This week I've felt stagnant, despite all the changes in my life (new home, new relationship contours, new class schedule, new curricula, new rain, even a slim new moon). The rain today reminds me of the constancy of change and possibility. And even though I do not feel like unpacking boxes and shelving books, do not feel like exercising my tight limbs, do not feel like it should be ink black by 5:45, I am writing villanelles inspired by Sylvia Plath. I am allowing the stillness. I wrote this little essay a few months ago, in March, but in re-reading it today, it seemed to matter more than ever. Soon enough, this time, these last months of the year, will have flown by, and I will be in a new place, maybe moving, maybe stuck. (And my brother, thank the good Lord, is now on his way to a treatment center). Here it is:
I celebrated the last few days of this rainy winter in Tahoe, frolicking in a bright snow-capped wonderland. Lucky enough to teach at a small private high school whose philosophy includes thrice yearly trips to take us beyond the classroom's limited potential for learning, I accompanied 16 students and 5 fellow staff on our annual snow trip.
The first and final days are spent traveling to and fro, setting up and breaking down camp (in this case camp is a giant 6 bedroom home with a hot-tub and a pool table). But sandwiched in between, those two blissful days of skiing are more than worth sharing a bathroom with twenty people.
This year I soar down the intermediate runs with grace. For once, I don't have to work too hard to tame my hamster-wheel mind. This sport requires graceful focus, and somehow the sticky sugar beneath my feet and the spun sugar clouds above my head and the impossible blue of lake and sky squeeze out all the anxiety of teaching, writing, (not) publishing. I am free. Not free like a bird, but free like a woman one season in to thirty, free like a girl who still thinks giggles and charades are the funnest way to spend an evening.
And then I come home to the news that Natasha Richardson has died, tragically, in a skiing accident in Quebec. Why am I so saddened? After all, the only movie I can recall her in is The Parent Trap, a cutesy remake of the far-superior Hailey Mills version. (Her performance was certainly beautiful though). I spent the exhausted car ride home talking to co-workers about my childhood, my tyrannical father and doting mother, my meth-addicted brother who worries me so much that my hamster wheel can’t even slow down enough to let him on. It’s too much to bear. The idea that he is tempting death just like that ski jump tempted my recklessness. I came away with bruised and swollen knuckles, yes, but even more, I felt alive.
Was Natasha being reckless? Was she under the influence of some substance, challenging herself too much? Or was she just enjoying, like me, the final days of this season of dormancy before emerging into the new life of spring? And if death does just take us so unawares, might the opposite also be true?
Might life somehow, some way, continue to take my aching brother under its wing? Might life bear him upon her strong back, and eventually drop him atop a mountain of potential and purpose? Might he glimpse the impossible beauty of life as he soars down, his troubles momentarily frozen, his body free once more? Might he remember to giggle about the charades he pulled as a boy, remember that as adults, even in our thirties, we can continue to glisten with possibility, mischievous ambitions, uncertainty?