More of a Hum, Less of a Scream

HABLANDO SOLA

I’ve been thinking about something. I’ve been thinking about it while I surf, while I ride my bike, in the early mornings when I’m neither awake nor asleep.


JUNE

It’s June. I don’t know what that means to you, but it for me it dislodges something that lives deep in my bone marrow. It brings me flashes of unthinkable doctor visits, sudden plane tickets, a long morning run when I understood exactly what was happening even though I didn’t dare to say it, and the surreal sensation of packing suitcases for a trip that wasn’t a vacation.  A lot of those days turned into poems.

Probably, eventually, if I live long enough, June will just be June.  It will be different. Everything is always different, eventually. You can quote me on that if you want to. You can bet your life savings on it.

After June comes July. July reminds me of long walks, fruit and vegetable markets, chemotherapy appointments, and the ER. August follows, with more of the same. September is a hard month that takes me on a trip through the process of dying. Getting out of your body is as messy as getting into it.  And then there’s October with its interminable silence. Clocks tick 24 hours a day. The sunlight is sharp and cold.


THAT WAS 3 YEARS AGO

You wonder how many more times I’m going to tell you this story? I don’t know. Imagine how many times it tells itself to me. 

It’s a good story.  If today was the end of it, you could say it has a happy ending.  How’s that for optimism?


CELLS

I read once that every 7 years every cell in the human body is replaced by a new cell. Have I written about this before? I might have. I think it’s important.

I’m writing about it now, because I’ve been thinking about my body. Almost half of my body wasn’t even there, three years ago, when Pio and I took off for Milan. These hands are only sort of the hands that packed the suitcases. The feet that walked through pairs of shoes on the streets of Milan trying to make space for all this—those feet are only sort of my actual feet, today. Half the cells in my body—from my ankle bones to the synapses in my brain—never even knew Pio. Half of these eyes never saw him. Isn’t that crazy?

And this: half the cells that make up my brain where the stories are held aren’t even the original ones who recorded the stories. They do the job of remembering the stories they’re told, I guess, but they weren’t even there in my head on the airplane, or at the market trying to remember how to say “cauliflower” in Italian, or in front of the TV together splitting a beer and potato chips (because at that point, why not?), or in the hospital room holding hands when that was all that was left. Imagine. A few years more and not even one cell in my body will have been there.

We remember things experienced in other bodies.


HARD POETRY

I think that explains everything. It explains how we can go on living. Because with every hour and every day, our bodies turn into other bodies that haven’t even experienced our own stories. Our brain cells that remember them were told the stories by previous generations of brain cells. It’s more hard poetry than hard science, but what a perfect place for them to meet. The stories remain, but something about the sound they make is different. Something about the tone. The sound coming from my bones is there, but it’s more of a hum, less of a scream.

You can’t stop it. You can’t make it hurry up. If you just keep eating some food, drinking some water, sleeping at night, and staying out of the jaws of crocodiles, it happens on its own. It’s beautiful. It’s brutal. It doesn’t really matter what you call it.

 

EVENTUALLY

Do I sit around ruminating on this all the time?  I do not.  But it’s June.  Part of me commences a 4-month walk through The Valley of The Shadow of Death.

It’s alright. I fear no evil. 

Everything, eventually, is different.

The Universe of This Is Not What I Signed Up For

I would like to say something meaningful at a time like this, with our world locked down and life suspended, but those are tall orders. What is meaningful? I could describe my daily experience to you, the peacefulness of my days and my nights. I am among the lucky ones, at this moment. I know that. Luck can change on a dime—I know that, too.

I am in familiar territory. I am the mapmaker of this place we are. I was exploring its contours before you all arrived.

There are ways in which what has happened in the rest of the world has thrown it, en mass, into my reality–the reality of grief. Not in every way, but in some ways. Now you have all had the rug yanked out from under you. Now your world has been shaken to pieces, too. Now you are discovering what I meant two years ago when I wrote about sitting and listening to silence, trying to take it all in. When I wrote about the vertigo of having no solid reference points. The waiting.

Welcome to the planet called Loss. Welcome to the solar system called I Did Everything Right But Everything Still Turned Out Wrong. Welcome to the galaxy called All You Can Do Is Wait. It’s in the universe of This Is Not What I Signed Up For. The tour will begin in 10 minutes.

