29 May 2010


Found out earlier that a young woman I'm acquainted with, a family friend, is dying. Three weeks she's been given. Weeks! That's practically like budgeting out the rest of her life in hours. It's only been a few months since this beautiful girl was singing over the supper table to entertain us and our extended family. She was already well down the road to a professional singing career when she fell ill. And now she's nearly ready to leave home on a startlingly different kind of journey.

And seemingly to drive that hurtful point home, the sweet starling baby my tender-hearted mum-in-law has been lovingly tending and urging toward adulthood (so kindly that the homely little thing was practically calling her Mama after a couple weeks), was killed by Coco and/or Cowrie, the big dogs in residence. What a sad thing. I know plenty of people dislike starlings, but it's impossible not to be charmed by a friendly baby, however ratty looking, who sits contentedly on your finger and talks and chirps and asks comically for food.

So, it's been a thoughtful day.

We had a no-lunch lunch date with some wonderful people, friends I'm glad to claim. But afterward, when the chumming hour was over, more thoughts. They just wouldn't turn off.

Existential angst.
My age.
Other people's problems and griefs.
All the books I won't get around to reading even if I live another thousand years.
Library fines.
Stuff I dare not mention.
My dog's dental problems.

You know, right? Because you tumble down the stairs into your own dark spidery basement of thoughts sometimes too. I wasn't in the black abyss I sometimes visit, but I was definitely below ground in a musty place where the light doesn't adequately reach.

Even when Rob and I went out for Korean food this evening, I had a hard time shaking some of more troubling thoughts (i.e., far beyond the book and dog worries). And a strange fatigue got hold of me. I could barely keep my eyes open or stay upright. Felt like everything was shutting down. Even my speech was coming out in slo-mo. Some date I was!

But we drove out toward the lake in search of sandhill cranes and ended up walking along a tucked away path we haven't explored together since last October. What a beautiful evening—the light was golden, and the clouds and sun rays made an incredible show. The wind whipped my hair twentythirtyforty directions, but blew away the usual bug clouds and also churned up the lake till it seemed you could almost surf on it. Pelicans were everywhere. Elegant terns, with their hilariously incongruous buzzy voices, snapped through the air and mixed with countless swallows, all catching their dinner to the left and to the right—zip! swoop! A great blue heron rose up from the reeds just ahead of us. A muskrat. The species of bird I spotted in our neighborhood last week—black wings, yellow neck and breast and back, rosy red head. Wildflowers, yellow and purple, of which I pinched an armload for the dining room table. A houseboat anchored in a small swampy inlet area of the lake. Birds singing all around, beautiful songs. Shifting light. An airplane high above us, seeming to head straight for the sun. A good walk and then a slow ride around the lake, to spare Mudhoney some alignment problems from hitting too many holes too fast.

It was during the first part of our time at the lake when I caught a whiff of something fresh and flowering then got my body moving, one foot after another, and my thoughts corrected themselves; I'm wasting time on these worries, I said inside me. What if I had three weeks to live? What if today was my last day? What would I want to be doing? and thinking? It didn't take me long to boil it all down to gratitude—that's where I would want my thoughts to be centered, and what I would wish to use as a template for my "last" choices.

How would you wish to spend your day, if today was your last? I know it's almost cliché now, that question, but it doesn't bother me. It's still a good thing to consider.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to be present and notice everything beautiful. When we drove by a bank full of bunchy white weeds and they were thrashing in the wind as if they were in a mosh pit, we stopped and smiled at their wild party. It really looked to me like the earth was dancing. And why not? What could be better than feeling the wind in your flowers?

What if I really had only three weeks to live? What if today really was my last day?

I spent the evening focused on gratitude and loving and concentrating on righthererightnow, and everything about my day changed, in an instant. And energy returned. But maybe that just was the kimchee talking.


Melody said...

Oh, my! Sigh. . . beautiful. Hopeful.

Anonymous said...

The yellow birds are Western Tanagers. The red headed ones are the males. This year is the first that I've seen them. There are some in my yard. They take my breath away they are so beautiful.

Sad about the starling. They aren't the prettiest birds, but I like them, although the ones nesting in the eave over my bedroom window sometimes have insomnia and make a lot of noise which is annoying. They snore too, although it certainly isn't the loudest snoring I've ever had to try and sleep through. Ya know what I'm sayin'?


Mickelle said...

When I saw this article, I thought of you and had to come back to make sure you'd read it too: http://segullah.org/interviews/dreams-as-spiritual-gifts-an-interview-with-barbara-bishop/

And me? I'd spend all my last time crying. I hate it, but it's true. Shouldn't I put it all behind me and do something beautiful, good, productive, heartfelt? But I'd sit wallowing in my tears. And die with a really bad headache.