Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Desperation of Loveliness

Time does what it will with us.

Tonight I write out of a deep need just to be heard. I'm not sure that I even have anything all that worthwhile to say. I'm quite sure it is not profound. Nor will it be provocative.

Sometimes, I'm visited by a certain silence. The ticking of the clock echoes like bombshells across the room.

Forty years ago today, in India, I nearly died. Given the condition I was in at the time, wasted by salmonella, typhoid fever or both, having lost about 30 percent of my body weight via dehydration, probably I should have died.

But I didn't.

My mother was profoundly grateful when the news arrived that I was alive -- not that anyone had told her how ill I was but because somehow, out of a mother's instinct, she just knew.

We were far, far out of touch at the time. There was no Internet, no cell phone, not even any land line or long-distance service. Somewhere there must have been a telegraph office, but nowhere close to the routes we were taking.

I was unlucky, getting sick, then I got lucky, getting well.

After you are very sick, of course, you become very tired, sometimes for a long time. But I was young then.

As you age, then, recovering from illness becomes much more difficult. This tiredness in your later years can swallow you, if you give into it.

My mother finally passed away herself, more than 32 years after my near-death escape. She was very, very tired at the end, and then she shut her eyes, fell asleep, and never awoke again.

I am here tonight, for better or worse, forty years later. Sometimes when I am discouraged, weak, lonely, sad; and sometimes when I feel so profoundly tired, I think back on that time and remember how powerfully the urge to live welled up in my then-still-young body.

The instinct to live is so powerful within us; yet in times of despair, as the years pass and circumstances become challenging, what Robert Frost heard in the silent woods one snowy evening beckons some among us, if only for an instant.

However, many more words wait to be written, and many lovely faces deserve smiles not new frowns, and we know this to be true. Thus that moment might have more power than it in fact does, as long as we remain sane, of course.

And we endure, to breathe in a new day's air to see what it brings us, and to consider anew how we might participate.

Today, as I ventured into a new place and a new challenge in my life, I paused for a moment. My eye had caught something in the distance. As it came into view, albeit only as a blur and just for an instant, I saw a tiny, very lovely bird.

My mind had been elsewhere; I was both tired from the accumulation of stresses too mundane yet relentless to articulate; and excited that I was about to have a new way to apply myself, and what talent I possess, to a worthwhile cause.

But in that precise moment, my only thought was this: What a desperately lovely creature.


Monday, February 08, 2010

The Passing of a Moment

El Nino brought us yet more rain today; no complaints. Earlier, my close friend and I walked past these plum trees, bursting with their advertisements that spring is indeed on the way.

One of my most difficult struggles has been to achieve what I imagine to others must seem so simple -- just to live in each moment, to appreciate being alive, to feel as blessed as I truly am.

It's often been easier to think about deficiencies and disappointments, to remain dissatisfied, to demand (of myself and others) perfection.

Perfection never comes, so expecting it is a recipe for sadness.

I'm tired with all patterns that have proved unsatisfying; my new restlessness is based in a drive to achieve simplicity in my life.

My life is not simple, but the way I choose to live it can be.

I'm working on a set of simple principles, some of which I can articulate from time to time here; others that shall remain more private.

My new rituals, some of which would surprise even close friends, include daily prayers. These, too are very simple in nature.

Much like the petals that hang from the trees above, a reminder that all things shall pass.