We've spent a whirlwind few days driving out to visit Offspring the First and Offspring the Second for Thanksgiving. They look well, and were so very much themselves - witty, ever so slightly sarcastic, bright and thoughtful and... just so grown-up. It's a wonder, to have nearly-adult Offspring. They are such marvelous people. It's a pleasure to sit in their company.
One of the best moments was when we broke out the Bananagrams. Herself played against Beloved Husband, and then against Offspring the First, and then all of the Offspring played against one another. The very best part was watching the Offspring - it brought great joy to Herself's heart to see them pull all sorts of lengthy, obscure, and unusual words out of their letters. Such a tremendous delight to see how all of the Offspring use language so well.
Today, Herself stopped by Cherished Friend's house briefly; she's asked him to look after the ancient and surly cockatiel for a few days while she is visiting the Offspring. (Even though he's up to his eyeballs in lists and moving plans and such, he agreed to do so - just one more demonstration of how he manages to be kind and thoughtful in the midst of his own complicated life.) She brought him a small container of miscellany that she hopes he will find useful as he transitions to his new job and home. She explained what it was, and for just one millisecond, a word or two stuck in her throat. She paused to let the moment pass. It is not yet time to allow sadness into the sunlight.
The cookbook she lent.
The DVDs she borrowed.
A dishtowel, a storage container.
The little things, through which lives intertwined at the edges, are returned to their original owners. And the realities of the future become more concrete.
We remind ourselves, though, that there is one thing that cannot ever be returned, and we find comfort therein:
There are times when writing is an agony: drawing forth each word is akin to drawing a splinter from where it has lodged deep under the skin, or drawing the body forward one more step in the last miles of a marathon. Millions and millions of phrases are at one's fingertips, yet no combination is remotely sufficient to convey the depth and breadth of the tumult within the soul. How to describe the pathos, the rapture, the fire that forms the core of our humanity? All we can do is lay bare our inadequacy, and hope that the things that remain unspoken, are nevertheless understood.
Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day the blueprint of your life would begin to glow on earth, illuminating all the faces and voices that would arrive to invite your soul to growth.
Praised be your father and mother, who loved you before you were, and trusted to call you here with no idea who you would be.
Blessed be those who have loved you into becoming who you were meant to be, blessed be those who have crossed your life with dark gifts of hurt and loss that have helped to school your mind in the art of disappointment.
When desolation surrounded you, blessed be those who looked for you and found you, their kind hands urgent to open a blue window in the gray wall formed around you.
Blessed be the gifts you never notice, your health, eyes to behold the world, thoughts to countenance the unknown, memory to harvest vanished days, your heart to feel the world’s waves, your breath to breathe the nourishment of distance made intimate by earth.
On this echoing-day of your birth, may you open the gift of solitude in order to receive your soul; enter the generosity of silence to hear your hidden heart; know the serenity of stillness to be enfolded anew by the miracle of your being.
― John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
After the end of the big race, Herself, Beloved Husband, and Cherished Friend left the track together, along with the bazillion or so other spectators. Cherished Friend, long-legged and purposeful, made his way easily through the sea of people. Herself and Beloved Husband kept up as best they could. As they moved along, peering through the crowd to try to spot his retreating form, it became clear that they could not keep up with him. He did not look back. Eventually they lost sight of him. Herself and Beloved Husband chose the route they thought best, paused to return their rental headsets, and made their way back to camp in due course. They reconvened later.
At the time, Herself was bothered more than perhaps she would otherwise have been, for she saw in this minuscule happenstance, the shadow of things to come.
So metaphorical: though she and Beloved Husband would walk with Cherished Friend if they could, but they were not able to do so, and took their own route.
Soon, Cherished Friend will be leaving this desert land and moving to a different patch of the southwest. It is not far in the grand scheme of things -- 300-odd miles away. And it is a solid, good career path for him. Herself is happy for him; work is important, and the right work is a good thing, indeed.
All the same, she is sad for Herself, and Beloved Husband, and Offspring the Third, who admires Cherished Friend immensely. Over the past several years, Cherished Friend has become a de facto member of our family, and we are all the better for it. To know that he will no longer be a fixture in our weekly lives is nearly unthinkable -- and yet it shall become the new reality.
We wonder how we will bridge the distance so that Cherished Friend will nevertheless continue to be part of our lives (albeit on a less frequent basis). It can be done, but in what form, we do not yet know. There will be time to mourn the loss of his presence later; right now, we must determine how best to make his first steps on his new path as smooth as possible.
Change is hard. Yet thus is life - sometimes paths diverge, and we all must make our own way.
A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain? ― Kahlil Gibran
[I]n silence things take form, and we must wait and watch. In us, in our secret depth, lies the knowing element which sees and hears that which we do not see nor hear. All our perceptions, all the things we have done, all that we are today, dwelt once in that knowing, silent depth, that treasure chamber in the soul. -- Kahlil Gibran
Herself is fond of quirky online quizzes. "Which type of donut are you?" "What's your sixth sense?" "How well do you know the lyrics to I'll Make A Man Out Of You?" (Quite well, thank you.) Some are meaningful, and others are just plain silly. Sometimes the results are a wee bit accurate, and other times they are just plain ludicrous -- and they are almost always amusing.
