Friday, May 21, 2010

Losing Edge

Since the first of May, since recovering my health and strength once more, I have been coming down to my desk, pulling up this picture.  Thinking, yes, that's it.

Thinking, I will post about this. 

But then I don't. 

I do other things, beyond the usual things.  
  • Plot out the interweaving pattern of the Bee Book which I finally see how to do.  
  • Pull indistinguishing vetch from the flower beds.  
  • Walk in the sunrise.  
  • Wash windows.  
  • Break in a new bike seat.  
  • Train for the coming coast ride, chugging up my monster hills with unexpected strength.  
  • Sit with my neighborhood old ladies.  
  • Take pictures of light through leaves.  
  • Choose music for the choir, relearning how to lead as they perform once, twice.  
  • Sew a blue dress with pinafore for Eldest's appearance as Alice in Wonderland.  
  • Teach someone how to make bread.  
  • Write up a job description for the director of the new adult literacy center, turn down the position for myself.  
  • Clean out the basement.  
  • Organize the upstairs closet.  
  • Plant tomatoes. 

And somewhere along the way, that clarity, that edged-ness I thought I had come to -- the sure boon of convalescence -- conscious wellness -- knowing what is and feeling myself thrumming to the deep vibe -- all of it but the echo now fallen away, slipped out of rhyme, unravelling into the ordinary scattered day-to-day.  Which is nice enough . . .

But as busy-ness filters back in -- everything muddies over more and more. 

Is it this way for you? . . .  when you've been ill, then well  -- out of it, then suddenly back in.  Don't you feel yourself at first warm in that blessed square of sunshine from a winter window, strength flowing back into  your being like some hyper-actual ichor, some sweet sap?  And more than physical strength, spiritual, mental clarity.  Seeing at last the path up the mountain and knowing there is strength and awareness enough in you to get there.  

And are you ever able to establish this knowing as a lasting foundation?

This time, this time I was going to dwell in that Good Place forever after.  I wasn't going to forget how  enlivening to fill lungs full with air.  How perfect sunrise is.  I wasn't going to forget where I was.  Here, on this earth, growing out of this teeming soil.

"Does anybody still check in on Imaginary Bicycle?" asked Fritz last weekend.

" . . . occasionally.  Yes.  Here and there."

"What do they say?" he comes to look over my shoulder where I am writing something else.

"I don't know.  We miss you.  Where are you?  I hope you're okay.  Variations of."

"Maybe I should get on and leave a comment."

"Really?  And what would you say?" I ask him.

"Where are you?  Are you okay?  We miss you."

"You goon.  You know where I am."

But all week I notice how I am losing peace and clarity in a muddying low-level irritable simmer. 

When I squeeze time to stop by for a quick visit to my in-laws, always so happy for company though we see them every day, they say, "Here sit down and visit awhile -- you're not busy." 

But I am, I am.

When I set out for a fully scheduled day, the food bank calls, "Say, can you come in today?  Hooper's got the flu." 

And by evening . . . having juggled commitments around so I could work stocking shelves, filling boxes, weighing donated produce.  By evening . . . after getting caught in a sudden storm on my way home in the afternoon, thoroughly soaked by great lollopping dollops of rain, so big I can feel them rolling from the top of my crown, down around the curve of my head and deep inside my collar and having to stop dry off at the in-law's with all my clothes dripping and sticking to me and meanwhile scrubbing out their apartment from room to room.  That evening . . . having shopped and biked two panniers of groceries up the hill home . . . I am at last so visibly tired that my daughters send me to bed, "Oh, Mom, you look dead," allowing only a short stop-off for a hot soak.

Ahh . . I have just filled up the tub and opened a paperback archaeology/ mystery when someone calls to remind me, "Shopping tonight for summer camp?  There's that sale on cereal." 

I almost cry.  But I go.  

And come back and sit with the children as they eat dinner late.  Then read Farmer Boy aloud as they do dishes.  And end somehow with YoungSon in my lap (all 9 years of his long-leggedness) listening to "Froggy went a-courtin'" on a CD . . . and then the song after that  . . . and the song after that . . . and . . .

