[Congratulations to Jean Rhude for this runner up entry in our 2010 Creative Competition.]
Narrow as a piece of paper that just sliced your finger, bringing a small show of red blood. The paper that lies on your desk ready to catch the words that fall from your heart onto the page now spilled, appropriately, with the blood from your finger. The page that catches and absorbs all that you think, all that you feel, the paper that is both your worst friend and your best enemy. The paper that you leave only to return, to whore yourself shamelessly if you allow the grace of your abandoned ego for just one sweet, precious moment.
The paper with her smooth facade and sharp edge became my refuge when I was young. I have returned to her off and on but never so much as after the death of my eldest son. No day is complete until my growth through the loss is recorded for the day. I have no other way to chart my "progress." There is no true North. My appetite for a truth that bleeds has grow insatiable. I no longer fear it. I sometimes resist it.
Sometimes the only place to rest is that narrow ridge, on the precipice, between two valleys. Look mauka in any direction to see them. Borne from erupting volcano’s, now covered with lava rock and jungle. Walking it you must carefully place one foot exactly in front of the other, find your balance and repeat, all the while climbing a not too gentle slope. You march on until you come upon a slight widening and burrow your body into the ground where deer or goat sleeps. From here the view to each of the valleys below can be observed without the painstaking concentration of going forward, upward. The going stops at this point. The stillness enters.
Both valleys are green, verdant. They each have a wandering stream, even a small waterfall. They have large tress for shade and shelter and soft moss for resting. They are equally inviting. One is the valley of the shadow of loss and I am pulled there by invisible forces that feel like powerful magnets. I long to rest and wallow and be in this profound sadness. I spend much of my energy carefully placing the feet so I will not fall here for fear that I will forget the way out. The power of the habitual lulls me. The other pulls just as forcefully with an energy that is playful, inviting. It invites me to nestle in the belly of a baby and soosh and coo. I skip in this valley. There is music and laughter and the profound love that draws me here constricts at my heart and chokes my throat while I surrender fresh, each day. In this valley I re-learn the language of happy.
Their intensity is what they share. It is their common denominator. It is what resides in my core with equanimity. In any given moment I can clone myself, be in both places at once or fall wholeheartedly in either direction.
Sitting alone with the grandson who is birth in a family with too many deaths, the sound of waves, of wind in the tress and the Shama thrush in the distance. I sing in my off key way as he surrenders to sleep in the crook of my neck, the full sweet weight of him on my shoulder and chest. The weight of him; his the sweetest burden and the discomfort of his twenty-three pounds held only by my arm is inconsequential.
The cavity so long left empty and dark and yearning begins to fill and as it does the intensity of the gaining is so like the intensity of the loosing; life/death, given/taken, here/ gone. The simple sweet new joy of the baby walks hand in hand with the harsh, cold empty loss of the son. The terrible buoyant weight of it grips me with poignant gratitude as I try to capture the slippery reality of it.
Sometimes I feel the poignancy, the bitter sweetness of life so intensely. I cherish the sweet moments of profound intimacy . . . as he wakes or surrenders to sleep in his dewy newness of self. His peacefulness is my reward and I could just sit and breathe with him. We are both of us strangers to earth, seeking balance. He sweetens the heavy humid air as the fan blows softly over us and I want to pick him up and cradle him close, to drink and inhale his newness. I begin to come truly back alive, one cell, one sense, one sweet plumeria scented moment at a time.