Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Revolution of the Beautiful

I realized the other night, sorting through articles & photographs, calming my despair over photos of oilslicked birds & stories of death, loss, vigilance--I realized that in fact I was born into an atmosphere of grief, into a world of mourning, into a culture shell shocked, guilt ridden, & desperate.

And so, perhaps, were you.

When I was born, six decades ago, in a military hospital while my father waited on call for duty across the world, when I was born my mother sobbed inconsolably. Because, she said, I was a girl.
I would have to bear the pains of womanhood in this world, where her mother had died not a year before from a botched operation.

Yes, her labor had been hard. I bear to this day a memento of my hard delivery.

And yes, she was expected to birth a son. What to do with the football and the cute boy-blue clothing?

My grandfather sent small pink roses.

So I came in on a wave of grief, and I learned to sleep to the sound of trains and bombers, and I learned to hate the sound of air raid sirens, and I loved the Japanese hillsides and not so much the Mojave plains, where we waited for the end of the world in the early 1960's. As an officer's family we'd have nice quarters in the secret underground bunkers, waiting out the post nuclear radioactivity. No problem.

I loved the flowers of the high desert and the snakes. And we didn't die, and my father warned me against commies and we fought our own sort of cold war. My brothers became soldiers.

One went to jail for murder. One, after his time in the missile silos, retired to raise corn and cows in the Mississippi bottoms. And life goes on.

And I've lived six decades of wars, learning geography through atrocity stories.

You too, maybe. Or two decades, or four, or seven.

We've been huddled here in a sort of darkness, trying to deal with it all the best we can, at the edge of this stream of sorrow and joy.

The young travelers come by, and the old ones, in increasing streams. Words of loss come from across the planet and echo everywhere. Volcanic dust, earthquakes, white phosphorous, oil slicks.

How do we go on? How do we hold to an entire world of passion and suffering and not go under, and not give up?

No, I don't have the answers. But I think we sit with it, as we would sit with a crying child through the night, looking out into the trees for light dawning.

I think we play with it, when we can, like the group of people in Belgium--200 strong, who arranged a sudden dance/son explosion in the middle of the Antwerp train station, singing and dancing to a song from the Sound of Music.

Or like the soldiers in Afghanistan who posted a preposterous and silly video taking off from Lady Gaga's Telephone. With their cardboard and duct tape costumes, in the moments between...oh, death and murder, boredom, despair. They were good dancers.

I think we try in every creative, every grateful, every compassionate, every determined way to keep going. To listen to what gives us joy. To act on that knowledge.

It won't change the world. It won't stop the storms. But maybe we can transform some moment, some thought, some action.

I walked through the cemetery with my dog and sat beneath a dying cedar tree to watch a young hawk fly over the graves and the flowers. I watched a long while, the early sun warm on my face, the scent of mown grass in my nostrils.

Before I become part of the dust that softens the edges of this world, before I am still, I want to care more, dance more, sing more, watch more free flying hawks, love more.

And since every breath could be a last one, and every word a last one, I am not going to be caught saying "I give up". With every breath I am going to be saying Yes. Or at least...maybe. And "I love" and "how beautiful" and "let's be silly,let's make a revolution of the beautiful, of small pink roses, of courage".

And what will you be saying?

(I wrote this a few months ago for the newspaper my partner and I publish each month. I felt I wanted to share it here as well. The photo is of one of my supervisors, checking to make certain the newspapers are cared for.)

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Blogger Lucy said...

This brought tears. Others write volumes and don't say a tiny part of what you have here.

'Before I become part of the dust that softens the edges of this world, before I am still, I want to care more, dance more, sing more, watch more free flying hawks, love more'

I'm not sure how you could, really.

1:44 AM, November 03, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess every generation has had to deal with horrors and death, since the dawn of man. We trade one trial for another in each generation, war of some kind being a fairly steady constant.
And yet we go on, even in the slums of India, we keep going on. It is rather amazing.
Nice picture of the cat too. :)

6:01 PM, November 03, 2010  
Blogger Nomi said...