The other day, she was taking some (now unmemorable) quiz, and one of the questions gave her pause -- not for the question itself, but for the listed answers from which to choose.
"What superpower would you like?"
Herself expected the usual panoply of responses: incredible strength, the ability to fly, invisibility (her usual choice). One new option was presented, though: "the power to heal."
Yes. That one.
She would not choose to heal physical illness. Human beings cannot ultimately cure difficulties of a body - it is a machine, fallible, prone to breaking, moving through time in only one direction. Rather, if she could, she would choose to heal invisible suffering: Weariness of the soul. Despair. Sorrow. Grief. Loneliness. She would lay a hand upon another individual, and ease the pain. Their memories would remain intact -- for it is our experiences that make us who we are -- yet she would infuse enough consolation to make their difficulties tolerable. That would be a magnificent superpower, indeed.
Perhaps, if she tries very hard, she can develop this superpower.
Perhaps, she thinks, the art of listening is a first step. If we listen, not only to what is said, but what is not said, carefully and with our full attention, we may be able to hear what is needed. It might be a willingness to shoulder another's burden. It might be a metaphorical or literal buffer against the grating of the world -- providing the gift of quiet solitude to another. It might even be just a warm thought sent out into the ether. Each little act might change the Universe, molecule by molecule, to make Things just the tiniest bit Better. We can hope.
It will require a bit more love. We can do that.
"For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other. This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
“In this box are all the words I know…Most of them you will never need, some you will use constantly, but with them you may ask all the questions which have never been answered and answer all the questions which have never been asked. All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is to use them well and in the right places.” ― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
While on the way to the race last week, Herself and Beloved Husband stopped to change a tire. When she stepped out of the vehicle, Herself trod upon a small stick which happened to have quite prodigious thorns. One of the thorns perforated the sole of her sneaker and poked into the ball of her foot. EGADS.
She examined the stick closely after she pulled it out of her foot and her sneaker. It was really rather a remarkable specimen, this thorny stick. Herself was impressed. Every now and then, the typically-unseen wonders of plants make themselves known.
March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path.
We are back, my intrepid readers. We made our second pilgrimage to the Phoenix International Raceway for NASCAR this past week. VROOOOOM.
It was, as last year, a welcome respite from The Daily Grind, with naught to do but relax, eat, and go watch the races. Herself is particularly fond of observing the pit stops. There's something fascinating about the efficiency and speed of the pit crews: they resemble highly evolved ants in their matching uniforms, with their coordinated tasks and motions. And the people watching is fascinating - such a slice of humanity. Herself enjoyed the occasional Adult Beverage, and some very good games of Scrabble. It was good.
Although she had a good time, this trip was, for an unknown reason, a little difficult for Herself. She's not sure if she was additionally sensitive, or if everything was just a bit more this time. The sun was stronger (she managed to achieve a slight sunburn on her back and shoulders through her shirt one day); the dust was more persistent; and people were omnipresent. She could not keep up in the crowds. Although the food was tasty, it was more difficult than usual to determine what was headache-inducing and what was not, and the end result was more headache than usual. And there were so many fire crackers and unexpected noises. Everything was dialed up one extra notch. It was on the edge of Too Much for her.
She could not bring herself to try to gather strength from her Safe People. There was no way to explain to them that she was bordering Sensory Overload without showing herself to be needy and weak. Plus, they had their own agendas and goals. They certainly were entitled to enjoy their vacations without feeling as though they needed to help her. She's an adult. She should be able to look after herself. And so, she tried to look after their comfort, for to do so gave her a focus that allowed her to push her own discomfort into the background. She tried to find moments of unobtrusive physical contact with them when possible, for solace. It was tricky.
There was no true respite.
On the way home -- an interminably long drive, a full two hours longer than her 6-hour tolerance for being in the car -- they stopped at The Thing, a cheesy roadside attraction in Dragoon, Arizona. While Beloved Husband took a work-related phone call, Herself walked on the edge of the parking lot. It was dusk, and the quiet, far-reaching landscape and the whisper of the wind brought some of the consolation she needed at last.
Back at home, Herself has sorted the mail and paid the bills, emptied the camper-trailer, and started the laundry. Her world is back in order. She'll go off to work shortly, then take the three-toothed dog to the vet for a follow up appointment, visit the grocery store, and have the pleasure of making her own dinner. Everything is falling back into order. It is good.
Herself finds that making a salad is not the same, now that there are no guinea pigs in the house. No one to enjoy the end of the cucumber or the shreds of lettuce, or a wee tomato or a carrot nub. Alas.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains solely a minuscule middle aged chihuahua and a lovely red fish named Ruth Betta Finsburg. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.