The Glass is Already Broken

Snatches from sundry letters and journal entries 2015-2018


‘The glass is already broken.’ I did not know how to wrap my head around the riddle of this oh-so-very Zen koan when I first heard it. Because the glass was not broken. The glass was Very Not broken. In fact the glass was the precise definition of just how unbroken a glass could be. The glass is breakable. I was willing to concede that much. With enough time and  enough life experience, it is possible, even probable that the glass will one day be broken. This too I was willing to agree to, even though glass is one of the longest-lasting man-made substances in existence. By most estimates it takes a million years for a glass bottle to degrade. (A million years! How much more indestructible than that can you get?). The glass is already broken. What can this possibly mean? Because being whole, and being breakable are not the same as being already broken. Unless time and space are an illusion.

***

We were married exactly ten years ago. A dawn wedding in a stone-pillared temple, with a lotus tank in the back, and a view of Elephant Rock.  Time is a strange animal. A decade can slip like water through your fingers. An unexpected night in the hospital can be its own eternity. The blood test showed acute bone marrow suppression. They kept him overnight. Gave him two units of blood, a platelet transfusion and a bone marrow biopsy. Just days earlier he’d helped carry a wheelchair-bound friend up the stairs to our home. He’d tossed a frisbee, climbed a steep hill, given a high-level presentation at work. Maybe leukemia they told us, no way of knowing until further test results came in.

***

Are time and space an illusion?

 

***

The glass is already broken.

***

 “You’re such a nice couple,” sighed the nurse with the tired face and kind eyes. This was the night we spent in the hospital after the first blood tests revealed something was drastically wrong. And I knew what she was thinking — that we were too young for this. I’d had that fleeting thought too. But I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t true. Of course I want more time. Much more time. But that doesn’t mean I’m entitled to it, no more than I’ve been entitled to the last ten years. I have received blessings beyond measure. On this point I am clear. While this does not stop me from being fearful, it spares me from feeling cheated. Fate brought V and I together in this lifetime. On the strength of this fact alone, whatever else it has in store, I will not stop being grateful.

***

The morning after our first night back home from the hospital, I wake up and feel my whole mind and being enveloped in a deep blanket of peace. The last two days have been a hot blur. A whirling surreality. Now it is just the two of us, here in our shaded room. The quiet air, and the strength of our long-time love between us. And a certainty blooming inside me like a flower in the desert: Everything is going to be fine. My husband opens his eyes. I lean over and repeat these words. Everything is going to be fine. He smiles, and his eyes crinkle at the corners. “Everything is going to be fine. And everything IS fine,” he says in a voice fuzzy with sleep. And after the space of a heartbeat adds gently, “You have to expand your definition of fine.” 

***

The results of the bone marrow biopsy are in and we have an appointment this afternoon with the Hem-onc to discuss the diagnosis. Hematologist-oncologist is a title I was unfamiliar with before this time. I did not know that blood doctors and cancer doctors trained together and shared a title. Over the course of the next few weeks there is much that I will learn about that I did not even know existed before. ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ As we prepare for the appointment something stretches taut in my stomach. My features take on a certain fixedness. I feel like I am wearing a mask as I go about the motions of the day, held in a vise-like grip of apprehension. An unrevealed immensity lies ahead of us. We have been given no indication of what the diagnosis is.

***

Minutes before we are to leave for the hospital a white van swings into our driveway. A sturdy dark-haired man marches up our stairs. “It’s M” says V. M is the sweet Mexican gardener who used to work for the previous owners of our home. He speaks very little English with a lot of warmth. The first time we met a construction crew was doing demo work in our kitchen. He came up and chatted cheerily with all of them in Spanish. Then before leaving he went back upstairs “to say bye to my amigos”. I wanted to hug him. We’d had him come by once, before we moved in, to clean up yard and cut back some of the unruly shrubbery. He came with his son and brother and they left before we paid them the full amount. Now I get a fresh bill out of my purse and go to the door. I thank M for coming by and hand him the bill. “When I come again?” he asks. I tell him my husband is sick and that we are going to the hospital now. And that I will contact him later. “Don’t wait long time,” he says, “Too much work then. And now it already look ugly!” His intensity and frank assessment of our yard make me laugh a little. My husband is very sick I say again, I don’t know when we are going to take care of the yard yet. At this his face softens. He tries to hand me the bill I just gave him, “You need money?” he asks. And I shake my head no, no. It’s not that. “When you call me I give big discount,” he says, “Your husband he will be okay.” The compassion and concern in his voice is my undoing. My eyes fill with tears. “Ah — no cry,” says M. “I come and no charge. Do all work no charge.” I smile through my tears at this generous, soft-hearted man. “This is life. This is life, it not bad, it is good,” he tells me earnestly. I can feel the depth of a profound feeling behind his simple words. “I almost die, two years ago,” he says, “My children pray and bring me back.” Then he asks me if I am Catholic. It is a question I’ve never been asked before. “No,” I say with a small shake of my head. He makes a gesture as if brushing aside a fly, “No problem,” he says,”It’s okay. Just pray how you pray.” Before driving away he assures me repeatedly that my husband will be fine. His unannounced presence, his words and the gentle goodness behind them feel like a blessing. 

