Our disappointment, our emptiness, our
loneliness, our grief, our fear — each is a friend in disguise,
with infinite patience and confidence in our ability to understand
ourselves and be free. Pain isn’t failure, it’s a perfect remedy.
And, like the true friend it is, it always arrives at the right time,
when it’s most surely needed. The wealth and beauty of life is
never hidden. It is we who are in hiding. But hide as we will, our
pain knows where we are. Drugs, alcohol, work, and all of the other
time-honored forms of distraction might bring temporary relief. They
might even kill us. Or we might kill ourselves. Quickly or slowly, it
amounts to the same. But to delve into our pain — to embrace it, to
love it, to sit with it and ask it what it’s trying to reveal —
is an act of courage, grace, and humanity. It is an act far more
powerful than the things we run from and rail against. To put it
another way, how can we expect our lives to flower if we aren’t
willing to accept everything love has to offer? How can we live to
our potential and be a positive force in this world if we aren’t
willing to examine, each according to our own lights and experiences,
that which makes us uncomfortable or miserable? And so I ask, shall
we run to our graves, or go singing? Shall we pronounce judgment on
what we think are the shortcomings of others, or rejoice that they
too are tormented by these divine messengers and angels?
Ninety-five, eighty-nine, and
sixty-five degrees, along with windswept clouds of yellow pine
pollen. When I reached the corner stop sign, a large hairy shirtless
man rolled by in his rundown pickup, as casually as if he were
crossing the street to get his mail. Three days. What is the name of
that tall spiky flower that looks like a hollyhock but has different
leaves? I never carry a mobile phone. I don’t have one. I have
shovels, rakes, and hoes, and a little claw-shaped cultivator for
when a flowerbed wants its back scratched. A pile of sticks. Some
cucumber cages. Clippers. Sweet peas. Several worn out brooms. Old
jeans. Church bells. The noon whistle. And by have I mean in the
lightest possible way. A ghost-having. A floral cloud-spray. A kind
of graveside sparrow-singing tree-breathing seed-sprouting
now-where-were-we, love? kind of way. All for the nonce, here but
once, forever and never kind of way. A work that is play kind of way.
And suddenly, your hand is held.
One hardly needs the “weather people”
to tell him there’s a patch of warm, dry weather ahead. The sudden
eruption of anthills tells the story. The sidewalk cracks are loaded
with them, and their groundbreaking trails run off into the
neighboring flowerbeds, as the cry goes up to get back to work after
the long layoff brought on by over fifty-five inches of rain. Hard
hats, jack hammers, ant railroads, “Tie up the boats,” I hear
them cry, “we’re going ashore!” Naturally, I step over them.
“Thanks, Bill. How are things up the street?” “Well,” I
answer, “the neighbor was awfully hard on her son this morning as
he was getting ready to peddle off to school. I felt terrible about
it. The morning is so beautiful, you know, especially in this early
hour. Her voice sounded like a sad trumpet, and the boy, who is about
fourteen, was obviously embarrassed for her and ashamed when I
happened by. I tried to make myself invisible. It worked for her, but
not for him. The scent-laden hush of the atmosphere was lost to her.
But let’s hope it’s temporary. And you? How’s the family?”
“Hard to keep track of.” And so on. Now. Where were we? Oh, yes.
Tomorrow is my birthday. We’ll be away forever or for a few hours,
the computer will be off, the spirits will have full run of the
house, and I will be even more out of touch than usual. In the
meantime, think good thoughts, or, better yet, don’t think at all.
Sing. Dig a hole. Be kind to a child. And remember, that child is