This is Day Three of The Artfully Wild Blog Along. You can find out more here.
I. Start where you are.
I am doing somatic experiencing with my therapist, and she tells me there will be days like the one I had yesterday, where I just cry (or rage, or numb out, or feel utterly exhausted) for no apparent reason, and can’t get myself ‘under control’ as I *so deeply love to be*. Her normalizing it matters a great deal to me because I can wave at it when it’s happening and say “OH HEY I KNEW YOU’D VISIT”, tweak my schedule, and let it flow.
I’m just (hear me snortlaugh at that word ‘just’) releasing five decades of trauma, and while it is baffling not to know exactly *why* I’m crying, or raging, or numbing out, or breaking out in hives, or, you know, whatever fresh hell the moment is bringing, the release is deeply healing, OR SO I’VE BEEN TOLD.
I’ll report back with a review once I’m out on the other side. Yes, I’m being flippant. It’s one of my favourite ways to deal.
II. I just heard the birds singing outside my window and it gladdened my heart so much that I stopped dead in my tracks on my way to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup and just stood there, listening. Starlings gather on the rooftop outside my living room window every morning and evening. Crows gather in the trees. I’ve heard grackles a time or two, though not lately, and some tiny bird that is probably a sparrow likes to perch atop the wires strung along my street, just beyond the range of my (fifty-year-old) hearing. I can see them, though, all lined up in a neat little row, a dozen or so at a time, facing my windows, like a panel of gentle judges.
I always say ‘hi’ when I see them, as though they are my neighbours. “Hey, birds. How’s things?” Out loud. The dogs go nuts when I do this because they can’t figure out who I’m talking to, but they know for sure I’m not talking to them.
Sometimes, I say ‘hi’ to the trees, too. And I talk to my pets like they’re people.
I wonder if you are hearing loneliness in these small moments of connection with my fellow creatures, or if you are hearing whimsy.
Or if you are hearing both.
Both are true.
III. It would have been fifteen years on Monday, April 1st if we’d found a way to make it work, but for the first time since that first date, neither of us acknowledged it. We didn’t even speak, nor text, nor connect in any way. I nodded at the date, made a note of it in my journal, had a little cry.
We’re still friends, yes, but I think we’ve finally dispensed with the whole ‘anniversary’ thing, which seems sad, but appropriate. Good boundaries, right? Adulty. But, still. Sad.
I drew the ten of swords that day, and nodded as I jotted down a few key words and thoughts, like ‘over’, and ‘onward’, and ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I still grieve.’
IV. But fuck grief, right? It has outstayed its welcome in my life, and besides, I was only ever grieving the dream of a thing and not an actual thing. It might have had a shot at being an actual thing, but we both came to it too much in disarray to ever sort it out. We spilled ourselves out like puzzle pieces in the middle of the table of our lives, and couldn’t ever even find the corners.
I still have some of his pieces in this box of skin, and I’m sure he has some of mine, but mostly, I’ve gathered myself up and away.
I told him not long ago that he is no longer a song I feel compelled to listen to on repeat, but he is and always will be a song I know by heart.
The word ‘acceptance’. The word ‘forgiveness’. Those words belong here, too.
V. I want to elevate ordinary moments and lift them up out of time so that they stand alone. The starling on the rooftop deserves to be plucked out of the river of minutes so that it isn’t washed out into the ocean of years. The murmuration I witnessed three years ago on a lonely back road is nailed to the wall of my memory because I took a moment to write about how much it looked like a school of fish swimming in an ocean of periwinkle blue.
The first grackle I ever heard resides within me because I wrote about it.
Like this: “What the hell is that bird that sounds like a squeaky door hinge?”
I went looking for answers, and now I know grackles, their iridescent feathers, like turquoise & purple interference paint on black gesso, their sleek little bodies that point like arrows, their fiercely attentive carriage, the way they clamour and roost when the sun shimmers down beneath the horizon, the way that sounds like a hundred squeaky doors all closing all at once.
VI. Everything in my life is subject to this scrutiny, to this way of wondering. Everything. And so I am full of things I know intimately, things I love, things I’ve plucked up out of the river of time, to have and to hold. Like Mary Oliver said in her poem “When Death Comes”:
When it’s over, I want to say:
all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
Numbers V – VI is a poem I’m writing about noticing.
VII. When he smiles, I can count five distinct lines in the corner of each eye, unless he’s smiling first thing in the morning, and then I can count nine. When he curls up behind me, I fit like a question mark inside the cradle of his body.
He anchors me.
I want that nailed to the wall of my memory, so I’ve written it down.
VIII. In his poem, “-For E.J.P.”, Leonard Cohen finishes with the line “Something forgets us perfectly”.* I first read that line in 2001, when I lived in an apartment whose scarred wood floors felt like the deck of ship, and me, tossed in a maelstrom of poverty, and loneliness. The line curled up somewhere under my ribcage and began to inform everything. I want not to be forgotten. I want not to forget. I know I will be, and I know I will, but I refuse to ‘go gently into that good night’.
IX. There’s a reason why Rachel Yamagata’s song “Elephants” is one of my favourites. Something about memory, and how double-edged it can be. Something about how it can arrive kindly, or cruelly, and how that depends on things like the last word, and how I am always loathe for there to be any such thing.
Let us keep talking forever, please, and failing that, let our last words be kind.
Numbers VII through IX is a poem I’m writing about memory. I told you this is how poems happen.
X. I don’t believe I’ll ever run out of poems.
P.S. Art For Earth opened for registration today! Here are all the details.