Those endless questions pull the bobby pin out of reality; the willies, blues, bad infinity
even the “shining truth” of politics — nothing but a question
all stars in our flag become fifty questions all past and futures held down by a moment.
Even Burnitdown— a dyed-in-the-wool Trumpie — has learned to reorient by following sensation. Her moment of doubt as recounted to WaPo:
I know I have this screw in my hand — it’s poking my finger and hurts. I am really here – I’m pinching the skin on my forearm. I know that’s a tree — it’s shading my yard. Or at least it’s called a tree because that’s what I was told…
If vertigo is the only shared notion this mourning/morning in America — I’ll take it.
In spite of myself, my resentment that they are rats with tails, that they lounge in my chaises longues and massage themselves in the rims of my flowered pots, I have been admiring squirrels.
Such looseness; such fearless sense of play. One — followed by her playmate — in motion leaps to her sure death from the roof but catches a frail branch, hangs belly-up as the branch dip low with weight until she rights herself, scrapes the bark with her nails — and darts.
Lilies of the valley have dropped their sweet white flowers, confetti is scattered around the hawthorn tree, the Dionysian rally of spring is exhausting —
but there are the squirrels, defying reason.
Once they’re hanging from a thread, how do they will themselves back? Do these masters of risk appraise a car tire and decide— uh uh, not this one, over and over?
And don’t these tricksters know these are dark times? That destructive forces are overwhelming us?
And yet they play, play, play. Before our tired eyes, they play, as if their very survival depended on it. If I banished them from the garden, who would remind us to play?
We all came from mothers: we have something in common. Our first act almost unspeakable hurtling towards bright lights, causing our Other shrieking pain. Mothers let us off the hook — it wasn’t really our fault — the pea-green stuff was cleared off, we sucked from the core of the earth, nestled, smiled, were cutely dressed, learned the Hula hoop, read Nietzsche, or learned to shoot, worked EMT or spent years shooting hoops, opened a laundry
How ridiculous the way life steps in to scatter one ur-motherhood story it cannot be mastered as every “birth plan” and over-imposition will veer off course
“Ambiguity is the world’s condition.…As a ‘picture of reality’ is it truer than any other. Ambiguity is.” So says poet Charles Simic.
In that spirit, I submit spring. Yes, spring is a bouquet pulled and given from the dark dead closet of winter by a surprise lover — and yes, spring is a wide sky of clotted clouds and warty trees. Yes, canopies of white cherry blossoms making the city street into a wedding lane, and yes, wondering if those branches that scratch the blue sky are dead or slow or what?
Yes to Bermuda shorts and flipflops, yes to down vests with down parkas. Yes to breath-scented bacchanalia; yes to depletion and childhood colds that repeat every season.
Yes to People of the Book celebrating religious holidays like overlapping dinner plates; yes to fractricidal wars. Yes to moral imperatives that command and consume us; yes to the audaciousness of hope. Yes to too much, yes to breath.
After all the words of two Passover Seders, what remains? — meaning unsayable. After flowing wine, a vertiginous sea, questions of morality and freedom, of being a stranger and redemption, after provocations, interruptions, questions posed with incomplete answers —ah! The inchoate feeling. A floating satisfaction. After all the words, no words. We straddled time — we are slaves, we are part of the redemption — and we sat at a table eating fresh fish cooked in spices with fiery sweet potatoes. The cat stretches her back. It was a verbal catharsis that, in Avivah Zornberg’s witty terms, rephrases Wittgenstein: “Whereof one cannot speak, one must say everything.” We talk and keep talking and will talk as long as we can. “It,” absence or mystery and longing for full presence, will elude our desires to fix or define, and we will long after it.
We walk outside, feel the spray of rain on our faces, soft wisps of air that are not-bombs, soft clouds-not-plagues, nighttime smell of magnolia mixed with darkness and awakening mud. The happening happened and meaning was made. The happening is happening and meaning is being made. We don’t even have to say Dayenu!
We pick up the cows where we lost the goats. They look back at us, dully sensual, shiny, forgiving, lumber up the volcanic trail. Hoof deep, we’re all off-balance. This lava moonscape, land of black chasms and craters. A land just out of the kiln.
Cows? They look back, we lumber on.
Wild calla lilies in the brambles. Smells of mint, local cheese, dreamy orange blossom, earth. Bird of paradise among the grey feathered lichen. Dwarf trees, giant leaves.
Birds sing doo-wop; cats saunter sphinx-like. Wild dogs bark at a clearing. A greeting committee comes to the black stone fence; our friends ramble away, we keep going.
Canopies of trees, serpentine trunks. The forest goes dark — someone turned off the lights. Along the ravine, trees grow from both ends, bird calls muffled, like wading into the Galapagos.
The earth as a process, dreamed differently. Contradictions redefined. Cactus and rain forest side by side as a lamb and a lion might lie. The Azores — remember — where man entered late. And still remains stranger.
Visiting the Azores has a strange fusion of ‘Here I am’ and ‘Where am I?’. Call it a confused familiarity. Our host on the island of Terceira presented us with a golden loaf of sweet bread — kissing cousin to the sweet round on Ives Street at the Silver Star Bakery! Back home in Fox Point, Azores banners hang from car mirrors, fisherman sell me their silvery catch from the back of a truck. Living in RI, we’ve been imprinted with the nostalgia of others, our largest immigrant population from Madeira and the Azores.
But the encouter with the archipelago has its own suspended reality — nuit blanche, arriving without a night’s sleep in the middle of the Atlantic on an unknown island. Under the airport roofs birds were singing. A city called Angra do Heroísmo, low church bells intoning. Misty bay, veils of rain. Whatever I was expecting, (small villages, old men and women collecting vine cuttings, tending their fig trees) was superimposed on an impeccable, chromatic seaside capital. White and pastel houses alternate, holding each other from tumbling into the sea. Air playful, soft, doing little arabesques over the dashing Atlantic. A man was etching in the sand a giant heart with the words Ukraine atop. Like everywhere, credit cards, wifi, fries, English nearly perfectly spoken. Unlike everywhere, a cheerful Catholicism —candy pink cathedral with a zigzag turret – blue hospital/church — seems central.
There is a sane and calm mode that has created faith in sustainable tourism. Bulls roam where grass has grown over massive old volcanic craters. Volcanos created the place and still rule with possibility. Over on a nearby another island, Sao Jorge, one is threatening to blow. Except for locals in its shadow, no one seems overly concerned. We live with it every day, one man says, naming what might be their motto: live with.