Monday, 22 May 2017

Thanks Be To Writers

I am aware that I have been neglecting this blog. Not that I expect anyone but you, Pat, to actually read it but still, the blog arose out of a desire to simply write, just for the love of it, or to offer some piece of writing that inspired me--to somehow acknowledge once a month that writing is a beautiful act, often one of healing, often one of outcry, sometimes (though I try to avoid this sort) of revenge.

I spent a number of days last week on Bowen Island, resting in the bosom of a quiet room, windows that looked out on mountains, trees, a small stretch of ocean, and even occasionally on deer. A bathtub beckoned me after walks in the woods or on the labyrinth. (One of those days--no, two--my labyrinth walks involved children bouncing along peering up to see how I'd react. It is amazing how grounded one can be in walking meditation even with all that ululation and dashing about, but even so I permitted them a small smile if they got right inside my tiny circle of attention. There is a line between focus and foolishness.)

I wrote no poems while there, though I did write a simple hymn, and worked easily on its melody a few times over the days. If having it become a brainworm is success, then, well--success!

I was very anxious when I got there. Somehow this housing thing is really eating away at me. Having the island to go to to bargain a few days of respite from my despairing brain is a real godsend. By day four I could feel actual calm beginning to surface. By day five, well, it was time to prepare to go home, and the calm evaporated in a cloud of tears. But.

Writing prevailed. Not mine, but that of others. I read a novel while I was there, but also spent time with a number of other books--Thich Nhat Hanh's How To Relax, via Overdrive (ebook through the library system), Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth (beautiful and ugly; audiobook via Overdrive), the Autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (this one really got me missing my gramma), and most particularly In Age Reborn, by Grace Sustained: One Woman's Journey Through Aging and Chronic Illness by Sister Thelma-Anne McLeod.

This book reached me on a number of levels, in part because the illness she suffered was Parkinson's, which killed my grandfather in the 1980s and which at the time I was too scared to learn much about. (Instead, I put my courage into getting myself to visit him when I was so afraid of losing him I was inclined to bury my head in the sand instead.) Her thoughtful examination of her physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles in response to the illness was gripping and illuminating. (Her sense of humour, humility, and pride were a delight, as well.)

I was surprised, though, by how much of her experience of chronic illness and the emotional turmoil that comes with it reflected my own. I tend to discount my illnesses and blame myself for the limitations in my life. Seeing her grapple so courageously and publicly with things I have endured for so long was a shock but also an inspiration. And some of the deeper lessons she drew from her grapplings struck me resoundingly, as well. So, the gift of grace, borrowed from others, helped me through another week.

Many thanks to the authors whose joy, sorrow, and wisdom touched me over these days.