sorrow & joy


I took these photos last Monday, November 11, on my parents' 68th wedding anniversary.  That evening my mom suffered a stroke.  She was in the hospital for three days, and last week was a fog of hospital visits, talking about and looking at possible future events/solutions, and trying to be there as much as possible to make sure my dad was okay, too.  But, thankfully, there were no lingering effects (joy!).  My mom has had more and more physical issues in recent years; for her to get through and past this is such a blessing.  We are so grateful she is back home again.  

As much as I miss and long for home, I'm so glad we are here with my folks and other family for the next few years.  I'm not afraid of aging, or my own death, but it is with dread that I see my parents aging.  Perhaps I am being overly dramatic - that would be of no surprise to anyone - but I'm angry and sorrowful at the heartlessness of time.

For all my talk about increasing my reading lately, I've really failed in that effort.  It seems I am quite easily distracted by other things.  But Friday I went to the library and picked up several books, one of which was The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, and last night just before turning out the light I read this beautiful piece, a part of the essay Joy Is Such A Human Madness:

What if we joined our wildernesses together?  

And what if the wilderness - perhaps the densest wild in there - thickets, bogs, swamps, uncrossable ravines, and rivers (have I made the metaphor clear?) - is our sorrow?  Or, to use Smith's term, the "intolerable."  It astonishes me sometimes - no, often - how every person I get to know - everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything - lives with some profound personal sorrow.  Brother addicted.  Dad died in surgery.  Rejected by their family.  Cancer came back.  Evicted.  Fetus not okay.  Everyone, regardless, always, of everything.  Not to mention the existential sorrow we all might be afflicted with, which is that we, and what we love, will soon be annihilated.  Which sounds more dramatic than it might.  Let me just say dead.  Is this, sorrow, of which our impending being no more might be the foundation, the great wilderness?  

Is sorrow the true wild?  And if it is - and if we join them - your wild to mine - what's that?  For joining, too, is a kind of annihilation.  What if we joined our sorrows, I'm saying.  I'm saying:  What if that is joy?  

(p. 49-50)

Read the OnBeing interview with Ross Gay here



When I was seven or eight, one afternoon I wandered off by myself into the woods around our house.  I vividly remember sitting next to a creek, my arms outstretched through the swirling insects over the water, listening to the flow, watching the light, feeling entranced by the elemental, atmospheric orchestra.  I remember the wind tousling my hair, tickling my face.  I rambled, stopping to inspect rocks that caught my eye, gather sticks, and pick flowers (daisy chains were a thing at the time, the mid '70s, and I loved making them).  I was completely in the moment.  The thought of going home never entered my mind  in the over three hours I was on this woodland meander.  (I know the length of time because my mother made sure I knew she had been worried sick for more than three hours.)  I was exactly where I needed to be and wholly content in the only environment I have ever felt truly at home.

Forty-some years later, that's still my idea of a perfect three hours.  

I'm rarely alone on outings these days, but recently I went out  and wandered like that again, simply letting my intuition guide me down the invisible winding path I needed to follow.  No trail, no plan, no end point.  I saw magical portals, windswept deer beds, plump mushrooms, and magnificent milkweed.  I examined the remains of a dead bird, then gently laid it on a bed of soft grass  for its final journey back into the earth.  A heron stood still in the water, allowing me to come closer and closer.    Leaves and sticks crackled and snapped as creatures scurried through the brush.  Trees whispered a seasonal song.  The wind tousled my hair and tickled my face.  


Do you know Tom Hirons? This poem. 

Sometimes a Wild God

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine.
When the wild god arrives at the door,
You will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark
That you might have dreamt,
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.
He will not ring the doorbell;
Instead he scrapes with his fingers
Leaving blood on the paintwork,
Though primroses grow
In circles round his feet.
You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy.
It is late, or early, and besides…
You cannot look at him straight
Because he makes you want to cry.
The dog barks.
The wild god smiles,
Holds out his hand.
The dog licks his wounds
And leads him inside.
The wild god stands in your kitchen.
Ivy is taking over your sideboard;
Mistletoe has moved into the lampshades
And wrens have begun to sing
An old song in the mouth of your kettle.
‘I haven’t much,’ you say
And give him the worst of your food.
He sits at the table, bleeding.
He coughs up foxes.
There are otters in his eyes.
When your wife calls down,
You close the door and
Tell her it’s fine.
You will not let her see
The strange guest at your table.
The wild god asks for whiskey
And you pour a glass for him,
Then a glass for yourself.
Three snakes are beginning to nest
In your voicebox. You cough.
Oh, limitless space.
Oh, eternal mystery.
Oh, endless cycles of death and birth.
Oh, miracle of life.
Oh, the wondrous dance of it all.
You cough again,
Expectorate the snakes and
Water down the whiskey,
Wondering how you got so old
And where your passion went.
The wild god reaches into a bag
Made of moles and nightingale-skin.
He pulls out a two-reeded pipe,
Raises an eyebrow
And all the birds begin to sing.
The fox leaps into your eyes.
Otters rush from the darkness.
The snakes pour through your body.
Your dog howls and upstairs
Your wife both exults and weeps at once.
The wild god dances with your dog.
You dance with the sparrows.
A white stag pulls up a stool
And bellows hymns to enchantments.
A pelican leaps from chair to chair.
In the distance, warriors pour from their tombs.
Ancient gold grows like grass in the fields.
Everyone dreams the words to long-forgotten songs.
The hills echo and the grey stones ring
With laughter and madness and pain.
In the middle of the dance,
The house takes off from the ground.
Clouds climb through the windows;
Lightning pounds its fists on the table.
The moon leans in through the window.
The wild god points to your side.
You are bleeding heavily.
You have been bleeding for a long time,
Possibly since you were born.
There is a bear in the wound.
‘Why did you leave me to die?’
Asks the wild god and you say:
‘I was busy surviving.
The shops were all closed;
I didn’t know how. I’m sorry.’
Listen to them:
The fox in your neck and
The snakes in your arms and
The wren and the sparrow and the deer…
The great un-nameable beasts
In your liver and your kidneys and your heart…
There is a symphony of howling.
A cacophony of dissent.
The wild god nods his head and
You wake on the floor holding a knife,
A bottle and a handful of black fur.
Your dog is asleep on the table.
Your wife is stirring, far above.
Your cheeks are wet with tears;
Your mouth aches from laughter or shouting.
A black bear is sitting by the fire.
Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine
And brings the dead to life.



My sister and husband on a recent trip to the Blue Mountains.

Autumn and winter.  The colors, the quiet, the cold.  These are my seasons. Up in the Blue Mountains, it feels like a hush has fallen as the cauldron of earth alchemy quietly brews.  As we move deeper into the dark season, I find myself spending a portion of each day in still silence, open and attuned to the cauldron's magic.  

I've mentioned it before, but I can't express how good Emergence Magazine is. If you haven't read it, set aside a few hours because once you start you will want to read everything available.   Yet another beautiful essay is Dwelling on Earth by Jay Griffiths.  You can listen to it (read by the author) or read it in long form on their website here.  
by mlekoshi