I was most in need of blessing.

***

My mind has trouble fathoming all the implications. Severed from past and future we are walking a tightrope of uncertainty. There is only this time. There is only this here and now. In the midst of the haze of it all a quiet voice makes itself heard: It has never been any other way.

***

Grocery store pleasantries are hard in the first week. “How are you?” an unsuspecting check-out clerk might ask, and I’d push the word “Fine” out of my mouth like a dull, heavy rock. My husband waits in the car, with a stranger’s blood coursing through his veins. I see his face through the window. His expression is soft, and kind and unafraid. I fight back tears. Amidst the melons and the cheese, and the bright baskets of berries, and the fragrant loaves of bread, ordinary life flows by. Newly estranged from all of it my heart is full of fresh thorns and wrenching concerns. How am I doing you ask? I feel like a little twig that’s just been blown into the ocean. That’s how I am doing. And you? 

***

My heart has folded into itself. It has boarded up all extraneous chambers and operates like a bomb shelter. Strict necessities are attended to meticulously. There is little time or room for anything else. When the phone rings unless it is one of the doctors or the immediate family I do not answer it. I rarely check email and more rarely still send out replies. I have gone AWOL from the charming and charmed landscape of my former life, dotted as it was with lovely friends, beguiling projects and generously brushed with a sense of adventure. None of it feels relevant to this here and now. Life is in a tailspin. The adrenaline coursing through me controls my attention. I feel like a laser full of intense direction, and incapable of casualness. In this mode, when other people share pedestrian notes from their days something inside me ices over with hidden anger and despair. Is this how surgeons and soldiers feel sometimes? For my own part, I feel like I’m in the trenches. Conversation from the outside world is all prattle and paper dolls. Yet V listens to everyone with genuine interest and warmth. Not pitting his precarious circumstances against their pale priorities. Not expecting them to be anything more or less than who they are in that moment. Between the two of us he is, and always has been, far and away the better person. 

***

The things people will do for each other out of goodness goes far beyond rational understanding. I have always known this, and yet living on the receiving end of a wide web of unconditional love brings its own kind of beautiful overwhelm. A friend calls and calls and calls again because I haven’t picked up. When I finally answer a voice on the other end says in a rush, “I know you don’t have a lot of time right now, but I just want to ask one question: “What can I do?” I am in the middle of making dinner at the time, and I smile, touched by the vigorous sincerity and wholeheartedness of the question. I say something to the effect of — am so touched (and I was), will definitely let you know if we need anything. But right now we’re all set. My voice is confident, calm, even cheerful, and so, in that moment, am I. We chat for a few minutes longer and then I hear this, “Pavi I’m ready to do whatever is needed, whenever it’s needed for however long it’s needed. Just call me if there’s absolutely anything I can do.” And just like that there is a rock in my throat and my eyes fill. I want to say something gracious and cheerful but my eyes are filled with tears and words seem to literally stick in my throat. When I finally manage to say something my friend is crying and hurriedly says goodbye. I dry my eyes directly afterwards and finish making dinner. There have been so many heartfelt offers of help in this time and I appreciate each of them, but something about this particular one has melted something inside me. I am touched but also slightly ​frustrated by my inability to hold it together.

***

Sunshine and simple food, sleep and exercise. A health crisis of serious magnitude and here we are. Back to the basics. D3 and B12 supplements everyday. Reading a book I come across this paragraph and it feels like the universe just slipped me a note in the middle of class. Pssst. Here!

“I like to remind myself and anyone who will listen to me that every one of our red blood cells contains cobalt (which is why we need to consume cobalt-containing Vitamin B12), and that cobalt had to have been manufactured in a supernova. (Cobalt’s nucleus is too big to be formed by the pressures inside any star, and required the force of a supernova). We contain many billions of red blood cells and if we are smart, we eat B12 every day, and so it is that we are dining on and rearranging the blue jewels of unimaginably ancient, galactic events.”

***

There are blood tests every few days. V wears a mask as we enter the hospital, and I hold onto his arm and am careful not to meet anyone’s gaze. No one here knows this tall being is a gem, dear beyond all telling. The hospital and lab staff are kind in an automatic, colorless way. They treat him like an anonymous patient and he responds by treating each one of them like a person. One morning they take sixteen vials of blood from my husband. And we find out later that the technician made a mistake in the processing, and now he must return to give eight vials more. This news fills me with grief and fury. How could they be so careless with his blood? But V is immediately forgiving. Later when a rookie technician jabs him multiple times without finding a vein, his supervisor steps in to complete the draw. I make an effort to hold my peace, and manage but just barely. As we are walking back to our car V says, “I almost asked the supervisor to let the other guy try again. He must have felt bad about botching it like that. Would have been nice to give him another chance.”

