I dream of being a better writer and artist. Of being a lyricist or maybe even librettist. Of taking many of my designs for furniture, clothing, sets and costumes, building materials, architectural elements, jewelry, inventions, and any number of the other concepts that constantly float around in my skull into the realm of actual production and use. Oh, yeah, and I dream of World Peace, too. Really.
Some people dream of simply having a healthy child with the average odds of survival and success in an average-length life. That was not my dream, but I know that it’s one shared by millions, not least of all by the author of an outstanding blog, The Hartley Hooligans. Gwen is always a superb writer and a tremendously insightful amateur sociologist-cum-psychologist with a wicked sense of humor. She outdid herself in one recent post. It’s a spectacularly beautiful meditation on how, in general, to live life boldly, fully, and richly. The article is ostensibly aimed at mothers or parents of special needs children (the author is mother to two profoundly ‘challenged’ kids and one who’s not), but I realized as I was reading it that it’s perfect advice for anyone, anywhere. (Note: Unless you’re a self-employed home-dude like me, reading The Hartley Hooligans may occasionally prove NSFW! But never, never dull.)
I don’t ordinarily publish anything that I didn’t write or illustrate myself, but in writing, supposedly, to the parents of special needs kids, Gwen offers insights so universally applicable to any of us who find ourselves with different realities than we had fantasized or expected in life, I think others should hear her uniquely graceful, bracing, hilarious, and touching take on the how-to and why-not of holding fast to our hopes and keeping up with the business-busywork tasks that make them possible.
For myself, I just substitute for her discussion of [special needs children] with the concept of any deeply felt, long-held dreams that I’ve felt unable to achieve or too intimidated or ill-equipped to accomplish, or have thought would be forever out of my reach for any reason. I replace her talk about [doctors and caregivers] with those advisors and companions of any kind whom I assemble to support me in my life. The advice this wonderful, earthy, real woman gives on how to make the most of any situation; to give myself permission to be human, not superhuman; to credit myself with what I do accomplish and build on it; to surround myself with real, two-way relationships of love, respect, challenge, and support; and to make the most of everything I have with gratitude, is inspiring and pretty priceless.
I’m not one for sharing others’ work on my blog often, but this really spoke to me in a direct way that I think is far more broadly applicable than the already impressive comfort and wisdom of its intended point. I suspect we can all learn from it, so I feel compelled to share it here. Enjoy.
Many heartfelt thanks to Gwen for permission to share this epically useful, sane, marvelous insight of hers with my friends here in Bloglandia!
I know that my brain works overtime, coming up with strange and atmospheric stories while I sleep. Maybe it’s meant to balance my waking laziness. I won’t ask! Here’s another one of those few from which I have awakened with a crystal clear memory. Not of its putative symbolism, of course, if you’re wanting to analyze my weirdness for dreaming surreal tales with death in them that are somehow not nightmares but simply strange and (literally) colorful, unexpected nocturnal in-head cinematic confabulations.
Beloved, let us sit down together in the shadow of the oaks; let us take deep draughts of fresh water from the clear, swift stream. In the scorching heat of the middle of day, let us take refreshment like the dragonflies that skim the water’s edge, and be restored by the caroling of birds in the distant shade.
The days are long and our work makes wearying and seemingly infinite demands, and we know that this will not soon change. There is change of many sorts ahead, this we know too, but what it will be is yet beyond our imagining. Thus it has been, and so shall it ever be: we travel our paths, seldom knowing quite where they lead, and we labor in darkness the while. Some days, the destination is sparkling joy, and on others it is marred by sorrow and strife; at times, the mists of uncertainty part and the way ahead becomes clear, and at others it remains quite fully obscure.
What I know, Beloved, is this—that no matter how hard or easeful is the road and no matter what the destination holds for us, we walk our way together, you and I. We may long for clarity and even for the strength to wait for it, but in the meantime we will take our stops for breath along the way, sitting in shade when we may and drinking deeply from the icy stream, traveling always hand in hand no matter what the journey brings.
There’s a sweetness in the morning when the sun has yet to rise
And the blooms lie, still unopened, under sleeping butterflies;
When the stars still wink and glimmer, while the frogs yet softly sing—
There’s a graciousness at midday when, amid the racing streams,
All arise and put in motion yesterday’s profoundest dreams;
When the past its chains has loosened on the race of all alive,
There’s a calm amid the evening when the birds come to the trees’
Respite from the day of flying, echoed by our evening ease;
When the cares of noon have lessened as the dusk swept into place—
There’s a beauty to the nighttime, glorious and peaceful bliss,
Treasured for the kind renewal of the souls that rest in this
Cradling darkness and this languor, in this place of mending rest
I would take these hours’ presents as my guide through seasons long,
Through a lifelong path that’s pleasant as a choir’s finest song;
I would be a seasoned traveler, happy above everything,
If my song could last forever,
Seeing the moon at its showiest as often as I have lately makes me immeasurably glad. At the level of pure appearance, its resemblance to a magnificent pearl hanging on the breast of the sky makes that nacreous gleam a beauty of which I can never tire, any more than I would grow weary of taking slow, deep breaths after a spring rain when the lilacs have newly opened. It’s as though all the finery ever worn by all the goddesses of myth has fused into that one palely magnificent, ethereal yet endlessly potent jewel in the sky, so powerful that it can be seen sharply delineated at the height of day, yet as delicate as hoarfrost or needle lace in the faint patterns of its glimmering surface. And like the poets, philosophers and writers who preceded me, as well as those at whose feet I now sit, I remain in awe of the very idea of the moon; its mysterious pull on tide, time and spirit all at once never fails to startle me when I stop to think of it. I would like to sleep every night directly under the moon, staring until my eyes can stay open no longer, if I could really sleep there: while I imagine it might be impossible to close my eyes with such magisterial magic before me. Even when the moon is at its slightest, at nadir or waning to a hairline, it keeps its mystical hold on my imagination. Sleep or no, I can only expect I would dream. The glory of the moon demands dreaming, and whether I rest or not under its wondrous beams I will always delight in seeking to replenish my store of dreams, and by such restoration, to renew my own strength by the welcome, fabulous light of the gleaming moon.
