Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ozarks 29.3.03: Sarvisberry Blossom, Ephemeral Gifts

This day thirty 53 years ago my mother was preparing to give birth to me. How afraid she must have been with me the first. And the pain. . . .

All these thoughts in the beauty of the Ozarks, where we glimpsed bird’s-foot violets as we drove near the chimney rocks yesterday. I see some kind of flag coming up along the creek, and am curious to know what it will turn out to be. Rue anemone is blooming everywhere—pink, white, pinky-white. And big bright sprays of sarvisberry blossom in the woods.

It’s a clear day, and if we climb high, we’ll no doubt see more of them at overlook points. I also want to see the violets again. Would it be kosher to dig some up? I think they’re almost impossible to transplant.

And all along, I’m talking around what’s in my heart. That’s in part because I don’t know what’s there. Elation, certainly, to have and be in such a place. Elation at the gifts that have dropped into our laps.

At the same time, the very receiving of them—the outlay of money, even if it’s money we inherited from Kat; the new balance (or unbalancing) they effect in our lives; this cabin, land, car—the very gift of them is unsettling and causes me deep anxiety.

I feel that, in growing to old age, I’m growing away from anything that has ever been familiar to me. My loved ones are gone—they recede as I go forward. . . .

And as I write, sun suddenly reaches our valley, pale gold against the still bare trees, all shades of gray and gray-green. I’ll never see the sun on these trees just this way again.

And that’s perhaps what frustrates. All changes. All passes. All is new, and all is dying. I pore over Ecclesiastes, and I don’t know how to absorb that message of . . . acceptance? Impassivity and celebration of the ephemeral gift of life at the same time? I don’t know how to be a Buddhist accepting what is and at the same time a Jew or Christian struggling against injustice.

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Interesting. I read today Mary Oliver’s poem “The Return” in her What Do We Know? (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2002), which says,

Rumi the poet was a scholar also/But Shams, his friend, was an angel./By which I don’t mean anything patient or sweet (p. 9).

Also this wonderful set of lines re: her lying back to back with a seal pup on a beach:

. . . and maybe/our breathing together was some kind of heavenly conversation/in God’s delicate and magnifying language, the one/we don’t dare speak out loud, not yet (ibid.).

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As we walked today, it occurred to me what it is in part, the great anxiety: it’s that things seem to be going too well, and I expect the boom to fall. The . . . I don’t know the word: success? luck? . . . is deeply unsettling. It demands something beyond my normal rut.

And I don’t know what.

I also find it very difficult to imagine good can come without evil following. Telling myself this is a typical emotional dynamic in the lives of people raised with familial alcoholism doesn’t help.

Can I expect, in the same year, to buy a marvelous cabin, land, car, and have anything else good happen to me (justice with Alice Gray, with Belmont Abbey)? Life seldom gives anyone such marvelous gifts all at once. And if it does, it exacts a terrible price.


David said...

Blessed, belated Happy Birthday!

what a thoughtfully gracious and beautiful post.

about transplanting the wild violets, a friend has had some success by lining the transplant hole with a sopping wet paper towel lightly sprinkled with bone meal to encourage rooting, and it had worked quite successfully with both wild violets in semi-shade and trilium.


William D. Lindsey said...

David, thank you. I'm glad you liked the post. I appreciate very much the suggestions about transplanting wild violets, and I'll try them. Bird's-foot violets are notoriously difficult to move, and I felt guilty digging this one up.

But I'm happy to report that it did survive the transition, and has continued blooming in its new spot for several years now. They are such a beautiful, dramatic violet, and I'm happy to have one growing where I can watch it when I visit our cabin.