Saturday, October 29, 2016

If you look for it, you'll always find a meaning.

One day when my eldest daughter was in second grade, I wrote her a note and tucked it into her lunchbox. She liked it so much that she asked for one the second day. On the second day, I made it a silly poem. She wanted one again and again. My first theme was the animals we would encounter in our yard- deer, moles, nesting geese, crafty mice, stray dogs, the neighbor's cat who keeps vigil over our house like a hungry wraith, the ephemeral butterflies who haunt our most humid days and seem to be swimming like rays. None of these short verses would take me more than two minutes to write. It became my rule for them to be quick and- whatever the opposite of deliberate is- as fleeting as these childhood days. They help me to notice her more- it's strange how hard that is- to continually notice someone. To notice with due wonder.

She's in fourth grade now and still wants these poems- the fact that she hasn't tired of them seems so strange to me that I feel the desire for them to contain more meaning. They have grown abstract and I'm not sure where I'm going with them. The one I wrote her yesterday read:

They say everything happens for a reason,
And if you look for it, you'll always find a meaning.
But I am happier just counting on the seasons
Changing just as naturally as you or I breathing.

Occasionally she gives me some feedback on the poems. All the kids she eats lunch with read them. One of the more boisterous girls tears it from her lunch box every day when she opens it and reads it before she does- a fact that amuses her. She told me last night that the other kids thought that one didn't make any sense but that she thought it sort of did.

Today she had a friend over to play and we were putting together a couple soccer nets for them to use. We had a couple of pieces of the PVC pipe used to construct the frames swapped and couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong for a minute. Then in a flash she realized what we were doing wrong and corrected me. "Oh!" I remarked, "Now it all makes sense!" I was delighted that she had figured it out first. And I was even more delighted when she said, "It's just like that poem that you wrote! 'Everything happens for a reason!'"

I don't know how much of the poem she really understood; I was just floored that a line from it was rolling around her mind in search of its meaning. I don't know what these poems are but they feel like a vital thread, something to keep exploring as a means of communication.

I always think of myself as connecting to her with my mind and her little sister with my heart. They are each beautiful connections, but so incredibly different. These poems feel like they broaden that connection just a little. So I will keep dashing them off as I am running out the door. Most of them are ridiculously cheesy but they preserve something. I think it will always be through our use of words that she and I share a little something otherworldly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Two Wonders

There are two basic concepts that baffle me-- concepts so fundamental to existence that their meaning should be obvious, but I don't think they ever will be. Not to me. The first one is the simple truth of Death. The departure of a soul from the flesh to which it was wedded- and particularly so when its departure unfolds slowly- is impossible for me to regard without wonder. It strikes me now like all the small discoveries of this earth struck me as a child- the veins in a leaf, the way a body passes through water. Our first and most fundamental nature is that of wonder and we regain that sensibility as we pass through different worlds or watch others do so.

The second is the nature of Time and the simple fact that it passes and as it does, we change. The strangeness of time is never more apparent than in moments when we are warned in advance that we will have to say goodbye to someone whom we have loved. The knowledge of a soul's imminent departure, whether it be from this life altogether or just from ours, inspires us to try to bend time, to try to spend every moment we can with the beloved, to shore up moments of togetherness to be our solace in the future loneliness we imagine for ourselves. Of course we cannot save even a second of the present for the future, for love only ever happens now, today. And yet it is almost instinctual to try to do so. If we enjoy the memory of those moments in the future, it is only as memory, and never as a moment which unfolds with the force of the present. In the present moment, we never know what will happen next; the act of living is deeply wedded to our abiding sense of anticipation. Memory is drained of anticipation; unless we have misunderstood and must therefore reassess it. Then it takes on new life. 

Death and Time are mysterious twins whose shadows lend to our days a sense of urgency. Their cast grows longer as the earth tilts away from the sun. They make of the earth a mirror for all that dwells upon it, their reflected image the obverse shape of their own coming darkness. They make us walk the earth in wonder.