Years ago, when my days were spent in the difficult and sad caring for Alyce, I developed a love of beautiful things….make-up, a thousand shades of lipstick, flowers–orchids to be exact — whose blossoms always surprise like Lazarus’ return from the Dead. I couldn’t resist scented lotions, or the morning ritual of bird song and gardening, the way a seed can break through the surface of its medium with supreme regularity and strength. One day, two day, three. I stayed away from the ocean, fearing it would take me out to oblivion, away from the safe watch I kept over you Mama. Cooking in the kitchen, seeing the sweet smile on my daughter’s face, hearing giggles coming from her and her friends playing in the pool out back, how these sights and sounds sustained me through the worst of times. Yet, life can always surprise you. The saying goes, “It can always be worse. Be grateful it isn’t.”
I am done with the Pandemic, aren’t you? Done with fear, done with the meanest of morally bereft men, who angle and shove, in a treacherous fashion, like those that inhabit the 9th Circle of Dante’s Hell. They reside in the frozen lake, the first Round named Caina, after Cain who killed his brother. How fascinating to find that each ever-increasing circle of hell represents a worse sin, that the 9th, treachery and betrayal remain at the top, even over murder and heresy. I’m done with weak-minded, morally bereft men like the one who shall be nameless, who’ve revealed themselves in these tragic times. Yes, even still, I can find beauty amid the thorns. I’m not broken, like Lazarus, I will rise again.
This is a time of great contradiction, of both sad and miraculous things. Charles Dickens wrote in 1859, words that remain utterly and completely true today:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
– A Tale of Two Cities
The Great Pandemic is coming to a close, but will hang in the air, as so many former times…the flu pandemic of 1918, the great Wars, 9-ll, the age of mass gun violence and insurrection we so easily traverse these days, what is called, “The New Norm.” Yet, with so much loss, so much innovation and beauty born each day, new hope, new flowers, new light. But, we will forever wash our hands differently, I think, and be completely cognizant of what is really important in this finite and fragile experience we call life. I’m left profoundly changed and protective about what remains. I feel a need to stop and look at what was, to construct a new path, with hopefully less pitfalls and to find a new resiliency in mine and my family’s life, to remember what has been forgotten.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned:
The Benefit of Slowing Down and Stopping
Okay, so our mental health has been tested this past year. Sometimes, we may feel uncertain about how much more we can take. . . In those moments of slowing down, caused by this pandemic, we have come to understand that to fortify the soul and prevent despondency takes work, takes faith, takes time, takes planning, planning when you are not in crisis. That’s the foundation that holds the center, keeps the walls intact. Those of us with faith, have found a deepening and, in that deepening, found pockets of peace.
I have learned that it doesn’t matter how trapped the physical body is, or when time is not your friend, the will to survive prevails. ( I think of the Jewish people in concentration camps, how they found that the mind and the soul can still take flight….Wasn’t that at the heart of those in the camps who taught math to the children, or re-told literature and scripture from memory, or what motivated the strong to give food to the starving? Or, even, those who dared to fall in love? Merely inhabiting your life, no matter what befalls you, can be sustaining.
Is life an Art, to be honed, collected and curated?
Or, is life messy, imperfect, at times agonizingly long, when we must wait for resolution and reprieve from whatever plagues us? While I remain unsure, I do know this. Living unconsciously, allowing one year to pass into the next, causes a numbness to take hold. We drift away from our senses. Stop smelling the flowers, stop hearing the birds….Those who allow their lives to flow unconsciously in good times are destined to fall when crisis hits. They do and say things they never thought they would and the resulting consequences pile up, making matters worse, one thing leads into the next. However, those who have practiced conscious living and resiliency in the good times and stick to basic moral principles of kindness towards fellow humans, an adherence to doing the right thing even when no one is looking, will be rewarded for their good works. Those who are selfish, do evil, will ultimately find themselves forever lost in an ever-increasing morass of decline and descent into loss, upon greater loss….perhaps, the 9th circle…. And, yet, when life gets really messy and time is not my friend, I can stop time and reclaim my life, bend it, polish it, forge it, my own Grecian Urn. Without planning, without foreknowledge, here is the poem that comes from my soul tonight:
“Time and Beautiful Things”
Time tripped forward, like an old clicking clock, clicking black upon white tiles, turning through the night. It would wake me, if the nightly falling into each other’s souls hadn’t transpired, vanquishing all reason.
Time I spent, in the company of you, was never time wasted.
Now, memory is my friend, so present and warm, like your palm against mine.
Could we dance in the kitchen once more, making food sizzle, surrounded by loud jazz, then hush once again, while the needle descends and stumbles scratching, until melodious notes fill the room once more, while we, needing no words, remain a structured improvisation?
I can still hear your large fingers snap to Brubeck’s “Take Five”, feel your kiss on my neck, your arms encircling my waist, the faint smell of Marlboro in your hair, as I wondered, will you be my savior?
“My soul finds the peace I seek within your heart, within your soul,” you wrote, but I wilted at the thought of saving you, could it be true?
Time, real time with one another, or with yourself is never wasted time.
Intimacy is the child of time, silence its sister.
And so we sit in silence and read the news, wanting different sections, naturally at ease with our wants.
Taking bites without asking of each other’s toast, sipping coffee (yours black, mine cream), our feet entwined like the roots of two trees grown thickly together, both stuck in what was, living only halfway in the here and now, though you are no where to be found.
Years passed, age encroached, making lines and painting gray strands upon noble heads. You are still the smell of books on a rainy day, a life without cell phones and tv, just music, only music, ours made loud entwining, never really parted.
Never parted, valuable succor now, for all that has passed away, for the present that seems like an endless misery of loss and waiting, you remain buried deep within the heart of sedimentary things, only to spring forth anew, my seedling, my green sprout, capable and strong.
I will not wither on the vine this time, thinking I am incapable. The dimpled chin, the diamond eye, sustain me now, until I’ve crossed over, away from misery’s door. You built the foundation that is in me. No matter the news, the contagion of man, or virus, I will always rise up, until it is my time to lie down one last time, in my ironwood days.
It is in time and beautiful things, I can go on. Oh, memory, oh gentle one, on strong root, be my guide. And, when it’s time, call my name, call me home, to be enfolded by your wings, your hand upon my thighs, lift me up until I find my way back to your whispering arms, where burning hearts light up the sky once more.
Until then, transmute the darkness in memory and dreaming, knowing always, I am yours.
Just for today, take time to:
- Write a love poem, or make the modern correlative of a mixed tape and give it to someone.
- Spend time doing nothing with those you love, saying “I love you” often.
- Ponder the past, remember what you loved most and proclaim it will be your future.
- Make something, or grow something beautiful.
- Cry and let go of pain, feeling your Mother’s embrace, even if she has crossed over.
- Talk to the creator, ask for help, expect miracles.
- Be creative. Play music, or listen to music, and wait for your soul’s kindling to spark.
- Turn off the t.v., your cell phone, listen to the silence. Know that you are fine without them.
- Ask yourself, “What makes me feel safe.” Make a path to that place, that person, that time, even if only in your mind, until the present moment passes.
- Thank those, living or dead, that made you who you are, whether they brought evil or love to your door and spread love, where ever you can.
Spreading the love tonight, from an island in the middle of nowhere….XOXOXO
Mrs. Sassy Pants