Mornings, my coffee ritual, made before and drunk after the sharp slap of lake. Pad back dripping to the upper deck where the pause before has been waiting to move on. Sit wrapped in the warm red blanket, pour, sip, begin.
Webs. I’m thinking family ones, this morning. About how family spaces are co-created, preserved, maintained in all their complexity, over decades and generations. Like forests, even when older family dies, there is a place saved for them there, an agreement to honour memory and knowing.
And then someone comes along who doesn’t know the story – say a new girlfriend complete with baggage and perhaps a strong sense of territory – and kicks it all over. Instant outrage of course, but of course only gently expressed since she is young and clearly has anxiety issues. Also looks like it might last whodathunk.
Or maybe someone dies – the lynchpin, the touchstone of the family, who has held everyone in their integrity for a long time, just by holding up the right mirrors, just so. All hell breaks loose, the space now empty gets filled with squabbling and nastiness. Things done under the banner of grief…
You remember what was valuable before, those spaces of memory and knowing, especially now that there is someone here who is not interested in the slightest, especially now that the patriarch has gone and left no natural successor.
You are interested in crafting memory out of each family shift. You find deeper places for those valuable things. A hearth, a chair, a rock, a glass, a tree – and you put them there, visit them, deliberately. In the intentional pause and bow, eyes focused to stillness, you keep a connection to what was, once.
Underneath the loud drumming, beneath all the craving for attention, in between glances and sentences – this is where they live. The living treasure of wise, old remembered things.
It’s a kind of memory that’s not the one we teach. A year ago my dad sat in the wingback chair I write from. It sits on a deck I built last year, with my own brain and my own power tools. The whole right side of his brain was gone by then, and only a little of his left had light in it. He looked around at this place, in the flickering sunlight – a place among cathedral trees – cedar, hornbeam, maple, ash, and a tall wild rowan right there like a living Celtic flag. Here, you are safe, the trees say in repeated pattern of branch and trunk. Here, you are welcome, here, you are held and loved. He said I’d made a miracle.
I hadn’t (it’s a tiny deck, and even now not completely screwed down). The trees were the miracle, and the moment of him here and among them, safe, welcome, held and loved.
Family shifts, just like this shoreline here. It’s supposed to, I feel – at least the lessons (potentially) learned through family shifts and crises require our deepest honesty, our richest examination of self. Icarus flew too close to the sun, on wings made for him by his father, and so died. The meat of that story is in both the before and the after of that moment. Did Daedalus forget to teach the lessons of hubris? Was he preoccupied with other things and so unable to warn, to guard, to imagine…?
Is our greatest challenge to acknowledge and reconcile our differences both ways – across abuse, poor judgement, crisis, missed cues, resentment, projection, manipulation and plain old laziness. I wonder. To grow out of ‘tribal-think’ into a different kind of belonging – beyond attachment, roles, projection, manipulation, violation – into something else that’s just simpler and healthier. I wonder.
Art objects to pornographic laziness, the sloppy, easy road of propoganda that makes us all either us or them. Everyone on this planet is my family, whether I like you or not. Whether you want me to be your aunt, your sister, your adopted mom, your whip-cracking ER nurse who demands honesty – or not, this is who I am, to you.
We are in this perfect storm, right now, together. I need you. You need me, too.
Shall we figure it out?