Saturday, May 1, 2010

This Storm is Called Progress

Now complete, and in completeness, it is yours to finish. It has become a question. Is the bird a blue jay raiding the nest, a bluebird abandoning it or perhaps returning to home? Where did that palette come from? It seems to leap through the ages and off the canvases of Fra Angelico! What is the nature of blue, of red, of gold, and of violet?
This painting has been calling out to be born since 2001. In that year a twenty year marriage ended, a family changed. Afterward romances replayed the drama—cycling through the joy, the pain. Now a new marriage has begun. A daughter has become an adult. A world full of systemic abuse uncovered. A means to create a world of hope enabled.
My friend Lisa and I were on one of our daily walks through the fields and hills of Starksboro when below us we discovered an empty nest perfectly balanced between three slender branches. They seemed to symbolize the supports that hold us up in life—those we hold dear, our work, our spiritual and creative self. What happens when a support collapses or worse yet was never true?

He says: I've wasted my life on our stupid legend
When my one and only love
was the wicked witch."
—from Laurie Andersen, The Dream Before

Love, well placed or not, in transition or ending, simply ain't fun. Yet we are wired for that!

Thomas Lewis, M.D, Fari Amini, M.D. and Richard Lannon, M.D. in their work "A General Theory of Love" wrote:
"The evolution of the limbric brain a hundred million years ago created animals with luminescent powers of emotionality and relatedness, their nervous systems designed to intertwine and support each other like supple strands of a vine. But in life, as on the Greek stage, every attribute confers a matching vulnerability; each heroic strength find its mirror in a tragic flaw. So it is with the neural skills that constitute emotional life. The limbric brain bestows experiential riches denied simpler creatures, but it also opens up mammals to torment and destruction. An alligator never feels the loss, and a rattlesnake never suffers illness or death upon separation from its parents or progeny. Mammals can and do."
So it seems mammals are dependent on emotional pleasure and pain. Does it not stand to reason then that there is an evolutionary purpose for this? Perhaps our biology guides us to find fulfillment, to achieve meaning? Like a child pushed into schooling, we are pushed towards what is beyond our understanding or even desire?


"Your place is empty, empty in the night
When I reach out with hand or foot to touch
Your living flesh, the warmth that offers such
An affirmation, oh, it is not right
The bed is empty, made for two, not one.
The reflex does not die, to touch, to reach,
To find. I think it will never be done,
And I am glad of that. It seems that each
Of us find our own answers in this grief.
I know you have been here. You have been here.
The empty place is full of deep relief
Because it still is yours and still is dear.
But oh! That my dear love were in my bed
And my life flesh to your live flesh still wed.
—from Madeleine L'Engle, Sonnet 1

Since this painting was first envisioned, I've discovered that walking gracefully through adversity, fully aware and inquiring, not running blindly, not hiding, or worse refusing to enter into it, is a gift. To the graceful, true wisdom and the ability to reach beyond ego are discovered by proceeding through to the path's end. And, as I have learned, loss can be the start to receiving an even truer love.

In the midst of deepest pain, life—our capacity to receive, to create, and to give—pulses through like the sap at winter's end. Coursing through barren branches, it gives birth to new buds—and if from the right branch—sweet syrup provides joy for hundreds more.



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