calm days~ Taigi
the swift years
If I don’t think about the state of the world, if I don’t read the news, if I don’t talk to anyone, if I stay curled up in the small shell of my life, then my days are calm, a slow river without eddy or ripple. I move from chair to desk, from hot tub to yoga mat, front yard garden to backyard garden.
This morning I gazed at the horizon immediately in front of me, perhaps a few hundred yards away, at the tall green conifers – erect, yet languid, upright yet relaxed, limbs stretching out but at ease, and I thought how is it possible that I live in such a beautiful place, where there is so much green, where the trees are my skyscrapers, where the quiet is interrupted only by bird song, an occasional dog or chicken, sometimes a car. How did I manage to make it through 66 swift years, fast as a rushing stream, and make it to here and now?
Trying to excavate those years in writing is just letting sand sift through my fingers, as though none of it matters, none of it means anything, though back then I was certainly thrown off course, a leaf in a current sometimes, a stone sinking to the bottom. But here I am, bobbed to the surface and irrepressibly ready for more, for the next thing.
This is all a clear reflection of how I sleep. Yesterday, or maybe it was the day before, I’ve already forgotten, I had a bad night’s sleep and I spent the next day thinking everything was terrible, people, the world, the situation we’re in, everything. I noticed all the dust, and the cracks in the wall plaster. I stared at my wrinkles, and despaired at the pain in my hips. I looked at my husband and couldn’t hear what he was saying. I couldn’t wait for the day to end though I had no thought that it would get better. The world was a shambles. Period.
Of course it’s only in retrospect that I see it was exhaustion, the cellular disarray of my body impinging on my mood. It strikes me only now that this morning’s pinch-me moment of how did I land in this beautiful place – that bad sleep can completely upend me and turn me into a blithering idiot, or worse, the kind of pessimistic doom and gloom person that so irritates me, turning every bit of good news into something that impacts them in some dark way. I try hard not to be like that, but there’s some inner DNA or some long ago forgotten or not so forgotten family habit, a father who was critical and judgmental, an emotionally detached mother, who knows, maybe it goes way back to running from Cossacks during the pogroms.
But I’m letting it all go. I’ve stopped! I’ve stopped excavation, I’ve stopped blaming, I’ve stopped the “what ifs” and the “if onlys.” But what it leaves is a blankness. If you erase the past in a blanket of forgetting, then what is left? The Now of course, but I am not a Buddhist, I am not Zen enough to be completely appreciative of the now. Or maybe I’m just learning it all – this writing, this “letting the water run clear” as Natalie Goldberg (a writing mentor) says. But what does Natalie say about what happens after the water runs clear, or has she never actually gotten to that place, the baggage still piling up like so much dirty laundry, impossible to clean.
I forget more than I remember, that’s for sure. I forget names and dates, I forget why I walked into a room, and now I’m forgetting words and have taken up that demented habit of using other descriptors to get my meaning across.
We used to laugh at our parents when they said things like, what was that person’s name? You know that man? In the hat? And then burst out laughing, oh yes the Pope! Hilarious then, though maybe not so much now, because I can’t even tell you the current Pope’s name. There have been too many in my lifetime. I only remember when I was little, the early sixties it must have been, and the Pope at the time declared that no, the Jews did not kill Christ, and my Catholic neighbors seemed to forgive me for something that left me confused and separate, with a clear understanding that I understood nothing.