Saturday, March 14, 2020

Certain Kinds of Happiness were Briefly Possible

"It has to do with" and then you just add whatever shit you feel. Fire-red guitar picks (medium) on the dresser in the foyer next to fingerless gloves and mail for the woman who lived here well over a decade ago. When you insist on anything, it becomes a part of you, and eventually begins insisting on its own prerogatives.

I remember a long time ago walking through an enormous hay field to a small but neat apple orchard that followed a gentle slope into a forest predominated by old maple trees - a forest the nineteenth century and its resolute emphasis on sheep-farming had left alone - and felt something close to holiness which I could never regain or replicate. One studies the mostly rotten beaver carcass, getting a sense of how deep those teeth reach into the skull. This man wades in the shallows but never swims and this man longs for someone to tell him the secret isn't hiding at the bottom of the lake.

One gets up to stir the soup - dried peas still percussive in the broth - and then comes back to write this sentence. It seems like we make allowances but life just happens and we just float - butterflies on a breeze, milkweed dander in a brook - telling stories in which the teller is always the center of narrative gravity. Leaving the church on Friday night before anyone else, struggling a little with how utterly confused I am about almost everything and yet - hours later at midnight, going downstairs for a glass of water - glimpsing the moon, its silver light illuminating swirling frost blossoms on the west-facing window, and swimming - drowning, really - in impossible-to-measure joy.

The bread she made! One's dreams are clunky now, slow and jumbled and always on the verge of dying, sort of like those old cars from the 1970s our Dads made us drive, a rite of passage that mattered mostly to them. A woman I knew a long time ago with whom certain kinds of happiness were briefly possible and then unconditionally not.

Wicker baskets in which months-old chocolate are gathered, remnants of holiday excess which embarrass us now, yet which we cannot throw away. The conversation at breakfast turns to the garden, possibly expanding it to plant more potatoes, with no decision being made save the general sense that potatoes are good. Ambiguity even here in the marriage, arising as always from my inability to manage the many losses forever reminding me the Lord is neither presence nor absence nor paradox.

What does it mean to live religiously? The students push me to where the fractures in my argument become obvious, even to them, and we end up laughing and agreeing there should be cookies next class. The calendar is not your friend and it's not making anything easier, no matter what you think.

Ghosts of dead sheep haunt the ghosts of ghosts of ghosts. We are built for something simple yet here we are, you and I in the twentieth sentence, throwing ourselves yet again on the (as yet unbreakable) logjam of distance, prayer and desire.

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