"Aren't you getting bored?" I ask him.  "Just sitting on your old mom's lap listening to kiddie songs?"

"Oh no.  I like this.  And besides we never do this."  He turns and tries to snuggle into the remembered comfort from when my lap was a more spacious haven for his smaller self.

And when I tell Fritz about it the next morning, "Is this a good sign  -- that YoungSon still wants to be around me?  Or is it that I am not there enough for him?  But -- ," I shake my head, feeling the minor rage rising again, "but I'm always there."

"Are you?" says Fritz.  Like he's trying to tell me something. 

"Where am I then?"

"I don't know.  But one of these days you'll realize all of us just want to spend time sitting with you."

I make a sound of disgust, frustration, repeat, "But I'm always here."

And then everyone leaves and I go out to work on the slope.  And our old cat comes winding around and around my ankles, mrowring. I pet him with one hand, weeding with the other.  My old independent cat, going on sixteen, seventeen years, mrowrs more loudly still, rudely almost, rubbing against my legs until I sit, and then climbing up into my lap, butting his head hard against my shoulder, my chest. 

Until I give him my full, undivided attention and he closes his eyes in ecstatic approval.


Clowncar said...

I am very new to your blogging, and so know little of your history or your writing. But I enjoy what you describe here - and often feel that "muddying low-level irritable simmer." Only to realize how much is lost to it when a child sits on your lap to have a story, a song, a joke.

oh, and thanks for the phrase "reat lollopping dollops of rain." a lovely musicality to that.

suzanne said...

You're back! I missed you. I was a little lost without you. You sound a little lost, too.

Shayna Prentice said...

Welcome back, I missed you too and I'm sorry I didn't pop over to let you know ... I know so well the feeling you describe of thinking it possible to "dwell in that Good Place forever after" - and then life comes in with all its reminders and obligations - and we lose track yet again - but then that pristine clarity comes back, I think it maybe never leaves us, it just gets hidden sometimes. This is such a beautiful post, I drank it all in - thank you for it!

Lisa B. said...

That clarity you speak of--what would it take to stay there? I ask myself this again and again. Trying to be really present. One thing about illness is you can't really do anything but be sick. And when you get better, as you say, you have the consciousness of the sickness to clarify the betterness.

Oh, that irritable simmer. One thing I like about working--about teaching--is that when the academic year concludes, there is a palpable dropping off of that. That contrast is instructive.

So very very glad you're here again, if that helps.

Mrs. Organic said...

Vacationing right now and so not enough time to comment properly, but I love that you're back. Simply love it.

And I can think of 15 miles of trail that have your name on them when you get out this way.

John Romeo Alpha said...

Once I stood among gelid midnight stars and caught a glimpse of everything. All stopped and I just was. Short of that is all fuzzy and without edge. But I treat that moment as a point of origin to orient myself out here in the quotidian blur, and life steps almost straight.

Melissa said...

I am familiar with that worry of always being physically present with my family, but absent, somehow, too. Is it a necessary defense against the everydayness of constant attendance? I don't think we're meant to figure this all out, but I enjoy your mental cycling through the muddiness.

Emma J said...

Mel - I think maybe it is a defense. And I believe you are right on - it's not figuring it out that matters as much as cycling through the muddiness.

JRA - "gelid" and "quotidian"! Two words I love. I like your point that those moments of clarity are more orientational than foundational. Thanks.

Mrs. O - Yippee! Happy trails indeed.

Lisa B. - That is the question - what would it take? Do we really want that clarity for long periods of time? The irritable simmer at least gets one moving though I'm looking forward to a palpable dropping off.

Thanks, Shayna, and your comment reminded me of the poem by Denise Levertov (misquoting) Sometimes the mountain is lost to me in veils of fog, Sometimes I am lost to the mountain in veils of inattention . . .

suzanne - I missed me too. You're right, I am a little. But only enough to know how to start the search and rescue.

Clowncar - thank you for your words. It's always so nice to hear.

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