In one ear, spring: yellow-throated hope, nature singing herself out of cold disbelief. In my other ear, a soul’s winter: “He’s hallucinating—fever dreams.” The bird can’t hear my friend describe his dad’s viral symptoms, so she goes on singing.
I hear, but I don’t know what to say. All I can think is that the birthday card I bought for him—“Have a Meowday!”—might be inappropriate in a month because he might be grieving. Might. The one-word definition of liminal space, the unbearably endless yet small room we’ve all suddenly inhabited together in our separateness.
Somehow this space feels immediate and far away at once. It’s as close as the unawake bird singing in my backyard, and as far away as my cross-country friend, too aware to sleep.
I’ve been here before, but I’ve forgotten. I was created here. And destroyed, which is just about the same.
Yes, I’ve been in this liminal space before. We all have. Because we all have bodies—sometimes singing, sometimes sleepless—and souls, which, in that one way, are just about the same.
Creative people—and which people are not “creative people?”—sometimes come here by choice, to make and to be made. They come here to come home.
Yesterday, preparing to teach a poetry workshop, I read an exercise intended to help poets come to this liminal space on purpose:
“If I were to give you a near-impossible knot to untangle…"
A “near-impossible knot”? What else could this virus be? What else could this body be? Hell, what else could I be?
“…and if I told you that whatever you desire would be yours if you could untangle it…"
What do I desire now? A pre-coronavirus world? A world without death?
“…would your reaction be different if you knew that what I was promising wasn’t true?”
I don’t know what to say.
I already bought cards for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, for birthdays and holidays through Christmas because I don’t know if I will be able to go to the store before then and because maybe somehow their existence will keep the people I’m intending them for alive.
“…Which has a truer and more meaningful value for you: the untangled knot, or the process of untangling it?”
I want both. I want the bird and her stupid song to give me both. I want my Dad, who wanted to visit this spring, who sent me a pack of wildflower seeds instead, to give me both. I want my partner touching my forehead and reminding me again and again, “everything is okay. We’re doing the best we can,” to give me both.
But I know I will never have it. I know I will never untangle this knot. At least, not like this.
This is how the writing exercise ends:
“…What is it in you that makes you think the things I promised are not true?”
The bird with her song comes again and again, after every winter. She comes.
And the wildflowers. The wildflowers pushing against all odds, against this endlessly small room, this seed encasing the pivotal word: might. They come. They are mighty.
The temple bell stops—
Basho writes from this room,
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.
Ananda-mayi dasi is a former nun in the Hindu tradition of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. She lives near Saragrahi, an ashram in the forested foothills of the Blueridge Mountains, where she spends her time tending her Deities and writing.
Have you read This is the Day?
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