“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
– Pema Chödrön –
Not so much a poem, but words that bring solace from its simple, utter truthfulness. In many places around the world, we are riding another covid wave – the fourth, perhaps even the fifth. Variants and vaccinations, closures, masks, crowded ICUs… Several months ago my mother wondered if she’d live through to the other side of this virus. I thought it was a wise observation, to which I had no answer. To which there is no solving. Things come together, fall apart, come together again and fall apart again. And so it goes. And so we let there be room. For it all.
Last week I received an email from a dear friend who has recently relocated cross country. A new life chapter marked by finding a new home and community with her husband. After weeks of nest-making they did some day tripping, ending up at an enchanting spot that, when she mentioned its name, I knew it was familiar. In fact, I knew where I’d confirm my hunch – in one of the two dream journals I’ve been making since 2002. Sure enough, within minutes I found the magazine pictures I’d clipped and pasted, the impressions I wrote, the founder’s quotes that inspired. Remarkably, the entry was dated August 20, 2004 – seventeen years almost to the day of receiving my friend’s email, maybe even the day she visited.
Last week, too, I hosted my women’s circle, one that I “called” a year ago, where we met virtually every two weeks to help us navigate life in covid. So good to be with each other in real bodies, in real time – “to feel them in my bones and by my body” – to feel the energy of the circle, to see and share a common centre and talking piece.
And I realized it continues to be liminal time for so many of us. The uncertainties, the unsteadiness…feeling on the brink of …what??? Rilke reminding us now is the time to sit in the questions…the answers not yet here, and perhaps, even if they were, we might not be ready to live ourselves into them. I replied to my friend’s email that it was time to dust off what had originally drew me in to that enchanting place and so today, sitting in the dog days of summer sunshine, I gazed at the images and read the words of my
“collection of ideas, wonderings, snippets and snaps that speak to the wondrous and whimsical, from dreams to destiny, musings to manifestations, to satisfy my Soul.”
I wondered if by looking through those hand-written, painted, and collaged pages I might get a glimmer of… what? Within moments, on the third page:
“Woman standing on a hillside peering, peering into the blue space… …what will woman be? …not yet fully seen …not yet fully revealed …but coming …coming.”
Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones: Woman’s Journey to Herself, 1989
“A dreamer – you know – it’s a mind that looks over the edges of things.”
Mary O’Hara, OPRAH, September 2002
So I jotted down in my current journal – the gift from the recent Creator’s Retreat – those page numbers from 2002 to 2013 (making a retrospective path, footsteps in the sands of time) the words and images that shimmered, some even transposed onto those pages from the mid 90’s. With the bold “Chaos is the Soul of Creation” and Florida Scott-Maxwell’s clarion call “I grow more intense with age,” as preamble, Robert Henri unabashedly advised in his classic The Art Spirit (1984):
“You can do anything you want to do. What is rare is that actual wanting to do a certain thing: wanting it so much that you are practically blind to all other things, that nothing else will satisfy you… I know I have said a lot when I say ‘You can do anything you want to do.’ But I mean it…blunder ahead with your personal view…The real work of art is the result of a magnificent struggle.”
Coming through her own “magnificent struggle” Agatha Christie claimed:
“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
Imagined colour palettes for home renovations; menu notes, invitations, photos, and keepsakes from hosted dinners; timeless poems; captivating cards; business ideas and creative ventures; splashes and blazes of colour and I arrive at a page on PASSION, where half hidden behind a vibrant bouquet of parrot tulips, amaryllis buds, and lilies, my green handwritten quote from Toni Morrison:
“You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in this world, not about finding a victim. This is no time for anything than the best you’ve got to give.”
And then the page CONFIDENCE, where again I’m taken in by Florida Scott-Maxwell:
“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.”
This echoes a premise of creative expression – that of meeting yourself – outlined in Life, Paint and Passion (2002), Michele Cassou’s guide to intuitive process painting, my field of play sparked by its reading in 2004.
“Painting for process…you listen to the magic of the inner voices, you flow with the basic human urge to experiment with the new, the unknown, the mysterious, the hidden…to be yourself.”
“…creative process is a living thing; it breathes and its heartbeat is in your soul. Done for its own sake, it is an act of love, part of the movement of the Universe, merging with it. It is a gift to life, a prayer, a song that disappears in the wind. Why gather yourself when you are already so heavy with inner and outer possessions? Why invest in something impermanent, something that in an instant will become the past? Spontaneous process touches what lasts, which is out of time.”
