Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Surely I am not the only one with a case of the soul shivers, not the only one for whom Christmas as we seem to observe it stirs ambivalence. I must be wearing my thin winter skin. I feel as though I have no defense against the dark arts other than conjured visions of roses, then music and sleep. My weariness amazes me.
It is a risk, to write of ache and bewilderment and not be seen as complaining. These are not complaints but observations, experiencings, the owning of disturbance in the surrounding air not as an anomaly but a state of things from which we can, at times, distract ourselves. Pull the proverbial wool over our own eyes. Tragedy, trauma, loss and grief are not occasional visitors, they are the haints that circle our beds at 3:30, prodded into being by reminders that they are part of us and ours.
What I wish to declare is we possess the ability to hear our own authentic voices above their moans. The roses appear - I've found them woven into socks, printed on a cotton shawl, embroidered on a pillow - and whatever their form represents, they fill the screen effectively. Roses are anti-venom distilled from another corner of ordinary reality, matter, the definition of which is being studied and refined. It all exists simultaneously, roses and tears, rest and pain, delight and sorrow. It is not an option to pick out the juicy bits and leave the gristle on the plate, not if we're going to see this assignment through in a way that can't be called half-assed.
Last week on her blog Elizabeth shared a poem reminding us of how fully round this life is, how we find ourselves at odds with it and with us, what we wish to be true and what we know we actually have to work with. If this post rambles and adds to the confusion, I'm sorry. This was the clearest path I could carve on short notice. xo
A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
from Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert