I find myself today with a book a friend gave to me, Sightlines, A Poet's Diary, by Janet Grace Riehl.
The book came to me when I was in my chemo daze, and I couldn't relate to it, but, today, I am deeply touched. Janet wrote it after her sister was killed in a car accident on August 16, 2004. She returned, then, to the family home in Southwestern Illinois. She writes:
"For my 56th birthday in December 2004 I went into a small retreat at King's House, run by the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate in Belleville, Illinois. During this time, I came to a strong sense that the world is charged with meaning, and that is a poem. Not could be, but is. The only trick is to tease out the meaning."
And so, she does.
After my mother died, I would go out to Pierce Point, and the world seemed like a matte painting to me. I couldn't find the dimension or texture here. All seemed flattened by her expansion. I could not settle into feeling this book when I was in chemo. I had no place to tuck the feeling, no wing, or flap. Now, I sit with it, deeply touched by her description of washing her mother's bottom, and powdering it. I am so touched by how our roles change, and what compassion truly is, love. We don't have to do anything heroic. Washing the bottom of someone who is ill is the most holy rite.
This poem comes to me.
looking out on birds that, to me, lift like a meow,
from the strength of gravity.