***


There is a little patch of fenced in yard space on the northern side of our home. It can be accessed from the back deck. It is an irregularly shaped piece of land, bordered on one side by a clutch of tall, slender trees whose leaves crunch under foot. There used to be a lawn here but now it is just a stretch of brown earth, that warms quickly in the morning sun. In the far corner is a little shrub of a tree that I take to calling Little Tree. He’d suffered prolonged neglect during the many months of construction before we moved into the house. Now he is a sad bundle of dried up branches and twigs, bearing only a handful of forlorn leaves. I remember seeing purple flowers on him when we first bought the place. Now looking at him I fill with guilt — how could we have forgotten all about him? I begin to water Little Tree, and talk to him a little bit in the mornings. V sits nearby taking in the rays of early sunlight. We do this every day, and as I look at the two of them, a garden shrub whose sap seems to have run dry, and my husband whose bone marrow has very nearly stopped producing life-giving blood cells I can’t help but wonder if their fates might be joined somehow. And then I quickly tell myself this is a dangerous thought. I do not want to be doubly devastated if this tree does not make it. For a week or so nothing seems to happen. Then one day soon after V’s counts have begun to rise, I see, a small army of buds and it feels like a miracle. Within a few days they have multiplied and then almost overnight Little Tree is a green and purple festival unto himself. Hundreds of little flowers shaking their heads in the sunlight. V’s counts too have been steadily rising. They are both getting better. And I am learning not to take for granted this thing called life that is at once more fragile and resilient than I ever dreamed. How little it needs to flourish. And how much it needs that little. Humble acts of caring against the backdrop of an inscrutable universe go farther than we imagine. 

***

There is so much to do. From the moment I wake up to the time I lie down again at night each moment is spoken for. Sometimes I feel like there is a superhuman strength powering me. Sometimes I feel very tired and very old. 

***

Here is how it is for me: My heart does not feel big enough to contain the beauty of the world alone. Beauty, without a sense of the beloved to share in the sense of splendor, becomes almost frightening, takes on the chill of indifference. Something that moves you, but will never be moved by you.

***

Days meld into weeks, weeks into months. This state of seclusion in slow stages has grown oddly sweet and familiar. This uncertainty is now accustomed and life is streaked vivid with grace. Running errands I am cheerful and rooted again. No longer lost and stumbling ‘amid alien corn’. No longer so easily wounded by innocuous things.

***


It is a week of California-style December rain. One moment the day is golden and the sky a blameless shade of blue. The next moment gray clouds swoop in like storm troopers hijacking any hint of warmth. Sometimes rain clatters on the rooftop like a runaway team of reindeer. Sometimes it falls with no warning in silent sheets from the sky. You look up and are surprised by the slant of silvery dotted lines connecting sky and earth. The loveliness of this soundless weeping, tugs at something deep inside you. Every so often the sun comes out to dance with the falling drops, and you are treated to a sky canvas brushed with low-slung indigo clouds on one side and all the rest of it a shimmering sea of sapphire that seems to tint the whole world a gauzy shade of blue. When this happens you know that there are rainbows out, tossing their bright arcs across the way. Catching one is only a matter of looking up at the right time and in the right direction.
***
One morning, gazing out our window, in a moment of imperiousness I say to the universe, “I’d like a rainbow placed right here please.” Because how perfect would it be to have framed in your living room window, a smudged rainbow river of color above dark emerald hills against a dramatic sky? When it materialized exactly in the requested spot a day later and then again, and again and again the following week, it left me feeling awed and a little abashed. Like a child who has the ear of a mighty power, and has been caught using that privilege to perform trifling miracles. If I was going to move heaven and earth shouldn’t it be for something more significant than firmament ornamentation? But no. To ask for anything important would somehow feel like a violation. A breach in trust. Sometimes we make demands precisely because we think no one is listening. When you realize that you, in all your littleness, are in fact, being attended on by the forces that run the universe, it humbles the spirit. And once you’ve been properly doused in that humility, any ask seems at once both unnecessary and impertinent.

