The world of dewKobayashi Issa
is a world of dew, and yet,
“Today’s a great day,” Ezra says on repeat. “Is every day a great day?” I ask. “Yes,” he says, “every day is a great day.”
At eight years old, life really is great, even if he loses his temper, can’t do what he wants, or gets overtired. Then he bounces back as if nothing has happened.
“The green beans are a foot long!” he says, holding one up alongside his shoe, knowing well that his foot isn’t a foot long. His jubilation at the biggest, the best, being first, being eight – it’s a delicious combination of annoying and wonderful.
He ate most of our peas, and now the vines have faded to brown and crispy. The green beans have taken over the trellis, and are a big hit around here; I have to pick them while the kids aren’t visiting to make sure we get a few too. Both have been fans of raw vegetables since early on, and to cook them is to ruin them. Silly us.
It’s been a rough week. My friend Kim died suddenly, so I’m glad for the solace and light wherever and whenever it comes. Kids are, or can be, a warm respite to untimely death. There is no room for death when kids are present. It’s intensely all about living.
But in the background, behind their presence and the other bits of life still needing attention, I’ve been talking, texting, phone calling, scrolling, and writing pages and pages about death. Wondering, bucking at the unfairness, remembering sweet times, looking through beautiful photos, so full of life, the fullness of life that was, now gone. And thinking about death, others’, and my own. I wake up and it’s still there.
I haven’t come to any conclusions, and feel no closure. I guess I’ll keep on talking and writing about it until the water runs clear.
Back with the kids, Rosa wonders whether we should be letting the scrub jays get so close to us to take the peanuts, worried for their safety from humans. “But I guess everyone in this neighborhood is kind,” she assures me, and herself.
We watch as the hummingbird hovers over the pink and purple fuchsias, and she draws me a map of her fantasy land, an island with an immortal queen surrounded by mermaids and otters, and various nearby islands of ninjas or dragons where sharks swim, creating new friends and foes as she draws.
The neighborhood bunny comes to graze beneath the blueberry bushes. Rosa has been waiting for months to see it for herself, and she is thrilled as she approaches in slow motion and watches until it hops away. She tells me that when she is an adult or at college living in an apartment, she will have a pet bunny “if it’s allowed.” What do they eat? she asks, and approves of their diet, so much like her own.
A few days after the news about Kimmy came, my phone chimed with a flurry of alerts, and for a moment I unreasonably thought maybe it was all a mistake, maybe she’s still alive and folks were trying to get through to tell me. But no.
A long slow death, a short sudden death. There’s never enough time to say goodbye, never enough time together, never enough time to appreciate others, never enough time to be the best person I can be.
Rosa gets out the face paints and gives Ezra grey clouds and lighting bolts on his hands and arms, while covering herself head to toe in rainbows. At ten she is a lovely mix of self-absorbed child and newly conscious tween, her body and mind changing, still in love with pink, rainbows, and unicorns, and also developing higher moral thinking, wondering about the state of the world, relationships, or whatever catches her brain. She’s an external processor, and sometimes keeps up a running monologue, making sure you are still listening at intervals, asking a question or two, though not always waiting for an answer.
She still enjoys the playground, but nowadays finishes quickly with her sliding, bouncing, and spinning, and finds a baby, a toddler, or a dog to coo at, chatting up the adults at hand. I keep my distance, allowing her time with someone new. She, unlike me, has no problem finding things to talk about. Yesterday a grandma and a dad with a baby strapped on listened to her for quite a while, asking questions and nodding as she chatted about her classes, her math books, and her interests. I called her to go home, and the grandma motioned to me, pointing to her temple – smart, she mouthed. Yes. Yes she is. And so very full of life.
I ask myself What Would Kimmy Do? Her MO was seizing and squeezing and holding and dancing and loving. She was a meteor flashing through our lives. And the kids continually reinvent themselves, change course, mature, and morph. It’s inspiring. What Would the Kids Do?
I’m reminded of Bob Dylan’s line, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” Life has become a little more precious, and I’m reminded to seize it with both hands. The beauty and delights are ours for a short time. I best get busy being born, follow the kids’ lead, keep living hard, change things up, grow and seek. Soon.
At the end of the hard week I thought of Beckett’s line, “…you must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Alan and I went to Forest Park and hiked in the deep silent woods and I felt a lifting like I hadn’t felt in a week of thinking and writing. This is a great day, I said to myself. A great day.
As if nothing had happenedKobayashi Issa