An unexpected gift
I suppose it is not uncommon for someone to give a parting gift on their deathbed.
Or rather, when they know that they are dying.
I remember sitting on the back unscreened porch. The beautiful countryside not so rustic, disturbed. The mountain behind us having been dynamited, and built over, on the rescinding of Cloud Nine-- a provision in the land deed that had previously prohibited construction.
Yet in front of us, the valley (as far as the eye could see), was still lush.
It was June. The mosquitos kept a respectful distance, and all was quiet-- the orange purple twilight slipping beyond the green feathery tops of the oaks, maples, and walnuts at the edge of our property, just where the cul-de-sac swooped around two other (invisible) homesteads. We sat on tall black swivel chairs we'd wheeled from the home office counter Father had built into the kitchen. Bats twinkled, tiny black stars above. A favorable sign, he said. And then an owl called. A Great Horned.
He sat to my right, in the corner--backdropped against the slatted window of the laundry, where the circular stairs descend to the basement and two-car garage. Two almost identical, yet distinctly different vehicles, waiting there like faithful horses. We sat wrapped, individually, side by side in charcoal grey woolen army issue blankets, for quality not nationalism. Each of us bracing the slight chill of the evening and more so the inner tremors, that reckoning brings, universally. In the turn of a day.
He gave so many gifts, immaterial, intangible and immeasurable, it seems almost bewildering that this is the one that rises above the others. I told him I loved every minute of our Hell together, and apologized for any grief I might have given. Me too, he said, me too. He said other things more personal, and then squeezed my hand with extra significance, like to one whom you trust, and he said:
When the time comes, and it will come, do whatever you can to make the passing easier... you may not understand now, but you will know...
And I knew. And am eternally grateful. This from a man who had suffered and sacrificed, withstanding untold pain, in untold ways. He asked for the morphine. He asked again, and again. And then he stopped asking. And still I gave it to him--
Had he not given me those words, I would have felt that I had killed him.
The Positive & The Negative
Sometimes the shape of creativity
is the undulation of a violin
the way the sound
with the silence
of the wood that extends, to tuning keys
up where resonance is contained,
in unexpressed ideals
as loose string
when words fail
and imagery evades,
and a sigh escapes--
from the audience,
Hanging on life's
is to surmise, to intuit
the All, in regard to God:
the holy feminine, masculine
as the fragmented I,
in shards of infinite
time, collision, unpinned
the supreme realizationing
that I ...
from the other,
that would carry
......................... us on...
I wonder often about presence. We feel much more than we see.
The way you hover over my shoulder. Guardian angel legions, looming; undisguised demons, lurking. A physical sensation tempered by something invisible. No matter what I am doing. Suddenly, you are near. Checking in on me. And I'd like to know, what that looks like viewed from the side.
So many moments pass us by...
That's what it's like.
In a photograph-- not taken.
It took me a little while to recognize my fatal flaw, as a reader. It's not a question of extremes, as much as underlying interest. Undoubtedly, some enthusiasts immerse themselves in environment too much, or not deeply enough; or sink into plots, and become entangled in the knots of artificial problems or trip over allegory altogether; some identify empathilessly, or delve into infatuancies, with heroes and antiheros. That's not me.
What I didn't realize until early teens, junior high, or high school the latest, maybe, was that I was maintaining extended conversations with the authors. Made up of course, extensions on the basis of what was given in text, or interview elsewhere. Nothing fascinated me as much--- the rest of the story being "words on paper."
I guess, like a vampiread, I wanted the Life behind or within the story line. I wanted to understand, why the devil did so and so feel it necessary to carry-in to existence this work, this body? I suppose I hoped to see for a moment through the eyes of the wordsmith, and perceive what effect he or she was trying, hoping, to achieve, in the mind of others, through the manuscript as laid out, long or short.
In my own search for meaning, I must have made the (ghasted! I know) assumption that there is a Purpose behind all things. Note the capital, as denouncement of something grand: that accident in art is minimized by a closer analysis of impact, and a penultimate point of acceptance or rejection of it, before final publicization (form/media determining in large part the arena of distribution, as print, gallery, screen). In short, that the writer had something to say, beneath the tip of the berg of what now appeared in our glare of vision.
Not necessarily something new. Something personal. Vital.
It must have been in the early teen-years that I first revealed, and sighted, my flaw--these quirks being unjudged internally until someone else balks and stops you in your everyday stride. Discussing a book, I was subsequently met with indignant tonguelash. I can't remember what book or what I said, but I remember distinctively the response. That I was wasting my time.
Writing isn't like that. Words speak for themselves. It's about characters. The work takes on a life of its own. It belongs to the audience. A typographical orphan. Beyond control. The search for meaning as in our own lives is futile... The author like a God is long gone mentally and busy, anyway nobody is expositioning themselves. Book closed.
