THE CHANNELS OF ALL OF LIFE’S PROMISES

From a conference room where I teach. December 12th, 2017

I had a long and tiring week.

It included a snow storm and horrible driving conditions;

cold and biting wind;

teaching contracts that have tilted to the bad side of too many;

a constant cough that appears to be caused by allergies to what’s in the air at one of the places where I teach;

sad or worrying news about people I care about;

more sad or worrying news about them;

a heaviness I carry around, which is the weight of what I cannot change or resolve (at this moment in my life, it’s as dense as gold);

and a sense of being trapped in a power crusher, with the walls of time closing in and no way to stop them. No room (not for escape, but for breath and perspective and space to maneuver).

At such times, I walk about with the feeling that I could easily cry (and wouldn’t that feel good?), and that I am inadequate to the task of being a good friend, a good daughter, a good sister, a good mother, a good teacher, wife, neighbour, human being …

While I tangled with all of these, the sun rose every morning, and my life–the single miracle from which everything flows—never failed in its task of moving me along.

My sister, hip deep in her own struggles, remembered to enquire about the wellbeing of a friend I worry about;

A son cooked dinner for me to come home to late in the day, once, and then again the next evening. His alchemical actions transformed food into love, meals into sharing, and weariness into wellbeing.

(How do any of us survive loneliness?)

A friend reached out to me and found my hand, though I couldn’t hold hers nearly long enough.

An afternoon and evening spent with my granddaughter and grandson yesterday took me sailing on a true-blue ocean of simple, hopeful joy. It saw their parents off to a Christmas party and the rest of us, my other sons and husband, together, making merry ourselves.

A first son fetched us a meal of fried, roasted and sweet foods that left us all with greasy fingers and feelings of satisfaction. He choreographed the day’s end: stories, baths, bedtime without mama and papa.

As the house went quiet, my sons and I—they with their extraordinary niece and I with my sweet-hearted grandson—lay in the dark next to the small and trusting bodies of these children who are the channels of all of life’s promises and reminders that we cannot fail them, and listened to them breathe in the dark, sometimes moaning softly, sometimes crying out as the day’s tiny storms caught up with them, entering their dreams.

Danielle, Christian, Louise, Simon, Jeremy, Anne, Penelope and Graeme and Sylvain, I love you. Thank you.

 

 

OUT OF THE CAGE

I sit before my computer screen in the dark of morning, and read the scurrilous words of an American president—they are always, always so—whose aim today, as every day, is to set the world on fire, hoping, perhaps, to see his own red, angry image dancing above it all in the flames.

No. No. No.

And then a piece about a housing development in Japan in which the aged are left, each in turn, to a lonely death, disappearing in the choppy wake of filial responsibility.

Yoshikazu Kinoshita, 83, in his apartment in a housing development near Tokyo. The complex, one of the biggest in Japan, is a monument to the nation’s postwar baby boom and aspirations for a modern, American way of life. But it has become known for something else entirely: the “lonely deaths” of the world’s most rapidly aging society. Credit: Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

No, no, no.

While my Inbox fills up, like a boat taking on water, with December entreaties TO GIVE, PLEASE GIVE, PLEASE GIVE. Letters, words and symbols: UNHRC, JDRF, Share the Warmth, Welcome Hall Mission, Amnesty International, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Leucan, Evidence for Democracy, Wikipedia, UNICEF, Movember…their impact obscured by Black Friday, Black Saturday, Cyber Monday. Their voices almost lost in the clamour. There are so many of them.

NO, NO, NO. The sounds inside my head—pain and the refusal of pain.

This morning, I no longer remember why, I looked up John Cage, who said:

“You can feel an emotion, just don’t think that it’s so important.” 

And right now, this sounds especially true. What good is empathy in times like these if it leads, inevitably, to system overload?

This is how I feel this morning. Uneasy with my conscience. Feeling, feeling, feeling that I must make radical changes to my life in order to save my human environment. I apologize, John Cage. But you also said:

Get yourself out of whatever cage you find yourself in.”