What are we waiting for? We don’t know. Whatever comes next.
When will it get here? Someday. Some other day that is not today.
Are we going to like it? Maybe. Maybe not.
Do we get our old life back? I won’t. We’ll find out if you do.

Life, again, has proved right this belief of mine that no matter what it is that you think is going to happen, the thing that actually happens will be something else. Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Realize that what comes will not be what you expected or prepared for. Breathe. Wait. Learn to walk barefoot over rocks, bake bread, and sleep with the windows open. You wouldn’t believe how useful these things can be.

Meaningful? Perhaps not.

But, true.

On this planet, The Past and The Future are separate islands in a sea so vast you cannot see one from the other.

Lettuce Soup

I don’t know. Whatever the question is, that’s my answer. At least I’m honest. 

The things I do know aren’t the answers to anything in particular.

The Tower of Babel

I think of the Tower of Babel. (If you missed Sunday School that Sunday, click here.) Before we all went into lock-down, we as a human species were one thing, invincible. Now we’re all in our corners–sent to our rooms, so to speak. This is different than the Tower of Babel story, because in the Bible story their languages were scrambled so they couldn’t talk to each other. We can still talk to each other. We talk too much, repeating things we heard someone else say, getting into heated disagreements in/over little black letters on a screen. The divisions are in place. It’s Babel. Different, but the same.

“They” closed the borders of the countries of the world. I live in a town that functions 100% on tourism. We don’t have any other industry. We don’t have any other way of earning our daily bread. We (not me personally at this time, but the citizens of the place I live) are hungry.

The streets are quiet. I remember 25 years ago when this quiet was normal. It was The Thing, not the absence of a thing. But it was different, then. There were more trees and fewer empty buildings. I love the quiet. I love the stillness. Finally something that is true is revealed from beneath something that was artificial. Does that make sense? To me, it does.

We fear crime. Stores, closed until further notice, have been emptied by their owners. Naked mannequins stand in shop windows. Restaurants are dark as caves, emptied of tables and chairs. Where has all the furniture gone?

I forgot there were this many monkeys. The hillsides are full of their voices just before dawn. They are everywhere. I thought they were gone–a thinning, endangered population that human activity was slowly extinguishing. Not even. There is nothing wrong with the monkeys. They just didn’t like us is all. Sometimes I’m not sure I like us.

Parrots. Have you ever listened to them? On a morning with no buses, no construction noise, no music from restaurants trying to attract foot traffic. I sometimes laugh at their jokes even though I don’t understand the words.

The ocean. It doesn’t need us. We sigh and suffer for it. We need it on our skin. We dream of it at night. And there it is, luminous, rising, falling, breathing its salty warm breath into the world, cleaner and more crystalline than ever. It isn’t one bit sad.

“When Things Get Back to Normal”

Nothing is ever going to be the same after this. I don’t think “things” are going to go back to being “like they were.” I could be wrong–let’s just take that as a given no matter what I say. We talk about, “after this is over,” and of course it will be over. Everything ends. But maybe we should drop the phrase “when things get back to normal.” Am I the only one who foresees a new normal?

I might know something about new normals.

Having the world implode into lockdown and watching society melt isn’t entirely dissimilar to the experience of having my husband become sick and die. It isn’t the same, but one is reminiscent of the other. Both things happened suddenly. Both things yank the rug out from under you. Both things cause you to have to rethink ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING about your life. Both things destroy what was and leave you with god-only-knows-what afterward. Both things are surrounded by a lot of silence. Both of them involve waking up each morning and having to remember how “now” is different from “then” before you know how to live.

Remember how I confessed to walking and running on the beach with my eyes closed, trying to see with my skin and my ears? Now I can do it on my bike in the street. In little spurts, early or late. More than ever, being able to sense what is around me without being able to see it feels like a critical skill.

Lettuce Soup

What’s around me/us that I cannot see?

I’m told there’s a virus–literally “your death of a cold.” I can’t see it. Should I be afraid of the air?

