In this realm within which I currently reside, this frangible murk, there are no maps. I can’t tell if I’m trudging towards an early death, as predicted by my Western docs, or clambering along a trail to a new found life as a wise old woman. Or both? It’s murky and I can’t see ahead, and at times can’t even tell up from down. It’s dark in here. At times the darkness prevails all the way into my soul and I long for death to end it: the abyss, the uncertainty, the effort of it all.
Light is there, too. The light. O the light. Flashes from moments of kindness, my own and others. A raindrop on a dogwood bud in the Fall, a globe of red and orange and green, trembling. My dog Tara’s ear, like satin under my fingers. The wind making our open windows rattle their storm dance late in the night. The sound of the rain. A burst of frail energy that shows me my next step.
I’m reading voraciously: What Really Matter, by James Hollis, a Jungian, written in his own waning years. He uses words I’ve never seen before, like “frangible” (that means fragile, or breakable). Desuetude: I haven’t even looked that one up yet. Many more. Hollis says feed your soul first. If not, it will rebel and cause symptoms. Do not comply with the shoulds of others. He also writes that when we are dying, we are losing our “management systems” that have carried us through life for so long, and that makes us cranky. Yup. I am incredibly cranky lately. If I’m cranky with you, don’t take it personally.
Just finished reading Mary Oliver’s Upstream, a collection of essays . If I were rich, I’d send a copy to everyone I know. Here’s a quote near the end. “In the winter I am writing about, there was much darkness. Darkness of nature, darkness of event, darkness of the spirit. The sprawling darkness of not knowing.” She wonders if the light might be hope or faith; hope “far messier than faith must be.”
Then, last night, late, awakened by the storm, I heard the words as clearly as if someone had whispered them in my ear, “Be here now!” Ah, Ram Dass. Bless him. But it wasn’t he who whispered. I don’t know who it was.
But what I saw, or felt, in that moment, a moment of light, was a way out of the murk, a flashlight to illuminate my way. The present moment opens to eternity – the only door, the portal. I got a glimpse last night, and because it is a frangible murk, it’s already gone. But the gift remains.
A messy hope, some wordless faith, a dropping away of the darkness that seems to result from a long illness. As an idea, a platitude to offer someone who is suffering, well, it’s iffy. “Be in the present moment, my dear.” Meant well, surely. But if the present moment, and all the zillions of moments before then, really suck, then it’s not so helpful. If you know me, please don’t give me this advice. It doesn’t help. I get cranky.
As a felt experience, elusive and grace driven, sensing the presence of eternal Love, well, that’s another story altogether.
Maybe what we can tell people who are suffering, you and me and all our loved ones, is to seek the portal to timeless joy, and let that joy carry us for a little while. And that portal can only be found in the present moment. Hiding in plain sight.
A wise young woman just told me tonight: “Don’t effort now. Rest. You will recognize your next steps when you see them emerge into your life. Trust yourself”.
Perhaps that is the map itself. A frangible map, but a map.