Monday, November 12, 2012
There are so many ways to be shattered in life. Breast cancer is only one. A hurricane is another. Having a neighbor's distraught teenager in crisis take up residence in your house and life for a weekend is yet another. It's just a matter of scale. Watching yourself fall into the same hole again is a shattering. Thin ice and you break through and all day you try to clamber out, find solid ground. There are so many ways to be in over your head. Yesterday, the sky reflected this shattering. It was a backdrop and a mirror, and it shattered and shattered and reformed and morphed all day long. At one point, pillars of light formed over one part of Kachemak Bay, while cloud shapes slid across another part, like fat drops of water elongating on a piece of glass, pushing against surface tension. And to the west, a gold blast of light throbbed against the horizon. It was like looking at light in ruins, light blasted apart. The pillars held up nothing. The cloud shapes refused to moor themselves. The gold blast hurt the eyes. A fogbank left the upper parts of mountains disembodied, detached from earth. None of it made sense, held together, told a sensible story.
This morning I woke up and couldn't help but think of my own life as that kind of ruins. Stay with me here. I don't mean to sound dramatic or negative. Because that shattered sky was the kind of beautiful that confounds. It was light like I'd never seen it before. The sky put into form something never before revealed on earth about the nature of light. Isn't it true that the nature of light and life is the same? They are made to be shattered and reformed. Every day, even. When I look back at breast cancer, it's clear to me that it shattered the structure I'd built for my life. And in many ways, I rebuilt those shattered structures, so that much of the outer trappings look pretty much the same: I teach the same classes as before, I live in the same house, I run and do yoga, in winter I go to Hawaii, my yearly round holds the same shape except for the every six-months pilgrimage back to Cape Cod and Boston. But that is somewhat of an illusion. Really, those are teetering structures constructed of cardboard. I reconstructed what I had before to the best of my abilities. But there is more. There's also the work of creating, building something new. Inside me, in that shattered landscape, I see myself wandering around, not knowing where to begin. I am still finding my way, even with my writing, around this shattered place. A person begins by picking up one piece of wreckage, moving it from there to there. Deciding if it stays or goes in the trash heap. In Finding Beauty in a Broken World, Terry Tempest Williams faces the ocean and prays to receive one word to answer to the confusion following the shattering after the twin towers fell. This is what she writes:
"How to pick up the pieces?
What to do with these pieces?
I was desperate to retrieve the poetry I had lost."
Standing on a rocky point in Maine, looking east toward the horizon at dusk, I faced the ocean. Give me one wild word. It was all I asked of the sea."
This morning, in my notebook, I took a walk, and then decided to start a pile of words, to retrieve them from the shattered landscape of this particular day:
The shattered sky reflected a world, a wholeness, that we can't see. It was a rune. It was a beautiful ruin of pillars and blasted light. A goshawk landed in a tree at dusk last night, and even its wings reflected the blue light of evening. Two olive feathered grosbeaks landed on top of the mountain ash this morning, stabbing at the frozen bitter berries. From this shattered world, from the ash heap, these are the pieces I saved. This is where I begin.