Category Archives: Happenings

Anniversary

Our marriage is 9 years old today. Were it a child it would be in 4th grade now. Chances are it would have lost its front baby teeth, and have memorized the names of all the planets (minus Pluto, which got demoted). It will have been informed that our Earth circumambulates the sun, but will not yet have been introduced to trigonometry or taxes. If, on the other hand, our marriage were a medium-sized dog, it would be 56 human years old today. It will have acquired, after years of frenzied puppyhood, an air of gravitas. It will have lost some hearing and declared a truce with the squirrels. It will spend inordinate amounts of time asleep in golden swaths of sunlight wearing a smile. And now seeing that we are considering hypotheticals, here’s another: if our marriage were a sturdy oak somewhere on a windswept hillside, it would still be waiting quietly for its first acorns (yet a decade perhaps two away). But hidden deep in its heartwood, it will have already begun a stunning and concentric collection of rings.

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Our marriage, assuming you care to know, happens to be at once all and none of the above. A thing unto itself, unfolding and alive. Teachable, warm-bodied, deep-rooted. Mortal. And somehow more — so much more — than I dared ever ask of this dazzling world.


The Post Office

I have an incurable love for lines at the post office. This is a luxurious indulgence, I know. The kind important people can ill-afford. But I am comfortably insignificant. Nothing catastrophic happens to the world when I am made to wait for indefinite periods of time, so I am at liberty to love these lines and the speed of molasses at which they move. They give me opportunity to admire the cheerful competence of our postal workers. How brisk and good-natured they are. Even the curmudgeons among them, the ones who speak sharply, criticizing sloppy packaging, pointing out missing zip codes, seem ultimately kind at heart. Before you leave they will inquire gruffly whether you need any stamps. Like the stern grand-aunt who delivers sharp lectures then tries to slip money into your pocket. I love too, the long patience of the people who wait in post-office lines, one behind the other, the way we used to wait everywhere when we were children. My favorites are the ones who wait the old fashioned way, without any digital assistance. The ones who stand clutching parcels and packages of every size and description, their eyes full of dreams and dinner menus. I even love the shelves of empty boxes and envelopes that line the walls waiting to be filled with a sliver of someone’s story. I love the ledges bearing piles of unaddressed labels and I love the tethered ballpoint pens that don’t always work. How many beloved names of people I have never met and will never meet have been recorded in this very spot! How many missives have been launched here. Expressing gratitude and love, conveying longing and regret, singing joy and comfort, sorrow and surprise and every glorious state, and every inglorious state in between! In the long lines of the post office I am slowed down enough to see the smudged and shining face of humanity. And I learn again how much I love being alive in this world. A beating heart amidst many beating hearts.

On Friday a man ahead of me in line shuffled to the counter. The air crackled around his white hair. He was dressed in an old, dark sweatshirt, wrinkled pants and displeasure. “I don’t want this,” he said. The words hit the air like pebble on glass. Nothing shattered, but my attention was successfully riveted. He pushed a wide blue and white envelope across the counter. It looked blameless. “This is addressed to you?” the woman at the counter asks. She has long hair and a wide face, calm as a lake. “Yes,”says the man, “It came for me, and I Don’t Want It.” His voice is emphatic, strained at the edges, daring the world to stand in his way. “You haven’t opened it.” the woman observes, her voice bright and party pleasant. “No,” says the man. “But WHY?” I want to cry out from my place in the line. I am lit with amazement and dismay. Packages that come to you in the mail are infinitely irresistible. What tragedy or bitterness has bit so deeply into this man’s soul that it has overpowered his curiosity? Or does he already know the contents? And if so — who is this package from and what is it they have sent that he cannot tolerate holding it in his possession? My questions flutter unspoken in the air eager and timid as butterflies. A part of me wishes to invite this stooped old man and his storms to tea. “Let’s talk this over, shall we?” I would say gently. Then I’d crush cardamom pods into steaming teacups, and all sad stories and unreasonable grudges would be wafted away on a cloud of fragrance.

