Here we are, the first full day of Spring. I find myself buffeted with bad news: lay offs at work, a spouse dealing with sciatic pain that threatens to become a chronic condition, continued grim housing/economic news for our part of the country. Yesterday a colleague told me of his sister-in-law, a woman around my age, who has just gotten a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
I had a few moments of sober reflection before returning to work tasks. What would I do, how would I feel, if I had that kind of diagnosis? I would try to believe in miracles while preparing myself for the worst. I would feel sad at the people I'd leave behind. I'd feel sad that I wouldn't get to see my little nephew grow up. I'd feel grateful for the time I had. I'd wish that my work (both work for pay and artistic work) had made more of a difference, but I'd take comfort from the lives of artists like John Keats who would have died assuming that he died in obscurity, but now, he's considered one of the greatest poets of the English language.
I feel lucky that my main regret would be running out of time. I feel lucky in the love that's been part of my life. I feel lucky that I've had time, money, and space to be creative.
Of course, Spring reminds us that miracles do happen, that out of the Winter season comes new growth and life. But it does seem a good time for some reassessment. To use Spring metaphors: are we growing the flowers we want to have in our garden?
I think it's time for me to think about not just reshaping an old manuscript of poems, but putting together a completely new one. If I found out I was going to die in a year or two, I'd be sad about not having a book with a spine, and I'd wish I had a manuscript of newer poems ready to publish.
It's also time for me to start making a back up plan or two. I do think we're seeing an education bubble which is unsustainable--and it's not just me, being the apocalypse gal (for example, see this story from The Chronicle of Higher Education). Barring unfortunate news, like a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, I could have several more decades in the work world, but I'm not sure that the world of higher education will be there for me.
I will try to take courage from Spring's days of lingering light. I will remind myself of what I wrote in today's post on my theology blog: "Only by letting go (however painful that might be) of its current life, will that little seed find itself transformed. That seed, in its current form, must die, so that it can be reborn into a much more glorious life. That seed, once it lets go, once it faces death, will break through into a life of sunshine. That seed, once it lets go, will find much company. It will bear fruit, which means it has fulfilled its biological imperative--it has gotten its genes into the next generation."
Today seems like a good day for a poem. This one first appeared in my chapbook, Whistling Past the Graveyard (Pudding House Publications, 2004). The poem is based on real events, and I wrote it to remind myself of the possibility of miracles.
She told us the X-ray showed a black
spot on her lung. We assumed the cancer harbored
in her breast had set on an odyssey
for new land, and when we didn’t see her
again, we assumed the worst.
Three years later, the flowers bloomed in their annual
tribute to spring, and I saw
her in a parking lot. At first, I thought I saw a ghost, but I held her fleshly
form, still sapling-thin, and knew she had returned,
Lazarus-like, to live among us again.
Our culture focuses on the lost, the missing
in action, but we forget the world commits
to resurrection and reunion. The twig of a tree
sends sap to its tips, the crispy lawn returns
to a life filled with chlorophyll, muscles
wait for the mind to remember what they never forgot,
each generation resurrects the music of its elders,
babies look towards the sky for the familiar
face of the missing parent, history holds
us in its hands and offers rainy redemption.