There is hunger around me. I can feel that. In the empty streets, I see friends who wave and smile. I also see strange people that I never seen before–people who eye me in a way I don’t like. In a house a few miles from here a few nights ago 4 people were shot. It sounds drug-related–somebody owed the wrong person too much money or something. I’m not afraid of being shot in the night. I’m not afraid of being hungry. I was also not afraid the government would shut the borders and that the restaurant owners would find it prudent to take home the tables and chairs. But they have.

Some people–people I know–are looking at the worst days of their lives. I am not. Not yet. Things have to be much different than this before they compare to the worst day of my life. I’ve been poor before. I’ve been hungry. I don’t talk about it much. Once, I made lettuce soup for my stepdaughter and pretended it was delicious (it wasn’t bad, really) because it was the only thing we had. I am a long long way from preparing lettuce soup for a hungry child who depends on me.

Something is Happening

Where am I? What is going on?

I love the silence. No cars. No buses. No dump trucks. No cement mixers. No music from bars. Nothing. I might be obsessed with it. I feel a sort of jealousy regarding it–it is mine and you cannot have it. I don’t want anyone or anything to touch it. A noisy motorcycle drove by this morning and I held my breath. It interrupted the locusts and the wind I was listening to. For a moment it drowned out the sound of the sea and it was like not knowing where I was.

I don’t want things to go back to the way they were. I loved things the way they were. I was happy, then. But something has happened. Something is happening. Do you feel it? Things can be different. Better. Can’t they? If there is more than one way to be, can we be another way now that we’ve had this pause. Like children redirected after a time out?

Listen…  

Is that the sound of the meek inheriting the earth?

Superpower / Duty

I’ve been thinking about humans, as a species.

We seem to be undergoing a species-wide crisis while all the other things on the planet are doing fine. Better, in fact, since our carbon footprint suddenly shrank several shoe sizes.

Some people say this is Mother Earth putting us back in our place. I don’t know. Maybe. Nature does this to all of her species once in a while–I don’t assume it’s anything personal. We’d like to think we get special treatment, but we don’t really.

I go to the beach to breathe in the sky and search for my sanity, and I find myself wondering: what does the planet even need us for? Besides building glass and concrete cities to cover the land and sucking fossil fuels out of the earth only to dump them into the sky, what can we do that other species can’t? Even an elephant can paint a picture.

So?

I know what the earth needs buffalo for: to trim and fertilize the plains. It needs birds and monkeys to spread seeds that keep the jungles growing. Wolves cull the smaller mammals in the mountains. Hawks and foxes keep the mice population down. But people? Would there be too much of anything without us?

I don’t know. Not that I can think of. So what is our thing? We must have one.

And then I thought of one thing–one thing humans can do that other species can’t–not dogs, crocodiles, guanacaste trees, blue whales, daffodils, kitty-cats, boa constrictors, or bougainvillea.

We can appreciate aesthetic beauty.

Plants and animals are capable of appreciation–I have no doubt about that–but I don’t think they appreciate the beauty of a sunset or a brilliant rainbow. My cat laying under the hibiscus bush appreciates the shade and the cool ground, but he doesn’t care about the flowers. The dogs playing with coconuts on the beach love the game but they aren’t sighing over the colors in the clouds. A rose bush likes bees I’m sure, but it doesn’t appreciate how beautiful a butterfly is.

People can do that. It might be our superpower. It might be our duty.

I feel compelled to state these observations as I watch our species struggle in an identity crisis brought on by something so small as to be invisible. Other species can love. Other species can help each other. Other species can build and create. But are we the only ones who can give value to something simply for its aesthetic beauty? I think we are.

And?

And, I don’t know. Is appreciating beauty going to save my life or yours if it comes down to that? I don’t see how. But there are a lot of things I don’t know, a lot of things I cannot conceive of in my little mind. I’ve got no health claims to make (unless we’re talking about mental health?); I just think this would be a great time to find something beautiful and appreciate the heck out of it. Go ahead: a cloud, a flower, a person, an animal, music, a work of art…

I’m joining you. It can’t hurt. Never underestimate the power of things you don’t understand and don’t even necessarily believe.

The Year of The Knife

In place of a New Year’s resolution, I have a New Year’s image to keep present with me for the next 330-some days. It came to me as 2019 was ending—2019 that I promised myself would be The Year of the Open Hand. And it was.