Finally, I arrive at the pages that invited this meandering…photos of Tangled Garden founder, artist Beverly McClare pouring a local wine, another with sun shining through the window shelf of jellies and vinegars crafted from their herb gardens and locally sourced fruits; the shed; a welcome sign.
“I want to keep it hands-on and small enough that it doesn’t lose its magic. As corny as it may sound, this business is something that we grow and harvest, and at the core if it all is an essential love of gardening.”
From all accounts, two decades later the magic remains, so much so, that when named in an email from a friend, it summoned me to look, invited me to wander through dreamscapes, to stand on edges peering into pasts. Not yet fully revealed, but coming, coming.
We knew it would come crashing down, but now we are in the clatter – fire, drought, flood, smoke, heat, the million and one ways that beings cry out. We thought there would be more time. We pretended that we didn’t know. We squandered so much that we might have saved, and for what? Trinkets. Glitter. The pleasures of ignorance and a basket full of Happy Meals.
It’s time to ask the dying what they know. What will you give up to cure what is killing you? What do you pursue when your days are numbered? Gaze into the eyes of a beloved old dog. Bury your face in her neck and engrave the scent on your memory. Let your heart break open. Learn to cherish what remains.
– Lynn Ungar –
Lynn Ungar first came to my attention last year with her “viral” poem, Pandemic. Straight to the point and heart, her words pierce with truthfulness. A week ago, our beloved Annie dog went under for a brief diagnostic procedure. Thankfully an “all OK” diagnosis, she returned home that day woozy and with a package each of probiotics and antacids, hopefully to curb the somedays’ frantic rush to eat grass. But with eleven and a half years under her belt, and a decade this month with us, I know the times we walk together are ever precious. But isn’t it so for each of us – how life changes on a dime? Once again, around the world, we see how precarious, precious, and fragile our circumstances. Reading Radical Regeneration: Birthing the New Human in the Age of Extinction (2020) by Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker makes the unequivocal point that we are living in the end times. The posthumous One Drum (2019) by Richard Wagamese cites ancient prophesy of a time “when words would fly like lightning bolts across the sky, and ” when “the human family would move farther apart and that this separation, the break in energy, would cause great stress upon the Earth… floods, titanic storms, famine, earthquakes, the departure of animals, strange diseases, and turmoil among all peoples.” (22)
“In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind.”
August has arrived in a heat wave, though not the “dome” that brought in July. Wave, dome – both feel pretty damn hot with a bit of wind blowing, deluding one into thinking “ahhh, it’s cooler now.” Cloudless skies continue, but the persistent blue of a month ago has given way to haze with smoke from the still burning forest fires that have disintegrated villages and have others on evacuation notice. Sun glowing red in the morning, redder at night, now later to rise and earlier to set.
Though less now, I’m still attuned to school year rhythms, where notions of work would begin to appear on the horizon, readying for start-up later in the month. It was a few years ago I wrote that August – always for us in the northern hemisphere, the last month of summer – feels to me like one long Sunday night. Today, Sunday, this first day in August – almost a decade since I left full-time employment to free-lance – I still feel that flutter in my belly. A cocktail of anxiety, ambivalence, anticipation, acceptance – the ingredients in this order, though amounts may vary.
I’ve alluded to and explicitly written over the past several weeks, that it’s been a “wobbly” time, difficult even some days. Writ large: the world trying to move beyond a virus that simply will not let us go, mutating faster, and exponentially more contagious. Here and abroad, again a season of relentless burning and unprecedented flooding, evidence that while the world was in retreat for eighteen months, climate change was not. Fractured and collapsed infrastructures. An apocalyptic unveiling of grievous global injustice and racism. Right now to my way of thinking, the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games appear the perfect metaphor. Writ small: me trying to find footing in a “re-opened” community, and province deciding to toss out all covid public health protocols, where I continue to monitor if and who to hug, how close to sit, where and when to wear masks, when to travel to see my parents. Sleep disrupted by the heat and a habit of worrying about unknown “what nexts”? Sensing another turn of the wheel and breaking of the “kitsugi” bowl to allow something – yet defined – room to emerge, then to be mended with gold. Sitting in such threshold space is often difficult for me when it activates old trauma reactions that vacillate between brittle anxiety and a listless, deadening loss of focus – both leaving me wrung out.
