From the movie, “Grand Canyon,” this tiny snatch of dialog:
Dee: “Jane, do you ever feel like you are just this far from being completely hysterical twenty four hours a day?”
Jane: “Half the people I know feel that way. The lucky ones feel that way. The rest of the people ARE hysterical twenty four hours a day.”
There is this place, by Jacksboro Lake on a southwest bluff, where I have spent days (weeks?) over the past four years, losing myself and then having to go find myself again.
Last night, just after dark, I took my dogs there so that they would anchor me to reality in the way I knew I needed to be anchored. The moon was full; “full” as in “ready to give birth.” Maybe, I thought, to me. (Again)
I sat on the end of the most ergonomically awful concrete picnic table ever designed. I can’t sit still anyway, even in the most comfortable of places, but that place at the table was the perfect view of the moon itself and the slowly pulsing green-then-white guidelight of a nearby airport’s single runway. So I sat, and stared. At the moon, and into a mirror.
I am at a time of year, professionally, when a series of planning, administrative, and evaluation meetings are looming. I have said “yes” to a few too many other responsibilities in the community as well, and they feel oppressing- despite their value and necessity. On top of that, always on top of that- through all that, under and around all that- my Mom is dying slowly of Alzheimer’s, and the last few days have brought bad news and more bad news about her slow descent into a brain functionless body.
And my laptop is not working, so I am trapped inside walls, beneath a ceiling, and when I look up from this keyboard I see wires in the wall and not the sky or the neighbor’s soaring pine trees. And I need that sky, and those trees, as frequent reminders that I am not what I am feeling: a mere set of wires myself, in the wall of others.
We all have a God-enabled, generations-old template of Beauty in our souls. We recognize Beauty from a distance and are drawn to it. The particulars of that Beauty for each of us differs; there are those parts of it we all share, and there are those parts of Beauty which have been particularly with each of us, I think, from our conception.
We can stand in a crowd and collectively be in awe of a particular sunsrise or moonscape. Some will weep, others will try, try, try, to share with others how that Beauty within has been touched. Some will even leave litter or denigrating comments behind them after such an experience, but it is only because they are afraid of how they have been touched by the Beauty they try to culturally suppress. Even in their brash and ugly actions, they are confirming Beauty’s affectiveness.
Or, by ourselves, or with a small (always small) group of others, we might discover Beauty that is so particular, so meaningful only to us, that we will wonder why others are walking away in seeming boredom, possible confusion, or what we might mistakenly call their blindness. van Gogh saw such Beauty in the potato-eater’s rough lodgings. Picasso saw it the screaming of a dying horse. O’Keefe saw it deep within the folds- there!- of desert flowers.
I see such particular Beauty- a field of wildflowers, for instance- that I cannot help but wade into, touch as many colors as I can, watch insects symbiotically propogating, write snatches of poetry about in my mind, thank God for, get lost in to the point where my name and whatever else I hang onto that I ‘think’ is important become meaningless, and wonder why others won’t or can’t follow, or why others must talk about football scores or fashion, or.. why something must be wrong with me to react so crazily, so often, to these kinds of visions.
And then, I react in a truly crazy, not mistakenly crazy way: I want that field of wildflowers. I want to build a wall around it or put up No Trespassing signs. If others can’t/won’t appreciate it, then I’ll just go there by myself. Those kinds of ridiculous thoughts, I know, do not not come from the God-Image in me or anything else that is real, but from the culture in which I have also been immersed since conception. I want what I cannot have, allow myself to get frustrated because it is not mine, and then remember- back in the day- how I could pour brown liquids on the whole damn egoistic-societal-cultural mess in my mind and make it go away. For awhile. For a very short while.
No, I am not even close to going down that wet dead-end path again. But I have been warring with myself about where, why, and who I am, and I am trying to find a way to surrender. I am in a profession, and have made numerous other bad and good lifestyle decisions, that have caused me not to have deep roots in this place I live, or anywhere else. I will never have the experiences of rootedness that others around me have, and I would like to. I am subject to being told to move elsewhere in my job as well. I don’t think I can do that again. I need more permanence, more anchors; I don’t want to float away, from myself or anyone else.
And I don’t want to be watching my Mom die, day by day, while always hoping that tomorrow will be The Day.
I want to flee to the wildflower field. I want to be drunk on the colors there, and write about them on my laptop there, and turn to others and say “Look!” and know they will be excited as I am to be there, too.
I want I want I want what I cannot have in the way I want it, when I want it, and how I want it. I am a pistol-whipped, selfish Westerner and salt is being rubbed into my wounds by Beauty. But, oddly enough, I would have it no other way. And that is the realization I have come to and that is the understanding which keeps me sane, functioning and getting better.
My wants are unrealistic, artificially-inspired to some extent by my status as an American consumer, and even fanciful. Beauty is real. But Beauty is only to be perceived- owned!- on its own terms. Beauty is, has been, and will always be. I am the impermanent one in this relationship. How silly it is of me to try to squash it to the point where I can have it my pocket, or exclude others from sharing it. So I am embracing and holding onto that part of the wildflower field, or the moon, or my dog’s exuberance, which is mine to hold onto, and letting the rest thrive- for others to react to as they will, and not as I think they should.
I am, like Jane (far above), always becoming more and more comfortable in feeling hysterical. You’d think I’d have gotten used to the particular music to which my mind and spirit dance by now, but sometimes the beat is just too fast for me to keep up. Make of it what you will, but that’s where I’ve been, and I’m feeling pretty darn good, most of the time, for having been there. And for being here. Now.
Also from “The Grand Canyon”:
Mack: Of course, it would also be nice not to feel bad most of the time.
Dee: Yeah, but that’s how you get yourself in trouble. By thinking how nice it’d be to be happy more.