Losing our direction

01.10.21

I don’t know what happened to this hawk, a Red-Tailed, I think. Perhaps, in his dive down for a mouse or vole, he just lost his direction and impaled himself on the barbed wire fence. I shuddered when I walked by him on the path out to the lake, lost, myself, in fear and anger and sadness, during a week in which we witnessed the terrifying riot on the Capitol, and ever-escalation of people dead from Covid. As I’ve done for months now, I am always somewhat amazed we’ve made it to another week-end–that time has actually been moving forward as we continue to be trapped in place. I went to write down an appointment for February, in the calendar we keep in the kitchen, and realized I never bought a new one for 2021. I feel frozen in some sort of time warp, in which I cannot make out a future.

Friday, was the birthday of our youngest grandson, Eamon. He turned ten, yet It seems but a few years ago that we were in Berkeley, and I waited outside on the front porch with Norah and Cormac–who were bursting in excitement– for Mom and new brother to arrive home. In our FaceTime conversation with him, he told us all about the short-rib dinner his Dad was preparing, and how his sister was making his favorite chocolate cake with white icing. I said that I just couldn’t believe he was now in the double digits, and he said his sister told him that she wanted to freeze him in time, just as he is, so that he could stay like he is, forever. We chatted about how other family members were doing during this time of Covid, and he said that his grandmother in Canada was “terribly lonely”. I had to choke back my tears, remembering Billy Collins’ poem, On Turning Ten. I’ve posted this poem several times here through the years–now, this is my last grandchild, turning ten.

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince
.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Perhaps I need a good snowstorm. Winter has still not arrived in these parts. I’ve loved the afternoon sunshine, once the fog clears, and the dry roads and trails for my walks. But, like everything else, the Weather seems to have lost its direction. Where is that frigid arctic front which creates magical ice crystals in the air, and the complete stillness of a world blanketed in soft snow– that feeling of being tucked down under a big fluffy down comforter–safe, inside a silent snow globe. Maybe it could bring a bit of solace right now.

Snow Fall
by May Sarton

With no wind blowing
It sifts gently down,
Enclosing my world in
A cool white down,
A tenderness of snowing.

It falls and falls like sleep
Till wakeful eyes can close
On all the waste and loss
As peace comes in and flows,
Snow-dreaming what I keep
.

Silence assumes the air
And the five senses all
Are wafted on the fall
To somewhere magical
Beyond hope and despair.

There is nothing to do
But drift now, more or less
On some great lovingness,
On something that does bless,
The silent, tender snow.

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