Never fret, my darling;
Never fear, my dear:
If I had meant to murder you
You wouldn’t still be here—
But I prefer the gentler sort
Of crime, soft as a breath—
Embracing you with all eight arms,
When the interplay of sounds, of melody and accompaniment, move toward that sharp, yearning suspension of notes that reach for each other but cannot seem to meet, the resolution—if and when it comes—is evermore the sweet. Pointed and poignant, that sacred space betwixt sunlight and shade, the delicate balance before sleep consents to wake, or life concedes to sleep in death, holds both precious sorrow and piercing joy. Just as forgiveness does not require forgetting but is rather accentuated by it, the brightest day shines all the more for its being cut with silhouettes of deepest shadow, and the inmost midnight anthracite of sky finds its peak of beauty when marked with sparkling points of stellar light.
Speak, and the silence quivers in recognition; sing, and it pulses with ecstasy.
Allegro gives way to the grieved pacing of Largo, and that, in turn, takes pause and after a longing sigh, begins to dance again, Allegretto. Season will follow season down the years, and I grow old and turn transparent with my age, until at last, hearing the call of the penultimate phrase, I remember that if I let my voice fall from the present chord, those who carry it on will draw into that beautiful, desired harmony and close the space perfectly once again. Whether voices falter, go astray, or fall silent, the return to harmony waits to bring existence back into balance.
Other than my general adherence to food posts on Tuesday—for no particular reason on my part other than my constant love of eating—I don’t often go with the popular day of the week trends or memes or whatever they are. But what makes me happy can render even the loquacious-unto-verbose me speechless, so what better to do than shut up and hand it over with no further fuss. My gift to you, therefore: a [nearly] Wordless Wednesday. The roadside view on Saturday was simply too fabulous not to be shared.
In addition to the under-appreciated benefits of simply vegetating for rest and personal renewal—the old R&R that current generations seem to forget to practice in our constant race for connectedness and communication and “productivity”—vegetating is a state in which the highly desirable happy accident of inspiration has room to occur. Some inspiring thoughts could even lead to a great invention or contribution to society. Mine, not likely. But if I don’t take the opportunity to allow that creative space, how will I know?
It’s worth the risk, in my view, of fulfilling my destiny as one who will never have the Great Idea. By trying the intentional-vegetative approach, I might surprise even myself. And I’m certain that having a little more time spent as a human plant form is bound to have a positive effect on my general well-being, at the least. Indulge me. Better yet, indulge yourself from time to time.
If you remember anything about primary school (and I do, if little) you hopefully have a few memories of one or more of the fantastic sort of teachers who were the virtual equivalent of extra aunties and uncles and grandparents, but neatly spun into the form of educators whose wise teaching made you learn things without even knowing you’d worked at it, and want to learn things you hadn’t even known you wanted to know just because they were such fine pedagogues that they made it seem possible, if not easy.
You undoubtedly also have a memory or two of teachers who were quite the opposite. My personal least-fave was the third grade teacher who had no compunction about excoriating and humiliating a student in front of the rest of the class regardless of the infraction or any of their previous achievements or behavior, even cracking a yardstick onto desktops to make a point when she was het up, regardless of whether there might be some small knuckles in the way of the stick. At the very same time, she apparently thought it perfectly logical and beneficial to ‘level the playing field‘ and make all students feel they could accomplish something in her class, lest the PTA or school board think her not supportive and informative enough, and this she would do by sitting and doing the weakest students’ homework for them.
I knew nothing of this until one time when I was the unlucky receptacle for her ire, having failed a penmanship test in the first weeks of school because that school required students to learn cursive writing in the end of the second grade and the one in another state where I had spent my second grade did not. Had she asked us all to sing a song in Spanish, I might have been the star of the class, because my second grade teacher Mrs. Mosqueta let us learn a little elementary Spanish from one Señor Ybarra, who taught by the ultra-newfangled medium of televised classes, and I don’t think my new classmates in Illinois had yet had access to such magicks themselves. But there I was, little miss Goody Two-Shoes, who had never gotten anything but perfect scores because I was too prim and much too afraid to not do my homework to the nth degree—if I had any actual training or homework to prepare in the event—flunking my attempt to make Pretend Cursive when that mean lady in her sausage-casing dress didn’t even ask whether I’d ever been trained to write that way. If you think I still sound remarkably bitter about such a small thing from so long ago, well, I probably ought to let it go but I tend to enjoy my little revenge fantasies more than is entirely good for me.This is all in jest, of course. I wouldn’t be so cruel as to want to give any poor innocent tigers indigestion.
