within the mind, both free and enslaved
to passions, convictions, traditions
ideas without wings
insight without means
lost sleep, lonely dreams
the roads paved all lead
the fire inspired, flickers faint
the gusting winds of
fortune and fame, satire and stupidity,
always laughing too loudly, speaking to quickly
shimmering diamonds drip from their tongues though sulfur be upon their breath
the crowds clamor for their eye
the hem of their red-carpet gowns
hoping to catch some reflection
of their glory.
but let the mind, both free and enslaved,
dance through the open field
syncopate her soul to the rhythms of the ocean
celebrate the flower and the weed alike,
the butterfly and moth in flight,
the opera that breaks the crimson dawn
the pastel dusky, lullaby song.
these are bookends of diversity, not value;
a different glory altogether.
the depressionistic painter, so brilliantly bruised
colors of mystery and misery confused
unrequited strength of eye and of brush
ungrateful winds quench his fiery touch
a glory mistaken
in silence and meditation
as distance allows a closer look at the chaos beyond
of both the loneliness and the dreams;
paint them into the starry night of
the landscape that calls you home. let not the broken scales of men reconfigure the weights of self
nor the shattered lenses of porcelain souls deconstruct the glories beheld.
I was fourteen the when I first sat on this outdated, floral sofa. I diligently worked on tenth-grade trigonometry between trips to the beach and pool. I again sat on this shoreline when I was seventeen, a young and inexperienced mother with a baby who did not like the texture of the sand. I swam these waters in my twenties with three young girls collecting seashells for their magical castle, little fingers placing each conch carefully, innocent imaginations flying a seagull feather as a royal flag. Now, twenty years later, I sit in the same updated, but outdated living room with my five children, my 14-year old daughter works on her iPad building an Engineering Design Report. My two blessedly unexpected toddler sons play hide-and-seek among the many closets. My, how the landscape has changed.
As I walked the Florida coast today, I couldn't help but notice a 60-something that strolled alongside me through the teeming tides. She walked proudly, chin held high, face to the sun, accepting with grace the years she has already surrendered under this sun. These waves have captured her secrets and held them as the years crashed by, and I imagine what stories she whispered in years past. I admire her resilience and timeless beauty and wonder if I will still explore these shores in another twenty years. With new wrinkles and new freckles, with new courage and new grace. With blessed son-in-laws and grandsons and grown sons. What a curious and expansive thought, I am captured between yesterday and tomorrow, watching the light dance upon the water.
There are quieter, cleaner beaches in Florida, this native knows as much, but these Daytona coasts have watched me grow from a girl into a woman. These crashing waves have carried my laughter as my children were carried upon their shoulders, and this sandy sanctuary has caught my tears as time eroded the very shorelines of my life. The sunshine has faithfully poured out its joy and the broad sky has occasionally released some tears of its own and this ocean of kindness has washed the land and washed sandy baby toes and now it washes my soul yet again. No matter how pristine the distant, untouched beaches may be, my history and my reality connect to the chaos and complexity of Daytona. And no matter how confusing this disconnected life becomes, I take comfort knowing that these busy beaches remember me in a timeless space. They danced with me in my younger years and they welcome me into the golden twilight of my sunset years. And they hold all of my secrets.
Most evenings find me in the garden, plucking blooms, pulling weeds and pruning the deadheads. Three growing girls inside, full of dreams and adolescent invincibility, wrestling with algebra, chemistry and german assignments; two tiny boys outside, pulling tomatoes off the vine and chasing fireflies through the tall, overgrown grass. And as nature once again calls me into her intimate spaces, she teaches me about life and about truth and about myself.
Last week, my grandmother quietly took her final stroll into the great beyond, and that evening as I sat with my grief in the garden, I found all of the colors of sorrow and joy growing side by side. For so is life.
Time relentlessly and unapologetically rolls one generation into the next without a moment of silence or even a wayward tear. In the macro view of humanity, it was just yesterday that my grandmother pulled blueberries from the bush, preparing tomorrow's pancakes for her own two little boys. She taught me the secrets of the garden: the peace buried in the soil, the promise hidden the seed, the patience learned in the bloom. But on this evening, I was thinking about the grace found in the pruning.
People like to hold on to things. We hold on to what is familiar, even when it no longer serves us good. We hold on to love that has long ago dissolved and died, because the reality of today's loss feels heavier than the weight of yesterday's memories, even though the choice holds us captive and paralyzed. At least it delivers the illusion of home. We hold on to possessions, because we have assigned to them the value and tangibility of the more precious things that have slipped through our fingers. Most of all, we hold on to control; this belief that we can create safety in life, if only we make all the right choices, if only we do enough, if only we are enough.
But despite our best efforts, still sorrow and joy grow side by side. And it is only when we begin to let go that we can fully embrace both. We must let go of our fears of both yesterday and tomorrow, let go of our need for perfection and predictability, let go of the things that clutter our hearts and fill our hands.
As I pluck dead blooms from their mother-plant, I notice the young buds yet beginning to open. The garden can only expand and grow when the expired flowers and wilted branches are pruned out. Likewise, only hopeful hearts and open hands can receive the fullness that lies within today. Faithful nature teaches me that life has seasons: times for chaos and times for stillness, times to give and times to receive, times for sadness and times for celebration. And they seem to grow side by side, bursting to color and likewise fading, withering within the same sacred space, this sacred breath. Herein is the truth that we must both receive and release. For so is life.
And so my grandmother awakens on a distant shore and I awaken to another bustling day of the motherlife and the womanlife, the worklife and the homelife. I will carpool and I will clean, I will cook and I will do that career thing. I will give and I will take, I will teach and I will learn.
And as twilight settles across this mountain, I will wander out to the garden. I will pluck blooms and pull weeds and prune deadheads. And I will let go, and let go, and let go.
For so is life.
about the writer.
“Words are only postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap” (George Bernard Shaw)