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Reflections in the Silver Cup

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA III

With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

The trees are greatly in flux, altering their appearance from one day to the next. One locust tree in the whole place, in one morning, put forth fat budding clusters of leaves. The other locusts all have bare branches still. Why is this one so far ahead of the others? Could it be because there are bushes around it putting out their new red leaves, reaching to the sky above the older green ones? Did the bushes tell the locust something? The old elms are in full, furry seed. The young elms are seeding and also beginning to sprout tiny, tender leaves. They live together in a grove of twelve. Why are their stages different? Could it be that the older trees are giving the saplings space, opportunity to flourish? Scientists have learned that trees and plants speak to each other. They nourish each other, and warn one another of imminent danger. One species even dies for its young, so the young may be graced by the sun, not shadowed by the mother. Trees are about forest, about community, not individuals. I see these things in the morning and am wonderstruck. Read The Overstory by Richard Powers if you want a book to strike you with the wonder of trees, of forests.


There are small pleasures, ones you perhaps don't think of as pleasures. Or maybe you do. Bringing order to my small space, moving one thing to where it belongs, brings me pleasure. Hand washing small items of clothing is purposeful and purpose brings satisfaction, and in the morning, when they are dry, I am ridiculously delighted by the miracle of evaporation. I sweep the dry pine needles off my porch, set up the little aluminum camp table, and unfold the two blue cloth chairs. Then I sit and smile at the plum tree's blossoms. Today I will repair some earrings, and I will remember the woman, the friend, who made them and lies beneath the ground now under an oak tree. I will remember the times we spent together laughing and telling stories and drinking coffee rich with Berkeley Farms cream, walking the paths of the marina.

 

These are times for remembering and pondering, letting the largeness of life be seen in the small, the ordinary, the not-so-ordinary. For trees and friends are miracle enough.


 

LOGOS by Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early

 

Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don't worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

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LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA II

With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

My youngest brother is fifteen, almost sixteen, years younger than I. When he was small, I spooned pablum into his little mouth, held up his hands to help him toddle, laughed when he made baby eyes at me. Last week he texted, "Going to the store. Do you need anything?" And he brought me bags of groceries, stood halfway down the stairs while I stayed above on my porch, and we chatted about his children.

 

Fred Rogers famously said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." I need the helpers now and at many other times. This morning I had my first walk at 6:30 when it was stil barely light. The garbage trucks rumbled and crashed through my complex, and I thought, This is another group of unsung helpers. I am grateful they are still working. The bins were overflowing yesterday. The birds helped me too–crazy with songs of joy at the dawn light.


When Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture, the student expected her to say something like, "Fishhooks" or "Clay pots." But she said the first indication of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur that had broken and healed. Animals that break a leg die because they can't get to water or food or defend themselves, but in humans, a broken femur "that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts," Mead said.
 
An excerpt from "Hum," by Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems: Volume Two because we are perhaps more aware now than ever that to be alive is a blessing:

 

 

. …                                  The little

worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.

     Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand

That life is a blessing. …

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LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA

With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

There has been evidence of greed and opportunism. This is not about that. This is about love. Signs of love, reminders to love, words of encouragement, stories of small pleasures, learnings, finding the loveable in the time of pandemic.

 

Though I am without doubt an introvert, having no face-to-face contact does affect me. I noticed it as minor depression when I realized, paradoxically, that I was isolating even further than necessary by not getting out and walking–holing up even more than I had to. Saturday I was determined, committed, to walking my 10K. I did it in 10-minute increments between 30-minute segments of writing. This system means I walk in the parking lots of my apartment complex.  And this is how it went:

 

Walk #1: Walking in my nearest surroundings (parking lots; a busy, noisy street; a neighborhood of cookie-cutter condos and ranch-style houses), does not delight me. I say I am happy to live here because I am close to trailheads in the Sandia Mountains and to a nearby openspace, but in the days of pandemic, I supect there are bunches of people in those places. Ten minutes barely gets me outside the parking lots. On my first walk of the day I realized, Oh, but I can look the whole time at the mountains–close enought to touch, the majesty of the Sandias; farther away, the Manzanos; on the horizon, the volcanoes, Mt. Taylor, Monte Negro. The blessed Mountains.

 

Walk #2: On Walk #1, it was mostly cloudy, or perhaps–glass half-full–partly sunny. In fact, quite sunny, the app on my phone to the contrary. And I reveled in that partial sun. The second walk testified to the changeable weather in New Mexico and took place under a monotone gray blanket. I reveled in the shadow, the melancholia, which I confess to loving.

 

Walk #3: Sunshine with glorious silvery white cumulus clouds.

 

Walk #4: Along came the After Lunch Slump, and the sky was again gray, the Ponderosa pine branches outside my window furiously swaying in the wind. I didn't want to walk, but I had told Irene I would make my 10K. Accountability is helpful. And the gray was not monochrome. It was full of life–massing, heavy clouds, bruised, filled with rain, though the app said there was 0% chance of it happening. I was glad I walked, after all.