There’s nothing like a long stretch with a too-busy schedule to remind me how important it is to slow down and do some meaningful Nothing once in a while, even if it makes me miss one or two seemingly crucial other things. Every time I remember to take that kind of break, I notice that no matter how much I think I was letting go of, leaving undone, and missing out on doing, the world has not once ceased to turn. Civilization has not only not ended while I was ‘off duty’ in a moment of relaxation, but has very likely been somewhat improved by having a little break from my ignorant interference in its progress.
Sometimes it’s really useful to deliberately put my head in the clouds. Or to stare at the floor, for that matter. When I stop gazing exclusively at the stack of paperwork in front of me, thinking only of the next three items on my to-do list, or listening merely to the rattling of the voices on TV, telephone and in email correspondence that are all demanding my attention, I can notice that I’m walking across incredibly worn but still vibrant Majorcan tile in a room full of paneled walls and acres of ancestral portrait paintings, and that’s just en route to some other thing entirely. I might get to that Other Thing and find that it’s only a small courtyard, but one full of sunlight split into dazzling rays by a fretwork of wrought iron artistry that may very well have been behind deadline in its production because the artisan thought it was more important the work be done well and beautifully than that it arrive on time.
Why do we persist in making little things mean so little when they can make a great change in our perspective? Don’t we fuss enough when we think the universe is treating us so neglectfully and with such unwarranted disdain? I think it’s only fair that if I want to be treated with any sort of respect by the universe, perhaps I ought to give it some of the same attention and admiration as well. Far better than wasting my precious life resources on endless effortful chores that will only wait for my return anyway, is to spend a bit of that time instead on admiring the goodness of a threadbare Turkish rug and relishing the thrum of steady conversation about unimportant yet interesting details of the day’s quiet events, talk between real people who stand on that very same carpet at the very same moment and, amazingly enough, listen when I reply.
It makes me more than a little crazy when I’m faced with the unknown. That says a lot about me, admittedly, since life is a perpetual ocean of uncertainties and the impossible to predict. Nature abhors a vacuum, and human nature, the vacuum of uncertainty, with a special antipathy. My inclination is always to fill that void with speculation and guesswork, and when I’ve gone a few too many rounds with the same assumptions and fears doing their little hamster-wheel tumble through my brain, to pick them apart into a heap of worst-case scenarios.
I never know what’s truly in the moment ahead, let alone six months, years, or decades from now, but uncertainty still feels like something that comes in great cycles or waves in life. For a time, quotidian cares appearing to roll on in their expected way keep me distracted from unknowns; their seeming to pass at an almost stately pace in relative agreement with the calendar and my notion of order in the universe lulls me with its lapping, the ebb and flow of familiarity.
Then the next cycle begins.
When the time is most palpably uncertain and my path through it the most obscure, how will I—how can I—know the best response? Which way shall I go? What is the right way for me now; what will put me in the place where I can do and be my best self? I long for obvious Signs.
At my most lucid, I remember that every time I’ve landed in such privileged places of clarity, I was there before I’d ever quite wrestled out a reasoned decision. At its best, my life chooses me and puts me where I belong, ready or not, conscious of it or no. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. I’m just not clever enough to recognize the rightness of it except in retrospect.
But goodness is good, whether it comes and announces itself in a blaze of light when I open the front door or it sneaks up onto the back porch and makes itself at home in my life. Patience is a virtue that is mighty scarce in my itchy little soul, but I’ll give it a go as best I can. Meanwhile, I’m hanging out the Welcome sign on both entrances to my existence, just to be on the safe side.
A short meditation: The Oarsman
When I opened my eyes, I saw a cedar boat ahead, a craft of sleek and patinated wood; I was ashore, looking, watching without knowing why, standing on the verge with the clear salt sea touching my feet and on its cold breath casting up an offering of tide-polished stones and shells moved into patterns like a prayer shawl.
The cedar boat drew near, and in the boat, a man whose solemn joy preceded him and made my thoughts lie still.
Only the scent of cedar broke the salty air. I waded out to catch the prow and saw the oarsman watching me, and I was humbled but not afraid. He said nothing. I didn’t think to say a word, myself, but caught the boat and slowly pulled it ashore.
The oarsman wore a long superlative braid that rose and fell on his breast; I made fast the boat to a spike of driftwood at the verge, tying the painter in a braid as like his own as I could make it.
When he stepped from the boat, the oarsman put his broad hand on my head, wordlessly, and I felt, too, his solemn joy.