(the autumn of my 52nd year),
what hurts is not the sorrow,
but opening to the beauty.
It defies the long-held ambitions of my rib cage,
the muscles that have tightened around its bones,
armoring the tender, 11 ounce, red and purple drum-beat
that I guard there
“with my life”
in this all-too-human body.
What hurts is feeling the wide-blue sky expanding beyond
the limits of reason,
the way it demands that I stretch,
declaring back to me
– playfully and mockingly –
the folly of believing I do not belong,
the folly of thinking I am bounded
by the box I know as “myself”.
“Myself” is buttoned up here,
in my rib-sized waist-coat
where, let me tell you, I am well-prepared for life !
Smart. Safe. In Control.
(and circumvent it accordingly).
I am.. fine.
That is, until that wide expanse of sky
catches me off-guard.
That sky with its companion clouds roaming on the horizon,
this time, like a magisterial pack of wild horses
slowly galloping through the expanse and
onwards, across the bright blue heat of the day and
onwards, towards the first cast of twilight.
So, that is, until then…
then, the pain returns.
In spite of my best efforts to button it down,
the sky beckons me beyond my folly, yearning
— not because it is trying, but because of its very nature –
to repossess me.
I yearn to return and it’s the yearning that hurts.
Opening to the majesty, the charade reveals itself,
and in the clear seeing, my heart is piqued.
It can’t help itself. Overcome.
I remind myself that this is what happens when you fall in love, no?
Seeing my separation from this beloved
feels like the sting of a burn on a fresh cut.
Sharp and hot.
This mortal wound exposed.
It takes courage to be vulnerable.
And vulnerability to be courageous.
Vulnerability is the elixir of reconnection, to ourselves and others.
The capacity for vulnerability grows with the capacity to face all we disavow.
(All = the anger, the hatred, the seemingly unbearable grief and… the Beauty).
Vulnerability + Witnessing It All = Freedom
OK, fine and good, but a bit too technical, too rational, no?
So, let’s return to the sky.
To when, and where, it descends beyond our formulas
into the wind rippling and rustling through the madrone grove.
Where it descends further still in the deep breath that catches me, in spite of “myself”.
To where it descends beyond language because how do you describe that kind of breath? That recognition of relief, release?
The s p a c e to be the sky?
In this soft descent, I see the buttons on my waistcoat
— the familiar shape of them sliding, over decades,
into their proper places.
I feel growing pains.
The sky has filled me up beyond the bounds of all this fastening.
Here, I see that what hurts is not the cruel actions of others,
but the way I have guarded myself against them with defiance and conviction.
The way this preserves the whole catastrophe.
Who am I, after all, to think
that another’s cruelty
is about me,
and not their own hardship beholding the sky?
each day I will risk apprehending you more
as that which I cannot apprehend.
Each day, I will surrender more to the
stunning miracle of all the mammoth,
puff-balls of whiteness you host,
elegantly moving their irreplicable shapes
across your (their) atmospheric canvas.
Vast sky, I will open to you each time a little more.
Aware of you circling around the buttons inside me,
meeting them like shivering leaves,
tinkling and fluttering
in the wind.
In time, may your delicate strength
unravel the threads,
work its way through my guardians,
softening their fears,
until I am readied,
Naked, then, I will join you,
leaves scattering as I
mount the clouds,
riding their unhurried path
It will be beautiful
and I will survive.