Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat. The breeze
makes the birds move from branch to branch
as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh
of the next stranger. In the very center, under
it all, what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.
I am so sad and everything is beautiful.
~”Adrift” by Mark Nepo
1. Truth: I am sad. If you were to ask me why, I would reach my hand out, gesturing at the space around us while saying, “uh, the world…” or “all the things!” And yet, I don’t think you would ask me why someone might be sad at this specific moment in time, but rather you’d simply be interested to know if I had any reason in particular, beyond the general “everything.” We’ve collectively lost so much, and many with power and resources are committed to continuing down this path, leaving nothing but destruction in their wake. We get up everyday in a world with an active global pandemic, war, a life threatening environmental crisis, economic upheaval, racism, etc. And while we attempt to cope with all that, the human struggles remain ongoing — birth, death, illness, injury, making sure the laundry is done and the bills paid, etc. There is no shortage of things to make me sad.
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
~”The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass
2. Truth: Grief is compound, complicated. Each grief leads to another, deeper grief. For example, Eric and I are trying to decide our summer plans, and one of the options in addition to visiting family in the Willamette Valley of Oregon is to give ourselves some time on the coast. We waited longer than usual to make reservations so there’s fewer rental options and everything is SO expensive now that it might not happen. As I think about going to Oregon without visiting the ocean, my heart breaks a little. When I remember how the trip we had planned in 2020 got canceled because of COVID and then Sam died and would never get to go to the beach again, it breaks a little more. When I think about the house we stayed in for six summers, where all four of our dogs spent time, and how we’ll never stay there again (the owner retired and lives there fulltime) and we only have one of our dogs left with us but also we lived through some really hard things in that house, my heart breaks a little more. Then I sink into all things past, all that we’ve lost, all the suffering that exists in me and the world, and all we have yet to lose some day, and I feel wholly broken, utterly gutted, and more than a little lost.
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
~ “Instructions on Not Giving Up” by Ada Limón
3. Truth: And yet, there are so many reasons to not give up. And the strangest thing of all is no matter how big the sad or how deep the grief or how widespread the suffering, it only takes the smallest of things for me to drop to my knees with gratitude, for my heart to swell with joy. Usually the things that save me when nothing else can reach me are the tiniest of things — a hug from Eric, howling with Ringo, a poem, raspberries, birds in the feeder, a sunrise, the river, making someone laugh, a text from my brother. There’s always something to hang on to, to keep me afloat for another day, even just another minute, and it can be so little, so simple.
One wish: May you experience the magic and medicine of tiny moments of ease and joy, comfort in times of struggle and grief. Please don’t give up, kind and gentle reader.