Friday, January 14, 2011

Riding the Airport Escalator: An Aftermath the Atlanta airport, I experienced a moment. As with any epiphanic spark, there's a host of set-up antecedents: getting up early, padding downstairs for tea and light, feeding the cats, emailing my husband who awaits me at the other end, tucking together boarding passes and last-minute packing decisions, working through the morning's tasks at school, getting to the airport on time, parking the car, riding the shuttle, going through security with the efficiency I've learned, getting settled, getting onboard in the right order, getting my stuff in the overhead compartment, buckling up...then, at Atlanta, that bustle from one gate to another with just enough time.

So, the crux of it: I felt good. I know how to do all this -- it's my life. And the comings and goings of this life make me feel fully engaged.

I was going up the escalator, my backpack on my back -- my trusty, reliable back cheerfully taking its load. My small side bag swung along in my left hand, my very useful and faithful fingers holding on. My shoes felt good on my feet. My feet felt good meeting the ground, grounded evenly on each step. My body moved along the way it's supposed to, calmly energetic and fully functioning.

I looked around at everybody else -- we were packed in the escalator -- and I felt happy to be among all these other humans, all of us so occupied and going places. It felt good to be in the human race, in this amazingly complex world we've made. I was "one of us," pleasantly anonymous and not alone. I don't know how I could say this, after the terrible week of Tucson and after a horrific double suicide of a couple I love, but today I loved us. Maybe it was the aftermath that did it -- the love for what remains, what hasn't died. Oh, yeah, yes, yes -- time for Dylan Thomas:

Out Of The Sighs

Out of the sighs a little comes,
But not of grief, for I have knocked down that
Before the agony; the spirit grows,
Forgets, and cries;
A little comes, is tasted and found good;
All could not disappoint;
There must, be praised, some certainty,
If not of loving well, then not,
And that is true after perpetual defeat.

After such fighting as the weakest know,
There's more than dying;
Lose the great pains or stuff the wound,
He'll ache too long
Through no regret of leaving woman waiting
For her soldier stained with spilt words
That spill such acrid blood.

Were that enough, enough to ease the pain,
Feeling regret when this is wasted
That made me happy in the sun,
How much was happy while it lasted,
Were vagueness enough and the sweet lies plenty,
The hollow words could bear all suffering
And cure me of ills.

Were that enough, bone, blood, and sinew,
The twisted brain, the fair-formed loin,
Groping for matter under the dog's plate,
Man should be cured of distemper.
For all there is to give I offer:
Crumbs, barn, and halter.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Yearning Doesn't End

In case you're young out there and reading this, here's some news. There's no end to desire. Tonight I was restless, after finding out there'd be no "happy darkness walking" with my friend. She got hung up with kids and an Epiphany party out there in a world with babies and harried parents and hanging crepe paper and sparkling lights and sweet cake. And that started it: the old bugaboo of childless isolation crept over me again, for the millionth time; no matter how many times I go around that track it always ends with loneliness and, not exactly regret, but wishing, wishing -- feeling left out of a huge part of human life, knowing that I will go to my grave not knowing many things.

Please understand this is more melodrama than usual -- after all, it's a dark, cold January night at a time of year that I'm often mired in depression and self-doubt. And it just occurred to me that my mother, about whom I've been writing a lot lately, died on just about this day. I'm pretty sure it was Jan. 6. So when I landed on that thought I went upstairs and rooted around, trying to find the evidence of her death date. I didn't find the box containing her obits. But now, who cares? I turn away from psychic possibilities, turn away from that particular melancholy alley.

Instead, I found a bunch of notes from when I was a kid reporter, and a few photos of how I looked then. I was cute: long straight brown hair, parted in the middle, around my face, the smile a bit teasy and a little too knowing. Apparently then I was regarded as a kid with potential -- one of my Kent State profs wrote, "tomorrow is homecoming, and I imagine some day you'll come back as the 'alumna of the year,' after you've had a chance to show your stuff." At the time I had just landed in Laguna Beach, and I was working as a cocktail waitress. "This might be useful for you eventually," he wrote, "especially if you want to write a novel, but I can see you'd want something more." The whole enterprise both struck me with the promise of my youth, my mischievous earnestness, my conviction that I would one day make it big, etc. etc. etc. and the sober understanding I have not quite lived up to the dizzying carbonations of what some grownups thought might materialize from my raw ingredients.

Now I simply have trouble sleeping on dark winter nights. Sometimes I think insomnia is at heart a thick pulse of restless disappointment. The body always waiting for something more to transpire. And occasionally, it delivers these surges of yearning, for something. For something more. So I wander around the house tidying things up, and then I have a craving for the kitchen table, a clean, round kitchen table in the bright white kitchen, where I have barely sat lately. Sitting here with NPR's cheerful intelligence bubbling along from the radio in the corner is a kind of contentment, a grounding in the present.

Tomorrow I meet my winter poetry writing class, and I have to go in there ready to communicate my love of writing poetry -- something about which, persistently, I feel fraudulent. The MFA, the years of writing, the failed manuscripts, the many readings, the wrenching divorce from a literary mating, the long-gone dinner parties with a certain eager panache -- the hopes of that other era, dust in the nose. In this frigid moment, simply self-pity, simply the navel-gazing of a woman who feels really old.

I suppose if you've gotten this far in the blog, dear reader, I owe you some redemptive details. I put 14 cups in a picnic basket for my poetry students: I wanted real cups, and came home determined to provide them after VG's market only had "foam" which I detest, and plastic, which is ugly and simply wrong. I've ordered two carafes of hot chocolate from Brown Sugar Cafe for the first class. First we're going for a walk, and then we're going to come back in and write haikus. And then we're going to drink hot chocolate and eat frosted sugar cookies and molasses cookies and pay attention to the pleasures of our senses: warmth after cold, sweet after bitter, voices after silence. This is what I have to give. And getting ready to start the new, my own life seeks its deeper well.

And so I sit at the clean, round kitchen table in the bright light, clean, solid-paned windows (six over six, as a more cosmopolitan friend described them) between me and the icy darkness, and as my fingers click on the black laptop, I go back to the paragraph I just wrote. Grace of discovery, warmth after cold, sweet after bitter, voices after silence. Having hit on that one set of words, just one sequence that rings true, I feel a small pang of peace. So maybe now I can go to bed, and sleep.