Death has an uncanny knack for turning normalcy on its head. My mother was never ready at the time my parents had to leave either selecting outfits or jewelry, the right shoes, as my father stood by fidgeting and looking at his watch, knowing better than to say anything. Yet she left without notice, no delays at all, just suddenly gone so unlike her to make a simple exit. And he, the man who was always punctual, who left at the exact moment planned save for her issues, he lingered, a slow departure by inches, fading away, until only a shell of the man remained and that, too, finally slipped away.
From the moment it began, we knew, it was obvious that peace and freedom were under assault, Russia had thrown societal norms to the wind.
Under gunmetal gray skies they attacked by air, killing women, children, destroying hospitals, homes raining hell on the innocents with nowhere to turn. All we could do was watch, pray and offer paltry aid in the hope that this proud nation could hold out, negotiate some peace, maintain their freedom, emerge like the phoenix slowly rising from the rubble.
They took up shovels, pickaxes, bare fingers to pry up the seedlings, the saplings just taking root and the seeds just planted still watered by the sweat and tears of those who lovingly tilled the brittle soil.
They offered nothing in return, barren ground where only anger grew, fertilized by fear, by by greed, by blindness.
Will we sit by and watch as promises wither under an ever stronger, more glaring sun, as hopes are blown away by arid winds, or will we again return to the soil, start over, our faith now perennial.
Every morning we are able, we go out on the lanai and have our fruit bowls then our cappuccinos with toast from her homemade sourdough whole wheat bread, and watch countless birds fly out of the wetland that abuts our yard. The cat is always awaiting our arrival, usually sleeping on one of our oak rockers. She will look up at us, yawn and when we nod, amble over to her “cat condo” where she knows her morning treats will appear. She will announce her thanks and slide back to the rocker for her morning nap, knowing she can watch the birds arrive later when she is far more rested for she reminds us that cats are nocturnal.
It was Salvador Dali who once said: “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” It might have easily have been my creative writing professor in College, although he would have added, “and in your case I doubt you’ll ever get close.”
Well over time I have certainly proved Dali right, although I’d like to think the esteemed professor missed the mark, but as Cage said, Nicolas not John, “Nobody wants to watch perfection.”
Pause and consider why so many questions require you, you feel, to consult your watch, to call up a calendar, to appoint time. Time has no appointments, time is not an arrow, though we strive always to aim it, to send it flying in our desired direction. Time is a point in space, surrounded by all ten directions, going toward none of them. Ask why this moment is not enough, why you need the next though it does not exist. What are you trying to escape by searching for tomorrow, lingering in yesterday? Yesterday no longer exists, so why do you assume tomorrow does, and what of this moment, which exists only now, and what of the red leaf sitting in mid-air awaiting your awed attention?
A reflection on Case 6 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)
Step right up, don’t hang back, come and watch the fool perform for you. You know me, bedecked in motley emotions worn like so many colorful rags, a suit of too many shades and hues, all displayed for your entertainment. See if you can find ten shades of anger as I prance around in front of you. Count the five flavors of tears that start and stop like a passing storm. Laugh at me as I pirouette, a dervish who loved blindly long after the love of my patron had died. See me in my fool’s cap, the bells of rage and guilt dangling from its points. If that isn’t enough to bring out a laugh, watch as I rip out my heart and lay it at your feet, still beating to the rhythm of the song to which she grew deaf so long ago. Rain your scorn on me as I stumble across the stage, for though they ring hollow, it is them that I most crave, a redemption that no monarch could hope to offer. Step right up, don’t hang back, come and watch the fool perform for you and do not pause to think that you could as easily be here, on this stage, and I out there marveling at you, wondering what you did to ever deserve such a fate.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)