“The beauty that emerges from woundedness is a beauty infused with feeling.”
John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, 2004
And so I turn to gazing into the backyard sky and trees, onto the garden beds that are finally reviving. I walk Annie early before it’s too hot, enjoying the silence of our slowly waking streets. I listen to the water falling in the fountain – and while a far cry from my beloved Niagara River – let it soothe. I light the kitchen candle when loss’ grief comes calling. I take pen to page, not as often, and often reluctantly, to write anew or, as below, resurrect a piece hidden on just found, older pages:
So big I missed it.
So messy when my expectations of it are
that it fit a frame of perfect proportion.
When instead, it demands
spilling out and over in
delicious, voluptuous abandon.
And all I can do, is be
- thankfully -
awed and amazed,
enthralled and embraced.
that seeps through the cracks
through the shame and hurt and secret places,
to rest in the space between letting go
to fill up the letting come.
that holds and beckons us
to live alive,
again and again.
so big it fills my heart to bursting
a million exquisite pieces
of dance and song and dream,
of praise and appreciation,
of joy and sorrow,
of life and love,
“Beauty enchants us, renews us, and conquers death.
Piero Ferrucci, Beauty and the Soul, 2009
Wishing you all that is good and true and beautiful in your lives, dear friends. Much love and kindest regards.
I’ve been thinking about intention – what it means, or more accurately, how I’ve interpreted what it means to have and to hold an intention. I’m wondering if maybe I have it all wrong. That maybe, contrary to goal-setting parlance (think SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely), when I have been too “smart” as I strive to realize my intentions, I have created suffering for myself and even others in my life. This, taking shape over the past few weeks as I’ve been in conversation with several women older than me – creative, inspiring, bold women who are arriving for me at precisely the right moment when my sense of self has been wobbly. Further, my Dream Maker offered confirmation today, wherein her gift of a predawn dream I see and hear two of my elder “heart sisters” describe their knowing about the current plight of our world and the compassionate actions needed to respond. Too, I am with a younger “sister,” each of them, not coincidentally, published writers. In response I say, whispering for the feeling welling up inside me, that it is not about the “what” or even the “how,” but about who these elder women are, who they have become as they have lived their lives day by day, that has shaped what they now know about the truth of these things, about the wisdom they are and offer us now.
A bit of the back story…
Over the past several months, I’ve stepped into what I have understood is a writer’s world – conferring with my local writer-in-residence, participating in virtual “open mic” nights where I read my poetry, submitting to calls and contests (and learning the requisite skill of rolling with rejections), attending workshops on the logistics of publishing and-or getting an agent, reading other poets and writers, following a national writers’ group on social media, joining a local writer’s circle (short-lived). A few weeks ago, following a well-meaning suggestion, I made application to an adjudicated, online writer’s retreat. While I had a few misgivings, and a lot of ambivalence, I went ahead, spending time creating the required documents and a bit of money for the admission fee. The boon was having tangible evidence that I had, for the past decade, been making steps – soft and slow and steady – towards this dream of becoming a “Writer.” Then, within days of pressing “send” on the application, I received an invitation to be a “participant-observer-scribe” at a creators’ retreat in the foothills during the same week. Apparently, who I was and how I had “shown up” in an earlier conversation with one of the artist-hosts was enough to be asked. I needed only a breath, a pause, to say “yes” to this sweet, juicy invitation.
A month ago, after submitting my story of aging with grit and grace (one previously invited but rejected by another journal), the editor emailed not only her delighted acceptance of my story, but her intuitive sense that we shared enough of something to engage me in co-visioning the next iteration of her life’s work. We’ve now had our first and second telephone “dates” and like the retreat, I’m sensing something sweet and juicy in this imaginal space of possibility.
Then, in last week’s Zoom call with another older, wise woman, our hellos quickly shifted to her acknowledgement of me as her role model for embracing a creator’s life. This became the last of a curious, totally unanticipated trifecta of affirmation.