― John Cage

 

John Cage, Fire 1985

 

 

 

THE DREAM OF DEEP AND VITAL SLEEP

Keirle, Gordon; Guardian of Sleep; Leicestershire County Council Artworks Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/guardian-of-sleep-82510

I suffer so from poor sleep—

Interrupted sleep, to be precise.

(I can barely keep my eyes open after nine pm)

And once again, last night,

awoken by noise and movement,

I found myself staring at the digital display

on the clock radio:

 1:30

(I was unlucky, it’s usually more like

3:10 or 3:30 or even 4:00)

 

 

When this happens, I know

I’ll toss and turn for a long,

time-devouring stretch,

awash in thoughts of everything

unresolved in my life, feeling flushed,

ants of anxiety under my skin.

Sometimes, if four is antemeridian, and

I find myself awake, I forfeit the sleep

in exchange for time alone which

is nothing like lonely or uneasy,

but feels rather more like time stolen,

appropriated from the Universe and

made mine.

There’s a cost to this brazen shoplifting

of minutes and hours—a penalty.

Research shows that the hours unslept

are snatched from the end of our lives.

(I learned this only this week)

This seems unjust, and yet

While I covet the dream of deep and vital sleep,

I’m caught red-handed with the irony

that I did in fact fall back into sleep sometime

after 1:30 this morning, held on tight till

7:02 and have felt cheated

and pressed for time

ever since.

Selway, John; ‘As I rode to sleep’ Fern Hill Series; Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/as-i-rode-to-sleep-fern-hill-series-162254

 

AT ANY REMOVE

I hear and read a lot about

our enslavement to technology—

especially to our smart phones.

I call them that without irony in spite of what people say.

 

There’s a photographer who wanted to

show us how lonely

we’ve become, how alienated from

each other,

by having people pose—couples,

families, friends and lovers—

holding invisible phones.

He called his project Removed.

Seeing the cleverness in his black and white photos, people began

sharing them on Facebook, on Twitter,

virtually every which way;

which did seem ironic to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I placed my smart phone on the kitchen counter

after work today, while I was preparing supper.

It didn’t take long for its black screen to light up and then

it buzz-buzzed as it vibrated.

It was one of my three sons, messaging in, interested

in the day I had, and wanting me to look

at something he’d written; happy to HAHAHAHAHAHA

and emoji in response to

a funny photo I took of the inside of the dishwasher

(there’s a private story there)

 

We were conspirators in real time,

he in his apartment and me in my kitchen, and I just know

that we were both smiling in real time, and I thought

how wonderful my small black phone is to bring

my beautiful son right into the kitchen next to me,

and just then, his younger brother, working way up

in the Arctic, at 72° 15’ 00” N / 80° 30’ 00” W,

(which is easily found on your GPS-enabled phone)

began texting me too. Bzzz-buzz-buzz

 

Thanks to my smart phone, my sons

were no longer at

any remove at all.

 

August 29th 2017

 

NOTES ON A SATURDAY MORNING

It’s foggy and soggy.
It’s weirdly, unnaturally warm.
I have one son on a train, Toronto bound, meeting up with his past and his future;
Another in his apartment, taking it easy (I hope so: he comes by rest so rarely);
And the other son—his voice full of worry on the phone—nursing a sick child, my darling grandson, back to health.

Already this morning, the internet has brought me images of pain, violence and terrible drama;
Of heroism, courage and grace.
My feelings have moved up, just under my skin;
The world is Pain and the world is Love.
And I have the time this morning, precious and priceless, to witness it all.
To know that I’m happy. To know that I’m afraid. To know that I love.

Watts, George Frederic, 1817-1904; Love and Life
Watts, George Frederic; Love and Life; Tate; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/love-and-life-202765

 

 

 

 

PENELOPE’S HEART

Written January 26, 2015 ·and just recently rediscovered:

Penelope’s Heart

I believe that my granddaughter Penelope’s heart bears no secrets.
It is as open as a smile,
As glorious as the sun,
As knowing as the stars,
As tender as tears,
As fierce as a lion,
As gentle as sleep,
As expansive as a dream,
As sudden as lightning,
As sensitive as a flower,
As boundless as the ocean,
As natural as life,
As sacred as a shrine.

picture1 Penelope, October 2016