Sometimes I Feel an Echo

via Daily Prompt: Echo

Sometimes I hear an echo, only it is not quite a sound but rather a memory. Or perhaps a memory of a feeling. Like yesterday, when I saw him standing there and I felt a giddy sensation of possibility. The new and exciting feeling of “love” that I only remember feeling too many years ago. And it is though I have never felt that feeling before and it is all new and wonderful and filled with a mysterious magic. But I am no longer young and I have felt that feeling before with devastating results. The echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

Sometimes I will watch a married couple and I will smile. I will remember the days when I too was married and how, even though there was so much unspoken misery, there was also times of unity. And an echo of that memory when I was not alone but a part of a team, however incomplete that team may have been, will swallow me up and for just one moment I will sigh with relief. But then I remember that I am alone and the only unity I can speak of now is the unity of all of the fractured parts of myself. Yes, the echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

Sometimes I will see a commercial, like the Amazon one with the Dad who drops his son off at preschool and peeks through the window to see his son sitting desolate and alone while the other children play. And I will feel the echo of the days my oldest son, who is now nearly fourteen, was in Kindergarten and he was terrified of the boys bathroom and how it sounded as if the whole world would disappear whenever the toilette was flushed. Or I will see a mother in front of my children’s school with a baby and the chubby, fleshy thighs will stir an echo of a memory of my own children when they were just babes, and oh how my heart will swell. And an ache will accompany the memory because those days are gone forever. The echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

There are constant echoes of past that sound at different times: days of playing kickball in the old neighborhood covered in dirt and grime and all the signs of childhood happiness, the first kiss that released the bevy of butterflies aching to be free, the roundness of my belly that swelled with life, the long walks with those babies through changing seasons…And the feelings reverberate within my heart as if I am standing on the edge of some great cliff overlooking the world and I am shouting out as loud as I can to the universe, to God,

Thank You.

Remembering Love

She had loved him. It was as though she were waking up from a long sleep to these feelings that she had held for this man all along. Feelings that had been buried, suppressed, in a deep, deep sleep. The wrongs committed could now be thrown into the smoldering rubble in which there still remained enough heat to turn them into ash. The many offenses, his offenses and her own, she had worn like a cloak, a cloak so heavy that she had not realized how it had hampered her movement until she found the strength to shrug them off. She had loved him. She held this old love in the palm of her hand and it glowed warm in the sun and she smiled with remembrance. She had loved him. And it was a relief.

She looked at his picture. She looked at the young face she could barely remember. The eyes that were so bright, so blue. They had dazzled her once. Over the years, through the battles she had stopped seeing them, could not see them through all of the smoke and flames, through the depressed fog. Only now, the war that was their love was over. The flames were dying down, the smoke was just beginning to lift, and like any war-torn landscape, the damage to her heart was devastating. At first the devastation was overwhelming. It was nearly impossible to imagine how this barren broken place could ever be rebuilt. But as time passed, she began to notice that the trees, though scorched still stood. There were green patches of grass, peeking out hesitantly, on the soot blackened scarred ground. And somewhere in the distant she could hear the laughter of children.

The Field at Dusk

She finds herself standing in the middle of a field that opens up to a dusk emblazoned sky. It could have been any field in any town. People are milling about, some have camps set up around small fires. Various music from throughout the decades can be heard playing on small transistor radios scattered across the field – seventies disco falling into seventies rock clashing with the doo wop of the fifties and punk of the eighties. It could have been any field in any town.

A bone thin man who has more stubble on his face than meat on his bones sits on an overturned crate and plays a banjo while six children in knee patched jeans and grubby faces chase the fireflies that are beginning to light up the field. A woman with a haggard look and weary eyes tucks the strand of hair that has escaped her bun behind her ear as she holds her baby to her partially exposed breast. She bends over a large cast iron pot and the light from beneath the pot illuminates her face so that she looks like a dying angel. Steam rises up and with it a smell that makes the mouth water and the heart feel at home. Sunday dinners and family, laughter and conversation, and grown up conversation where children can get lost in the safety of each syllable passing through the lips of those great giants.

Her eyes move past the dying angle and settle on a man dressed in a suit, a finely pressed suit of pinstripes. He has a wireless hands free in one ear and his finger is moving furiously across the small screen of his blackberry. He is oblivious to the music and the flaxen-haired woman dancing circles around him in white harem pants and a top so sheer her nipples can be seen. The contrast of the dark flesh against the white fabric is enticing and the only diversion away from them is the way she moves her long graceful fingers. They caress the air as she moves in circles around him. She thrust her hips forward toward him as he wipes the sweat from his creased brow and continues tapping. A baby cries and she sees the flaxen-haired Goddess dance gracefully to a white-flaked wooden crib where in lies a baby clad only in a cloth diaper. The woman gently picks up the baby and once again begins her dance. The once seductive sway of her hips filled with unnoticed intention becomes softer now. No longer caressing the empty air, she touches the soft skin of the baby’s back, tracing circles with the tips of her beautiful fingers. The baby is quiet as she continues the dance around the white crib, flakes falling to the ground.

