I woke before dawn this morning. Too much on my mind.
Thinking of a friend who struggles with depression. The joy, the savor has gone out of life. She’s exhausted, but she can’t sleep.
Thinking of a friend who watches her mother struggle with depression. And decline the joy my friend knows could be hers, were she to adopt an animal companion.
Thinking of a friend who writes of a mutual friend’s suicide. A friend who shared our, his, love, so freely, in this case with cats.
“Thinking of” these sadnesses doesn’t do it for me. “Feeling-for” these sadnesses? Not it. “Feeling-in with.” “Extending my imagination into empathy with.”
The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi writes about welcoming in life, no matter how it shows up. “A joy, a depression, a meanness.”
Rumi is into ecstasy. In a very big way. “Inhibited” is not a word you’d put next to Rumi. Rumi advises welcoming even “a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.”
A word, friend Rumi, if you please. Do you mean “welcome” like the bunch of drunks the other July 4th night, setting off firecrackers thirty feet away from the house? At 1:30 in the morning? Like that?
So I’m groping for a way to say I “welcome” this “feeling-in-with” experience. But not like “Dude! Take a seat! What’ll you have?” More “welcome” like Mary Oliver in WILD GEESE. The book falls open to the page.
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”
And Mary goes on, swooping and soaring in an ecstacy I feel in the cells of my bones, the hair on the back of my neck rises with the sheer dizzying power of this grand imagination. And then tears, when she brings it all home, in the end:
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Oliver did a reading here not too long ago. She told how WILD GEESE came into being. She had assigned to a student an exercise: Write a poem consisting of nothing but declarative sentences. Then she herself sat down and wrote WILD GEESE.
An exercise. A mere work-out. Turned into a visitation. An annunciation.
Mary ended the story by saying – in that spare, flat New England voice of hers –
“Gifts are given.”
This morning I was sitting by the window, in the pre-dawn gloaming, thinking of – feeling-in-with – sadness.
Bugs hopped up on the table and head-bumped me.
This fierce creature, the same one who, at the moment I write this, is peering at (threatening) my feet and hollering at the top of his lungs for his breakfast THIS MINUTE
Then, he head-bumped.
He then jumped up onto the new shelves – doubtless he had in mind that the only way I’d got him to do that, to date, was by bribing him for the camera with treats. He then hopped back down, did some more head-bumping.
And then, when no treats were forthcoming, nipped my hand.
Life. A mixed bag.