a. line. (in the) sand.

Nothing moves in a straight line,

But in arcs, epicycles, spirals and gyres.

Nothing living grows in cubes, cones, or rhomboids,

But we take a little here and we give a little there,

And the wind blows right through us,

And blows the apples off the tree, and hangs a red kite suddenly there,

And a fox comes to bite the apples curiously,

And we change.

Or we die

And then change.

from  I Saw Her Dancing,

by Marge Piercy

My mother’s neck parallels the floor now, her head planks forward like a tree bowed by too many winds.  So that all she sees, with what fragmentary vision is left her, is the floor and its world of carpeted colors, its hard wooden edges.  And this is our conversation – about the flowers she doesn’t want her feet to crush, though they are woven into a lovely rug she once selected; or the canyons and cliffs that occur when the carpet cedes to hardwood floors and she refuses to cross over.  Refuses, I mean.  So, we pull up a chair at the edge of the carpet and sit there for a while, safe in the borders of the flower garden, gathering courage to cross the great dark divide to her bedroom, a few feet beyond.

Only when she tucks into her bed after dinner, lying back into her hill of pillows, can I see her face – still pretty, and soft, and surprisingly youthful.  I kiss her goodnight, and she nuzzles into my neck like a baby, her pink gown swaddling her tiny frame.  She waves into the vague distance with a smile and a kiss when my father passes by, though she cannot find him with her eyes.

When I slip in to say goodbye early one morning, she urgently rises up from a dream, wondering how she can retire from this job she has gotten herself into, how she needs to go on and do something else.  I find her words marvelous in symbol and suggestion, as though her unconscious now speaks freely, unedited.  Don’t we all come to this, at different times, to a need to retire from This, in order to move on into that something else?  Marge Piercy’s poem caught my attention thirty years ago in a way I have never forgotten:   . . .we change.  Or we die, and then change.  That much we can count on, this unstoppable change.

One  night at dinner, she peers closely into the carpet and makes out some writing.  “What do those words say?”, she asks.  “Am I seeing right?  It looks like they say:  The End.”  

In amazement, I watch her find her way into retirement, into the final scenes before The End.  Her body and soul seem bent on something I cannot know.  All I can do is hold her when she is frightened, and honor the precipice that she sees.  The ground that shifts beneath her.   The valley she is daring to cross.  This change that calls to her in dreams.

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~ by Susan on 07/10/2012.

4 Responses to “a. line. (in the) sand.”

  1. Oh Susan. These deep canyons, these treacherous cliffs. I can picture you there, pulling up a chair, patient, weary, tender, stretched beyond imagining between the canyon walls of love and fear, peering into the valley below. The carpet you weave is beautiful, detailed, mysterious, and it comforts us who walk along its daily treads.

    My mother’s head hung low, parallel, during her last several months. I hated not being able to see her beautiful face, her eyes.

  2. Dear Susan,,,,Every entry you post is a masterpiece! I read and reread each beautifully woven tapestry trying to fully appreciate each rich artistic thought. I am not surprised by your tender, loving care for each of your parents nor for your spiritual, insightful understanding of this last earthly journey. Please know that just as your reverent presence brings peace and comfort to your dear parents, your gifted sharing of these preparatory passages along the way brings peace and comfort to me. Thank you for your ministry. Keeping you close in my heart and in my prayers.

    • Margaret, it is a joy and a comfort to know you are out there and walking this way with me, as you have walked it so lovingly with your parents. You are a dear to write, and hearing from you is a boon to me. Thank you, beautiful friend! Susan

  3. I read this many days ago, dear Susan, and continue to ponder my many reactions to the beauty and power of your words and descriptions. I agree with the other eloquent comments such as Margaret Hillock’s saying, “Every entry you post is a masterpiece!” I, too, read and reread them trying unsuccessfully to find words that are adequate to tell you of my appreciation. I thought of your parents on their anniversary a few days ago and remembered happier, healthier times of celebration with them. Much love to you and yours, Ann xoxox

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