Thank you.
I also get teary eyed.
There is something about friendship which seems to me as mysterious as water or mountains, and no less precious.
My blog is waking up after several months.

7:49 PM, November 03, 2010  
Blogger ocean lady said...

I think the lines i liked best were

"And since every breath could be a last one, and every word a last one, I am not going to be caught saying "I give up". With every breath I am going to be saying Yes. Or at least...maybe. And "I love" and "how beautiful" and "let's be silly."

I think you have had more than your share of the sufferings of this world, Jarvenpa, and had the courage to keep open to feeling it far past the point where most of us close down and look away. But there must be time and self-permission granted to rest in beauty and remember new life and ever renewing hope and even silliness too. I'm so glad you wrote that - and with such consummate grace - as ever. You made me cry too.

11:30 AM, November 04, 2010  
Blogger HLiza said...

I love this post..came here recommended by Lucy; and glad that I did. I believe in every words in this:

'Before I become part of the dust that softens the edges of this world, before I am still, I want to care more, dance more, sing more, watch more free flying hawks, love more'

Because life is too short to wait.

3:36 PM, November 04, 2010  
Blogger Rouchswalwe said...

When I was born in a military hospital, my mother was treated badly because she wasn't an American. Your words make me ponder the part that cultural misunderstandings has to play in the strife we have in this world. The beauty of friendship, here "at the edge of this stream of sorrow and joy," keeps me wondering and loving and living joyfully. I thank you for your words tonight.

5:36 PM, November 04, 2010  
Anonymous zephyr said...

Lucy encouraged me to come here, and so glad i did.

You marvelous post brings to mind a wonderful exhibition of photographs documented in a beautifully printed catalog edited by Ralph and Caroline Steiner in the late '80 entitled "In Spite of Everything, Yes"

Thank you for your words, and the prompting to go revel in those old photos that are as fresh today as ever

6:10 PM, November 04, 2010  
Blogger herhimnbryn said...

Here via Lucy. Your words will stay with me. Thankyou

7:22 AM, November 05, 2010  
Anonymous Dick said...

Also here via Lucy. Also tears. Just a couple of manly ones. Six decades for me too and the same cloudscape still hovering above all this long time on. But the same fierce, defiant demand for a 'revolution of the beautiful, of small pink roses, of courage' as well. Emma Goldman said it back in more optimistic times: 'If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution'. Well, even if that revolution seems as far away as ever, we can still dance!

Thank you for this. I'll be back.

10:27 AM, November 05, 2010  
Blogger call me any name said...

I tried reading this to my man without sobbing a little - no luck.
Amazing - I quoted a small bit on my blog, with link. If you don'twant this,say so and I'll remove it.

10:34 AM, November 05, 2010  
Anonymous marly youmans said...

Oddly, it reminded me of Geoffrey Chaucer and his ballad of good counsel... The desire to live a "larger life" in peace and thankfulness is old, it is old, it is old. But always worth hearing about in a fresh and open-hearted ways like yours.

8:41 AM, November 06, 2010  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

I don't know, your supervisor looks pretty tough! Funny thing is, I've never really thought about what might possibly be my last words. I know that any second could be anyone's last moment, but you've given me something new to think about. Often we make an imprint in others lives when we don't even realize it and it makes me reconsider...

9:58 PM, November 06, 2010  
Blogger Rosie said...

another Lucy referral...yes we keep hanging in there trying to find joy where we can and in the most unlikely places. As my sixth decade looms large I find each moment becomes more and more precious...

7:28 AM, November 07, 2010  
Blogger am said...

Your journey from despair to a revolution of the beautiful reminded me that we were also born in the time of Rosa Parks.

Whatever my individual desires were to be free, I was not alone. There were many others who felt the same way --Rosa Parks

Sweet photo of your supervisor kitty in the sunshine. Thanks so much!

5:55 AM, November 09, 2010  
Blogger Julia said...

Here from Lucy, thanking you for your words.

8:43 AM, November 09, 2010  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

And also: I flew by to say merry Christmas-to-come to you!

11:08 AM, December 22, 2010  

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