Rumi: "The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep."
I didn't; I got up and worked out this morning. Even though the room was cold and the bed (paisley flannel sheets, sleeping partner) was warm. And now it is time to write.
Did I hear any new secrets this morning? I don't think so, at least, not so far. There has been no sense of ahh, of sinking into, of being sustained, unexpectedly, by beauty and truth itself that. Sometimes that just happens. Sometimes just for a moment. Sometimes, that's enough.
There is a drive I make a least twice a month, sometimes more often. If the traffic's moderate, if I hit the Springfield-to-Hartford-to-Danbury stretch before, say, two in the afternoon or after eight or nine p.m., I can make it in 4 hours, even 3 hours and 45 minutes. But if I don't, or if there's an accident, or road work, it can take 5, even 6 hours. But however many hours it is by the clock, each time I do it, the drive it seems longer.
Yet. The last time, I was at about the halfway point. Tired, feeling depleted. Trying to remember how far I was from the next rest stop, so I could pull off, put the seat back, close my eyes, and rest for 20 minutes or so.Depleted because I love the lives I live on either end of the journey, but each is too full on its own, and both together… well, it's just too much.
On the one end there's Vermont, the life I share with David in the old farmhouse in which my aunt spent summers (sometimes with me, her young niece).
The farmhouse, like most old houses, is perennially in need of repairs and a good cleaning. In summer, the gardens, both the perennial flower beds she put in and the large vegetable garden I keep, always needs weeding and the lawn mowing. In the winter, there's wood to be brought in, and the little crumbs of bark to be swept up.
My aunt was wealthy enough to hire all these things out; David and I are not. She also never lived here year round, and I do. When she went into her office and worked (she was an editor, and often brought manuscripts with her), she shut the door and did so; when she came out, the house was clean. A simple lunch (she and her late-life boyfriend, Jim, an attorney at the same New York law firm in which Clarence Darrow practiced, often had just fresh corn on the cob — ears and ears of it ) or potato-and-leek soup (she used my recipe). Their larger meal was dinner, which they usually ate out, Jim taking her to any one of numberless small restaurants and inn's within an hour's drive, the drive, in a part of the world where there is a view that can snatch your breath around almost every turn, being part of the experience. That other view just around the turn — preparing for winter, no matter what time of year it is — was a non-issue for her: at the end of Octovber, she had the pipes drained, the house closed up, the alarm system on, the caretakes in order, and off she went, back to New York, and in January and February, often, travel.
This is not my life. Not only am I less well-off than Aunt Dot, and partnered to a guy who is not an attorney but a returned documentary filmmaker and union strategist, but I work, full-time, in a very different mode. I am a self-employed freelance writer; she worked for a company, in the days when companies rewarded loyalty: pensions, health insurance, bonuses and symbolic gifts of not insubstantial value. I have three gold circle pins of her, each with an "M" for Macmillans. One has a tiny chip of ruby above the M, the second, emerald, and the third, diamond.
Acceptance would be one way to be at peace with the sometimes haphazard, slapdash look of the house; to simply enjoy the the 20 mile view into New Hampshire, the pond in summer, the wild turkeys, the fields (sometimes snow-shoeing them, under the full moon) in winter, the occasional moose or black bear, the blessed quiet, the huge sky in which, many nights, the Milky Way is vast and bright and clear, unimpinged-on by light pollution. ly, but because I remember when everything was in more or less perfect order, it always feels disordered).
of the monthly four-hour drive I make to spend a week with my old, old mother. (One of her extraordinary caregivers — she's African and English is her fourth language, following Fula, French, and Woolof — refers to the aged as "the olderly," which I love so much).
At any rate I was driving, South and West, from Saxtons River, Vermont, to Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. I was tired. I love being with my mother at this phase of her and my life; I love being at home in Vermont; I loathe the travel between and the transition — leaving, packing, unpacking, gas in the car. My back hurt a little, and I knew I was about to reach the trafficky, confusing, lanes-switch-all-the-time stretch between Hartford and Danbury, and it was too close to rush hour, and I was dreading it. When suddenly I noticed, fully saw, the sky.
There it was, a cornucopia of indifferent beauty, present whether I or anyone else noticed it. Above the lanes of traffic, above the green Camry hugging my bumper, above our Subaru; above the Targets and Kohls and Home Depots and the billboards announcing easy-on easy-off diners and restaurants (as if that were the logical determinant of why one should pick one eating place over another). Above all that: a blue-gray spread of sky, netted over with wide swaths of silvery white mackerel clouds. At the western edge of the sky, this gave over to deep lavender-gray clouds, ignited at the edge, fringed and streaked with peach and coral, all worshiping, singing visual hosanas to the huge round orange setting sun at the horizon.
And all at once, this was enough. I was lifted out of tiredness into fullness and content.
That relaxed state, when it comes, reminds me I don't have to do much or travel far to open myself to love; that I'm "in love" (love in the sense some call "spiritual") the way a swimming fish is "in water." So constant and encompassing is water to fish that, surely, they don't and can't see or know it is even there until they are taken out of it. So too, I think is that kind of love, the kind sometimes spelled with a capital L, is our natural home, at least when awakened in the sense to which Rumi alludes. The fish gasps when taken out of its home; so too do we.
In that sense, then, perhaps, even the opposite set of feelings — the overwhelm, worry, too-much-to-do, anxiety, what-ifs and general unease that afflicts so many of us so often, and certainly me, this morning — is indeed a secret that the breeze told me again, and, God knows, not for the first time. Look up at the mackerel clouds, Crescent.
are But am reminded of what I seemingly have to learn over and over and over: if I don't do two things — work out and write — I am not happy, or at least, ill at ease, not completely at home in myself. If I do, I am. And STARTING, for all these two activities give me, is the hardest part. The tyranny of the urgent over the important and the oppositional entropy that kicks in when it comes to the practice of anything which elevates one: these two factors twist into something that can steal happiness the minute you turn your back. I guess te breeze did tell me something: don't turn your back. Turn your heart. Create a life you love. Start. Start the work out (honor the body you were loaned for a short time. Start writing.