Sunday, January 15, 2012

War is over:if you want it

I dreamed I went to Tarantino's house and he lived on a beautiful headland surrounded by water.  Each direction the view was more stunning, like the Norwegian sun over the summer sea, light and glittering. So intent on finding the right house, I parked stupidly, too close to the water, and he and I had to haul the car around as if it were a small rowing boat, and secure it with a rope to a tree. The water was high for that time of year, he noted. The dogs swam out of the car to shore. For Dotsie it was easy, but Pepper was spluttering and half submerged and I had to pull him in on a rope. He wasn't doing very well but I pulled as fast as I could so that he couldn't drown. He coughed up sea water once on land and was rickety on his legs.  "The sea is always high like this just before a cataclysmic event" said a neighbor, while Quentin was tying off the boat/car, and we looked out to sea together, where all was sparkling -- a little choppy perhaps -- but sparkling and I wondered what horrible thing could occur on a day like today. The neighbor stood with her hands on her hips, her hair swept back in a scarf in the Norwegian fashion, face towards the sun.  All three dogs, now recovered, also looked out towards the sun. I leaned my back against a tall silver birch and contemplated what such a high tide could mean and whether we could weather it.

Very little has prepared me for the current tidal wave.  I have a small boat, a stick with a red and white handkerchief on the end which contains a cheese sandwich and some satsumas. The children are with me of course. The dogs too, some days more helpful than others. Pepper's life currently consists of pills and peanut butter and the time that falls in between.  His back knuckles bleed sometimes from dragging the road, but he seems happy.  He sleeps with me on the sofa in the daytime and protects me from marauders.

I do not know anything.  This is a journey for which you cannot prepare. I say that without drama. If there was ever a case for living in the here and now, this is it. The breadth of it is too big for one man to take on, so you divide it up into moment-sized bits, and process each one. The bits are punctuated with goodness -- beautiful days, the Senna documentary, drives into the Antelope Valley in search of reins along old Western railroads, past rickety cowboy bars, the boy -- man-shaped -- sleeping next to you and the dog, his hand in yours unselfconsciously. And there are tiny moment of gratitude -- a lunch where you could laugh together, fragments of conversation where there is light, the familiar smile, hidden so much lately, the way his says your name because he forgot he shouldn't.

Part of me wants to be sucked into the ectoplasmic storage box in Ghostbusters, to scream silently for the whole of eternity.  Part of me recognizes that everything will get better. And part of me realizes that I am trite and silly and sentimental and ridiculous. And yet another part -- a large part -- has developed an unflinching belief in God.

Imagine you were given the freedom to do everything over again. Imagine how liberating that would feel. How would you stumble? Let me tell you how. You'd stumble through fear. You would stumble because instead of walking as a baby does, and getting up and walking again, each and every one of your steps would be full of second-guessing and doubt.  You would take your over-intellectualizing adult mind to deal with the simple task of putting one foot in front of another. And you would ruin it. And you would fall flat on your face as I have done.  Step by step, bird by bird (to steal from Annie Lamott), heartbeat by heartbeat.  That's all there is to do. Five six seven eight. Dance.

They were filming a 1945 dance sequence outside my office this week, something about the end of the war. Girls with cinched waists and scarves around their heads, boys in high waisted belted pants, the big band sound, red, white and blue bunting, red lipstick and the kind of embraces where the girls were spun round in the air, and the song, again and again and again. Each take the same: the war is over, the boys are home, the girls are thrilled and relieved. And in each others' arms.


LPC said...


Anonymous said...

This is a good thing. Ur outlook is amazing.

nancyblackett said...

Dear Miss Whistle, you are treading this path with such fortitude and resilience, taking care of your companions along the way. Your capacity for observation and reflection is heightened. One thing I have learned is that there is no end point but there are resting points on the journey when you get to unwrap the hankerchief and unpeel the satsuma. Drop by for tea and a slice of fruit cake.