we can practice rejoicing, we can practice being filled with gratitude. And just as the practicing of a musician makes her more skilled for music, so the practicing of gratitude makes us more skilled for being grateful.