2020 is The Year of the Knife. Not The Knife as a weapon; The Knife as a tool.

This image of The Knife presented itself to me one December morning as I was walking on the beach. Of course a knife can be used to injure, but that’s not the knife’s fault; a knife is useful for lots of things. In the hands of a surgeon The Knife can save your life. In the hands of a tailor, it shapes your clothes. In the hands of a hunter or a gatherer, it provides food. You can use The Knife to mark your path through the forest so you don’t become lost. Everybody needs one.

The Knife is necessary for separating. It separates what is useful from what is not useful. Sometimes it separates what is well from what is sick. It separates things into useful portions—think of an axe or a hatchet turning a fallen tree into something you can cook with or use to build a dwelling.

The Knife can open what is closed: a melon, a package, a locked door.

It splits yes from no. It severs now from later (or before). It divides too much into portions of enough. It defines. It peels away a bitter rind. It cuts the umbilical cord of beginnings and allows/requires things to become what they are.

I don’t know what I will need this Knife for in 2020, but it seems like an important tool to learn to use well. And carefully. You could hurt someone with it. You could hurt yourself.

Interestingly, a few weeks after The Knife came to me, I went to visit my friends who owns the deck of tarot cards that gave me such a fascinating directive at the beginning of last year. Again, I laid 3 cards on the table and turned them over. No devils this time. Whew. But there was The Knife—two of them, in fact—on the card intended to represent The Present: The 2 of Swords. On this card, a woman sits blindfolded with her back to the ocean holding 2 gigantic swords in her hands, crossed in front of her like an X. She is clearly a swordswoman, she is clearly well-equipped, she is clearly attentive and calm. Whereas she is non-threatening, she demands absolute respect. I like this girl.

And so?

So, happy Year of The Knife.

You can have one, too. Take an invisible blade, slip it into a sturdy sheath so that you don’t hurt yourself, and put it in your imaginary backpack. You have one whether you know it or not—of stuff you carry around with you. Put your knife in there and remember it when you have to separate what you want from what you don’t want, what you need from what you don’t need, or when a thing must be in smaller pieces to be good or useful to you. Choose not to use it to injure.

If your Knife is sharp and you are careful, you can make something beautiful with it. That’s what tell myself.  That’s what I’m trying to do.

What the Tree Trunk Said

Part 1

I don’t know what kind of tree it was or where it came from. Clearly, Hurricane Nate brought it.  Maybe the hurricane took it down and threw it into the sea. Maybe it was a fall from some other time that dislodged from its resting place in the current of so much water and launched downstream. If I were to guess, I’d say it probably floated to us from the south because hurricane winds seem to me to blow from the southwest. Although, I don’t know. This hurricane was like no other, and I wasn’t here. It was early October 2017, and I was in Milan in the middle of my own hurricane.

I came home to Tamarindo, a stunned widow, in November after five months that lasted five years. The sky in Tamarindo had cleared by then, the electricity was restored, fallen limbs were cleared away, and it looked almost like nothing had happened. I might have looked that way too, at first glance.

I went to the beach to gather my thoughts a little, and when I saw it, I froze and sucked in my breath. In the middle of the beach on the rock reef that juts out into the water, where tidepools form at low tide and fishermen toss their lines, was the dead body of an unimaginably enormous tree. The force of water needed to throw this giant up out of the sea onto the rocks is inconceivable. And yet there it was.

And there it stayed.

I thought surely the next 10 foot tide would move it, but no. Or maybe the next tropical storm system. But no. All of us picked our way across the sharp lava rocks sooner or later to have a look at this marvel. Tourists took their picture beside it. Novios carved their names or initials into it. It became part of our landscape, part of our story.

From the first moment I saw it, I felt a strange affinity for that tree trunk. I think it’s weird that at essentially the moment Pio died, a hurricane unleashed on Tamarindo. I’m not trying to connect the two in any direct metaphysical way—I promise I’m not. But in my mind, the two things are absolutely connected. Nobody who lives in this town will forget that hurricane. And neither will I.

I stared at the trunk of that dead tree on my beach walks. I felt sympathy for it–both of us, hurricane victims. Both of us washed up here in Tamarindo, waiting to see what happens next. Both of us getting pared down by sun, wind, rain. Both of us in the middle of the water, sand, and sky. I felt like if I could get a good photo of it, it would be my self-portrait. What is left of a giant thing after it is destroyed.

