Sunday, April 21, 2013

Staying Home

Things wear out.

Over the past four months this very simple axiom has been demonstrated to me in the following ways: My office computer began the familiar slow-down that leads to the inevitable flashing blue screen and had to be replaced. The extendable handle on my office briefcase stopped extending and the briefcase had to be replaced. The glue on the crown on my front tooth that had stuck admirably for 30 years gave way and had to be replaced by a very expensive implant. My washer and dryer, 27½ years old and never a minute’s trouble, both stopped working within 15 minutes of each other and had to be replaced.

And, then, of course, my dog died. On a fine spring morning when the morning mist had not yet lifted from the fields, Lily just didn’t come out of her house. Went to sleep and didn’t wake up.

Nothing lasts forever.

But we want it to. We want something to last. The human heart is made of Velcro.

Earlier this week I went to a memorial service for someone I’ve known most of my life. At the visitation the day before, as I stood in a long and serpentine line to speak to his family, to offer condolences that I knew couldn’t sound like much more than just another measure of a single song of sorrow, I watched as photographs memorializing this good man’s life were projected onto a flat white screen. White-water rafting with his older brother and their sons. Gazing into the face of his newborn grandson. Sharing Christmas with his mother.

And then the photograph that brought me to tears. Five men, their arms around each others’ shoulders, half-smiling at the camera held by one of their wives. Lifelong buddies. I know them, all of them. I knew them as boys. I watched them play baseball on Jaycee Field and football on Womack Field. I watched them grow into good men, good fathers, good husbands. I still watch them.

At the memorial service I sat near the back of the church. At the last amen, I watched the faces of those men as they walked down that long, long aisle and back out into the world, a world without the smile, the laughter, the company of their friend.

I forget sometimes, when I go to the grocery store and don’t see a soul I know or walk a few blocks down the street and nobody blows his horn and waves at me or meet someone for the first time and don’t know a single person to whom she is related, that I still live among my people. I lose sight on occasion, when I’m watching too closely the construction of too many new apartment buildings, of the landmarks that are invisible to the natural eye, but still show me the way. I get lost every now and then in the maze of newer, faster, better, only to get so tired that all I can do is sit down and wait for a familiar face to show up and remind me where I am.
There are a lot of reasons to leave the place that reared you. There are also a lot of reasons to stay. One of the best is that when we do, we get to remain a part of each other’s stories, right to the end.

Nothing lasts forever. Except love. And friendship. And the memories of a shared lifetime.

Copyright 2013

Monday, April 08, 2013

Acts of Enchantment

Beware those things by which, those people by whom you are enchanted.  As all readers of fairy tales know, enchantments are temporary.

I have been enchanted by moons – full moons, crescent moons, harvest moons, eclipsed moons – for years.  I have religiously, as in, with awe and in reverence, stood outside in cold that charged my toes like electrical current, in wind that deafened me to my own thoughts, in leftover heat that pasted my shirt to my chest, to look at moons the size of dimes and silver dollars, the color of ice and tangerines.  I have laughed at, cried over, wondered at, marveled over the magic of gravity and seasons and the tides.  

Over the last few months, though, the moon has disappointed me.  Almost without fail the full ones have been draped in heavy mist or completely obscured by clouds.   The shiny crescent ones that always before have invited me to reach up, grab hold, and swing like a first-grader on a jungle gym have been dull and dangerously brittle, clearly not strong enough to hold the weight of my imagination.  Even the one that was supposed to point me to the comet PANSTARRS last month failed.  I stood in the side yard and stared and stared and stared without ever getting sight of what it seemed that everyone else was so easily observing.

So last week, on the night when the full moon was hovering over Sandhill, I deliberately stayed indoors.  Took a stand.  Made a statement.  Protected myself against what I was certain would be another disappointing effort at channeling some of the magic of the sky into me.

I have tried this before.  Not ignoring the moon, but protecting myself from disappointment.  For years I proudly proclaimed that I was a vicarious learner, that I could watch other people and learn from their mistakes without the necessity of making them myself.  I avoided risk at all cost, mistakenly thinking that the cost was insulation when, in fact, it was numbness.    I took stands and made statements that did nothing but deprive me of the opportunity for joy.
I heard the other day that a better translation of the New Testament scriptures generally called the Beatitudes would read, rather than “Blessed are …”, “You are in the right place when …” .  You are in the right place when you are meek and merciful, when you seek righteousness and make peace.   When you are in a place of engagement.  A place, I suspect, where it doesn’t matter whether you can actually see the moon, but only that you are looking at where it is supposed to be.
The next morning I walked outside and was startled to see the moon, absolutely full, a huge white polka dot pasted over the western horizon.  It was floating in a band of pale pink sky over a field of planted pines and a fence row of scrub oaks.  I stopped to stare.  And in the stare was my apology. 

She responded by remaining very still, hovering over her spinning earth, and covering me once again with enchantment.

Copyright 2013