Sunday, June 11, 2006

THE LIFE AND AGE OF WOMAN



"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.
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22 Comments:

Anonymous Diana said...

This is beautiful. I have really enjoyed your blog since discovering it.

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?

Yes, you can! I get compliments every day on the way my children are creative (oh, SO creative!) and curious and smart and different from other kids... then I hear that they have "problems with organization," and I look around our house and see the results of this, but it's worth it. Hard to remember on a house-cleaning day but really, it is. My kids read and think and converse, at 10 and 12, on more interesting topics than most adults. Their friends live in cleaner houses but they're dullards who aren't happy without a Gameboy or MTV.

(You can see that this topic strikes a chord with me!)

11:34 AM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Oh wow, you are such an amazing writer. That's beautiful! I am so comforted by your ruminations on parenthood -- I have such fears and such hopes, too. And I'm virtually certain poetry and rumpled socks will produce a much more vibrant and interesting human being that perfect clothes and a spotless home! And I too am mystified in the most wonderful way about the blooming of a flower, growth, all the tiny miracles of the world. Beautiful beautiful writing! (I also just posted a belated response to your yo-yo's post below.)

11:47 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

so beautiful and thoughtful...just like you, my friend. no other words needed today
sx

11:53 AM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Such a beautiful and thoughtful piece! Very well written. Such talent here.

12:16 PM  
Blogger susanlavonne said...

so poignantly written! If I had the wherewithall to check my previous comments, I would guess that I use the word poignant in all of them...but it remains true (I'll try to come up with a good synonym however)

When raising my own children, I always assumed that the dishes and floors would never remember waiting to be cleaned while I played with my children...but that my children would certainly remember if i attended to the house chores in place of playing with them :-)

12:34 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

I love that you saw beauty even when in the depths of shadow... and you feel the connections between people, though they deny it...

yet you say "a loss of control and certainty is terrifying. I do not yield well to things.." it sounds to me as though you are already yielding well and treading your path without certainty but plenty of appreciation.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

It's amazing to me when a mother can abandon her own child... Something I could never understand. It happened to my Mom.

12:46 PM  
Blogger ESB said...

good lord, this is LOVELY. and, it really speaks to me this weekend.

"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?"

----I may have to post this on my refrigerator!!

12:49 PM  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

Your mysteries are like honey, not sandpaper. You live with them, but are not agitated by them. So well expressed.

1:53 PM  
Blogger DuhhhBlond said...

I love that you color-code your shopping list. That is so organized, yet wacky and cute! :)

2:35 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

Oh, holy crap, you are so good!! Really, really good.

Um, go to the store in high heals and cute capris? Can you just shoot me first?! Please! LOL.

*sigh* how I ask myself these same questions about motherhood. You should see my house right now... But. Are my kids happy? Do they feel free to be who they are? Have I taught them that people are not perfect, not even mom? This is life. This is motherhood. It is messy.

You are wonderful!

:)

2:54 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

Thanks for leaving the comment at my blog - because it lead me here to this poetic piece of writing. It is beautiful and poignant.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Beautifully written! I'm glad the raising part is over, but my mistakes are hitting me upside my head. Being a grandma is so much easier. LOL

5:16 PM  
Blogger Madeleine said...

This was such a wonderful read. Thankyou.
I'm sure that there is an inner struggle within many woman, where motherhood is concerned. I sometimes wonder, though, where these other woman are when I'm standing in the playground at school feeling like an alien species.
I am happy to have a house which only gets cleaned when people visit, and that it's not the end of the world that my 5 year old son insists on going to school without underpants.
I think your children are blessed to have a mother such as you, and will be truly grateful in later life. I'm sure they are unique and interesting children, free to be themselves.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

You are passionate, and fun and beautiful and loving-this couldn't possibly lead to criminal children.

I believe comfort in who you are is probably the best gift to give our children.

I too fall into wondering about the mysterious- perfect Clever mothers-mostly because I expect to be something I am not if I push hard enough.

Your post gave me a nudge to relax and just live passionately and happily and the rest will turn out right.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Kim G. said...

"It is painful to deviate from the well-worn path...always fearing I am too far off course and we will get lost."

The affliction of caring mothers everywhere . . .

Loved the imagry in this post. So many beautiful pictures of being a woman, being a mother, being who we are and being who we want to be. . .
magical.

12:00 AM  
Blogger bb said...

Beautiful as ever, Delia. I think the tragedies lie not in taking the time to simply just be, but in the stultifying moments of depression, where nothing is done, not the chores nor the time spent revelling with the children.

7:40 AM  
Blogger deirdre said...

Your writing always makes me pause and think, sometimes for days. Thank you for this.

5:55 PM  
Blogger tara dawn said...

Wow! I am so glad you left me a trail to you through your comment on my blog. So many mysteries...and you write of them with such incredible beauty.
I will return...and inhale your words along with the beauty of life's mysteries.
xoxo

6:26 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

oh, this was beautiful my friend.

something tells me your children will grow up as extraordinary human beings that change the world for the better.

don't stop doing what you're doing...walking the unbeaten path.

we need more like you in this world.

love,
boho xoxoxo

1:04 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Amazing again. Your ability to capture a mood/thought, makes my head spin.
Beautifully written.
a.

10:06 AM  
Blogger tracey said...

YOu are an amazing writer, a creative thinker, a giving mother,a beautiful soul. Your offerings bring tears to my eyes.

I have nominated one of your posts as a "Perfect Post" for June at the suburbanturmoil blog. I hope that's OK with you and you take it as the complement I have intended it to be.

Will you email me (via my blog) so I can write you about it directly??

Hope to hear from you soon!

4:02 PM  

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