Monday, May 30, 2011

Love the one you're with


I used this picture as the cover of my research presentation at our annual colloquium this year. It's a woman meditating under a bodhi tree. I love the colors, and the clay-like texture the painting portrays.

Today is my husband's birthday. We spent the greater part of the day packing and cleaning. I rented a carpet cleaner from Lowe's and steam-cleaned our antique rug. It was a proud, feminist moment for me learning how to use this large, complicated machine.

After our hard work we decided to treat ourselves to a slice at Savage pizza down the street. Savage is one of our favorites, with New York style pizza, excellent salads, and a really cool, kitchy atmosphere decked out with action figures. We were light-hearted and carefree as we sat down. Full on love, hungry for sustenance, happy to be in one another's company.

I recalled a strange thought I'd had earlier in the day, when I wished my love a happy birthday. I thought to myself that I should take a moment to truly appreciate his being alive and well. Death is always with us, just a heartbeat away. A moment's unchecked glance. The cliche blink-of-an-eye's distance.

I ordered a shrimp ceaser while my darling decided on a tomato and eggplant calzone. I drooled over knowing I'd be sneaking bites of his; by this point in our relationship he can be sure that I'll always go for a nibble of anything he orders (and will probably like it better!). It was just at that moment when we heard it:

A nauseating sound. The loud smack and thud of metal on metal, tires squeeling and shrieking. A car crash was happening, and we were sitting on the patio of Savage bearing witness. The sounds made us both cringe our shoulders together. But then, another, unexpected sound came. Another loud bang and thud, but it was not at all metal on metal and it was immediate. I felt my heart sink and my eyes well up. I turned my head to see a car, still skidding forward for what had been at least 75 feet, pushing the remnants of a motorcylce in its battered and charred grill.

Some things we don't hesitate on. I began to weap. My husband leapt from his chair, onto the table and over the railing of the patio, and took off towards the scene. A previously trained nurse reacts on instinct.

The other customers on the patio were all on their feet by this point, straining their necks to see over the parked cars. Where was the man on the motorcycle? I heard a guy say behind me, "dear god, please let it have been parked..." and another woman reply "no, it's lights are on." I didn't need to look to know. I was the only person not standing. I just sat with my eyes to the ground, feeling the raw grief of the moment.

It was a while before I spotted him coming back, walking slow and tired, as if he'd been through a fight. The ambulances had arrived. He was no longer needed. Was he ever needed?

There is something so admirable about him. It's in the way he carries himself -- with strength, composure, even a gentle quietness. We didn't speak about it right away. He sat back down. We looked at eachother quietly. Though I'm sure everyone around was chattering away about what had happened and would happen, everything around us and between us was silent. He finally asked me if I'd like to leave. I nodded and we boxed our untouched food.

I asked him to walk a different way home. I didn't want to see whatever it was that lay there in the street. So we took the long way, hand-in-hand, not saying a word.

Sometimes you just have to let the silence hang for a while, before you break it open. It was another thirty minutes before he could talk about what he'd seen when he left me on the patio. It was after our failed our attempts to eat at home, to keep packing, to watch a movie. It was after he smoked a cigarette and reminded himself outloud to breath. We just didn't know what to do with ourselves. We knew it couldn't be avoided, though the desire was there to push it all away. He had to talk it out of him, there was no other way.

The man's helmet had come off. The driver of the car was drunk. The bike had been hit, the man had been ejected from the bike and then run over by both his own bike and the drunk driver's car. When my husband reached the man, his face and skull were crushed and he was bleeding out. He checked for a pulse -- a light one still beat. He watched the man's stomach quiver the last moments of life.

The ambulances arrived and my husband left the man's side. He went to the side of the street to break up a fight that had broken out between one person and another who was filming the scene with his iphone, hoping to upload it to youtube. After subdueing these two, he went to gaurd the only cop, a woman, who was tending to the drunk driver. The driver was crying and praying.

So many lives changed in an instant. I weap for that.
I take a long moment tonight to appreciate my husband being alive and being well.

I don't understand the gauking, the exploitation, of tragic death for entertainment's sake. It's a horrific event that demands respect, silence, and deep reflection.

Love the ones you're with. Even if you don't know their names.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

White Daisy Passing

The idea of moving is always exciting. I think it's the promise of change, as if uprooting can also somehow get us unstuck and shake us free. In previous years I became much more excited and hopeful about moves. These days the idea is more weighted. It's light as well as heavy. It's both promising and daunting. I enjoy throwing every last unecessary item away. It's a huge purging project of letters too long held onto, outworn clothes stripped, unremarkable books tossed from the shelf, and let's not forget the cluttered collection of "stocking stuffer" gifts that one holds onto out of loving obligation: the little fragrant oils, lotions, and odd presents like foot warmers and decorated birthday wine glass, or the miniture "fondu for two."  It makes me desperately wish "christmas" didn't exist.

All things go. All things grow.

The packing process gives ample time for reflecting on the years, the growth, the changes, the errors, the achievements. I think about how my writing has taken such a long hiatus. Poetry has been replaced by research. This isn't all bad -- though I do deeply miss and long for a connection with that ancient craft of divining words. I've grown tremendously in my ability to write a solid, clear thesis. I am learning how to express my more complex ideas and to convey them with precision and inner fervor.

Then there's the box of old pictures we come across. You know the one -- it still has the framed photos of him. I came across these and found myself pleased that I didn't feel an emotional tie any longer in the sense of remorse or regret or longing for the past. I appreciate how attractive of a couple we were -- very handsome indeed! I see how I really was someone else. Still myself, but somehow someone else. I like her. She's so different from the woman I see now. She was regal and full of grace and elegance. Quiet, introverted and introspect. Today she is very outward-turned, glowing, passionate, with a wide-open expression that takes in the world. She looks younger now, somehow. I think it has to do with the heart.

Do we throw away the pictures of them, too? Do we hold on to it? Is it disrespectful to our spouse? I can't bring myself to put it in the trash. That feels almost like throwing away a sacred relic. It's true the owners of these photographs are dead and gone, having become new and different people, but they are still honored in the heart, aren't they? Don't they still deserve a place on our private mantel?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I fall back in line

I've been away for too long. Learning hard lessons, writing good and important papers, and being ill for a three week stretch. So here are a few highlights from recent to bring the blog back up to date.

I've been pickling, and not pickling. Jamming and not jamming. Often I put peaches together in a bowl or fresh veggies with dill and seasoning, ready to boil for jarring. Half of my attempts have gone bad -- literally -- waiting for me to finish. One jar of pickled veggies made it. I'm thinking a bloody mary party might soon take place, garnished with these delights!

New plants for spring!

And putting all of my rock and sea shell collections into jars for the big move.... (everything apparently must go into a jar!)

A happy, recovered self packing up our sweet little home in Candler Park.

I have some words of wisdom to share soon regarding the many good and necessary lessons I've been learning on the path lately. Most of these lessons have been incredibly painful and difficult, but aren't the best ones always this way? When I find myself ready for real spirit growth, I call out to Kali and dare her to bring me the hardest of the hard obstacles. Smash my ego! Break it to pieces! Please! I know when I make this inner yell, this deep provocation, she will respond with ferocity. She cuts it to the quick. Pulls it all up from the roots! It's messy and shameful and gut-wrenching. It's ugly and smelly and gross and renders one totally naked and vulnerable. Just the right way to be most fully open for the big changes to happen inside!