Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have… for the April rain has, and the Mica on the side of a rock has.
— Mary Oliver, Upstream (Selected Essays)
I like to read first thing in the morning. Ideally, I do it while still snuggled under the covers, the morning light just coming through the window that’s beside my side of the bed but not yet dappling the wall where the reading chair, which we never use for reading, sits at a catty-corner. Old houses tend to have plentiful windows, which is wonderful for light and ventilation, but not so for arranging furniture. I don’t tend to like a thing catty-cornered, but the chair, which I do like, needed a spot and the room needed a chair. I’m not really happy with it there and often remind myself that I must not fixate on it, the corner it’s in, and it’s diagonal placement, but I have a hard time not letting the whole thing bother me. I am old enough to easily admit that I have a hard time not letting too many things bother me. I am also old enough to easily admit that I’d have a much better time if I didn’t have such an inclination toward botheration. I’m working on it. The chair has been there, catty-cornered for almost a year. I see it every morning. I consider moving it at least once a week. It’s almost as if I put it there as a test to see how long I could stand it. Maybe I’ll move it one day.
These are oddly-shaped, pandemically-dictated days. Never have I desired so badly to pack a bag and take a trip to Paris! And of course, never have I felt so guilty for having such a desire. But I admit to checking my air miles to see when they expire just yesterday in hopes that we might be able to afford a trip should this thing not put us under completely. I suppose I feel the encroaching wish for something far away yet also familiar. The shelves at Shakespeare & Co. perhaps. I imagine the Cafe de Flore, but then I can’t bring myself to imagine it closed and empty. I caught myself last night looking through photos of myself and those I love in what now seem like very far-flung locations — every place but home now seems a far off world that we once inhabited so easily, without even noticing how really lovely it was and how really lucky we were. We thought we appreciated our way of life, but did we? Did I? Truth is, I never appreciate most things as much as I probably should.
The idea that I could just, as little as eight weeks ago, book a plane ticket and a hotel and go somewhere now seems insane. Isn’t it funny how fast things can change? It is doubtful that I will get to Paris this year or even next — in fact, I may never go again. And while that breaks my heart a little, I know that I can go to my own bookshelves and feel some sort of satisfaction that what I find there represents a lifelong search for, well, it just represents a lifelong search that I know will continue whether I ever again leave this very street, much less make it back to that charming shop across the road from The Notre Dame. And if I want to have coffee on a patio, I can drape my black blazer over my shoulders and go out on my own, just beyond the backdoor, and use my imagination and memory. So there. Lukewarm comfort in these times, but comfort just the same.
I guess what I’m getting to today is that I think our purpose is to endure constant change. I think it’s possible that Mary Oliver observed the purpose of the rain and the mica on the side of rocks in stark contrast to what our purpose, our plight, is as human beings. If we were the rain, we’d endlessly question where we should fall or complain that we just aren’t in the mood to provide water to the earth or that doing so wouldn’t allow us to live our best life (I swear if I hear that term one more time…) or some shift in the wind hurt our feelings and we decided to withhold our gifts. If we were the mica we’d worry about being too or not flaky enough and compare ourselves to that next to the next rock instead of celebrating our utter beauty and usefulness. What can I learn from the rain and the mica on the rock right now? Maybe it’s just to be what I am, even though what I am is so complicated in that stark light that Ms. Oliver has shone. My intricate purpose… I sometimes think that my intricate purpose is to forever find an intricate purpose, and of course, to be purposefully intricate. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha……….
There may be no poetry in our current situation. It might just suck to high holy hell and people are dying of something we can’t control and that’s that. Someone smarter than I am will probably come up with a way to wrap it up neatly, but it might be a while. We aren’t rain. We aren’t mica. We are complicated, multi-purpose creatures and if anything shows us that more than being wholly stopped in our tracks, I don’t know what it is. It’s as if the whole world is catty-cornered. There simply isn’t anywhere else for us to go right now. I guess we’ll know how long we can stand it when we’re able to move again.
Maybe when we are, I’ll decide it’s time to finally find a new place for the chair.
Peace, love, and happy Wednesday, y’all.