Just back from a staycation in the Southwest of England. This summer’s break was different from other summer vacations in that the energy and motivation required to think about work and the setting of next year’s academic priorities were simply non-existent. Instead, I focused on my family and my mental and physical health. I stayed away from the news and social media and I only had to boot-up my notebook computer once to deal with an urgent query around approving a publication. I read lots (not work-related) and slept like a baby. I feel great but I now have a problem prioritizing my task list. What is important and what gets dumped?
While I was away I kept having flashbacks to some of the poems I had studied in high school and the particular one that came to mind was Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I suspect this happened because I have been thinking and reading about ‘deep time’. This preoccupation has been made more acute by being on the Jurassic coast and visiting Monmouth Beach in Dorset and seeing and being able to touch the giant ammonite fossils. What is happening to the giant ammonite fossils and Ozymandias will happen to us all; it just takes time, ‘deep time’.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1826)