23 August 2013

Faith's Symphony

I walked along the windswept beach, while a dense fog hovered beyond
the breakers, a barrier to this in-between place of water meeting land, land
meeting water.  A fine mist coated the boulders and trees, made the chilled
air heavy and dull. The cliffs behind me, scarred here, there, a warning of
their dynamic quest for equilibrium.  I was alone and pondering faith,
and stooped to pick up a rock, the size of my fist.  It was weighty, solid, grey
granite, fit perfectly in my hand, comfort in my palm.  Its smoothness proof
of the tenacity of wave and water.  Keep trying, I read in this gospel etched in stone,
Some things take time, whispered the waves.  Endure.  I watched the waves as
they worked, doing what they were meant to do.  I stood, still, in this borderland,
this convergence of worlds, and listened.  I held the cool stone, the grey sky melding
with the mist, and thought of the changing lunar face pulling on this water from
afar, like lost love.  But not until my head was quiet, the static of my thoughts calm -
then I heard them singing, those rocks, still rising and falling in the surf, their turmoil
a symphony of faith.  Singing, tumbling like joyful pups, falling over themselves again
and again, their essence revealed by the exhilaration of their existence.  I kissed the
stone and left it on the beach, in the arched hollow where it had been placed by the
force of tides, redeemed, for now  - respite among the grains we are slowly becoming.

08 August 2013

What's Your Crux?

Sometimes, the ideal afternoon reflects a charming Spanish proverb:  How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards.  I spent quite a few afternoons in this manner over the summer, relishing a certain degree of laziness which was precisely what I needed to come to terms with the events of this past winter and to prepare for the impending school year, which began on Monday.  In spite of the losses that have rocked our community, I feel refreshed and ready for the upcoming challenges, but with my eyes wide open to the fact that there is no predicting what those challenges could perhaps entail.

And just as I learned that there is often no predicting who might be afflicted with cancer, I was reminded that just a few generations ago, there was no predicting who might be afflicted with polio.  On our trip to Maine, we spent a very rainy morning in New Brunswick, on Campobello Island exploring Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s summer cottage.  This was where FDR fell ill with polio in 1921 at the age of thirty-nine.  Polio affects swiftly, and in FDR’s case it was only three days from symptoms first appearing to his being paralyzed irreversibly from the waist down.  In just over seventy-two hours, he went from being a healthy person to an invalid.  And while he never recovered fully, he did go on to become one of America’s most popular presidents during one of the darkest times in our history, his disability deftly hidden even while his bout with the disease was well-known.

Flash-forward to this week, when I found myself scrolling the headlines on the BBC.  A story caught my eye about a man who had spent forty-five years - his entire life, effectively - in the hospital after contracting polio as an infant.  In spite of requiring an artificial respirator every moment of his life since then, Paulo Henrique Machado has managed to become a computer animator and to forge deep bonds with the other polio-afflicted children he grew up with in the hospital in Brazil.  One by one those friends succumbed to infection, until today, only he and his dear friend Eliana Zagui remain.  Together they have had many brief adventures outside of the hospital and are currently collaborating on a film project that tells their story.

This is such a beautiful story and it made me more mindful of the excuses I make rather than accomplishing what I set out to do.  We all make excuses, certainly:  I’m too tired.  The weather’s bad.  There is something more important.  It’s so hot.  I don’t have enough time.  That last one’s my crutch, or perhaps my crux.*  As I struggle to add the demands of work back into my life after a relatively lazy summer, I’m going to try to remember Paulo and Eliana, and their proof that life is what you make of it, and nothing less and nothing more.
*crux = an essential point requiring resolution