“So you are refusing the package?” confirms the woman dispersing my spice-scented-daydream. “Yes,” says the man. A stamp is applied to the troublesome package. And it is tossed out of sight. But three days later it still lingers in my mind. I relate this story to my husband, wondering why I feel so invested in this stranger and his unopened package, so implicated in their fate. “Odd to feel like this when technically it’s none of my business,” I muse. “Only technically?” smiles my husband. “Yes, only technically,” I reply, “because the truth is we are all connected.”

It is a Monday afternoon and now as I sit listening to the church bells spilling across the hills, the real reason for wanting to invite the disgruntled old man at the post office to tea begins to ring inside me. I think I wanted to tell him something I needed to hear: That life is a package and while we breathe on this earth no part of it can be successfully refused. No part can be returned to sender. What is sent away un-lived will always come back. The shore has not learned this yet. Even after all this time it tries to banish waves back to the ocean. But what we attempt to banish will always find us again with the unerring instinct of waves and other wild things that have never required zip codes.

I wanted to say these things to that stranger. So that I might hear them myself. We both would have smiled then, and sipped our tea with freshly unclouded hearts. Filled with a new readiness to stand on the shore of our lives and welcome the waves.


Rumi’s Birthday

Just for today, I would like to dance at the edge of the roof
and encourage some general madness. I shall unloose a flock
of snow white doves into the sky. Failing to find doves,
I shall release eight times a hundred petty grievances instead,
set the air a-tremble with soft wings and forgiveness. I shall
throw my head back and fling my arms wide as if to embrace
the sun, the moon and all the slow-winking stars. Onlookers
will gasp and fear for my safety, “Come down!” they will cry
with upturned faces and hearty disapproval. Laughter will
erupt from my belly, and ripple over the surface of this world
like a purple banner, like a proclamation, impossible to ignore.
I am ready to renounce words. Yes. The shapes and sounds
I’ve held most dear, I have no need for now. Save only one —
Love, I will say, Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.


Mistakes

I want you to know that I have made mistakes
Enough to fill ten thousand king-sized bathtubs
Enough to try the patience of a hundred saints.
I have been terribly stubborn, frequently selfish
And am prone to devastating bouts of pettiness.
Yes. I am quick to fall, slow to rise, full of faults.
Yet I want you to know, that even to my window
Each morning, knocking with long, golden arms
Comes the sun.


The New Year

The poetry of the new year is problematically punctual. An impeccable guest who arrives on time when you are running frantically behind schedule. Catching you precisely at that awkward stage of housecleaning when the contents of closet and cupboard are strewn across the room and there is no sensible place left to sit down. No, you haven’t had a chance to change the guest room towels, your clothes or your habits. It is at this stage that you begin to stammer out apologies and resolutions. The visitor fixes you with a gaze that breaks like dawn over your clutter and chagrin. “What a beautiful life,” murmurs your guest, pressing an oddly shaped package into your hands. Gladness rises in the heart like a cloud of hummingbirds. Always the same, unpredictable, utterly original gift. You consider the paradox of that as you hold it between your palms. Like freshly kneaded dough: this brand new day.


Rising

The poetry of rising is the poetry of upward mobility. It belongs to the sun, the moon, the mythical phoenix, hot air balloons and don’t forget — bread baking in the oven. Also paper kites, rattling elevators and the fluent rush of steam from a tea kettle. Superman in his red cape. Not to mention hope — the thing with feathers — that cannot be grounded like a plane at the San Francisco airport (no matter how thick the fog).


Selecting A Reader

The poetry of selecting a reader: First I would have him be tired but happy (as days are full & life is good) He will trip on my poems left lying like lost shoe on a dim staircase, catching railing to right himself, he will pick up the book open to a random page read onetwomaybethree poems. He will start to smile & stop to yawn. Now I should go to sleep he will say. And does (only to dream a beautiful poem against all odds).