***


The first time I ​ever ​saw a shooting star I closed my eyes and V’s name unfurled in the darkness. Not so much a wish as a vivid revelation. I was stunned yet also not surprised. The second time I saw a shooting star was a year and a half later. I closed my eyes, and my mind went quiet. I held the perfection of that moment in the palm of my hand. Conscious that I was, in that moment, empty of any kind of ask. Improbable as it seems, on both occasions V was right next to me. A day later and in the presence of a bad-tempered rickshaw driver (whom I will forever think of with a great rush of affection), we had our first conversation about what we’d each known independently for awhile: if either of us were to ever get married, it would be to the other. We’d known each other for three years, but for the vast majority of that time were out of touch. We lived on opposite sides of the world and the limited time we’d spent together was ​almost always with many other​s​ around. This conversation was apropos of nothing apparent, and yet I remember looking out of the rickshaw into the darkness and feeling aware of my mind, and how surprisingly still and calm it was. Not whirling or breathless at all. But rooted and clear-eyed. I remember ​thinking,​ ​‘Here is the bridge. ​H​ere is the sky. That is the ocean. Those are the trees. And this is V. Here. ​By my side​.’ And it was as natural and lovely and extra ordinary and irrefutable as that. He left the same week. The next time we crossed paths was at our engagement ceremony, the night before our wedding. 
***
Hello. Goodbye. Sitting at the window on a morning full of clouds and stray raindrops, I reflect idly on the fact that we repeat these words in a variety of ways multiple times in the course of a day, a week, a year, a lifetime. It is the foregone, invisible arc that all our encounters, relationships and experiences must follow. First an arrival, a greeting, an introduction. Eventually, a departure, a separation, a farewell. There is something melancholy and regrettable about this arrangement. I wonder who it was who sought fit to order things in this way. Wouldn’t it have been a vastly preferable and more intelligent design to front​ ​load the goodbye and then go out on the high note of hello? With a bang instead of a whimper. I feel a slight frisson of electricity run through me as I think this. A crackling sense of insight. I’ve arrived at this way​ ​station tardily. Others have asked this question here before me, and stumbled upon a secret so obvious that it’s hidden in plain sight. Across all ages and times there are people who have lived this way and lit the world with their fearlessness and love. When you let your heart break open with the truth of goodbye at the beginning then you have ahead of you a lifetime to arrive at the fullness of hello.

**​*​

It is afternoon and I am online Googling a rare health condition that a friend is navigating. He’s assessing his treatment options and has asked for help. I skip to the task armed with unsuspecting buoyancy and a basketful of good intentions. All that’s missing is a little red hood. I have forgotten all about wolves. The woods of online medical research are unlovely, dark and deep. Link after link leads me into a cheerless labyrinth of grim studies and unsettling reports. As I read, slowly, and almost imperceptibly, thorny statistics creep thickly across the walls. The air grows dark and heavy with the inelegant, vaguely threatening names of aggressive drugs and risk-ridden procedures. My mind gradually picks up speed and tension. Begins to hurtle from page to page. Looking for sanctuary. A place to perch. Safe from all that prowls and growls and snaps. Without intending to, something in my heart clenches and dims. While my thoughts are playing catch up, my body has instantly recognized all the cues. I have been here before. Six months ago. When we were first shipwrecked on this island of uncertainty with a strange diagnosis. I trawled the unreliable waters of the internet, fighting my worst fears with a paradoxical combination of trembling equanimity and quiet desperation. Reminding myself periodically to steady myself, ready myself to meet reality on its own terms. While looking for something — anything — in a sea of only sometimes reliable intelligence and information, that might vaguely resemble cause for hope. An old script has been triggered, and the stuff of my being now redirects itself to play out the lines.

***

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope. For hope would be hope for the wrong thing” But there are times when my soul isn’t quite in the mood for TS Eliot.

***

In the evening awash with exhaustion and new insight I tell V that this is my opportunity. This here and now. To nip in the bud that which I planted unaware. The strong tendrils that twined their way around me this afternoon sprang from the hidden seeds of all the things I did not live fully the first time around. All the things I unwittingly forced underground. All that I did not, or could not face with a poised and loving heart. When you do not live the moment, the moment lives in you. There’s the rub. It sleeps undisturbed in a deep furrow of your existence until time and fertile circumstances summon it back to life. Then it grows. And how! With the same strength and vigor that bursts a billion buds onto branch tips in Spring. And Spring has come early this year. Mixing memory and desire. And there is Eliot again. What is it with him and this time?

***

In my first year of college I fell into Wasteland the way every Lit major does. Like Alice down a darker (but no less wonderful) version of the rabbit hole. One night I woke up in my dorm room. A room shared with three other girls all of whom majored in subjects far more practical than English Lit. And without really meaning to I held out my hand in the darkness and chanted this line: ‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust’. And what I felt wasn’t fear but the rush of being taken by beauty and grandscale excitement. After that mellow dramatic moment I fell back into a sound sleep. For the record never before, or after have I been known to wake up unprovoked in the middle of the night quoting poets living or dead.

***

Several weeks prior to that fateful ER visit I would sense the ground lurching when I lay down at night. A feeling would follow that was akin to what one might feel lying on a flimsy raft spinning on unquiet waters. There was no apparent cause for this churning. But after the diagnosis came in, I wondered whether I’d subconsciously known all along that something was amiss. Now it has been six months of near-seclusion. The journey has been slow and unpredictable. On the surface I am taking it all in my stride. “His body took a very hard hit,” I tell myself and other people, “and now the body needs time to recover. We have to take it a step at a time.” It was summer when we started down this path. Then before we knew it Fall flew by in a bonfire of optimism, and now Winter too seems to have vanished overnight. The air is like molten gold in the mornings and the hills are strewn with flowers. Each day dawns like a celebration. I am drinking it all in and am not consciously worried. But in the subterranean realms something is amiss. I know this because when I lie down these days the bed morphs into a raft again, And the room spins.

