Perhaps, our life isn’t a string of moments,
each one no more or less important
than another, as the Buddhist poet implied.
But I was talking abour gratitude and thirst.
I get to park my ancient green Subaru
under the linden trees, near the privet hedges,
with their sweet white flowers.
It’s been a summer of busyness and unplanned grief, so far. My sister has received a painful and scary diagnosis, and as my family habituates, we have all rallied. My parents have travelled to us several weekends in a row, to be of help and support. We have spent most days together, my sister and I, amongst boxes, filled with trinkets, ornaments, books (Steven, Miriam, and Shiloh are moving to a new home). A life fragmented and in containers. While packing we’ve remembered so many things attached to a particular plate, or painting, or game. Things we were, and used to do, all the glittering pieces that have served as markers for time passed, for emergence of new talents and gifts, for soul education, God-discovery, self-discovery, for the ethos of our family.
I am reminded again and again of how much of living slips past us, our minds elsewhere, our anxieties distorting our views. I know how much time I waste in allowing obsessive thoughts to obstruct what is happening around me, in me. How focused and absorbed I can be on the elements of my life that make me feel out of control, that don’t align with my expectations. My sister’s illness has more profoundly woken me to my own shortsightedness. I don’t mean to preach or be didactic, I don’t want to turn this into a grand metaphor. I think I just feel humbled and afraid. I also feel awakened to the tremor and vitality of every day things. Waking up with aches in my body from lifting boxes, carrying things up and down stairs, running after my niece whose chunky legs have carried her through each room, to each window, and nook of the new house.
This morning, I’ve made coffee and ate crumbling chocolate biscotti. Such a pleasure! I don’t want to ignore even that moment of cleaning old coffee grounds out of the filter cup, where I wipe down the counter from spilling some of those luscious, brown kernels that smell like earth and sun and some other unnamable essence. I want to be here and present and receive this grace of my life as it unfolds, as it comes to me in, often pedestrian, ways that hide its intrinsic rapture.
I remember a Buddhist reading that said that we often run from the present moment because of all the pain it contains. I have often experienced that, although, I find that we also run from the present moment, because underneath that initial pain and discomfort there is such wild joy, and our smallish souls don’t always know how to hold it and bear it alongside everything else. I guess I don’t ever want to be too sophisticated for that kind of unmasked ecstasy, too comfortable and pedantic to inhabit the moments when that blossoms within me.
Take yesterday, for instance. After days of moving, and weeks ahead with more work to do, we paused. Miriam whisked me away for a pedicure. It’s hard to express what those 30 minutes contained, hot towels wrapped around our legs and feet, as we laughed and read each other snippets of celebrity gossip, drank our iced coffees. Life since her diagnosis has felt void of playfulness and small pleasures. The weight of illness has pressed and clamored against all of this, but yesterday was a small victory. Pedicures, followed by Thai food with our husbands, followed by digging for the blue-ray player, and huddling in their new family room amongst the disarray of boxes and furniture, with wine and ice cream and a very bad action film that we mostly made fun of.
And of course, food, because it slows everything down. Last week bliss came in the boon of heirloom tomatoes from the market. I whipped goat cheese with some cream, made a fragrant oil with fresh basil and mint, toasted a few walnuts and voila! a simple appetizer, or in our case, breakfast of hardy tomato slices, topped with goat cheese, a drizzle of oil and the said walnuts. It’s the easiest, loveliest thing in the world, and it speaks the language of summer.