via flickr
via flickr

It’s been a while. I plead flu, travel, a rambunctious grandson of not-quite-three, and life in general. Somehow, when people spoke of retirement, I had thought it would be both emptier of duties and more peaceful. (I was misinformed…)

I also had a birthday, in my favourite month: National Poetry Month. I’ve been reading & writing & thinking poetry since I was verrrrry small. Probably as long as I’ve been able to think — listening to the rhyme in song, the music in speech. Noticing that my Grandma Skidmore had a Southern lilt & cadence to her words, while my Grandmother Britton spoke with the clipped authority of her teaching background. Hearing in my adoptive family members — amahs & elderly sitters & ersatz aunts & uncles — the inflections of Việtnamese & French & Thai & poor white Oklahoma.

via google
via google

It’s probably my drug of choice, language: I can follow an unraveling skein of etymology as if it was a treasure map, leading somewhere magical. The derivation of a word, its connection to another, the threadlike hairs that bring one linguistic family into contact with another. How Indo-European & Aryan underlay both Sanskrit and English, to the infinite gain of everyone.

Now, I’m recovering slowly from a bad bout of flu — fever high enough to ‘sunburn’ me from the inside out! I haven’t had that happen since I was a little kid! And a cough to rattle windows. (No kidding: the car window rattled!) But despite the flu, and the cough, and snow on my actual birthday, I held my grandson for hours. And was able to baby my beloved son & DIL. AND I saw my favourite sister-in-law, who drove up w/ my brother-in-law just to be w/ us for my birthday. How cool is that??

My youngest sister & her son took me to Irish pub brunch, and we talked about BOOKS! And ideas! And the things that have excited me for decades — these long decades of work & play that are a map all around me. While I basked in how very lucky I am to be a writer, and have at least some words for love.

via flickr
via flickr

Missing two weeks of a blog is HUGE — entire lives come & go in the space of two weeks. My new grand-nephew was born on my birthday (what a present!!); a dear friend’s mother passed just before. The cycle of life is also the cycle of death, and we ignore this to our own loss. But like with meditation, & following the (mostly reliable) breath, we return to our focus. And the thing about being pretty sick — & thus fragile & tired — is that you have to prioritise. You have to remember what’s important. And it may well not be vacuuming! It may be, instead, making tea for the iced tea you need to push for fluids. It may be feeding the birds, so you can sit quietly in the breakfast room & watch them draw ribbons of colour through the air. The goldfinches are brilliant — new-minted.

But you can’t focus on loss. It’s not productive (which is not the same as grieving — that is necessary). You have to move forward, allowing things fall into a more proper hierarchy of importance: you fix food (we need to eat!). You make tea, or cappuccino. You watch the birds, and you smooth the sheets for a nap.  You write thank-you notes to the wonderful folks who remembered your natal day, and remember your real focus. You reorient to what you have gained: a reminder you’re loved, the ephemeral nature of life, the beauty of birth.

And it’s enough. It’s absolutely enough. It just takes remembering. And a return of focus.


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