***


V smiles quietly. “It is what it is,” his face says, “Don’t read too much into any of this.” How simple that sounds. And how hard in practice. We are born interpreters of maladies. We look for good omens in the clouds and in tea leaves and in the eyes of our loved ones. Reading too much into things is a hard habit to break. In the middle of the day I look over at V. He is reading. I see the way his eyes move, following the lines of hidden words with quiet attention. Whenever he is reading, or watching anything on a screen a kind of total absorption settles about his features and I catch a glimpse in his profile of the little boy he must have been once. It moves me to an aching kind of tenderness. How sweet he is, this husband of mine. How can he possibly be so sick? There is no answering questions like that. My throat is tangled with knots. Breathe Pavi. Breathe. Just breathe. 
***
That afternoon everything seems a little more fragile than usual, even when I am not thinking about anything in particular, I can feel the tears trembling just beneath the surface, held back by just the thinnest of veils. I go about my daily rounds holding it all together admirably for the most part, and then every so often the slightest of breaths makes me come undone. Before I know it salty rivulets are streaming down my face unstoppably. ‘I am not crying because I’m overwhelmed with sadness,’ I explain to V, ‘It’s just that something’s tripped inside, and this is the overflow.” Unintelligible as that explanation may be, somehow it makes sense inside of me. The tears flowing right now do not stem entirely from a present emotion, they are freighted with the momentum of the past. Yes, the delicate veins of a certain kind of sorrow and anxiety have branched within me with mesmerizing rapidity (think of the way a crack travels through ice or glass) and when they intersect with an older set of cracks, a spectacular shattering takes place. It is easy to get swept into the drama of it all. It takes effort to extricate oneself from the current of past patterns. To pay heed instead to the stream of air that makes an invisible journey all the way into and through your body and then out again. Feel the rise and fall. Relax your clenched muscles. Rest in and do not resist, the moment. Even in the midst of tears I cannot deny that this makes a difference. I will do my best to mind the shards of glass. To sweep them up carefully. To remember, “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

 

***


On our evening walk we cross a nondescript brown house. In front of it is a magnificent magnolia tree that has exploded into blossom. It is like something out of a forgotten myth. Thousands upon thousands of blooms at a glance. Standing under it and looking up is like being enveloped by a rising cloud of butterflies — such unbelievably creamy petals full of soft shadows and indescribable shades of pink. How extravagant they are in the act of opening. Stretching past the limits of their shape with such grace and abandon. Every puff of wind sends petals whirling to the ground. The grass is covered in soft pink heaps. V waits patiently as I pull out the camera and inexpertly attempt to capture this confusion of beauty. The perfume stands in the air like an entity unto itself. Rich, full-blown and unmistakably feminine. The senses reel trying to take it all in. We have stumbled upon this tree at the peak of its astounding exhilaration. It’s fertility barely reined in. It looks invincible. Almost. Already, hidden in the branches some blossoms have relinquished their flawlessness. Curling around the edges. Showing signs of bruising. It is only a matter of time before they take over the tree, slowly drowning this vibrancy in the withered garb of decay. The fragrance that is so poised and enchanting in this moment, will turn too-ripe and vaguely displeasing. Other flowers in other gardens will step into their prime as the brown, creased magnolia petals float gently to the earth like so many forgotten tongues. All this lies just around the corner for this tree. But right now it is still alight and a-tremble with life and rose-tinted possibility. Such powerful fragility. It weakens the knees. Like a woman with a drawstring coin purse, I sort through a jumbled heap of shining, insufficient words. How pale and paltry a thing vocabulary is! Nothing I have to say can equal this moment among the magnolias. 

***
That night as I lie awake, a quiet terror takes my heart between its cold fingers. Thoughts loosed from their dark branches swirl and drift down around me. Periodically the mind’s grim broadcast is intercepted. And behind my closed eyes flash vivid images of vanished magnolia blossoms. Their transient grandeur seared into me.This happens again and again. Beside me, V sleeps undisturbed. Like a small mountain of trusting innocence. His goodness pierces my heart. Even though he does not think at all in terms of being attacked or needing bodyguards, I can’t help but think that he deserves a far more valiant protectress by his side. Instead he has just me. And I am very small, and full of flaws, with no appetite for battle. When I wake in the middle of the night my cheeks are wet with tears. My dreams scented with the intertwined intensities of beauty and fear. This too. This too is life Pavi. This moment too, is blessed.

 

***

For awhile now I’ve been waking up a couple of hours before V does. I wash my face, brush my teeth and slip out of the room as quietly as I can. The world is so lovely and quiet in the mornings. It fills my heart with a special kind of peace. I look out over the valley and the hills to the water. Standing at the window I greet the trees and sure as a bucket lowered into a well, I fill with the cool waters of gratefulness. Then I light a single stick of incense and sit down on my cushion . After an hour I rise and will do an hour of yoga. These two hours of inhabiting mind and body as fully as I am able to, become the foundation for the rest of the day. I cherish the sense of quiet agency it gives me. When V comes into the room, his dearness breaks over me like a wave. This feeling is not new, and it’s not because of his illness. Seeing him in the morning has always felt this way. 