To my fellow student-writers, majoring in nothing at the time, it was as if personally offensive. Yet irrational. A barrier put up by the readers themselves in their minds, Private Property/ No Trespassing. It puzzled me that our teachers nodded along, though we routinely pursue potential acts of major and minor characters in our imagination in literary assignments. Character study we call it.
To be sure I don't like chained link or barbed wire, and would avoid these as well, still I conclude that unnecessarily imposed fences, especially intellectual ones should be scaled, down to size. In defense of the antagonists, the only thing I could think of was the fear of Writer's Block. If we spent too much time pondering over Purpose, we would create nothing at all. Maybe.
Yet I am inclined to the idea that understanding intent is within the Reader's purview, as much as it is part of the Writer's prerogative. As a reader, I give much respect to the Author, and freedom to take us wherever inspiration in the moment or future will lead us. I can't ask for it back, but I can pay it forward, when I myself scrawl something down, with that invisible prefix "Dear Reader..."
affects the heart
I take my imagination
and it flutters
into the open
venue of ozone
where it might
like red madder
on cerulean does
when not mixed
in the brush
I make stuff up
I believe it
like a fool
in the mirror
where a stranger
in obvious state
And I know,
as I lift
a timid finger
to the winged
The way Celestine tells it, its commonplace. Everyone has the friend of the family. That odd person, related to no one, but permanently appended, without explanation.
"You know, like what's-her-face living at Nana's upstairs..."
"Or, Uncle Tomick, who's nobody's uncle..."
"And what about the Twins from Norfolk..?"
Well, it's something like that apparently with old Aunt Patsy.
"She comes once a year, for an overnight from goosey night to Halloween."
"--goosey night? who calls it that? you mean Devil's Night!"
"If you saw, Aunt Patsy, you'd call it that," says Celestine.
True enough, having finally seen her, she looks like a mother goose character, complete with babushka and hunched back. The eyes twinkle, but they are set so far back that it's impossible to recall a color other than the black of the pupil staring out. The face in all these years hasn't changed. Just like in the black and white photographs. It's always been perfectly aged and stiffened into an expression somewhere between derision and vexation.
Whisps of coarse silvered hair escape from beneath the red paisley kerchief that over the years has always remained the same fabric. The rest of her garb is so bland as to pass description. She wears a starched drab dress, and long dark cardigan, so loosely knitted it might pass for cargo netting.
"Doesn't she do anything else? I mean she must, while she's here..."
"No, she really doesn't."
She doesn't eat, or shower on arrival, or go visiting. She gives a curt nod to the rest of us and heads directly up the three flights of stairs to the guestroom. The one with its own bathroom. A sort of suite unto itself on that floor. That's if we see her at all.
"Most times, someone in the family will ask: 'has Aunt Patsy arrived?' ...
'Shh... yes she has.' And it's assumed she's resting."
She doesn't come out until dark, well after supper, of Halloween Night. It's like she waits for the last of the tricker-treaters to depart.
Then we hear her. She's approaching.
She's got a heavy walk, and a sturdy cedar stick with cobra head to steady herself. There's no mistaking the thud. In her other hand she carries a vintage suitcase table. It's a rectangle when she holds it, but by some little twist and lift of flaps the thing is suddenly transformed into an oval, immediately draped in glimmering embroidered tapestry on which she sets her Tarot and crystals.
Then, she beacons with a long-nailed finger, partly obscured by the layers of her fluid garments. Curiosity calls, one by one, upon the gathered. Aunt Patsy delivers messages from the past beyond, and with a shudder foretells the end of current goings on.
"She's so well informed it's like she's living here all along."
I hear steady whispers, from everywhere but suddenly, Celestine is nowhere to be found. I begin to worry and ask, weaving through the couches and chairs. In the dim lights, no one is much concerned, so long as there are plenty of bodies huddled around.
Suspicion overtakes me. Who is this Patsy anyway? I draw closer in again, instead of scanning the perimeters. Suddenly, it's my turn, by default. She leans in mere inches and says in husked voice, "Well, what is this heart's desire, dearie, to know?"
I'm about to open my mouth, when I'm grabbed by the leg from under the tablecloth: "Dorothy!" the unmistakable voice hisses.
Against Celestine's staunch whispered warning, I instead reflexively grasp at Aunt Patsy's face, tearing at the head wrap, hair, and wrinkled skin flaps. This is neither Auntie nor Clairvoyant...
Ugh! the whole room erupts in one gasp. It's... Mom!
On the topic of intimate friendship, I have more wonderings than insights. I question for instance, if it is possible to have more than one such relationship, at a time, I mean.
