I washed my car about a month ago on a day of respite from the omnipotent cold. The white doors were white again, not smudged in mud. The floor rugs clean of sand and salt. I did it slap-dash fast, Tobey sitting in the car in his cast watching, his face peeking out as I rubbed the window with the big sudsy brush.
It wasn’t a good job because I knew it wouldn’t last, but it was necessary. Washing away January and December and November before that.
Last night, my friend Hannah talked about the process of moving her and her 11-year old son away from this town where they’ve lived for much of their lives, of the sorting out the old and boxing the needed: “I just want everything to be organized for a moment.”
It’s a dream we have – a hope — that we can hold everything perfectly if just for an instant:
Each insurance policy, every 401K, the letters from your grandmother, every piece of medical information, those poems you wrote in 3rd grade that you love, the DVD of your first reading at Prairie Lights, your divorce decree and your marriage license, your kids’ best pieces of art, the registration for your car and the deed to your house, the full-on astrological reading, the estimate to have your windows restored, your first dog’s ashes, the note from the flower shop that your dad sent you when you were in high school, the notebook you kept at yoga training, your favorite pajamas, the locket from your grandmother.
All of it. Just right. Just so. For a moment. If you were a good person, you would know where it was. If you were worthy, it would all be here, at finger’s tip. In this life, maybe you’ll get it done. Maybe.
News came that a friend died the other day, a young woman from my yoga training who went way too soon from ovarian cancer. Another man I knew tangentially took his life last week. He’d been my son’s teacher for awhile and would show up at summer potlucks of mutual friends. The brother of a dear friend took his life a few weeks back – a violent, painful death. Waves and waves of lives ceased. Now. Abruptly. Done. No time for order. No “everything in the right place now” – or later. The papers and lockets and the envelopes of hair suddenly hyper important and meaningful. Suddenly utterly irrelevant.
“I wanted to keep his toothbrush forever, to cherish it,” a friend told me about her brother’s death at 22 years old.
But on we live – messily. In complete order and complete chaos our hearts find their way – ba-boom, ha-boom – each day. We find the papers we need when we need them. We learn to accept that things will be lost along the way. Wash it clean, the car will get dirty again.