Friday, December 01, 2006

Beginnings and endings and the oh so gooey middle

I think I am suffering from a lack of light. I go to work in the dark, I come home in the dusk. I turn on a lamp in the living room and sit next to it like a huddled mass, yearning to breathe free. I’ve always had a touch of the melancholia at this time of the year but when I look back on it, it has always been strongest when I’ve lived in decidedly dark wintery places. Never enough to go totally over the edge, but always close enough to look longingly over the edge and wonder if the bottom wasn’t really the best place for me.

Now there are two gut checks that I do on myself when the opportunity arises. Since my genetic family is filled with alcoholism and mental instability (I was adopted by an aunt when I was 18 months old as my siblings and I were divided up and removed from a drunken/crazy household) I have a vested interest in not becoming drunk or crazy. And you might note that it isn’t politically correct to refer to someone as “crazy” and frankly, I don’t care. Maybe the people in your family that run around town in their night clothes, smeared in feces and communicating with Jesus on a first name basis are called “mentally ill”. In my family, I call them “batshit insane”. It’s not a term of disrespect; it is the last vestige of humor that I have had in some very sad circumstances.

And perhaps “alcoholic” is a nicer term to use rather than “fucked up drunk”, but when a mother loses custody of her seven kids and brother drives his car into a concrete abutment resulting in a very dead wife, I think the term “fucked up drunk” is charitable at best.

So I ask myself where the melancholia comes from and I think the reason is the season. It is dark and cold and popular culture and fucking holiday cards and parties are forcing upon me a peace and warmth and love that I do not feel. I am not a Christian so the whole baby Jesus thing might as well be asking me to believe fairies, trolls, and honesty and openness in the White House. I do not offer up my willing suspension of disbelief easily.
As a Buddhist, the whole materialistic aspect of the holiday actually makes my head ache and the towering Duluth city Christmas tree would look better in the woods. That which I call my soul, the soft swirled center of my being, aches at this time of year.

My friend’s dad, whom I adopted as my own when I was a kid, had a confused and jumbled childhood and he has the exact outlook that I do. And I frankly think we both have the same free-thinking type of brain. We aren’t hoodwinked easily and we can’t be convinced that if everyone just gathers around a big tree loaded with gifts that magically, everything will be ok. We’ll be the two people in the room sitting in the corner, engrossed in a book.

We’ll leave the Christmas season to those who do it far better than we do.

But pass me a damn piece of fudge, will ya?

As always, I visit poetry to soothe my spirit. How do we become what we are? Where is it going? What will we do along the way? Billy makes it all so evident…

Aristotle-Billy Collins
This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning.
The first-person narrator introduces himself,
tells us about his lineage.
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings.
Here the climbers are studying a map
or pulling on their long woolen socks.
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn.
The profile of an animal is being smeared
on the wall of a cave, and you have not yet learned to crawl.
This is the opening, the gambit,
a pawn moving forward an inch.
This is your first night with her, your first night without her.
This is the first part
where the wheels begin to turn,
where the elevator begins its ascent,
before the doors lurch apart.

This is the middle.
Things have had time to get complicated,
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore.
Cities have sprouted up along the rivers
teeming with people at cross-purposes –
a million schemes, a million wild looks.
Disappointment unsolders his knapsack
here and pitches his ragged tent.
This is the sticky part where the plot congeals,
where the action suddenly reverses
or swerves off in an outrageous direction.
Here the narrator devotes a long paragraph
to why Miriam does not want Edward's child.
Someone hides a letter under a pillow.
Here the aria rises to a pitch,
a song of betrayal, salted with revenge.
And the climbing party is stuck on a ledge
halfway up the mountain.
This is the bridge, the painful modulation.
This is the thick of things. So much is crowded into the middle –
the guitars of Spain, piles of ripe avocados,
Russian uniforms, noisy parties,
lakeside kisses, arguments heard through a wall
too much to name, too much to think about.

And this is the end,
the car running out of road,
the river losing its name in an ocean,
the long nose of the photographed horse
touching the white electronic line.
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the parade,
the empty wheelchair, and pigeons floating down in the evening.
Here the stage is littered with bodies,
the narrator leads the characters to their cells,
and the climbers are in their graves.
It is me hitting the period
and you closing the book.
It is Sylvia Plath in the kitchen
and St. Clement with an anchor around his neck.
This is the final bit thinning away to nothing.
This is the end, according to Aristotle,
what we have all been waiting for,
what everything comes down to,
the destination we cannot help imagining,
a streak of light in the sky,
a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.


Mea said...

Hi! I've been reading your blog and can I just say. . . . I love it! I used to go to school in Superior (commuted from Hayward, WI) and spent a lot of time in Duluth. Is the aquarium still open??

Debbie said...

It is still open although I have offered them my suggestion of turning it into a very high priced fish restaurant. I've only been there once on a free ticket and even then I felt gyped.

SCarrGo said...

I feel the same way about the fishquarium. Never been, except for one of DH's company holiday parties. Friends come to town and ask about it, and I take them to my backyard for a bonfire and beer. Much more educational.