27 April 20XX+1
My Dear Lucilius:
I make note of the fact that, according to my records, it has been a year since I first re-initiated contact with you.
That sounds terribly dry, does it not? It reminds me of the days when we would receive unsolicited mail with “We Have Been Trying To Reach You” scrawled across the front of the envelope as if generated by a real person instead of a printer; the appearance of personalized instead of the actuality of it. One would think that after the year we have had, I could at least approach something more of a colloquial nature.
I laugh silently of course; I do not think that colloquial is in me.
I had not suspected, when I sent that first missive to you, that somehow it would form what has become the effective chronicling of a slow and steady unraveling of everything – perhaps one might argue a sort of foolish luck. It was not quite luck of course, but rather the visit of minor level bureaucrats imploring me to do something I had not considered in some years – actually paying attention to the world around me – that caused me to take various actions including, of course, writing to you.
It does make me ponder the nature of being aware.
The circumstances that we find ourselves in – you with Our Friend and your new love where we grew up, I here far away, both of us in the compost heap of what was a civilization – certainly did not just occur in the course of three months over the Summer last year. The decay had been present for many years prior to that, a rot and decay slowly spreading throughout not just one institution that supported civilization, but all of them.
One can argue that this should have been paid attention to more. And possibly it was, on the level that our society had come to pay attention to such things: big, brash, lurid failures and intellectual wars made the headlines and generated reaction and counter-reaction. The smaller things – the thousand things that make up a civilization – did not merit the same amount of attention even though they, in the end, proved to be the more damaging.
Should we have been more aware? Could we have been more aware? Possibly – but at least for myself and from the conversations we had for you as well, we found ourselves at a period and point in our lives that such issues interested us not at all. We were no longer building careers or families or fortunes and had come to desire only quiet and peace. The ascetics sought out isolated places to find such things and perhaps we, in our way, simply did the same – or as much as we could in the modern world.
Spring is more and more on the horizon here as the days continue to lengthen – which is greatly appreciated, given the fact that this is likely the last Spring that we can count on scraps of our former civilization supplying our needs in a meaningful way. There is much to do – and much I should make a habit of documenting in our letters (as if you were getting these at this point): the bees are coming out more in the finer weather, the quail have begun to lay again (with the knowledge I will need them to reproduce this year for sure), the seedlings have all been started in the greenhouse, and the Winter Wheat is remembering that it is time to finish what it had started last Autumn.
Of course, the other items as well: house rabbits to indulge, books to re-read, and a thousand and one small tasks that continually need completing and now – freed in some fashion from even the minimal trappings of society that I formerly lived with – have at least some time to attend to.
And, I am now reliably informed by Pompeia Paulina, tea on Tuesdays. As apparently this is now a thing.
It has been a long year Lucilius, and one full of both tragedy and hardship in ways that could not be imagined when I wrote you. And yet, I find myself in a strange way more hopeful than ever.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca