Wild and Precious

I walked through the canyon this morning in its after-storm chaos. The creek is now a muddy, roaring river, strewn with big chunks of debris. I contemplated crossing where it tumbles over the road by the neighbors’ house, but I wasn’t sure how deep it was, and the currents looked powerful, and I didn’t get through brain surgery just to drown in Sacate Creek. That would be pathetic. I turned around to see if I could get Monte to come out with me. He was back at the house rinsing off oranges that had fallen to the ground, and he commended me for my good sense.

Yesterday I mentioned to him that February 27 would mark one year since my surgery, and that I had given myself a year to focus on recovery and put everything else on hold, so I only have one more month to be self-indulgent and carefree. He said, in his wise way, “No. The idea is not to go back to the way you were! The idea is to move beyond that. You didn’t go through all this just to climb back into the bed of nails.” He’s right, as usual.

In fact, I had a realization as I walked. I have been grieving for forty years. It started with my father’s death in 1978, then my brother, my sister, and most recently my mother, a kind of formative series of losses that compounded over the years and have affected my perspective on everything. (The heartache of my nephew’s car crash and other ongoing reverberations from the family of origin certainly have not helped.) However, I see so clearly now that although we cannot make our sorrow disappear, to let it dominate is a waste of a life. It obstructs and prevents so much that is affirmative and joyful and can spill over into hope and renewal, perhaps giving even the tragedy some indirect meaning. Am I making sense? I don’t feel like writing right now, but I want to get this down.

Mary Oliver, whose death was announced this morning, expressed it beautifully:

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

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