 

***

I marvel at how quickly the days slip through my fingers. There is a rhythm to the daily tasks. The preparing of medicines, and meals. The cleaning of floors and walls, counter tops and door handles. The loading and unloading of the dishwasher. The ​basket of laundry to tend to. In the kitchen we work well together as we always have.There is an improvised flow to our partnership, it is full of a musical ease and spontaneity. And much laughter as we strike hilarious bargains, each trying to wheedle the other into taking care of certain chores. From the outside all this might seem unremarkable, but I cherish the ordinary luxury of these moments beyond all telling. 

***

He is losing weight. I see a new slightness in his build. How his clothes look large on him. In the evenings I hear tiredness creep into his voice– a voice that typically rings bright with energy. When we walk the hills his stride is slower. My gaze follows him intently during the day. Takes note of little details. What I am seeing worries me. 

***

The night air fills with all the fears I studiously ignore in daylight. When it’s time to go to sleep, I take my position like a conflicted soldier. Crouched in the dugout of awareness. Trying to be watchful of my breath and any movement on the horizon. ‘They talk a good talk, but do not be deceived,’ I tell myself. ‘Your thoughts have no useful place here.’ Even self-warned in this way, I fall for their Pied Piper allure sometimes. Abandoning my post I am often halfway to the sea before I catch myself blindly stumbling after their dark trickster tunes. What is happening? What is going to happen? These questions balloon up in the night. They will fill all available space if ​I let them. Sometimes I have my pin ready. Sometimes I do not.

***

 

This time a koan that the mind fingers like prayer beads. Worrying the moments between the restless fingers of thought. Learning slowly that truth will not be teased out of life with the crowbar of reason. Your will, will never be sufficient to summon it from where it sits cross-legged and still within you. When will you learn to be simple? To find your way to the river as animals do. To cup your palms for water, and drink of that fullness that never runs dry.
 
***
Test day. Student phlebotomist can’t find the vein. V is very forgiving. I am not. Even though I don’t say anything I think it. Sobering results. All lines down. B&D come over in the evening. I am learning to trust–or trying to. It is not easy, only easier than it used to be. V is so dear.
***

Then there come mornings when I wake up and for no conscious reason, my being refuses to be worried. It has perhaps decided it no longer has the energy to entertain anxiety. Bottom line, being emptied of anxiety fills me with a fresh kind of energy. On these days I am extra susceptible to the beauty of the world. It rushes in to occupy the vacuum in my attention.

***

A walk somewhere in San Mateo. Boy on a steep hill riding a skateboard down. Body graceful, padded hands skimming the street when he crouches. He is curly-haired, cute, full of a beautiful vigor and careless confidence. “Looks like fun,” V calls out. “It is,” the boy shoots back over his shoulder, “and scary sometimes!”

Isn’t that life?

***

These days my mind feels hummingbird restless, unable to sit still for long. Full of impatience and an undefined urgency. What is this ‘next thing’ that I seem to be perpetually rushing to–unaware that I am rushing? Lately I have been trying to practice ‘simple’ things. Breathing. Releasing tension from all its secret cubbyholes in the body. Feeling my feet on the ground. The rising stalk of my spine. What a gift yoga has been. 

***

A loud noise wakes me. A noise it turns out that was only in my dream. I lay awake luxuriating in the start of this day. Mornings are different now. Quietly charged with something that is peaceful and happy. But even as I slow down the pace of my mind, the day seems sped up. Where are they gone too? The interminable afternoons of my childhood? The weeks that felt like months and the months that felt like years? I am trying to do what generations of human beings have tried to do before me.

I am trying to slow time down.

***
Have I mentioned the watercolor apples I am attempting? And violets and shaggy pines? I purchased a student-grade paint set and have discovered online tutorials, some of them magical to watch. One of my virtual teachers is a mother from Maine with a giggly, babbling sweetness about her. Like a brook with hands that can paint. In the videos that is all that you see of her. Her hands, that bring beauty to bloom on the blank page. It thrills something inside me to see the vivid colors — crimson, sap green, cadmium yellow, inky blue…the way they cloud and swirl and mingle into light and shadows and leaves and petals. It makes my heart ache a little bit with the beauty of it all. My work is well-intentioned and clumsy, and I am a little addicted to the attempting of it. I know I will never be very good, but there is something in me that’s drawn to dabble. Perhaps it’s just a longing to make beauty. To create. To ‘improve the blank page’ without words. I am not there yet.
***

There are times when we stumble into the experience of the saint. Awash with love and wonder for all we see and all that we can’t alike. Invincible we stroll down grocery store aisles, circle the packed parking lot waiting with a smile for an open space. Nothing can perturb our loveliness of spirit. Not inconsiderate drivers, not nagging superiors, or difficult relatives. Not potholes or burnt toast, not rude immigration officers or squeaky floorboards. Everything that breathes deserves your affection, loosed like a puppy on the beach, indiscriminate in its bounding joy and readiness to like everyone. Even inanimate objects in these moments seem full of grace. The pebble you pick up from the ground is a talisman. The cloud wandering over head a kind of benediction.