I have friends and acquaintances who are “Writers” – published, with agents and royalties, followers and fans, accolades and awards. In my mind, this has been the bar to which I would aspire and intend. I now realize I borrowed a trajectory of “success” that by thinking I would, or should follow, I’ve nearly missed other signs and opportunities, invitations and affirmations – different from what I’d expected. I forgot that now, in this stage of life, I am to discover more how to “move at the pace of guidance,” (Christina Baldwin, The Seven Whispers) and how to trust a different value, that of my being, of who I am.
Last week we finally got to see the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibition after nearly four months of postponements due to covid. I’d first heard of this show in 2019 when my roommate in Morocco would be seeing it when she visited Paris after our trip. Upon entering the hall, we are reminded of Van Gogh’s story – of being deeply sensitive, impoverished with mental health challenges, and of never having been seen nor valued for his remarkable, innovative creative expression – an expression that tremendously influenced the world of art in later years. As I stood surrounded by huge images of his priceless paintings – paintings that in his time were ignored, even disdained, I was moved to tears by this evidence of his unquestionable brilliance and devotion that, despite a prescience revealed in his letters that he would die unnoticed, persisted to his last days, when he died at his own hand.
(Edit: I just received this link from one of my readers – a short excerpt from an episode of Dr. Who, featuring Vincent Van Gogh. It moved me to tears, and is an answered prayer of sorts, as when I stood last week at the immersive exhibition, I prayed that Van Gogh would know of the impact and influence of his art in the world today. – https://youtu.be/_jjWtUpqV9w)
I thought, too, about local musician Ellen McIlwaine, a pioneer slide guitarist, who with her magnificent voice and masterful, intuitive playing, blew the doors off contemporary music genres. She died last month, within a few weeks of a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, leaving in her wake world-wide accolades and tributes. In her last years, virtually ignored by the music world and unable to get gigs, she drove school bus. Hearing her last interview recorded shortly before her death, I was struck by the stories of her immeasurable brilliance and tenacity, she a woman in a man’s world of music, going unnoticed in her final years.
So perhaps it is about intention, though discovering, or maybe it’s remembering, some vital criteria: It’s less about “me” (ego), and more about “thee” (creator), and learning to discern the subtle differences. It’s less about striving, and more about noticing the nuanced and the nameless. It’s less about being “smart,” and more about sensing signs and saying yes to invitations. It’s about soft and slow and steady…staying the course…surrendering. It’s about what tastes and feels sweet and juicy. It’s about following a thread that is often more apparent in retrospect. It’s about trusting, in however it is to be revealed, that:
“What the world needs more than anything else is for each of us to have the courage to follow our calling, step into our true vocation and share our creative gifts with the world such that we conspire to co-inspire each other (a true conspiracy theory!) to do the same, thereby virally activating the collective genius of our species.”
Paul Levy in Carolyn Baker and Andrew Harvey, Radical Regeneration: Birthing the New Human in the Age of Extinction, 2020.
Lately, I feel quite fluid in what I write in this space. It’s certainly less about what I “definitively” know and more about attempting to describe the edges of something honest and necessary – a “felt sense” of things that matter to me, and might, perhaps, to you. Maybe after all this time wishing “to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding” (John O’Donohue, Fluent), this self named daughter of Niagara might be.
Thanks for reading along, dear friends. Much love and kindest regards.
“Make of yourself a light” said the Buddha, before he died. I think of this every morning as the east begins to tear off its many clouds of darkness, to send up the first signal — a white fan streaked with pink and violet, even green. An old man, he lay down between two sala trees, and he might have said anything, knowing it was his final hour. The light burns upward, it thickens and settles over the fields. Around him, the villagers gathered and stretched forward to listen. Even before the sun itself hangs, disattached, in the blue air, I am touched every whereby its ocean of yellow waves. No doubt he thought of everything that had happened in his difficult life. And then I feel the sun itself as it blazes over the hills, like a million flowers on fire — clearly I’m not needed, yet I feel myself turning into something of inexplicable value. Slowly, beneath the branches, he raised his head. He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.
– Mary Oliver –
From poet-theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama, I learned different ways to read and hear a poem. This one below, a re-created, very abridged version from Mary Oliver’s above offering, using the last word of every line. A poem becomes a poem.
light Buddha died morning begins clouds first fan violet green down trees anything hour upward fields gathered listen itself air every waves everything life itself hills fire needed turning value branches head crowd
“I keep having variations on the same conversation with friends and strangers and colleagues. How extraordinary it feels, for those of us in places of the world that are opening up, to do ordinary things like hug people and walk unmasked into common spaces and even just be at the office. Yet: how strangely, puzzlingly unnerving it all also can feel.”
