Sunday, April 12, 2020

Storms and Memoir

                 All this petty worry
                while the great cloak of the sky
                grows dark and intense 
                round every living thing.

               What is precious inside us
               does not care to be known
               by the mind in ways 
               that diminish its presence.

               David Whyte 

In this strange time of isolation, as the silent storm of the Pandemic Covid19 fell  like a blanket over Tucson,   I was  determined to renew my writing, and work on this Blog as a true journal.  However, I find that I have writer's block! What to write about that is "personal"...........and do I dare to be "personal", or is "personal" really even relevant, as storms break over the global creations of humanity?  

Still, I find that the quietude of this isolation  has found me  collecting memories, excerpts that  arise as dog-earred touchstones, like shuffling through the random pages of a book, in this case,  the book of my life.  I by no means fail to understand the suffering of so many as the Covid19 pandemic continues.  I've been on  a healing journey since the beginning of the year, and although I am much better than I was now,  my energy is still very much compromised, forcing me to move slowly, do little.  Like the empty streets of Tucson, I am "paused".  

Someone once said I should write memoirs.........well, I suppose I'm of an age when people do that, although I am taken aback by the vanity of such an idea.   And yet........I have seen some beauty  in my time, and that collateral beauty keeps  coming back, like a fragrance or a flavor.  I suppose I've repeated myself a few times............if caught at it, please forgive me. 

I've been thinking of friends I've lost.   Among them Felicia, who I did a large painting of as the "High Priestess" in the Tarot  when we were young students at Berkeley.  I worked so hard on that painting.........and now, like all my early work, I have no idea what happened to it.  It has taken me so  many years to learn to value my work, my time, and in general myself...........I look back at all of that early work, most of which I threw away, with regret, because much of it was beautiful.  

Felicia and I lost touch when I moved away in 1976.  And then, amazingly, we made contact again in 2007, when I happened to publish some of the Poems Felicia had left me all those years ago on my website.   When Felicia and I re-connected she was living in Washington D.C., and she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Shortly  after that she went to Germany to undergo an experimental treatment that brought the cancer into remission, for a while. 

In 2008 I went to Puerto Rico, where Felicia was staying with a friend, for a short but very memorable visit  after she had completed her treatment.  I saw her for the last time in 2009 when I was Resident Artist at Wesley in Washington, D.C.

Above is a picture I took of Felicia taking a nap in my hotel room in Puerto Rico.   Felicia passed through  doors that I can't open more than ten years ago.  I miss her.  

Puerto Rico:  I remember the heavy, tropical  atmosphere, as I happened to be there in the season of storms.  Intensities……. that’s what the tropics are, life at its most vibrant, virulent, creative, predatory, colorful………it is impossible to be in the midst of that potency of life and not become intoxicated with it. Intoxicated or terrified, or both. 

I had a room with a balcony at the top of a three story  hotel called the Lazy Parrot, in Rincon. I’m sure it’s a hopping place in its season, with  two bars below and tiers of balconies looking out over the green hills that wind down to the ocean, famous  for surfing and snorkeling. However,   I  had arrived at hurricane  season, and found myself pretty much alone in the hotel.  I felt a bit like a character from Stephen King’s “The Shining”, with a whole hotel to myself at night, not even an attendant in sight, empty bars ringing with the ghosts of bands and booze and laughter and sex.  Below me an empty blue pool, palm fronds and  chairs tied to the wall, and the wet, heavy tropical air,  whispering over wicker tables. 

I do not think I shall ever forget standing on the balcony, the sounds of the frogs seeming very loud, hearing a woman call for her dog in Spanish “Limon, Limon!”, and watching the sudden illumination of lightning as it revealed an advancing mass of vast clouds, rolling in from the  ocean. I could not but be awed by the truth of that moment, our lives, our plans, our hopes  existing in the brief moments between  storms. 

As the storm progressed, the lights went out.  There were no candles, or any attendants to ask about candles.  So, I sat in the state of Storm, with nothing to do but witness.

Fortunately for me, the storm did not make landfall at the hotel,  I did not have to find a basement to hide in, or hear the sounds of crashing glass and trees, and the morning brought breaking dawn as the tropical storm veered off in a different direction.    But I'll never forget that night of vigil, and the Collateral Beauty. 

I know that sometimes
your body is hard like a stone
on a path that storms break over,
embedded deeply
into that something that you think is you,
and you will not move
while the voice all around
tears the air
and fills the sky with jagged light.

But sometimes unawares
those sounds seem to descend
as if kneeling down into you
and you listen strangely caught
as the terrible voice moving closer
and in the silence
now arriving

Get up, I depend
on you utterly.
Everything you need
you had
the moment before
you were born.

~ David Whyte ~

Where Many Rivers Meet

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