Wednesday, September 05, 2012

the space within my chest

  Wave Hill. © 2012 Amber Schley Iragui
The whirlwind of our days lately, I think they started sometime last summer. Or maybe when Valerie died without letting us say goodbye. But they haven't stopped, and I don't expect them to. I imagine they will stretch like this across many summers: I see my daughter grown tall before me, a young teenager asking permission to take a summer trip with friends; my son jumping off something too high and splintering a heel bone. There will be more sleepless nights, trips to the ER, lengthy discussions with my husband and difficult decisions.

There were years when I wished for something to happen, anything to happen. I would have welcomed an earthquake. Days when I had the embarrassing luxury of a dream journal. And more recently, there were stretches of time where just the normal routine of things was all I could bear. My energy pulled inward with a dogged desire to understand: Psyche sorting seed from grain, but within a seemingly Sisyphean time frame.

But then the grains are sorted, the larder stocked, the broken things swept away. And something marvelous happens. My gaze turns outward again, but from a deeper place; with less to prove and more to give, the space within my chest slowly unfurling.

This weekend was a blur of urgency and activity: we spent six hours in the ER with Genevieve, celebrated Charles' birthday and also a neighbor's birthday, had brunch with family from out-of-town, combed Manhattan for a prescription medicine that seems to be in a city-wide shortage (only to find, well past midnight, a lone bottle in Midtown East), went head-to-head with some of the legal obstacles facing our small little Waldorf school, and yet still managed to find time to peruse the aisles of an old-fashioned bookstore and wander in our beloved Wave Hill. Yes, I felt anxious much of the time, yet not done in—as if the opening in my chest made room for each thing in its turn.

I have seen these cycles within myself over and over. Everyone has their own rhythm, that mine move at a pace imperceptible to even me has been hard to accept. But my body, heart, and mind play a gentle melody together, and do so best without my anxious intervention. I cannot hurry myself out of fears, or convince my heart of things it does not believe. My body takes its cues from a place far deeper than my mind, and it is best not to mess in its business. Collect the facts, I tell myself, and just sit them there, on the counter of my mind. Ask. In time it will all be clear.

Lately I have taken joy in my slowness, in my deep stubbornness of heart. As if I can feel my roots reaching down further into ground, daring the wind to blow hard enough to move me. Just try, I say, I'm not afraid. But I also take comfort in I knowing I am so little. I may be a tree but I'm by no means an impressive one. All my own truths are partial truths: I am not in possession of the whole, and will never be. Lord have mercy, I whisper, give me the eyes to see.

T R Y I N G   T O   N A M E   W H A T   D O E S N ' T   C H A N G E
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.

Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.

Every Tuesday on Morales Street
butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.
The widow in the tilted house
spices her soup with cinnamon.
Ask her what doesn’t change.

Stars explode.
The rose curls up as if there is fire in the petals.
The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.

The train whistle still wails its ancient sound
but when it goes away, shrinking back
from the walls of the brain,
it takes something different with it every time.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems
Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. 

{ p o e t r y   w e d n e s d a y }


Bethany Patchin said...

This is so good, and just what I needed today.

Julia said...

I had to read this several times to really absorb it, including the poem, because it is all very rich. I don't know what to comment, except that I deeply resonate with all you're saying, every single little facet of this multi-faceted piece, although I think you may be a little ahead of me when it comes to directing energy outward (I am still very much in the "sorting seed from grain" phase, while simultaneously trying to volunteer for apple picking field trips and all the rest), but I think you already know all of this.

Manuela said...

I love this, Amber. It is beautifully written. I, too, read it three or four times to really take it in.

"My body takes its cues from a place far deeper than my mind, and it is best not to mess in its business."
I love how your expressed this truth. I can relate, most definitely