I’ve lived at the beach long enough to know that tree trunks, no matter how big they are or where they wash up, don’t stay there forever. Eventually another hurricane comes, or a big swell or a hard rain, and they move. Sand shifts, and they sink and are buried, only to reappear another year after we’ve forgotten where they are. I hoped I didn’t meet up with this giant in the surf the day it dislodged, that it wouldn’t harm any of the boats anchored nearby, depending on which direction it took when it rolled free.

Part 2

In September 2019 I went back to Italy. I already told you about that pilgrimage disguised as a vacation, so I won’t make you read it all again. It was an important trip and marks a turning point of some kind that I have not yet identified. I came back in the beginning of October, lighter in more places than just my wallet.

I went to the beach to gather my thoughts a little, and when I saw it, I froze and sucked in my breath. Impossible: my tree was gone. A September storm must have dislodged it while I was gone and took it away. I knew that eventually it would move, but I thought it was still to big and too heavy.  I thought I would watch it go.  But it both came and went during my two important trips to Italy.

While I was trying to fit that into my surprised mind, I saw something else that stopped me again, and right there under the mid-morning sun in front of God and everybody, I burst into tears.  Up ahead of me, the giant tree trunk was laying on the sand.

Out of the ocean, from its place half-in half-out of the water, onto the dry land.  I knew immediately and without a doubt that there is a message for me in this. And I knew exactly what it is:

If two years is long enough to move a fallen giant like me, it’s long enough to move you.

 

That’s what the tree trunk said.

Sometimes I agree, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I feel like no amount of time is long enough. But I always beg for clear messages and one thing is for sure: that was a really big tree.


Together

L’accento L’avrò Per Vita: Poesie in Italiano da CERTA COME IL POMERIGGIO

Il sabato 9 novembre ho fatto una piccola presentazione del mio nuovo libro di poesia e ho letto 5 poesie primo in inglese, poi in italiano.  Il libro, CERTAIN AS AFTERNOON / CERTA COME IL POMERIGGIO e una raccolta di poesie sull’amore, la vita, e la morte.

Un mio amico ha fatto dei video della presentazione e oggi, qui, condivido con voi le 5 poesie lette in italiano. 

Non ridete. L’accento Americano l’avrò per vita.

 

1 di 5: Una poesia che descrive il mondo di “prima,” e finisce con un avvertimento

2 di 5: Sul momento in cui la malatia è scoperta

3 di 5: Una poesia che parla della morte e il primo momento (di momenti infiniti) di silenzio

4 di 5:  Contemplando cos’è che si deve fare quando hai gia fatto tutto quello che potevi fare

5 di 5: Una poesia riguardo i cenere, promesse, e il mare

Namaste

 

You Can Always Come for the Cookies / Videos from a Poetry Reading

On Saturday, November 9 at Tamarindo’s one and only bookstore, I held a small launch party for and reading of my new poetry collection, CERTAIN AS AFTERNOON. I think I had realistic expectations regarding how much of a crowd a poetry book about death might draw, so I was pleasantly surprised by how many people showed up. Thirty is the number I heard: old friends, new friends, strangers, other widows.  I sold all the books I have.

I made a lot of cookies and bought some wine for the occasion. Even if you don’t love poetry (not the biggest draw in a surf town), you can always come for the cookies. I’m good with that.

A dear friend of mine videoed my presentation in short segments, which, today I am sharing with you. Following, is the introduction to CERTAIN AS AFTERNOON, and each of the 5 poems in English.

A neighbor who is also a poet made this comment to me after reading CERTAIN AS AFTERNOON:

“You say it’s a book about death, but it isn’t. It’s a book about life. You use shades of black to show us all the other colors.”

 

INTRO 1: HOW THE BOOK CAME TO BE, AND HOW IT CAME TO BE IN TWO LANGUAGES

INTRO 2:  WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK?