Krista Tippett, The Pause, July 17, 2021
Yes. Yes. Yes. How extraordinary to hug my friends; to dine out last night inside a favourite restaurant, one buzzing with the energy and enjoyment of patrons at every table. Yet strange, puzzling and unnerving. Yes.
I continue to vacillate between wanting full out engagement (in my introverted, socially anxious way) to remaining cocooned in my backyard. The once ordinary still suspended, not yet settled. Last night we were shown our table, the only one remaining, positioned at the entrance, one I would have typically refused for its situation on the threshold between its comings and goings. However, it had the most space around it, wasn’t as noisy, and oddly enough, provided comfort consistent with my lived experience of the world on a threshold, between its comings and goings.
A lesson in this for me: that what I had previously relied on and looked for – both out there and in here (I type, pointing to my body) – for comfort and confidence, to have capability and competency, for helping me to show up well in my life, is now up for review, reconsideration, and revision. That there’s an invitation in the subtle discomfort arising from being and doing that no longer feels quite right.
“We are, on many levels, in a new chapter — following on the multiple chapters of the past 18 months. This is a time of transition. It’s a liminal space emotionally, psychologically, physically, institutionally, relationally.”
Krista Tippett, The Pause, July 17, 2021
In the past few weeks, since my province “opened up” and relaxed all public health restrictions, I’ve had several anxious filled dreams each with the theme of identity – lost, stolen, awakened – from being confronted on the “conflict of interest” within myself and with community; to having my wallet with my driver’s license and health cards, and my passport stolen; to having my home overtaken by technicians and researchers, there to rewire it and me. This, as my country awakens, yet again, to its history and horrific impacts of the identity “theft” and “rewiring” of its First Peoples via the Indian Act and residential schools. This, as our world awakens in the aftermath of the life altering pandemic.
“Part of what we need to do now is rest, as we are able. To let ourselves fall apart, perhaps. Throughout the pandemic, it’s been hard to fully articulate what was happening inside us and how that was ricocheting between us. Now, we are in a new moment, called to feel what we need to feel, to find words and new intelligence of practice in all the spaces we inhabit and work in and relate in. To acknowledge what we’ve survived, what we’ve lost, what we’ve begun to learn.”
Krista Tippett, The Pause, July 17, 2021
In the past few days I have been incredibly tired. Perhaps a run of nights of fitful sleep under a “heat dome” is finally taking its toll. Too, I have been filled with sadness beyond plausible attribution. While I have been pretty good at processing throughout the pandemic – here, in my journal, and in conversation – as the once immediate focus on covid is wrestled away by staggering climate catastrophes near and far, and other innumerable violence and tragedies, grief – in all its spaces and places – continues to seek my acknowledgement and its expression.
To help me find the wisdom in this liminal time. To shape anew myself, my relationships with others, and with my world. To do so without quite knowing how.
“Grief is not so much a process that we “make it through” and come out the other side fully intact, but a non-linear, purifying midwife of the unknown.”
Matt Licata, personal blog, June 16, 2021
Another one of these posts that pauses to simply notice and somewhat name.
The new post lockdown t-shirt slogan nicely sums up my experience this past week. I loved having coffee with my friends, sitting close, al fresco, one morning last week. Wept as we hugged – the first time in a year and a half. The next day I showed up at the courts eagerly hoping to play doubles pickleball with the women – the first time in a year and a half. Eight courts full of folks with others hanging around, waiting to rotate on. As the morning cool gave way to the buzzing of pent-up energy, I sat for a few minutes and then had to leave, suddenly uncomfortable and overwhelmed by the intensity of it all. It’s an odd feeling – that part of me wanting to throw a year and a half of caution to the wind, to be out and about with friends, see people without masks, tempered by the sobering reality Covid is not done with us yet, if ever. Another tension, another threshold space into another unknown reality.
