When I was in high school I underwent one of those sea changes that sweep through us. My mother was hospitalized for a time for treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder, my dad lost his job, we made weekly trips down to the church’s food pantry, and eventually my parents separated. The real weight of it occurred during my senior year.
One of the interesting things that came out of this was the freedom to leave the house on school nights–previously unheard of. For a time I found myself making periodic visits to a friend’s house; he was a new friend really. I don’t even remember how it started but what I realized was that this person who’d seemed so different from me for most of the previous four years was not so different as I had thought. I began high school playing soccer and reading books and was pretty removed from the social scene, and he began playing football and dating cheerleaders. We hardly spoke. There was never animosity; we were just turning different screws. I was just trying to survive a bottom locker.
One afternoon a few months prior to graduation I was at his house and we were playing guitars. We’d been taking turns playing “Sunshine of Your Love” and the intro to “Purple Haze,” and then he shifted gears. “You’re not leaving my house until you hear this song,” he said. “For me, this is it. This is how I wish I could play. I wish I could do something beautiful like this.” For him, in that moment, the guitar playing in this song had everything. It was delicate and it was simple and it was good. It wasn’t ostentatious. It wasn’t trying to show-off. It filtered gently into the space around it. Yet it was powerful.
The song was “Waterfall” by the Stone Roses, who and which I’d never heard of before.
Middle age is also a sea change, and for many it can be a difficult time. Chris Cornell’s recent passing certainly springs to mind as a potent example. A couple of weeks ago I had an astrology reading from Linda, which I was gifted as part of a blogging challenge she hosted late last year—(and the reading was amazing, my first experience with astrology!)—and she was explaining to me how in mid-life a person typically passes through these returns, traversals, squares—(I’m a complete novice but don’t let that reflect on Linda, please!). I gathered they can come in opposition to conditions or influences that may have been active around the time of our birth, and so it can be a time of unearthing things and reviewing them and confronting them and dipping into them anew. There are, anyway, often influences surfacing in this time that can push and prod us a bit.
For me that has certainly been the case, but the process is doing its work. It has led to new expressions of being. I’ve experienced a renewed focus on creative writing, which had fallen away for much of the previous two decades, and am excited to report that my first story has been accepted for publication. It is, like many things in life, at once a small and a grand thing. It is a beginning and an end. It is most meaningful in the context of experiencing the consummation of inner creative desires that have been within me for a long time, but also has revealed how far there is to travel on this writing road.
While on vacation recently I read Trans Atlantic by Colum McCann and for me it was like the moment when my high school friend played me his favorite song and we both just listened. The book was beautiful and resonated with me from start to finish. I really liked the style in which it was written. He used a lot of short, beautiful descriptions that added up over the course of the novel to a stunning inner momentum. The characters emerged swiftly out of nothing, were built from hand-picked granules of history and the everyday, and part of the richness of this work for me was the way in which no single character could lay claim to the novel’s arc. The baton of hope and desire was passed deftly through lives, across continents and over oceans, through visages of war and grief and longing, until it finally dissolved altogether. What remained settled gently on the land like the dew, had dispersed through everyone involved. And you realized, this was nightfall on but one day of the human heart.
Acknowledging simple moments of grace. This is what this time has unearthed in me, and I am grateful for the inspiration from near and far, for the nudges towards possibility, and for unexpected moments of friendship.