What Counts in the End

What if we could get rich
From experiences
What if our time
In exotic places
Or even a walk in the woods
Counted as valuables
Raising our net worth in joy

We could display
Our adventures like jewels
Laid out on a velvet cape

My trips to Italy
Could have bought a house
My bliss at a certain sunset
Could have sent
Someone to the moon

Such intangibles once gone
Can’t be seen or felt again
Except in photos on an iPhone
Or maybe an old-school album
Or as memories replayed like LPs

They can’t be flaunted like bling
Or worn like souvenir scarves
They can’t be banked like money
They can’t be counted like stocks

What is the return on investment
In a pilgrimage with purpose
Or trying something new

Is there nothing to show
For hair-raising rides
Across the steppes of Mongolia
Or racing amid the autumn colors
Through the fields of Mount Misery
Nothing, that is, but stories

Even the rarest of thrills
Or the sweetest of flavors
Or the peaks of passion
Can’t be safely stored
As even memories
Tend to wither with time
As the moths flutter in
And holes in the fabric appear

Is there no way to tell you
What that first taste was like
Of a croissant in an attic room
In Paris nearly 50 years ago
Or how it changed my life

How can I show you
What it was like to gaze
On the Taj Mahal
With tears glazing the view
Or to view the Alhambra
In the moonlight, sobbing

How can I share how it felt
To deliver the ashes of my beloved
Into all the rivers he loved
As he joined the oceans
And drifted into the cosmos

All I can say is that these times
Did slip through my fingers
Like water over the rocks
But that each one left
A particle of dust
Or maybe a grain of sand
Sifting like sediment
Deep into my soul
That I can pan like gold



Carol Flake Chapman turned to journalism after a stint in academia, working as writer and editor for a number of leading newspapers and magazines. She was a founding editor of Vanity Fair; she was the horse racing correspondent for The New Yorker; she was a rock critic for the Village Voice; she was the Texas stringer for U.S. News & World Report; and she has been an editor and columnist for the Boston Globe. She has written as well for Harper’s, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler, Connoisseur, The Nation, Texas Monthly, and The New Republic. Her book Written in Water: A Memoir of Love, Death and Mystery, which is compelling in its dramatic story and visionary in its implications, is her most important work.




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