“It’s been such an unprecedented year (or two) and I know many of us are just now starting to sense into the real possibility of rebirth and renewal. Some sort of new guidance or new way of being is beginning to emerge, but in some ways we’re still in that middle, liminal period… The reality is that many of us have been shaken, thrown off, or even shattered by all of the transition over the last year or so, where our nervous systems have been or toned or cued away from an embodied, felt sense of safety, and have shifted into subtle – or not so subtle! – states of restlessness, fear, loneliness, and stress of all kinds.”
Matt’s email arrived this morning. I find him to be a wise and gentle soul. As psychotherapist, author and independent scholar, he brings to his practice, writing and online courses, an embodied, trauma-sensitive approach to psychological growth, emotional healing, and spiritual transformation. Occasionally I share his Facebook posts as he so compassionately reminds us to “welcome to all of our sensitivities, eccentricities, and wildness… which are all so needed in this world.”
I’ve been cranky this past month. Angry and impatient. Feeing lonely on one hand, saying I don’t like people on the other. I suspect some anniversary reaction stuff as self doubt about my worth and value swirls in the void left by the last year’s loss of my professional identity. And as many of us have acknowledged, forgetting to factor in the impacts – subtle and not so – of being socially isolated for a year and a half.
“Perhaps now, more than ever, it is essential to find ways to rest our nervous systems, a journey that will be unique for each of us, not only to manage traumatic stress and this core soul-level exhaustion and disorientation that many of us are experiencing, but to deepen our relationship with the earth and the natural world, with our hearts, and to reconnect with the sacredness of what it means to be a human being alive on the planet at this time.”
I need to conscientiously tend to what and how I rest my nervous system. I realize it might mean not engaging in some of what has been postponed since Covid. As eager as I have been to travel, to play pickleball, to attend live music festivals and concerts, to join the throngs watching fireworks, it might be a matter of “no, not yet” or even… never. And while I always knew this time would never be a return to normal, this feeling my way through the tension of wanting what was, to doing or not doing what’s now feels right, to trusting the embodied knowing, is liminal and fluid.
“In order to experience the deep healing, joy, and aliveness that so many of us are longing for, it’s essential to be able to have our baseline or our psychic center of gravity within a felt sense of safety, where safety is the “neural scaffolding” you could say, or the experiential foundation from which we’re able to open, explore, play, connect, and create with one another. To really live.”
It’s time to check and adjust my neural scaffolding. Then it might not feel “way too peopley outside.” And you?
I’ve been through what my through was to be I did what I could and couldn’t I was never sure how I would get there
I nourished an ardor for thresholds for stepping stones and for ladders I discovered detour and ditch
I swam in the high tides of greed I built sandcastles to house my dreams I survived the sunburns of love
No longer do I hunt for targets I’ve climbed all the summits I need to and I’ve eaten my share of lotus
Now I give praise and thanks for what could not be avoided and for every foolhardy choice
I cherish my wounds and their cures and the sweet enervations of bliss My book is an open life
I wave goodbye to the absolutes and send my regards to infinity I’d rather be blithe than correct
Until something transcendent turns up I splash in my poetry puddle and try to keep God amused.
– James Broughton –
Our province has just announced a fast track re-opening post Covid plan, to make this “the best summer ever.” More slogans and clichés that fall flat on these ears. Few of us have received our second vaccinations with no word as to when. So until that time, having come this far maintaining safety protocols for me and my community, I’ll do my best to keep God amused as I’m sure she’s been with all these political shenanigans.
“When death is near, or when time forces us into binaries that are dangerous and ungenerous, we wish for such spaciousness, so that we continue the difficult work of preserving life in this world.”
Pádraig Ó Tuama, “The Pause,” On Being Newsletter, Saturday, May 22, 2021
Reading these words from my current, favourite poet I felt a deep thud land in my heart. I won’t say “languishing,” though it’s a word I’ve heard friends use to self-describe since the recent article named it as another quality of pandemic living. For me, it’s more the ebb and flow, waxing and waning, ups and downs that make some days heavier than others. “Corrosive,” my husband calls it.
Still, the buoyancy from my last post announcing that sweet writing gig and having a short piece published. And since then, I’ve submitted a six-poem collection and five-chapter poem to contests. Admittedly a very, very long shot to even be long listed, but the way I see it, it’s practice in taking myself seriously as a writer, and in learning the art of rolling with rejections.
