This is not an easy world to live in. A glance at any of the “Top Stories of 2016” lists will tell you that, but smaller, everyday occurrences reminded me of this truth at the beginning of 2017.
A friend’s grandma died. I learned another friend will undergo five months of chemotherapy. A third friend wrote about caring for his wife who is losing her memory.
Why start a year this way? Because it is the way the year has started.
These are not simple stories. On one hand, they tell of physical suffering, loss, grief. On the other, my friend’s grandma lived a good life; the cancer is not fatal; husband and wife still connect in beautiful ways.
These events hold pain and grace, and though we think of them as out of the ordinary when they happen to us, many people share these experiences every day. Their regularity does not diminish them. They are not war or famine, but they are hard.
A few years ago, a similar coincidence of the sad and the difficult inspired me to write this poem:
One runs machine gun-guarded laps
Two looks through the locked
door of her dad’s descent
Three waits with her husband
for the report that will
Four searches for her mother
fifteen thousand missing.
Today I saw a kestrel dive. His
wings stopped the world before
bright green grass. My friends,
I will hold those wings for you.
We can do small, important things, like bring food, but most of all we can be present to the time and place and circumstances we live in and the people and other beings we live with, not forever, but for now. And now is all we have to offer. If we give it unreservedly, it may not change anything, but it will be enough.
As I hung up the phone after speaking with my friend who has cancer, I heard the first drops of rain falling on our parched California earth, and I felt deep joy—the resonance of beauty in our souls. All this is happening now.