Rotating this in my mind, like a swirling marble, I have strong doubts. We don't reveal ourselves to everyone in the same light. Neither in presentation, nor interpretation. Friendship requires considerable focus and attention. And intimacy, all the more so.
I chose a marble, as our metaphor, for its perceptible qualities; the sound of dull drop or rolling, the impenetrable translucent visual, the coolness to the touch, that warms in the hand if held tight. But then, in a closed fist, or even half open palm, you don't see it all that much. Suggesting, intimacy requires a certain proximity, close enough to peer through, and far enough to view in the round. The marble cannot be in a pile of stuff, or in a collective bag. Intimacy requires it to be singled out. Tactile. Treated like a diamond, or suspect stuff. Like somebody grasping the sphere delicately between index and thumb.
Every marble, for the aficionado, has a whole unexplored world trapped inside. A planet with air pockets, tones, traces of shadow and sunshine. A whole other life. We can say causally, "oh, a marble," but the intimate will take his or her time, in degrees of criticism and appreciation to see the way the swirl tips to one side, or how the color fades from bright to nuance, darkness to light, in different times of day or night. Like the moon. The intimate will play with that found marble. Compulsively.
The intimate knows the marble has a story to tell and it cannot be fathomed by the condition of the exterior or even the components of the interior. Experience is somewhere beyond that, and it can only be tapped on a level that transcends. In interaction. That is perhaps the very thing that we are referring to as Intimacy.
The marble is an oddity in itself. We think of Jacks and Marbles, but there are hundreds of ways to play, and more often than not the lone marble is picked up, completely out of context. Sometimes we put that marble, inexplicably, in our pocket. We instinctively roll it in-between our fingers, unseen, except in our imagination-- a thing in motion, with us, in multidimensional thought.
Is intimate friendship like that? We are suddenly not alone but carrying someone else around, in thought.
I know we can't very well hold more than two marbles at a time, to the left and right, appreciating them individually. And in my thinking, I note, only one or the other will surface at a time. Just like the focal point of the eye physically is very, very specific, no matter how good our peripheral vision.
Speaking of the physical, I wonder also about the yin yang, for completion of thought. I observe that for myself, intimate friendship must be with an opposite. It's like I need the reflections of the male perspective, that I myself am lacking, to better understand life. Which begs the question, just how physical is the relationship? Again, I think of the marble. We seem to have (however flawed) a fuller picture, of it, when held in thought. As soon as you touch it, especially if sloppy, much of it is covered up, and it is hard to see through, beyond the surface, exposed, which is already distorted by surrounding reflected light. Worse, we see our own skin first--the holding of--rather than the marble and what it presents as subject rather than object.
On a tangent, what was it that Michaelangelo said--about marble--?
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
In intimate friendship we carve, very, very gently, mentally, ephemerally, adding and subtracting nothing, in sum, despite the necessary give and take. Like molecular cells are replaced every single second, though visually we remain perceptibly the same, in the moment.
In another remark by the sculptor:
The more the marbles wastes, the more the statue grows.
I chose to distort the interpretation of the latter, creatively. I believe that it means the more we chip away the more intricate the sculpture, perhaps the better the Art? But in friendship, a statue is the antithesis of deeper understanding. I return to the perfect sphere of our original small found marble. Formed as such, it stays, intact, regardless of contact. We do not, and there is no waste. Intimacy is in the living.
Some will believe, and applaud, a miracle, on receiving what was wanted, exactly. Especially, if without unintended consequence.
Others, feel it's a miracle to summarily recognize what is happened or had, with gratitude and sense of blessing; like the growth of weed as well as flower; or the very existence of triumph, and whatever its obstacle. The miracle of Life and Death, in all its shades. With or without God.
If I had to narrow down, my experience to one, my belief is that the miracle of miracles in Life, is our awareness of the miracle-- meaning Conscious Thought.
If you've ever felt understood, or sensed that you, yourself for a moment, could begin or finish another's unspoken thoughts, then you know the powerful connection of the mind and our potential awareness. It's happened to me more than once, verifiable face to face, so I've no doubt about the existence of a Universal Consciousness that we sometimes tap.
The air settles like a chilled evening sigh into the oak swing's seat. Sheltered there just enough to shiver and hesitate a little with the brush of autumn leaves. Yoko Mori is proud of the oiled and matte one she has hanging within the front porch of the house. It must be a Western invention, she thinks. So seldom used.
Is an inspiration raised in the rocking, or do ideas die there, fleeting? --a colander.
She drafts a suburban haiku from the living room window, folding the sheets with crisp lines of shadow:
board and nails, bench and guardrail
a lattice work