Nothing Is Personal – Everything Matters
Tonight I am aware of something, as the mornings get colder and colder upon my waking, watching the elkhound race out to the first field, leaving footprints in the frosty alfalfa shoots, who might imagine they still have a chance this year. I’m aware of how much I am in relationship with this house and this land I am so fortunate to live in and on. This cottage, this unassuming place that looks like one thing from the street and then, upon walking up the path to its front door, begins to let you in on some of its secrets. It’s not simply a ‘house’ as if anyplace we dwell is simple anything, filled with our hearts, our longing, our dreams, our arguments, our love making, our laughter, our grief, our celebrations and our calm quiet human time. But this house, it has been loved by so many and it only continues to grow.
I cannot make it through the front door and over to the peg where I hang my bag and kick off my shoes without feeling the ‘hello’ of at least four or five items of my heart; the angel who stands in the east, gazing down at her upturned palms on which rest a robin’s nest in which sits a dove and a pair of Canada Goose gander wings. I remember when I received those wings. It was Easter morning of 2008. I woke up on my own, my boys at their dad’s house. I was feeling the deep ache for partnership, having been on my own for a number of years. I turned out of my driveway and onto the road and there, frantic at the curb, was a Canada goose, standing over the still body of her gander, just hit by a car. I pulled over and slowly approached her and him, careful to watch for my own presence as a disturbance. As I got closer she began coming towards me then going back to her lifeless mate. To me, then back to her mate. I kept approaching, until I was only two feet away from him, lying on the side of the road. And she, still coming to me then back to him, to me, then to him, as if she were imploring ..... “Do something!”
I couldn’t think of what to do other than get his body away from traffic so she didn’t suffer a similar fate. I carefully approached him as she hissed a bit and then settled back down. As I scooped him up – how heavy he was! I felt each individual shaft and even a few quills with their impossible texture and material. His long black velvet neck and head swinging slightly at my hip – and walked over to the soft grass. She followed me diligently making a sound I’d not heard before and have never heard since. I laid him down, stepped back two feet and sat down. She went to the opposite side of him and sunk down slowly. I watched her closely, those dark, reflective, black eyes regarding him, then me....him....me.
This is when all hell broke loose in me. Something about sitting here with this heartbroken female combined with the fact that it was Easter – whatever than means to a renegade ex-pat protestant minister’s granddaughter born to an atheist scientist and a brilliant but borderline-personality-disordered artist – just ripped my heart open like I was on a battlefield undergoing surgery to remove shrapnel lodged in my left ventricle, without anesthesia, without warning, without partnership. I felt the fullness of my own loneliness, my desire for a true mate, a partner in my life and co-conspirator in my devotion. I felt this female’s lost-ness, her shock, her ‘what do I do now?’ I felt the tingling of the dead gander's presence still in my palms, still alive though how or why I could not explain. And I just sobbed. In the wide-open view of bikers and pedestrians. There she and I sat, in the grass, her beautiful silver belly feathers slightly rumpled, folded over. I could see her belly expand and contract as she inhaled and exhaled. I could watch her eyes in such detail, blinking as they got dry.
A transmission happened then between a lost woman who loves so completely and a grieving goose who'd just lost what she loves. A transmission of sisterhood. Of understanding about grief and the way the feminine is taken over by her experience, if it’s safe to allow it. If there is someone there to say, “it’s ok to have this moment. I’ll stand guard while you have this moment.” As if it mattered that this particular moment were had, mattered to more than just this goose and this gander on Easter morning. Of course it matters that this moment happen, that a gander’s life is honored by its mate as she re-calibrates so drastically and tragically on this morning when a different thing entirely was supposed to be happening. But isn’t.
When I walk into my extraordinary, magical cottage home so full of life, built with love, humor and reverence, and continued to be filled with all of this and so much more, as I walk past these wings perched gracefully in the upturned palms of the Angel, (and still feel the tingling aliveness in my palms of the gander from that Easter morn) as I hang my bag on the hook and kick my sandals into the cubby made of reclaimed cherry wood, as I turn toward the main space, take a deep breath and realize I’ve landed exactly where I am supposed to be, that I’m surrounded by love and that everything possible has conspired to bring me and my two sons exactly here, I am filled with gratitude and awe for exactly how this Life process unfolds for us, in us and around us. How Life has our backs even when we imagine that what has happened isn’t supposed to happen. Nothing is personal....yet everything matters. What a gloriously impossible paradox with which our human hearts might wrestle.