An article in the Sunday paper talked about how to properly put away your snow blower until next season. It liberally refers to best practices during the last use of the season. Stepping out to retrieve the paper from the end of the driveway this morning, I passed what I hope were the last vestiges of snow from the winter just completed. (I feel safe saying winter is done since we have already entered meteorological spring and are mere days from astronomical spring.)
Winter weather, however, may not be done with us yet.
How does one know then that the current use of the snow blower will be the last of the season, in order to follow the directions provided in the article? How do I know that those tiny patches of snowy ice are the last, at least for months to come? (Looking out now with the thought of capturing them to illustrate this post, I see that I am too late and they are gone.)
We often talk in terms of end of this and last of that, but unless the deadline is self-imposed, calendar based, or otherwise easily limited and under our control how do we know it is a last of something? This question comes to mind when I pass the bookshelf in my living room where the last book that my mom was reading sits. The clean tissue that she had hastily or lazily pressed between its pages to mark her progress has been replaced by a book mark from one of her favorite independent bookstores. It took me a couple of years to even make that change, but it never occurred to me not to mark the spot.
That last book, Tobias Wolff’s Old School, isn’t something that I have any interest in reading, at least not currently. It sits on the shelf as a dust catcher between books that I have read and deemed worthy of keeping. It represents all of the things that mom was still planning on doing, learning, accomplishing and experiencing. There were stacks of magazines that were folded open to articles that she was in the midst of reading, other stacks of notes she had taken to be used in a future project, all signs of her planned continuation of intellectual development. Despite cancer’s effect on her physical self, she would not have proclaimed Old School as the last book she would read until circumstances made that decision.
Last, as in previous, makes sense and I do truly hope that the last snowfall we experienced days ago in my region will be the last for months to come. But I won’t bet on it or plan in it. There are too many variables out of human control. That book makes me consider my use of the word last in many instances. How do I know?
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