***

It is that honeyed time of year again. Light so sweet and golden one wants to spread it on toast and eat it all up. The trees are changing colors and releasing their leaves. Watching them drift to the ground is a lesson in grace. To move that lightly, that in concert with an invisible current. Love for V waxes like a moon that never wanes. Grows fuller, ever more radiant. Yet quiet like the moon. It does not seek attention yet illuminates darkness. This love lights the nighttime corners of my soul. In this time more than others I sense shadows that are ready to be metabolized. Old patterns with plenty of energy that can be harnessed and redirected. I have been playing so many games in the labyrinthine interiors of mind. Motives ill-serving disguised as good intentions or righteous actions. How tricky, slippery and not-to-blame is this mind of mine that does what it does with such skill and faithfulness to the rules that govern it. Unrelenting in its energy, unfailing in its readiness to act, fueled by a blind, protective impulse. Misguided yes, but its loyalty is oddly touching. I can do more, so much more to guide it in the right direction. It amazes me how much time can be wasted under the guise of doing good work. A blue sheet of sky outside my window. What does it know of time and mistakes and progress? I want to live with that kind of lack of concern for distractions. That kind of dwelled-in awareness that does not easily get dazzled or disturbed by surface. A tiny rose bloomed yesterday. Like a pearl yawning. Like dawn in a teacup, like a flower fallen from the little hands of a baby goddess. Cream tinged with the faintest of blushes. Such symmetry and poise, such quiet confidence and novelty, even though it is one in a long succession of roses that have bloomed before, it retains unique value. It claims to be what it is. Entirely. No more and not a modicum less. Perhaps that is what true grace is. Owning each atom. Without entitlement or apology.

***

Why do I feel so many invisible pressures? What is this tension I am carrying inside my stomach, my chest, across my back? Even when I wake up I can feel it coiling in my body. What is the states of my soul these days? Everything was shimmering sand and enchanted forest until it was not. Now the colors are not technicolored, the song not completely on key. Somehow this does not diminish the experience. Grape vines are ‘tortured’ to make the wine more sweet. The turbulences of my heart and mind perhaps have a similar agency,. I could use some sweetening. I am not sure when I acquired such a caustic sensibility. It is not a steady presence, but hides under some rock in my mind. Steps out to sun itself on occasion and startles me with its reptilian presence, its scales and beady eyes. I am learning that my habits of interpretation are not very enlightened. And what’s worse–they are dull. Tedious and untrue is not a good combination. If one is going to make up stories then they may as well be fascinating, or why bother.
***

No matter how long you wait
With your eyes fixed unblinkingly
On the horizon
The sun will not rise into sight
If you are facing
West

***

What are you world? And what do you think of me? I sit here admiring your breadth, your complexity. A little afraid of your possibilities and the dark roads. A lot in awe of how you keep so many things in motion. The moon, the planets, the seasons of my heart. I have far less to keep track of and you can see the effort I make. Your exertion if it exists is hidden. The work as natural as my next breath and as unbidden. Some days your grandness swoops underneath me, lifts me to dizzying heights, makes me experience a greatness that is not mine. I borrow your grandeur like a child playing dress-up, only I do not realize it is all a game. Other days your stature renders me insignificant and empty of hope. Too small to make a difference, too forgotten to feel responsible. How to dance with more grace between these extremes of royalty and paupery? I crash like a lost ship on hidden rocks and rise like a dazzling phoenix only to do it all over again. The same rounds only they aren’t ever quite the same are they?

***

Divali. Our lamps are lit. Darkness falls early. The clocks went back this week. The Earth is settling into herself. Saying her goodbyes. Preparing for a deep sleep. Time turns precious in autumn. Long, languid summer days deceive us into thinking we will live forever. In autumn every day is a reminder. Our time in the sun is short. I look at V and realize that a week from now we will have been married 13 years. Thirteen! And I have not grown accustomed yet to the largesse of this love. The fineness of his person and the generosity of a fate that drew us together. Sometimes it seems to me so very improbable. Our togetherness. Improbable yet natural. The sense of ease and belonging that I feel is still a surprise. Unaccountable and not quite of this world. Earthly life is full of edges, conditions and compromises. Loving and being loved by V has never felt that way. He is so utterly himself, so sweetly composed, so full of understanding and affection, so full of quiet capacity. But all these words are slipping on the surface of what I want to say which is something more secret and unsayable, like the velvet interior of a rose half-blown, soft, full of grace and scented light. 
***

And what do I remember from this day? Waking early after a too-late night and finding V awake too. We play a word association game. Bread butter jam traffic stop light sky fall wind — enlightenment said V suddenly. Enlightenment? I ask. Yes says V. I thought I should step things up.

Today is Christmas. I love the sound of the word and the stories behind it. I love all the Christmas carols. We walked out into a cold evening and warmed ourselves by choosing steep hills to climb. I loved seeing the lit Christmas trees in the windows, glimpses of people in their kitchens or gathering at their dining tables. Trees aglitter with golden lights, fairy-like deer illuminated in shadowy gardens. Scent of wood smoke. How sweet a gift it is that for many months now V has more breath and energy than I do as we ramble these hills.

