Saturday, 23 June 2012

They say smells are the most evocative of the senses.  A scent can transport someone quicker than a sound. I don't know about that, having never measured the speed of sensual transport. But I do know that a certain type of scent transports me completely.  It weaves into the fabric of the day, and tints it, washes over it and transforms the ache and feel of it. Totally.

When the weather tiptoes on the edges of a warm summer haze and impending rain.  Do you know what kind of day I'm talking about? I can't describe it any better than that. The breeze whispers through the trees, a constant sssshhhhhhhh.  A bird calls, punctuating the silence with an exclamation point. A dove weaves in its occasional, hypnotic melody. In my Grandmother's house, sitting on the verandah, when such a day is turning into dusk, a butler would come upstairs with an evening snack and light the evening lamps and they'd flicker across the faded green of the painted wicker sofa. An owlet would screech in the tree on the front of the lawn (now dead, but standing still, to provide a home for a later generation of the same owlet's family). A mosquito coil would add the slightest hint of smokiness to the scent of the air. I'm sitting next to my grandmother, and she's wearing Eau de Cologne and a silk shirt.  
And bam! That's the scent.  
That mix.  I can't remember them as a collection of individual smells. They're one, overwhelming sensation, and they feel like beauty and love and warmth and poetry and magic and a little bit of sadness.  And that was my Grandmother.

So when I feel that sensation again, when the air is dancing on the edge of rain after a warm summers day, and the light is magical and the birds are piercing the silence, and the air smells of summer tinged with smoke, I think of her, and I see those evenings in the back of my mind, and I feel their beauty and their magic, and her sadness, all rolled into one.

Friday, 22 June 2012

In this moment, things are as they are and cannot be any different. Ignorance of this simple and obvious fact is a principal source of suffering.
Robert Saltzman 

I read this, and re-read it, and re-read it. Again and again and again. 

I remembered that: 
  • My father is 82 years old, and has lived a long, eventful, productive, loving and blessed life.  Truly.  
  • My mother is 62, and knew long before I was around to help her that a long span of years separated her from her beloved, and that she and he would reach different points in their lives at different times. She was strong enough to go ahead, and is strong enough to keep going. 
  • I am 29. With all the rawness, and all the experience, that entails. It's probably completely within the order of things that I feel simultaneously capable and totally adrift when it comes to questions of life and death and health and happiness and love and loss. That I do not know the answers to how to deal with these things totally gracefully is not in itself a cause for frustration at myself, but an invitation to simply keep walking with my eyes open and that's all. 
  • I  have love in my life and have done, all my life. With all the power for healing that that entails. And my father is still here. My mother is here, and a beautiful sister and a beautiful lover and friends. Grieving in advance  - as I have been doing for years is likely to kill, first my relationships, and then me. So stop. 
  • It's okay to feel angry that this is how things have always been.  I have lived my life waiting for an axe to fall.  Everyone does, in a way. The knowledge of impending ends is a curse and a gift to everyone. But for me, and for others like me who live with people who are ill over a long time, the gift and the curse are an everyday event, not something brought into focus once in a while to 'get us to appreciate what matters' after we've been 'asleep' in the routines of our lives for years and years. It's every day, but never feels routine or comfortable. When I'm feeling tortured about this - and it doesn't feel self-indulgent to admit that it feels torturous (this is a blog, after all :) - I feel like saying: I feel like the Grim Reaper has been chasing us for 20 years and I can hear his footsteps. This makes me angry. As a defense. Angry that I feel driven to live as if every single moment matters because I know that it does.  Any moment the axe could fall, the sky could open. 
  • But: This is the way things are. I cannot wield anything but my reactions to them.  I can make things easier for myself and others by continuing to express the highest aspects of myself in this situation rather than fighting against the lowest. Reveling in the blessing, and forgiving the curse. Allowing myself to feel at peace when the axe is still raised, when the sky is still closed, and trusting that if things change, that is still in the order of things and so, ultimately, I will feel peaceful again. And so will everyone else.  With or without my help. 
When I remember these things - and I hope the word is remember, and not invent - I cry tears of relief rather than tears of despair. 

Today is a good day. 
Off to work.   

Monday, 18 June 2012

I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call 'The Physics of The Quest' -- a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum.  And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: 'If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared - most of all - to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself... then truth will not be withheld from you.'  Or so I've come to believe.  I can't help but believe it, given my experience. 

Elizabeth Gilbert 
Eat, Pray, Love

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A pale ginger cat - almost camel coloured - with topaz eyes, played with the Man and I today.
Doves, a pigeon and five starlings squeezed side by side on a half-broken television aerial. The only reason I can think of is that the view must be great from up there.
My office-plant has burst into glorious, glossy, emerald leaf. Thank you, C., for the passing mention of crushed eggshells.

It's now more than a week since my return from India. I'm slowly settling. But not quite. And I wonder if I ever will really settle.  So much of my life has now been spent split in two.

I feel alternately blessed and cursed by the fact of my having two lives. One here, full of tiny pleasures and hard work. And one thousands of miles away, full of big questions of life, death and everything in between. And I feel mostly cursed by the fact of my having to choose between them.  Not yet, not right now, but ultimately. And I struggle - I struggle - with this. With the choice and with the process of making one - every day. I decide one way, then the other. I feel calm, then tortured, then calm again.  I feel anxious, and scared that I'm leaving it too late (how much time does my father have?) I feel alternately full of courage and a total coward.  I feel like I could move forward if I knew what the challenge was - that's 90% of the battle. And through all this, I feel like if I just knew enough, I could make a choice. Move, one way or another.  Feel at peace.

And then yesterday, I thought: Maybe I do not have a choice. Whether this is the ultimate recourse the weak, the surrender to choicelessness, or not, is a different debate, and largely an irrelevant one for the moment. But I digress: Maybe I do not have a choice. Maybe I could reconcile myself to knowing just this: That I am here, because I am meant to be here, right now. Maybe that is the best thing for me and everyone around me. Even my Father.
Maybe when it is the best thing for everybody, a path will open up that leads me back home - to that home.
Right now, I do not see such a path.
And so, I should stop wondering which hypothetical fork to take, and just follow the road I'm on.

A feeling of immense relief washes over me when I think this.
But I only think it after torturing myself for days.
Then it lasts for a few days.
And then I go back to wondering about whether to turn right or left and what each turn means for me (and crushingly, about me).
And it's all downhill from there. Until the next tiny glimmer of insight. Until the next baby step.
On and on and on. Up and down, up and down, backwards and forwards and nowhere.

Thanks for listening.