To love as if we’d choose
even the grief.
from ‘Fontanelles’ in Skin Divers by Anne Michaels
We spent Easter in France. Each morning I sat and read in an armchair in the bedroom while B slept, and in their room the children slept or woke and started chatting & laughing. The sky stayed clear blue; the sun warmed us through. The light was like honey. If I was a painter, I thought, we’d have to move here. I read Dubliners; I started Dear Life. I read Anne Michael’s poems in bed at night, late after evenings filled with food & wine. The children looked, as they always do at B’s parents’, more lovely to me than ever.
Back home, and the daffodils are over, the tulips too. The garden is lush and green. From the kitchen the longer grass hides the patches of earth worn bare by our winter footsteps. There are bluebells. Forget-me-nots spilling onto the grass. There are pale green leaves on the magnolia and still a few flowers. Black spot on the soft new leaves of the rose. Dandelions flowering everywhere. I remember that I find lush growth, wildness, irresistible.
On the ferry home, on a top bunk in the small cabin, three children variously moaning and crying about having to go to sleep, I listened to a couple of meditations, and then this dharma talk on right now by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. I listened to it a couple of times through. I might even have fallen asleep. And then, all week, the refrain ‘what you’re doing right now is very important’ has been going through my head. It’s stopped me checking the laptop on the kitchen worktop a million times at least. But it’s also helped me remember that the seemingly unimportant matters. Getting the children’s tea, I’m getting food together to feed their little bodies & I’m answering their interruptions with all the kindness that I can because this – their time in my attention – matters. Cleaning the cat litter mattters because I’m responsible for her wellbeing and she – as the Biscuit pointed out – is the most beautiful cat in the world. Strange – what you’re doing right now matters – but it’s worked for me this week. The transition back to ‘real life’, to home and all it’s responsibilities after a holiday and so many extra helping hands, is always hard so I need all the inner strength I can get.
Like many lines in Anne Michaels’s poems, the ones above stopped me in my tracks. There was a time when I wasn’t sure that I could ever bear to fall in love, ever bear to have children, knowing that anyone can be taken from us in an instant. But that would have been a sad way to live. A non-living. To love is to risk. Right now is good. Right now is all we have.