POEM 1 OF 5: A poem that paints a picture of “before” and ends with a warning

POEM 2 OF 5: About discovering sickness

POEM 3 OF 5: A poem about death and the first (of an infinate number) moment of silence

POEM 4 OF 5: On what you must do after you’ve done everything

POEM 5 OF 5: Later, contemplating ashes, the ocean, the idea of going home

Namaste

CERTAIN AS AFTERNOONCERTA COME IL POMERIGGIO

A Heart the Size of Your Fist

Excerpt from Marry A Mennonite Boy and Make Pie
Workplay Publishing, 2018
pp. 174-175

 

I knew that letters were going to come but wasn’t prepared for what happened when I found one lying in my campus mail box. I flashed hot, then cold, then nauseous, and I had to go somewhere to read it—somewhere that is not home. No one must look at me.

Across campus on the other side of the railroad tracks that run behind the theatre, there is a tree I sometimes climbed. It’s a scruffy old pine with branches that are naked near the trunk—a hiding place I discovered last spring before I met Tom, when the guy I’d been in love with all year started going out with somebody who wasn’t me.

I rode my bike to my tree with the letter in my pocket and climbed up to the seat where I mourned that other heartbreak.

Don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry.

I didn’t want to go home with red eyes and snot on my shirt.

Don’t cry.

The problem wasn’t my housemates. It was Tom I was hiding from. Obviously, at our house you could cry if you wanted and you didn’t owe anybody an explanation. But Tom would expect one. One I didn’t have. When he said he loved me, I said it back. And I meant it. I did.

 

I didn’t cry.

I read the letter, and read the letter, and read the letter. I held it to my face. I pressed it to my arms, to my cheek, to my heart. All I could do was think about breathing. All he asked was for me to come back, but I couldn’t move from that tree.

 

Can you love two people? If you love two people, is one fake and one real? Which one? Or are they both lies?

Can you fracture into a thousand pieces on the inside, and outside no one will know? Can you die and still appear alive? Can you live without understanding anything?

What is happening to me? Why can I not let go? Why does it matter more than air? How will I live my life?

Can you ever be alright again, ever, after you are absolutely broken? How can so much pain fit into a heart the size of your fist?

 

It was like the day in Los Rios that I reached from the shower for my towel and was stung on my pinky finger by the scorpion hiding there. I stared in dumb disbelief at my hand, as a blinding pain surged through my tiny finger and exploded into the entire room. It charged the air around my body like electric and shook the walls of concrete. All the while, my smallest finger looked exactly the same.

Un Corazón del Tamaño del Puño

Extraco de Marry A Mennonite Boy and Make Pie
Workplay Publishing, 2018
pp. 174-175

 

Yo sabía que las cartas iban a llegar, pero no estaba preparada para lo que sucedió cuando encontré la primera en mi buzón en el campus universitario. Sentí calor, luego frío, luego náuseas, y tenía que ir a algún lugar para leerla, algún lugar que no fuera mi casa. Nadie debía mirarme.

Al otro lado de la universidad, al otro lado de las vías del ferrocarril que corren detrás del teatro, hay un árbol que yo a veces subía. Es un pino viejo desaliñado con ramas desnudas cerca del tronco, un escondite que descubrí la primavera pasada antes de conocer a Tom, cuando el muchacho del que yo estaba enamoradísima comenzó a salir con alguien que no era yo.

Me fui en la bicicleta hasta aquel árbol con la carta en el bolsillo, y subí al asiento donde lloré esa otra angustia.

No llorar, me dije. Pase lo que pase, no llorar.

Yo no quería ir a casa con los ojos rojos y mocos en la camisa.

No llorar.

El problema no eran mis compañeras de casa. Me estaba escondiendo de mi novio Tom. Obviamente en la casa donde vivía con las chicas, podrías llorar si querías sin deberle una explicación a nadie. Pero Tom me pediría una explicación. Uno que no tenía. Cuando Tom me decía que me amaba, se lo decía también yo. Y lo decía en serio. Era la verdad.

 

No lloré.

Leí la carta, y leí la carta, y leí la carta. Me la apreté a la cara. La presioné contra mis brazos, contra mi mejilla, contra mi corazón. Lo único que yo podía hacer era concentrarme en respirar. Lo único que pidió él que me había escrito la carta era de volver, pero no podía moverme del árbol.

 

¿Puedes amar a dos personas? Si amas a dos personas, ¿uno es falso y el otro es verdadero? ¿Cuál es cuál? ¿O son ambas mentiras?

¿Puedes fracturarte en mil pedazos por dentro sin que nadie lo nota por fuera? ¿Puedes morir y seguir vivo? ¿Puedes vivir sin entender nada?

¿Qué me está pasando? ¿Por qué no puedo dejarlo ir? ¿Por qué importa más que el aire? ¿Cómo viviré mi vida?

¿Es posible volver estar entero después de que estés completamente roto? ¿Cómo puede caber tanto dolor dentro de un corazón del tamaño del puño?

 

Era como el día en Los Ríos cuando, después de bañarme, tomé mi toalla y  un escorpión allí escondido me picó en el dedo meñique. Me quedé estupefacta mirando la mano, mientras un dolor cegador surgió a través de mi dedo meñique y explotó en toda la habitación. El dolor era tan grande que cargó el aire alrededor de mi cuerpo con electricidad y sacudió las paredes de concreto. Pero todo el tiempo, mi dedo meñique se veía exactamente igual.

 

My Spiderweb

I went to Italy for the month of September. If you are my friend or follower on social media, you already know this. You saw how much fun I had.

It was not exactly a vacation, and if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that I have never once referred to it as that. It was a trip, an odyssey, a pilgrimage, a journey—but not a vacation by any means. It included virtually no rest, and lots of hard emotional work stirred in with all the fun.

Why a month in Italy? Well there’s the level of reply which is, “Why not?!” Italy is awesome and September is a great month to be somewhere besides Tamarindo. So there’s that. But you know me—this was so much more.

I wanted to go to Italy to see Pio’s family—his children and the new grandson I hadn’t met, his brothers and their wives, the nieces and nephews… Escorting someone you love out of this life is an intensely bonding experience and we all did it together only two years ago. I wanted to go see them again. I wanted to demonstrate that I am the family member you won’t lose unless you want to. I wanted to introduce myself as ME, here because I choose to be, not because of who’s wife I am. I wanted to retrace the steps to the hospital, the grocery store, the markets, the landmarks I loved…everything. Why? Because. It didn’t make me sad, especially. It made me happy. I am the girl who owns my stories. All of them.

When Pio was sick, he promised me that when he got better, he would take me to Rome. I said that would be great, but I knew it was never going to happen. So I went to Rome myself. When I say I went to Rome myself, understand that the the only time I was actually by myself in Rome was on the train! I had friends waiting for me at the train station, friends taking me to their houses to eat and sleep, friends taking me to dinner, taking me around the city, taking me to the beach… Five days was not nearly enough.

After the Rome excursion, I brought my sunburnt self back to Milan for a few days, then went to the east end of the country, to Gorizia near the border of Slovenia. I toured breathtaking mountains on the back of a motorcycle, ate like a queen, and went to Venice for a day. Then back to Milan. The last excursion took me to the west side of Italy, to Sanremo to visit Pio’s daughter. She’s almost 21 now. Pio and I visited her there in 2015, so it was a somewhat familiar place. In Sanremo I rented my own apartment, so I was able to eat a fraction of what I was eating as a guest in the homes of friends/family, wander around the city on my own while Kiara was at work, and go to bed early.

I have a feeling that Kiara, young and spontaneous, voiced the thoughts of—um, maybe everyone?–as she hugged me, bursting out with, “Why did you come to Italy?!”

Indeed. Why?

I told her what I told you in the beginning of this post. But that’s not the whole story, either. Part of the answer is, “I don’t know.” But it was a very important trip. I needed to go to close a circle. I needed to hand-deliver my new book, Certain as Afternoon, to certain people. Would I really buy a plane ticket to Europe and take a month of no pay just to do that?

Yup.

Because I have this theory that not everything has to make sense. Making sense is over-rated. I have this theory that we don’t know everything–that sometime things that seem important for no apparent reason really ARE important. I have this theory that our 5 senses do not actually provide us with information on 100% of what is going on around us. They provide us with what we need not to get run over by buses in the street, but that’s about it. I think there are things that are true and we are unable to perceive them, mostly, because of senses we don’t have. Like a deaf person who can’t hear the music but feels the vibration of it and can dance to it anyway. Sometimes I dance to music I don’t actually hear. But the rhythm is right.

And so I went to Italy, during the month that, 2 years ago, Pio was sick and dying. I took the same metros, walked past the hospital, had a sandwich at the bar by the hospital. Walked in the parks. The Duomo. The Castello. Ate gelato. Took a copy of my book to the office of The Merciful Doctor and left it there for him. And I traveled around and saw new places and met new people and had excellent adventures.

I am a spider working on my web, making a place to live out of the silk in my belly. Going back and forth, up and down, connecting things to each other. Guided by instinct, not ideas. Fixing the parts that are torn. Just you wait and see: it will be beautiful.

Maybe I had to go so that I could come back. Re-enter. Begin again. I don’t know. I don’t hear the music, but I feel the vibrations. And I feel like a million bucks.

The Beginning

 

The Chaos Theory

Between

Trying to find words, I can get lost between languages, between worlds, between lives. There are too many words for somethings and not enough for others.

There are colors. There is the press and the temperature of all types of air. There are the sounds of clouds approaching. There are the shapes of leaves and the shadows they make. All of that adds up to a lot more than nothing.

 

Love

I could write about love, but you wouldn’t understand. I don’t mean you wouldn’t understand love, I would mean you wouldn’t understand me. You would think I’m in love and you would get lost wondering about the details. Whatever. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something else, entirely. Something like sunlight. Green things make sugar out of it, and they live.

 

Things You Don’t Know

What do you call the time between the moment a thing becomes true and the moment you realize it’s true? When the thing is already true, but you do not know it, and you go on acting and living as if it weren’t? It can be moments, or it can be years. Then when you come to know/understand the thing, you experience it as new even though it has already been there beside you in silence.

Irony: we can see the smallest ant walking across the table, the smallest leaf falling in complete silence, but we cannot perceive the enormity of love or death approaching until it takes us by surprise. It’s like a storm—a hurricane—forming and closing in, but we cannot see it. It comes closer and closer, changing everything in its path, and we have no idea until the rain begins to fall. No radar. No visible clouds. We may feel the change in air pressure and wonder what is going on, if it is our imagination.

Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

 

Before

Sometimes I think about the day before. Or the hour. Or the minute. Before anything. Anything important–whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. The point is, do you remember the day before? When everything was about to be different and you didn’t know? You were so innocent. The day before you got the job offer. The day before you got the diagnosis. The day before you took the pregnancy test. The day before the accident. The day before you won the prize. The hour before you met her/him. The minute before you got the phone call. The second before it happened. It was the end of something and the beginning of something else and you did not know.

I think about this. Is this the last minute of something? It could be. This one right now. The point isn’t whether I will like things more or less after whatever is coming. The point is, is this the last taste of this flavor?  It could be.  Always, at any given moment.

 

The Cherry Orchard

Anton Checkov captured it in The Cherry Orchard. Not in words, of course–theatre can do that. Do you know the play? The sound of the string breaking that comes in Act 2 while all the characters sit in a silence that makes audiences squirm?  That’s what it is. It’s the sound of nothing ever being the same afterward. A melancholy sound from somewhere far off. A breaking sound.

God, I love Checkhov.

They all sit thoughtfully. It is quiet. Only the mumbling of FIERS is heard. Suddenly a distant sound is heard as if from the sky, the sound of a breaking string, which dies away sadly.

That’s it.

Something happens in the distance.  The time it takes for the sound to travel through air divides the thing that has happened from the moment they know it is true.

 

The Butterfly Effect

Everything is connected.

I just finished reading The Ice Queen, a novel that references the chaos theory, the butterfly effect. A thespian like me cringes at a thing called “the chaos theory,” so scientific-sounding, and unaccessible. But it’s at the interface between science and poetry. Things affect other things. Yes. The butterfly that flaps her wings far away perhaps moves the final milliliter of air that causes the first water droplet to form that becomes the hurricane that destroys the coast. Exactly. Things that are true and we never know. Small things that rule the world. Things that are caused by other things that are caused by butterflies.

 

The Gesture That Saves My Life

Perhaps when you lift your hand to wave at me, a hurricane begins.  Perhaps it will be the gesture that saves my life. You won’t know. Neither will I.