"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." --Albert Einstein--
And I wonder about that--about the beauty of the unknown. For me, a loss of control and certainty is terrifying. I do not yield well to things...often cannot find grace when things are in transition. I see the span of life and its infinite vastness, but what I don't know--I may never know. This image is of "The Life and Age of Woman", a print from the 1800s hanging in the spare room during our last Maine vacation. The woman is a baby, a maiden, a bride, a mother--then she falls into widowhood and spends half of her life wreathed in black. At the time, I'm sure this was true of most women who didn't die in childbirth--something will be lost and you'll spend half of your life without color. When I saw this print, August, three years back--I was in the throes of a post-partum depression episode so severe, I believed my life would thrive only in shadow. Like the woman in this picture, I would exist in shrouds until my last days. The mystery is how beautiful everything appeared to me--even in my compromised state...the new baby's whorling seashell ear, the boy-o's dirty footsoles, Petunia's eyes, M.'s weak smile. The miracle is that I recovered; the tragedy that so many women suffer in silence...
I want to know about mystery--why the feel of the grass beneath my feet can make me recite Whitman and weep because our lives are so entwined. Mine doesn't end where yours begins...where "theirs" begins...and often no one else can see this connection. I feel like Apollo's forsaken Cassandra--foretelling a future doomed to be disbelieved, scorned, and yet utterly correct.
The mystery of the mother-child relationship, the division and union of lovers, the crossing of friends...I want to understand this. How do some women mother children with easy skill and unruffled confidence, assuming the mantle of "family" without fear? Why don't they ever dream of running away to Paris, glass of absinthe in left-hand, ivory-tipped cigarette holder in right? How is there no conflict--no struggle? A part of me longs to make animal-shaped cupcakes and care about cleaning products. I will set my hair and wear high-heels and capris to the grocery store. I will color-code my shopping list and scrub the floor on my hands and knees--lemon burning in my nostrils and keeping me clean. These are veiled mysterious secrets to me.
I love my children--I read them stories and am open with possibility for them to explore who they are and who they will become. I will let the baby smear make-up on my face, dream under knotted blanket forts outside with my son, furiously write and laugh in a cafe with my girl. Meanwhile, the floor needs to be swept and the dirty dishes wait patiently in the sink--clothes are rumpled, but I have heard my daughter read poetry, have seen my son climb a star-flowered tree, have felt the baby's clammy hand in mine as we walked to the bus stop together in the rain. The mystery is, can I do it this way? Will they end up in prison because they wore mismatched socks and stayed up past bedtime to chase the first fireflies of the season? It is painful to deviate from the well-worn path...always fearing I am too far off course and we will get lost.
I want to know what mysterious force compels the bud to blossom...breaking open fragrant purple skin to release the flower. How does it know to do this? You can tell me of the science of weather--still, I can't comprehend why the blue makes me ache so hard--a jagged tooth with nerves uprooted. Clouds needing to be mapped out and understood can stop me in the middle of a thought, in the middle of a street. Stars elude me...the moon compels my dreams to radiate with a vibrance beyond true life. The mystery is the sun rising each morning for all of us--whoever we are or my yet be--in spite of everything.