I awake next to my daughter. We were up until midnight making art – me a little collage box, slightly clunky but full of heart, a late present for my husband; her a series of tiny paintings based on sky photos she’s taken during the year. Exquisite. Awe-filled.
At last, we’ve awakened to snow. It wasn’t a pretty one yesterday – more rain than snow, heavy and full of drudge. But for those of us used to Winter in bold and capitol letters this morning’s white blanket is a relief – the world is not totally askew, not totally lost.
Lying in bed, I switched on my phone and read a beautiful poem about the presence found in the forest – the idea that we are always Here – just listen, just look, settle in and feel yourself at Home. But then I scrolled down to the section of the daily email about what happened on this day in history. Wounded Knee. A history I’ve ready before but not internalized. Peacemakers murdered. Women and children murdered. Bodies strewn on a -40 degree frozen creek bed. The hubris and fear-induced villainry of our younger nation laid bare. See this – this fear, this greed, this hatred.
Yesterday, looking through The New York Times best photos of the year section, Tobey asked, “Didn’t anything good happen this year?” He paused over a two-page spread of photos of Syrian refugees – majestic images, their composition and lighting worthy of an enormous frame in the Louvre. I’m reminded of The Raft of the Medusa, a giant of a painting of suffering and longing. I’d studied it in art history books, but encountering it in massive form, its imposing heft demanding LOOK HERE was a whole other experience. Like reading Gertrude Stein versus hearing Gertrude Stein. Like listening to Nirvana on CD versus seeing them at the Crocodile Cafe, circa 1992. … Tobey studied the page for awhile and then continued, still searching for a happy image. The backsides of Obama and Pope Francis standing on the Washington mall was the best he could do.
He has spent his break between video games – shooter videos that drive me crazy and that we spend a lot of time in conversation around – and repeatedly listening to, singing, and choreographing the music from Hamilton. It is an odd odd juxtaposition – playing “madcap” versions of US military missions – I’ll hear him in his room laughing hysterically with his friend Gage, “Don’t shoot the chicken!” – and a hiphop, African American/Latino re-imagining of early American history. The same boy who just shot up a biotech lab in Antarctica that is run by Kevin Spacey (yes, really Kevin Spacey) is minutes later pirouetting to “I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot” and gushing about Lin-Manuel Miranda, an idol any mother would love.
Mixed up times. Crazy. Bizarre. And yet here. Here. One day at a time.
I close out this year with a sense of vulnerability. The final year of my 40s – heading into 50. Just a few more years with Bella under this roof. Aging friends and parents. Nights of waking in fear and sadness. But also with longer and longer moments of clarity. And when joy comes, it is so exquisitely pure.
Now – right now – heading into the heavy snow to shovel some more. Pulling on thick wool socks. As I work, I will think of those at Wounded Knee. Pay some thin homage through the years. My heart sputtering with its soft, human being.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.