The faintest, mildest, least-noticeable of all things can still have tremendous impact. Take lichens, for example: the most wonderful of flowers, even gardens, on a microscopic scale. Strong enough to wear down stone itself over time, but so delicate and dainty and fairylike that they are rich and glorious even in their seeming fragility.
However cold and sharp the wind may be,
As wild and deep as darkness ever falls,
From utmost edges of the storm still calls
A song that stills, that draws and comforts me—
Though battles rage, the world in sorrow drowns,
And trials threaten life and hope and light,
That gracious call still guides me through the night
As long as I will listen to its sounds—
No danger is so great, no ill so dire,
Nor pestilence and terror so extreme,
That it cannot be mended by the stream
Of melody from that angelic choir—
Now when amid the depths of dark and pain,
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,
We are neither dead nor quarantined in a sanatorium. But a shared cold makes for a sad household. One impatient patient is perfectly capable of drawing a thin pall of gloom over home and holdings, but when both (or in this case, all) inhabitants of the place feel lousy, the plot, like the creeping crud in one’s lungs, thickens.
I’m sending a little bouquet of flowers, if only the handmade kind I don’t have to have a car to drive to a good florist’s shop to acquire, to both of us. It’s unpleasant enough to be ill, even a little bit, but when the entire family operation shuts down, there’s no one resilient enough to make all of the necessary chicken soup, commiserate and pat everyone’s head with a sympathetic sigh over his or her immeasurable suffering, and keep everything in the home place properly tended.
So we’ll sit around moping, dragging ourselves to do the required things as best we can and retreating afterward to sit among the dishes that still haven’t been put away three days after washing and that pile of papers mounting ever higher on the desk—not in the files—and try to focus mind and energy enough to write that one necessary report, edit that small sheaf of articles, go through that backlog of digital illustration records to find the missing image…and we’ll nod off to sleep again, interrupting ourselves in that only with dispirited bouts of rib-wracking coughing and wheezing and self-pitying snuffles.
I know perfectly well that this will pass, and though it feels interminable in its midst, rather quickly at that. What are a few days of ‘down time’ in one’s whole span of life? But if I have to sit back moodily on my enervated haunches for the while, at least I’ll send myself and my fellow inmate a batch of hand-drawn flowers and all of the well-wishing I can muster in my current state. Here’s to better days ahead!
Memorial Day is a US holiday begun after the American Civil War to recognize and honor the service and sacrifices of soldiers killed in the line of duty.
But on our recent visit to Puerto Rico, as we were walking around the museum ruins of a fortress in San Juan, the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, looking at the remains of its heavy battlements, at its cannons and their tracks in the gunneries, at the sparse quarters of the soldiers who served there, and at the museum signs telling the stories of El Morro’s past, I remembered too that the vast majority of the people who are involved in wars hate them as much as I do. War is chosen and declared by a tiny minority in even those bands or nations that instigate the wars. The rest, soldiers included, pretty much have it thrust upon them, and I can’t imagine anyone who dies in battle had any desire to do anything other than to defend or capture whatever or whomever he or she was sent to defend or capture, and go home peacefully. Even some of those who declare the wars and enlist willingly to fight in them probably often have done so with a sense of rightness, if not righteousness, in the cause.
I looked around the Castillo and, for all of its historical interest and the beauty of its locale and weathered stone walls, the birds and iguanas and wildflowers decorating it quaintly, what I saw was a memorial to the many lives lost, soldiers and civilians, natives and outsiders, adults and children, the good and the bad alike. All because humans aren’t famously good at sharing their world with each other and resolving conflicts without violence. I will always have a horror of war and all the loss of life that it brings.
But I am, honestly, grateful to those who have—willingly or not—paid with their own lives for the lives and welfare of others, and I remember them not only on this designated day but every time I pause to reflect on the high cost of peace for our oxymoronically named species, man-kind. Seems to me that there’s no better way to honor soldiers for their service and sacrifice than to end the potential for any more such work and eliminate all wars forevermore.
We had this adventure, my man and I. Went to an island. A lovely one called Puerto Rico. We spent a week on that beautiful piece of Caribbean land and enjoyed the break from our everyday Real Life, the immersion in nature and its marvelous native birds and insects and flora and the wash of its rolling waves on luxuriant green shores.
The quiet was exceedingly welcome.
But our reason for the trip wasn’t isolation and retreat. We went for the wedding of dear friends. And the wedding of a Puerto Rican woman with a big, loving family and a lot of friends to a North American man bringing his own contingent of supporters from Canada and the US is not a place to go and lie low with the covers pulled up over one’s head.
As if it weren’t already too warm and humid to be curled up under a duvet.
So we had the fantastic experience of being drawn into this jolly, joyous gathering and treated like more members of the extended family, and along with our enjoyment of being on that wonderful island, we had the perfect reminder of what’s so great about being surrounded by dear and tremendous people and how the pleasures of the place, the travel, the newness and beauties not previously experienced, all are enhanced so richly by the good company.
It’s why I spend so much time in the good company of my blogging and blog-reading companions, of course, but as always, it takes a change of scenery to remind me of what I should already know. It’s good to be home, and all the more so when I’ve been away. Here, I am once again awash in a sea of friends and loved ones, and I am doubly glad.
Iris, in her long-legged elegance, has been for many years, a queenly inspiration among the flowers for me. Iris played a starring role in both the print materials and the floral arrangements gracing our wedding, being a great favorite of both my partner’s and mine. Not surprisingly, we cultivated irises in our own garden; my mother and a good friend living on my parents’ street also had many lovely varieties of iris growing at home. Our choice to use flowers only from those three gardens for the day of our nuptials meant we could still embrace our love of these tall violet beauties and their gracefully graphic long leaves as much as we liked.
Part of my desire for my physical leftovers to be cremated after my death is, admittedly, driven too by this love, since I know that iris plants often enjoy a little taste of ash to amend their beds. If it turns out that human ashes aren’t the kind they like, please refrain from filling me in on that and I’ll just let my survivors figure out where to surreptitiously and inoffensively dump mine and meanwhile go forth to my death happy in the thought that I’ll enhance some floral glory in my own little way.
I’d like to live a meaningful and purposeful life before dying anyway, to be sure. I’d be happy to know that my time on this plane is a good thing for more than just my own pleasure, but since I am not endowed with any mythic powers I know that my impact, for good or ill, will be modest. And that’s quite all right; it’s the path of nearly all mortals’ lives, and we who make up the chorus are necessary support for the brilliance of the marquee stars, the soloists, those few who make their mark with art or invention or discovery or any of those kinds of shining accomplishments. But I live in hope, too, that even if my shining moment doesn’t come in my years on earth, it might be achieved when I am back in the earth. So look kindly, when you see them, upon irises, for one day I hope to be smiling back at you from in their midst.
I’m not afraid, though storm clouds menace me,
obscuring all the known, the safe and sweet,
though lightning slashes through the dark and sleet
to make its fury all that I can see–
For under it, still in the garden’s bed,
lie roses, graceful guardians of peace,
to shelter me until the storm should cease,
and blue convolvulus, whose trumpets said–
The rain announces plenty, growth and life,
and nothing terrible amid its fires
can conquer me, so strong are my desires
and will, that they defeat such earthly strife–
And I will spread my wings and rise, remade,