She takes it all in, the sights and sounds filling this field. All of the different people. The associations tied to the soft skin of a babies back, or the delighted glee of firefly catching in the light of a disappearing sun. Her own memories of giants before they had fallen are stirred of in the cast iron pot of the dying angel along with her own memories of unnoticed intent like that of the swaying hips of the dancer.

And then they begin to leave. One by one, nearly half of the people in the field begin walking to the line of trees bordering the edge of the field. Brother leaving brother, daughter leaving mother, husband leaving wife, families separated from one another. Those that are walking towards the trees do not look back. They walk with purpose, their heads up and their gaze straight. Those that are left behind seem to be unaware of what is happening. The man keeps tapping away on his blackberry while the flaxen-haired woman resumes her dance. The baby cries in its crib. The banjo still plays as the children make rings that glow from the stolen firefly lights. The pot stands unattended.

That is when she sees the dying angel making her way toward the trees. She is sobbing and holds her arms straight by her sides her fists clenched as if she is willing herself to go forward and her clenched fists are the only things keeping her from going back. She is no longer holding a baby and there is such an emptiness now along with the tired, haggard, worn look in her eyes. Tears have made streaks down her dirty cheeks. The brown strand has come loose once more but this time she leaves it be and it sticks to her cheek in one of the tracks of her tears.

She shouts to the woman. She shouts for her to stop.

“Don’t go! You don’t have to go!”

Then she runs. She catches up to the woman before she reaches the opening in the tree line. It is dark. She cries for her to stop, and though the dying angel continues to sob with such exquisite anguish, she does not look back. And then she is gone.

She wants to follow the woman but she is afraid. She looks back over her shoulder at those left behind in the field. They are oblivious. She is filled with an overwhelming urge to stay with these people, to not leave them behind, and at the same time is drawn to the dark opening in the trees, to follow her dying angel into the unknown. As she is frozen with confusion and an awful indecision a man comes to stand beside her. He is nondescript with no distinguishable characteristics other than the sound of his voice. It’s the tide rolling in and being pulled back out, filled not just with his own voice but that of her father’s who has long been gone. It contains that voice and so many other unrecognizable voices all blended together, all speaking in unison.

“What has happened? Why did they leave?”

He looks at her with kindness and explains quite plainly, “We are all dead. The people who have entered the trees have realized that. They are moving on. The people in the field have yet to realize it, so they will continue to relive everything over and over. They will be stuck until they too come to realize it.”

She does not find herself filled with horror or shock or disbelief. She does not find herself filled with anything but the image of the dying angel sobbing with grief, her calloused hands clenched into fists. Then she looks once again over her shoulder and sees the baby that once laid in the tired arms of the dying angel, surrendered in the grass at the feet of the banjo picker.

She finds herself standing in the middle of a field that opens up to a dusk emblazoned sky. It could have been any field in any town. People are milling about, some have camps set up around small fires. Various music from throughout the decades can be heard playing on small transistor radios scattered across the field, seventies disco falling into seventies rock clashing with the doo wop of the fifties and punk of the eighties. It could have been any field in any town

Rearranging: Embracing Impermanence and Letting Go

I like to rearrange, change, reconstruct, and readjust.

I do it all the time.

Why in the past four years I’ve shaved my head bald twice.  I’m talking Buddha bald. Just. Like. That.

I gained eighty pounds, hiding my once thin frame which garnered me more than a few looks, with extra soft flesh. Just. Like. That.

The former blog I spent three years creating with love, sweat, and tears – the very thing which helped me get through my divorce – I deleted. Just. Like. That.

Love letters from my ex-husband that were my tether to possibility, two years worth of love letters I held onto as a drowning person does drift wood, thrown into the fire. Just. Like. That.

Pictures of that other life – complete with a mother and a father, a husband and a wife – I threw on top of the burning love letters. Just. Like. That.

I said goodbye to my children, the sole purpose of my existence, and sent them to another woman without creating guilt or conflict within them (by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done). Not quite “Just. Like. That.” but close enough.

When I rearrange I let go and letting go is the way I stay sane, the way I remember who I am. My identity is not attached to my hair, my weight, my role as wife, or my role as mother.

I was not always good at rearranging and able to embrace the changing. Before my divorce my identity was attached to material things (house, husband, children, hair, body) or ideas related to material things (middle class, wife, mother, beautiful). But when my ex-husband left all of that disappeared. Just. Like. That.

I found myself teetering on insanity no longer knowing who I was. Nights I would spend lying next to my two-year-old daughter as she slept blissfully, reciting my name over and over in the quiet darkness, terrified I would fall into the abyss of nothingness.

It took years but, by the grace of God, I managed to inch away from the edge and find solid ground to stand on, only now the solid ground or foundation is found not on the outside in impermanent material things or ideas, but it is found within me.

So that I never forget, I continue to make myself rearrange things. Whether it is something as minor as the dishes in the kitchen cabinets or something a little more meaningful like donating baby clothes I held onto for my future grandchildren (future grandchildren that are not guaranteed), I purposefully and intentionally let go.

It reminds me of the Buddhist sand mandala. Days of painstaking creation ending with a breathtaking piece of art only to be dismantled. Why? To remind us of the transitory nature of life and the impermanence of material things and ideas.

As the trees can testify, with their leaves falling once more to blanket the earth with color, it is a good thing to remember.

“Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.”
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh