Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ruptures or Shutdowns are, Eventually, our Fate

What do I know now? I have lost what I feared all along I was losing, seeing plenty of warning signs, but I waited to see it through. Now I know...this much, and it feels...this bad, and it can only be true that a new period of adjustment will follow, in the knowledge that like any loss it could be compounded so many times over; in the whole wide world losses do come to so many of the most wretched in multiples. The earth seethes with the shock and bereavement of all manner of beings, human and non-human, even less noticed than oozing above the courses of dark underground springs.

News articles summarize or detail slaughters, introducing to us their desolated victims, but after the most high-profile reporting and up before, through and after the investigations and trials--should crime victims be lucky enough to have recourse to criminal justice--we almost never read about the evolution of the pain suffered, the bouts of escape from it and the return, the ways time periods and happenings are reconciled in the minds, the moves and severings and fresh starts made for better or for worse. What if there were a separate news bureau devoted to the long-term aftermaths of survivors from yesterday's best- or less-documented crises? But instead this is the stuff of private diaries, where it's ever recorded at all.

But really here I'm only talking about major, grievous disappointment, not murder or mayhem.

O the love relationships that each of us may have sanctified based on rosy assessments that had taken root most of all in our own private minds! Oh, and the writers who have written that they knew a fellow person's thought, could just see it, or knew what would come next, when the fulfillment of that knowledge, so emboldening to the writer, owed itself instead to well-informed guesswork. There is no science of what people will do, or how things will turn out in the end, after so many lesser, day-to-day ends.

If we felt sure that we read someone's heart, saw the delight in it that corresponded to our own, then noticed it recede or learned that we misread the face and the words, how are we ever to know the degree to which our intuitions about the loved person or the potential in becoming a couple were wrong, or how much the obstacles to a shared future lay more in that person than in ourselves? And are we safe in trusting our intuitions about new love again?

In  July 1990, another agonizing time, I wrote this poem about the lasting power of infatuation, called  
A Panorama of Loves:

   Stars! Near, immense stars, far, far sown--
   each one, unknown jewelwork of hovering starlets--
   each a beloved, replete in its majesty.
   Forces do breach and strew them, bursting them
   from within, sometimes, off through the gape of stars.
   One star may dazzle another, but does it escape and flare,
   star of its own fate, or smother itself in strange starfire?
   Shooting-stars flee across ages of waiting space--
   breathtaking traces unfurl through their wakes, decades long.


Some time near that same date came this other poem, Grief: The Exile:

   The old boat rises,
   and settles, its timbers controlled by
   the waves that divide them and nails that uphold their oneness.
   Why hast thou left me to rupture away from thy pillar?
   Thou couldst have hefted me loose long ago, with thy hand
   unsnagging my anchor.

   The old boat straggles,
   and wallows, the stub of a rope floating
   hopeless to anchor me ever again.


Blessed is a long memory, or shared remembering, for dicing up and scattering the thoughts that humiliate us or freeze us in a place we'd best be moving beyond. Blessed every bit as much are the tricklings of well-being when we least expected them and can't account for them: thoughts of space and opportunity, or realizations that we pre-grieved for a while so this latest, really, came more as heart-ache than shock.

Blessed are old, timeless things--how many can this industrialized world protect, unwittingly or determinedly?--since they reliably gave comfort when sought. The sore thoughts may be at bay now but raw pain, its special loneliness, won't leave till sometime--I trust--we notice that it has departed the way a body ache has healed and gone; we suddenly remember that we haven't been suffering that thing lately.





Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On the Wing...Compensating as Best we Can

It is true, just as written in a 19th-century medical encyclopedia I remember browsing many years ago in the Irwin Library's Rare Book Room at Butler University down in Indianapolis, that the best antidote for sorrow is a change of scene. Sorrow, of course, has countless subtypes, and they morph, and they are mistake-driven, and they are broad reflections of our shared inability to see so many situations fully for what they are or will be. Sadness also comes from the expectation of loss, and may closely approach the echoing pain of bereavement with all its sense of permanence. Still the person has to acknowledge being self-entrapped in a situation that is not right in certain vital respects, and must own being powerless to do anything about it other than break away with a full complement of still more painful regrets. So the answer, fully endorsed by the antique medical reference that came with a long descriptive main title, then two more alternative long titles appended to it as was the custom two centuries ago, for me was to head off to Minneapolis. An invitation to attend a concert down that way had been timely.

It felt a bit thrilling to hit the freeway and car-power myself at cross-country speed, after driving only streets, state roads and a few bits of semi-urban freeway all the weeks since January...to visit another friend at her art gallery in the farming outskirts of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area...to land at the rooming house called the Alamo among other sturdily decrepit houses in the neighborhood known as Dinkytown, all the while beguiled away from the thoughts that lead, near home, between eddying ponds of doubtfulness. History would catch me up once I exposed myself to it; here was this concert over at Sundin Music Hall in my old St. Paul environs (see bachsocietymn.org) with six men and six women pronouncing old Latin and Hebrew texts embedded into the musical scores of J.S. Bach, Heinrich Schutz and an Italian composer, Salamone Rossi; what an embroidery, a labor, of lives and learning, discovery and re-discovery. These ancient languages, phrased forth in harmony by people still sleek-faced with youth, in an age when we communicate more and more in acronym and other computer-driven abbreviation. What work, what agelessness, an exhibit of things worth keeping when so much detail has crumbled away and shed both its poisoning and its nourishing properties--even lives and works proclaimed as exceptional during their own brief unrecorded heyday.

On the way back my Minneapolis-based friend and I came through another forecast torrent of snow as we traveled our two-lane route up across northwestern Wisconsin. Temperatures were a degree or two above freezing; nearing Siren, Wisconsin I felt the little car skidding even at reduced speeds and joined the few other drivers crossing up through town at a creep. Slush lay over the pavement and could be expected all the way up the seventy-some miles that remained till we reached the Twin Ports and the end of our run. But salt or other road treatment must have begun past the town of Webster, where we abruptly left behind the slickness to continue along shining wet blacktop like a beacon the whole rest of the way, having the entire road to ourselves probably due to the white-out that swirled on all sides. Once to the right I saw the orange breast of a woodcock wheeling up-over in some kind of startlement, wings triangular, mission his own version of safety. In enough regards the scene out our windows could have been November or December except for the long white light of a spring evening, blizzard-beset as it was, lingering towards its own strange dusk. Far to the sides of the roadway there were likely the season's first red-winged blackbirds and maybe a meadowlark or two nestling in the sogginess, knowing how to wait it out. This is a winter that through a sequence of big snows seems to beg to be remembered. And we've been needing that moisture.

Here at home a winter's piece of work is done, an image as much about weirdness as it is about repletion, or maybe about what happens when we take on more than our bodies or personal nerve networks can bear. But the overweight hummingbird is in his element of blossoms, or baggy nectar-pouches if you prefer, and hasn't collapsed yet. Everything is still beautiful. Right now I strive to believe that half of all anticipated troubles are never met with, because although they lurk, we refuse to go face to face with them, and instead act so as to ease the preconditions, and so something else which can be the best of all outcomes takes place, eventually. The pain of coping must relax, intensify, relax and transform into other states of mind.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Good Friday...Any Friday and An Expedition

Good Friday is traditionally a Christian day of mourning the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, though as a person raised amid Christian teachings loses sight of the rites celebrated in churches, a holy day is liable to take on personal meanings, or mere meanings of the hour or day, connected loosely if at all with the sacred meaning.

On Good Friday 2013 I had decided to take advantage of thawing weather and head north into public land beyond Ely, Minnesota, the habitat of spruce grouse and source of the setting I am painting around a spruce grouse drawn from a photo I shot in Lake County two and a half years ago. Passing up through national forest along Highway 2 I sighted my subject bird, the spruce cock, in the roadway doing as his kind will, eating grit for use in grinding his food; he has a crop full of sand and pebbles which takes the place of a mouth full of teeth.

The encounter, it pleased me to think, boded well for the artwork that would continue from the top of that cliff I traveled toward, 112 miles north of Duluth, where snow likely blown and melted away should have handily exposed a little of the surface I yearned to paint. By my arrival, no trails had been broken by anything but deer in the campground I had to cross, and the snowshoes more often than not sank deeply at each stride, making for slow and sweaty travel. Reacting at intervals to my weight, a section of snow as big as a bathroom floor around me would sometimes fracture and whoosh downward, releasing air with an almost industrial-sounding blast from a range of hollow spots beneath. At other times the snow crust barely crushed under me. My laborious, calorie-fueled procession took its own time as the beast of burden continued to a settling-place on top of the rock dome where indeed I found the semi-bare conditions I had hoped for, the roots of pines exposed on pinkish cliff.

Sorrow, mostly a private matter except to those people I've told about it, accompanies me lots of places these days. There are various helps for sorrow but one of the best is huge country, too inhospitable for alien plants or much of the digging from urbanization to expand their reach. Here is the home of the wild beasts and specialized birds still left on earth, and sorrow might well arise from thoughts of the earth so glutted with humankind that these very places like the rest become infested with ourselves, our roads and our facilities.

It is natural to hate sorrow and fear all that poses a hazard of it, recognized in different ways by different people. At the same time sorrow persists, accompanies folks everywhere in low-grade, residual or full-blown intensity and is opposed with work and contemplation. Sorrow gives rise to corrective courses, new chapters and illness, which makes way for branching off and innovation by those more or less affected. Sorrow challenges our lives the way competition, seismic upheaval and disease challenge the trees at root level. We go into the wild and see what the trees have done by way of response.

We go back out into the streets, or, if we have the option to do so, we linger at those places deep in vegetation dead and alive, where we build something hidden, as we see it, to other people. We know ourselves sufficiently torn down by our choices and those of other people that we will make our creation manifest when the good hopes brought back in us somehow, through days and nights characterized by that forest, the heavenly bodies belonging to everyone and the drama of all events determine that the time is ripe.

Artwork can be viewed or ordered here: www.etsy.com/shop/EpiphaniesAfield