So maybe it’s the recent resurgence of fighting in Israel, the bombing and killing of so many innocents, including children. I’m staggered by the fact that no sooner had Israel so quickly achieved the world’s most significant vaccination rate, when the fighting resumed. I know I’m adding 2 + 2 and coming up with 35, but is this what post covid “getting back to normal” looks like? And I wonder, “WTF, if anything, have we learned this past year?” Admittedly I’m feeling a holy outrage and holy grief.
Maybe it’s the snowstorm that came suddenly last week after a much needed day of straight ‘n steady rain – the day after a full-out gorgeous, sunny and warm spring day. Those thick wet flakes weighed heavy on the just greening trees, so much so, that when I went to bed that night, the wind blowing white all around, the leaning tree limbs and laden branches looked as if I could touch them from the upper deck. An optical illusion but enough to fall asleep praying all would be well, that we’d not have the kind of breakage our trees had suffered several years ago during an similar, late spring snowstorm. Upon waking, except for a few tender broken bits scattered on the snow’s surface, all appeared OK until Sunday, when we noticed a cracked, newly risen mound of soil around the base of my beloved laurel leaf willow. The heft of this near fifty-year old beauty, together with the leaning of its mass and the weight of snow have begun to lift the tree by its roots, making it just a matter of time before it lets go, meaning its removal is urgent and imminent.
That tree, with its large and languid presence, has been a source of inspiration and healing. As I’ve noted here and in my other blogs, most mornings find me sitting in our living room before dawn, watching that tree and the day begin. Recovering from Bells Palsy, too shocked and vulnerable to see anyone, and a few years later when recovering from a complete thyroidectomy and waiting for the “verdict,” I’d spent hours sitting outside basking in its healing green. I’ve written to it, about it, and in the last month, even submitted for consideration, a piece to an anthology on trees. Titled “A Laud to A Laurel Leaf Willow,” it now feels like an eulogy. First thing tomorrow we’ll search for an arborist skilled in tree climbing to carefully “dismember” it. Right now, as I type, I feel such deep sadness for its loss when it is still so vibrant and alive. I’ve thought about how to stabilize it, but the paradox is we have carefully tended to it for these many years, willingly investing in its regular trimming, and now it’s so massive, its girth so wide, that cable lines would need to stretch through and past our home to secure it. There must be a metaphor in all of this, but right now it escapes me. I simply feel sad.
Maybe it’s that dear friends have moved to start new life chapters with new life partners in other provinces. Pragmatically, the pandemic has oddly prepared me for their absence, as this past year seeing each of them has been very episodic, if at all. But I feel that familiar pandemic-induced “missing them in my bones and by my body.” I know the changed reality of relationships signified by such relocations, as forty plus years ago, we did the same thing and friendships were never the same.
And maybe it’s that rather suddenly – both to us and to them – our next-door neighbors moved, too. Yesterday! He’d been working out of province, unable to find work here since the pandemic. For months, she tended the home fires, including all their DIY renovations. Finally, the home of her dreams and then the decision to move and sell – in that order. I came home Friday to see people sorting through stuff in the garage, assuming it was a version of spring cleaning. Then a moving van and a quick, across the fence conversation confirming the obvious to everyone but me! Several months earlier I’d acknowledged my lack of sociability towards her. Nothing personal, I assured, I had been cordial but regretted it was not what it might have been. Now I wonder if the Universe might be giving me a second chance.
No maybe’s about it, I was so disappointed not be to with my father yesterday to celebrate his 90th birthday. Last year, he – my “glass half full” parent – optimistically announced we’d have a big party for him this year. Our German “sister” had promised to fly over to celebrate with us, as she had for his 80th. Thankfully, he and my mother worked through the decision to abandon the party idea a few months ago, as currently, their region of Ontario is in very restrictive lockdowns. Flowers and a cupcake with candles over a video call would have to do. And once again, with his signature optimism, he asked for a rain check and said he’s dealing in for another five healthy years, at least. That made me smile. I have a lot to learn from him, still.
The wish for spaciousness to hold it all. The knowing that it’s all true and that this, too, will pass, until the next time. Choosing the half full glass of generosity while acknowledging the grief. And signing off as I started:
“Friends, in all your circumstances this week, we pray that love, and a generous reading of time can guide you and center you towards justice and life.”
Pádraig Ó Tuama, “The Pause,” On Being Newsletter, Saturday, May 15, 2021