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To A Skylark, With Apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley!

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Friday, February 21, 2020

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not . . .

Yes, that's good ol' Percy Bysshe Shelley, a little excerpt from his incredibly overwrought (at least, to my sensibility) "To a Skylark". Of all the Romantic poets, perhaps the leading exponent of UPE: Ultra Processed Emotion!! I love meadowlarks and I love their songs, but this poem goes on several stanzas too many . . . and yes, I thought so even as a young student when I first studied it. Which is why I didn't paste and copy all of it here. And of course PBS wrote this when he was still very young (28) and rather narcissistic (hoping that by listening to the skylark's song he'll learn to write poetry half as compelling, so that the world will listen to him . . . ). He died two years later, in an appropriately-Romantic boat capsizing during a sudden storm. Maybe he would have grown up a bit? But of course we ARE still listening to him.

And this phrase, about looking before and after, has always stuck in my mind. Yesterday I was thinking about why I stopped tracking my food, after many many years -- here on Spark People but really going back to my very first diet at age 12, using a little calorie book and a note book and jotting down everything I ate. Preplanning what I was going to eat ("we look before") and recording what I ate ("and after") and regularly pining "for what is not".

Pining not for the fiords (that's Monty Python) but mostly for potato chips.

"Thou lovest: but ne'er knew love's sad satiety". So true, PBS. Love potato chips but never experienced satiety with those . . . !!

But when I pretracked and posttracked all my food . . . I was living in future fear and past regret. Eating UPF (Ultra Processed Foods) so long as it was low in calories. Experiencing UPE. Ultra Processed Emotion.

I wasn't actually eating real food in the present. Noticing it. Enjoying it. Asking myself how I am feeling now. And now. And now. Stopping when I was just about full.

Letting life live me. Listening to the skylark.

Just in case you DO want to read the whole poem: here it is. You may very well find it beautiful and my comments rather harsh!!

And what does a meadowlark sound like? This might not be the same type that fascinated Shelley -- but these are the Eastern Meadowlarks I remember from my childhood . . . sometimes heard singing while in flight high in the sky, an almost invisible source of glorious sound. :

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