 

***
January rains slant outside my window, clouds hang low, the air is cold. The drenched world glistens. Beautiful, strange, aloof. Like a mermaid sitting on the rocks. I belong to rainy days. They are kindred to my soul. Their bad-tempered beauty delights me. Too many days of uninterrupted sunshine are like a toothpaste jingle playing over and over again in my head. Upbeat and catchy at first. Then tiresome. So let the skies darken with the drumroll of the clouds. Let the heart fling open its attic window, and let the bats take flight. Gray can be gorgeous. It’s the shadows that give meaning and depth to the light.
***

There is a voluptuous fullness to the days. A sleekness that feels effortless. The hours fill of their own accord. I give my time lavishly in many respects. But outside my doorstep I can feel more than one project prowling, like a big cat. If I step outside unguarded one or the other of them will eat me alive, and I am not sure I want that–yet.

***

A February week full of balmy skies and blossom-scented winds. A Spring preview. The dark-limbed trees have all gone bridal. Slender, veiled in white and the palest of pinks. The flowering acacia that grow wild in these hills have put out their feathery yellow pompoms, the ruffled rosy petals of the camellias, are blooming a hundred to a bush, the frilly faces of early daffodils laugh up at you from winter gardens. Everywhere you turn there are fat buds gleaming greenly on bare branches, you could have sworn they weren’t there a second ago. You catch a glimpse of happy bumblebees tumbling in a spray of purple flowers. A temperate sun warms your face and inclines you towards forgiveness and fresh enthusiasms. Look around. And stop worrying. The whole world is ripening towards fruition. With no sign of haste. And nothing forgotten. Least of all you.

***
It is night time and I can see myself reflected in our picture window. A perfect ghostly replica of me, in our home, with my husband in the background loading the dishwasher in his patient and scientifically-perfected way. In a few moments we will have retired to bed and the window will go dark. Where will the vanished reflections take refuge then? In the shadowy corridors of my unreliable memory no doubt. Years later perhaps they will spill out like the contents of an overstuffed purse. And I will pick them up and look them over with eyes alight with wonder and longing. How beautiful your life was I will say. And then catching sight of my reflection in another night-time window, How beautiful your life is I will add, before the curtain comes down and all goes dark again.
***


10 responses to “The Glass is Already Broken

  • Sherri

    Each entry was exquisite. How grateful I am to have stumbled onto your writings. Thank you for sharing these glimpses of your life.

  • Gayatri

    Your writing is so beautiful and so evocative. Speaks to me on so many levels.Thank you for sharing your writing with the world

  • Welles Goodrich

    Goodbye
    I’m old now.
    My eyes are failing.
    I can still see enough to
    love the lilt of eloquence and
    sound of your words in my heart.
    Wheedle indeed!
    When did I smile last
    upon seeing that used?
    I can’t remember.
    My here fades but the
    excitement of a new there
    is a certainty greater than hope.
    Hello!

    “I know I will never be very good, but there is something in me that’s drawn to dabble.”

    I disagree. When one creates from the heart the process includes the discovery in each work of possibilities to explore in the next. Creation is a concatenation if intent and discovery. Work primarily rooted in intent yields the joy of satisfaction. That which is the result of discovery yields joy of wonder. Focus of attention is elemental. That is the creator’s path.
    W

  • ellie rose elliott

    In the silence of the last few years I felt your pain. Thank you for sharing it with us, shot through as always with those bright moments that illuminate your life – and ours.

    But please, don’t take that Zen koan to heart. In real life the glass that is broken does not die: it passes through the fire and is made new. It is just another shape. Sending prayers and hugs xxx.

  • Nora

    Pavi, getting your emails again after so many years of not seeing them made me pause and drink your every lovely words of rumination. I read and reread your deep yet gentle entries that evoke so many emotions of the simplicity and complexities of life.

    Keep writing, Pavi. You have such a gift to share.

  • LynAn

    Speechless. Sending love your way. And thanking with all my heart and soul for putting this out here.

  • Suchithra

    A long time lurker of this blog, your words evoke a deep sense of pondering within and yanks me to the now and the present. You’re graceful attention to the now amidst being on a challenging journey is making my heart swell with gratitude. Thank you for sharing.

  • Suchithra

    Your** graceful

  • Shalini Sahai

    What a touching, honest and courageous portrayal of your journey! I was smiling and crying at the same time while reading it. Thank you for sharing this!

  • gdammann

    Pavi Thank you so very deeply for sending me this, and subsequent, pieces of raw emotion and exquisite color and beauty, your word watercolor drawings of the apples. I simultaneously find myself with salty tears running down my face, Wanting to draw you and V. and the magic of you “two, one, two” into my arms with ferocity, and peacefully at your feet as the word jewels come from your heart, between you lips.

    I love and miss you, Grace

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: