Steps

I’m drifting today between the delicate and the harsh, between all that has passed and all that is yet to come. I think of my father now gone, and your mother now gone, and George’s mom who just died at ninety-nine. I feel stretched between the peace and tension that dilates and constricts for Eternity. When the Universe constricts, we are tense and conflicted. When the Universe dilates, we are still and at peace. I think of Joel who died at 102, born in Lithuania, a child of the Holocaust. I’m glad he’s not alive today to see Nazis in the streets of America. All this saddens me, and yet we each must take our turn flooding the dark with the light. We each must stand firm for the tenderness that makes life possible. For evil is the sharpened edge of fear that cuts the heart out of those who can’t quiet it or love it back into place.

The temptation is to meet fire with fire, to meet hardness with hardness. But that only makes us all stubborn and on fire. Small birds are chirping now in the sunlit trees and my sweet dog is content to be in the day with nowhere to go. Yet I am adrift between the kindness and cruelty we are each capable of. How many times have we hardened then softened, closed then opened, pushed away then welcomed? We can’t stop the Universe from dilating and constricting, but we can strengthen our love each time we pull back in fear.

I miss Joel’s moral strength and his belief in light. I miss your mom and how she carried the history of gentleness in how she cared. I miss my father and how he thought he could create his way out of anything. The ocean carries everyone’s story below our reasons. Still, I keep trying to understand what makes some of us so angry and some so giving. What makes some want to burn all they meet and some want to light the way?

A picket in our fence is broken and part of me wants to leave it broken, so others can find a way into our yard. The same is true of our wounds. We need to leave a part of us broken, so we remain reachable.

I’m adrift today but vow to use the strength I have to break down fences and to build steps to each other. And when I die, I hope my last gesture will harden into a stepping stone or a plank in a bridge.

 

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a loved one or friend, discuss your experience of what is harsh and delicate in the world. How do you endure the harsh and listen to the delicate?

This excerpt is from a book in progress, The Fifth Season.

 

*photo credit: Felix Mittermeier

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