Cadence at Evening
Slow as the settling of the sun
Upon the western shore and lees
Where nightingales call from the trees,
Watching the honeyed daylight run—
Slow as the shifting motes of time
That sift and spin in lamp-lit rays,
Fall lazily to dust and haze
And love, ineffably sublime—
Slow as the sleeping breath when dreams
Have ceased, and thought receded to
The farthest corners, shaded blue
To inky black, to flow in streams—
Slow as the silently locked door
Was, to admit all at the last
Where wonder waits that, long held fast,
Now pulls us inward evermore—
Even if I could I would rather not see the future. If it’s not to my liking, then I’ll despair and give up all attempts to improve upon it; if appealing, it will tempt me to live in constant yearning and not invest my heart and hands in my own present.
That doesn’t stop me from persistently trying to scry any hints of what’s to come in whatever handy crystal ball I can conjure. We’re curious creatures, we humans, and impatient at that. I wish and want and hope and dream, along with all of my fellow mortals, thinking that if I just knew what lay around the next bend of the road, surely I would be content, or at least if not content then prepared. But few who have access to dates and deadlines, foresight and certainties actually prepare in full, and once the approaching events are known they so often become the sole focus of the journey, not a point along the way, in fact distracting us from all of the possibly meaningful points that do exist en route.
I would rather not give myself any excuses for being even less attentive than I already am, and to be honest, I think it would take a fair measure of the charm out of discovering my life with a degree of surprise as it happens. Do I hope that what comes will be pleasurable and kind and fulfilling? Naturally. But whatever it is, I will let it keep its secrets for now; there is a lot to be seen and felt and done long before I get there, wherever there is and whatever it holds.
In Dash’s closet there was a very hard-to-reach spot at the very back of the top shelf, and he was quite happy that his younger sister Mattie couldn’t reach anywhere near it. There was a large jar there that he prized beyond any other thing he owned, even his pocket knife and the doll that he loved as long as his parents would only call it an Action Figure in front of any of his friends. The jar gave off a very faint blue glimmer that was even visible on the darkened closet ceiling after the bedroom light was switched off, and it pulsed comfortingly at young Dash as he lay across the room gazing on it while drifting off to sleep each night, dreaming eventually of the wonderful things that would happen when the creatures he kept in the jar finally came to their full maturity. He remained, as far as I know, blissfully unaware that they were beings of his little sister’s making and left for him to find and nurture. He may have begun to wonder what exactly was brewing when his Action Figure seemed to have moved to the far end of the shelf one morning of its own volition and then disappeared entirely until it resurfaced at the end of the week in the bathtub drain, one arm missing and covered with some kind of sticky corrosive ooze, but I imagine that he guessed Mattie might have had a hand in this trickery. The relocation of Dash’s pocket knife underneath the heavy jar was a harder to explain, more puzzling development.
Magic happens whether supernatural beings or prestidigitators are present in the event or not. Marvels of every kind are present in the everyday and the ordinary if we only know where to look and how to see. Who are we, mere mortals, to question the existence of the miraculous or to doubt that it plays a role in the large and the small parts of our lives or that we, in turn, play our parts in it?Why should we always second-guess the truth of the impossible, I wonder? Isn’t that notion so perfectly strange that it absolutely must be correct? How can we accept our own reality and yet fail to acknowledge the beauty and oddity and outrageous loveliness of all Otherness? Really, how?When night falls, sometimes we sleep; when we sleep, we may well dream. Nothing requires it, though, or guarantees that this is the natural sequence, the absolute pattern of things. No more do we know for certain that day brings wakefulness or waking, sanity.All I can say for certain is that reality is far broader and deeper than I in my small, individual way can ever quite hope to comprehend–and probably than I would want to know, even if I could. It’s the mystery, the unknown and unknowable that makes life so piquant and our human places in it so poignant, after all. If it weren’t for the puzzles and conundrums and outlandishness that fill the spaces between the usual and expected bits of life, what glints of peculiar joy would decorate our dreams?
Go on now, let me go back to sleep.