 

Walk #5: I stepped onto my porch and saw it was sprinkling. By the time I reached the asphalt, it was truly raining but not pouring. The smell of rain on the dry desert earth, the wetness, speak to me of life.

 

Walk #6: The sun was out again in its golden evening splendor. I thought the rain had stopped. But it was doing its New Mexico thing–Rain In Sunlight. I looked forward to rainbows, and sure enough, faint bands of color rose up the closest foothills. Past the end of the last parking lot and onto the sidewalk, there is a bridge that crosses the Embudito Flood Control Arroyo–the terminus of my 10-minute walk. The rain had ended by then. I stopped, leaned on the bridge, and watched the water flowing downhill, creating small ponds below the spillway. These ponds are not beautiful. They are murky, surrounded by collected detritus. The little birds–sparrows perhaps or finches but too far away to tell–didn't mind. They flew down and dabbled and splashed in the water. Their comrades, in the tall trees, warbled joy.

 

Walk #7: The water was done flowing, and the birds were preparing to rest. A mourning dove on one of the apartment roofs moaned her deep sorrow. I had accumulated 10,575 steps.

 

Everything changes, and here, most especially the light.

 

Daily Quarantine Questions

1. What am I grateful for today?

2. Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?

3. What expectations of "normal" am I letting go of today?

4. How am I getting outside today?

5. How am I moving my body today?

6. What beauty am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?

 

INVITATION by Mary Oliver from Red Bird

 

Oh do you have time

   to linger

      for just a little while

         out of your busy

 

and very important day

   for the goldfinches

      that have gathered

         in a field of thistles

 

for a musical battle,

   to see who can sing

      the highest note,

         or the lowest,

 

or the most expressive of mirth,

   or the most tender?

      Their strong, blunt beaks

         drink the air

 

as they strive

   melodiously

      not for your sake

         and not for mine

 

and not for the sake of winning

   but for sheer delight and gratitude–

      believe us, they say,

         it is a serious thing

 

just to be alive

   on this fresh morning

      in this broken world.

         I beg of you,

 

do not walk by

   without pausing

      to attend to this

         rather ridiculous perormance.

 

It could mean something.

   It could mean everything.

      It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:

         You must change your life.

 

 

 

 

 

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WHAT IS HOME?

A corner of my studio apartment

My post, "Where Is Home?" generated a fair amount of discussion, most of it on Facebook. A saying shared by my friend Catherine stood out for some folks: "It takes a lot of living to make a house a home." I'm not so sure.

 

When I attended our church college in Michigan, the school had two campuses. It was transitioning from the small, original campus in an older, residential area, which offered no space for expansion, to a more suburban location. Lumbering, old, tour-style buses ferried us between campuses. My freshman year, I was in the Radio Choir, which rehearsed and recorded in the early evening on the old campus, and my dorm was on the new campus. After rehearsals, I boarded the bus with other choir members and people who'd been taking late classes. We rode past houses where windows were lit with evening warmth. Sometimes I'd get a quick glimpse of a family sitting around a dining room table or playing games in their living room. I would imagine their everyday lives and feel a longing for home.

 

When I visit Native ruins at Chaco Canyon or Bandelier National Monument, I do the same thing I did from those dinosaur buses: I imagine what it was like when those small, stone rooms were homes—centuries ago—when they were filled with light and love. I guess at where a child kept her little treasures, who made love in this space, what it was like to drowse to sleep looking at this finely detailed masonry.

 

Contrary to the idea that it takes a lot of living to make a house a home, I have sometimes felt more at home in a hotel room than I now do in this apartment—the space where I long to feel I am home. Perhaps that at-home sense in a hotel room comes with the contrast to a day full of movement—rolling through unfamiliar territory or even over roads I've traversed many times. Perhaps it is in juxtaposition to previous days, when I was a guest in other peoples' homes. Thus, when I enter that room, there is a feeling of coming to rest, of being myself without having to think how my behavior might impact someone else, of not needing to go with anyone else's flow. There is a sense of coming to spiritual and emotional rest, of utter relaxation.

 

Being at home, then, is not necessarily about the amount of living done in a space before it can become home. It is, at least for me, more about being fully present, being centered, being at rest within myself. Perhaps that's easier to do in the immediacy of a hotel room, when the heart knows it will not be required to stay and live through the dull times; the days or weeks, even months, of hurting; times of trudging through the everyday detritus of living. I don't necessarily wish to be present with boredom. To be centered when I'm immersed in the pain of loss or failure holds very little appeal. I'd rather be distracted–imagine myself somewhere other than within these four walls, fantasize being in the company of someone other than me. My soul itches, prickles, with the desire to be gone from the everyday, which is making me uncomfortable in my own skin.

 

Being at home in a place is more about being at home within myself. It's about coming to rest at center point, accepting that here I am—just me, only me—it matters little how long the stay is. It's being here now, in this present moment that makes the place home.

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