The Feeling Of When: A Personal Essay

I try to trust in the will of some god that I feel around me sometimes. It’s a funny sort of trust- that which denies itself some days, and justifies itself as well. It happens sort of randomly, I’ll say that much; the back and forth of it. And yet as I go about certain days, I shimmer with the breath of the trees- that breath which I can feel, can smell, can taste when I’m trying.

It’s often in that nature I am most comfortable, laying in the dirt or feeling the grass beneath my feet. Folding blades of green that seem to reach into and through my skin as I walk, or as my toes dig mud freshly softened. I wait in those moments, for the love of the god that seems so often breached in the world we as human beings have contrived for ourselves. I beckon the specks of light; the dust of stars which glitter before me when I least expect them. And when I know I need them. But they’re always there, I’m sure. I really am.

The past six months or so have been a wild dance amongst a city in which I’m still learning to live. Working and working so much for a while, that I sort of forgot to breathe as I once proclaimed to a woman in a hospital was so necessary to remain focused. She replied so earnestly that we are all such shallow breathers too often. And she was correct in that response. We all don’t take the air in our lungs to which we are intended. Though there are moments which take that breath away, regardless as to how we are breathing.

For me, most recently, it was just before Christmas, when this world lost a man named Paul, whose last name I’ve forgotten how to spell. He was a Grandfather to me growing up, and his love and generosity to my family will never be lost to me. We were a family of six at the time; my parents worked hard and loved deeply, and raised myself and my sisters to be as what we as humans are for: immersed in a sort of Love that so many go without in this life. Both my Mom and my Dad made whichever house in which we lived into a home with sheer determination, always. And Paul arrived – at least it seems to me now – at the door of those homes within that sort of randomness I feel god. And when he did arrive, he did with bags and bags of groceries; flats of flowers for my Mom to plant in her always beautifully conceived garden; hours long discussions with my Dad about whatever the two of their minds came across in the moment. I think back on Paul now with a tinge of regret in that, as I grew a bit older and went off to Camp and College to find my own path through our collected wilderness, I forgot those times he showed up at our front door. In looking back now, I suppose it is only that I was too young to realize what he was doing. And too sad with so many things to offer him the same as he grew older; as his face drooped with Bell’s palsy; as I left Ohio again and again, rarely looking back at much but with regret. Making people into memories before they had a chance to become them to life’s reality.

Not long after Paul passed – or maybe it was before – another Grandfather figure in my life also quietly changed address, as my Dad once put it. His name was Gene, and he was my Great Uncle on my Mom’s side. My memories of Gene are different, of course. Uncle Gene and Aunt Helen weren’t in my life all too often. But every year the week of Christmas, without fail, whomever of my family who were still in town would make the drive down to their home in Akron, and we would sit around their basement. My Mom would request almost immediately to build a fire in their fireplace, if there wasn’t one already going; Gene would shuffle gaily to the bar to make Bloody Marys. Aunt Helen would be busy building a feast for us, all the while drinking cheap beer from a can. A football game – any football game – would be on their TV. The Christmas Tree stood hung with ornaments, some gorgeous, some hilarious; children’s toys from their childhood would be seated underneath. I would go for those toys at some point. And always nearly empty their many dishes of candy by the end of the afternoon. Gene would eventually sit back with a pipe, and the smell of it would fill the room.

Aunt Helen was the life of those parties, as I recall. She and Gene would bicker, like couples will do I suppose, after so many years together…they shared 70 years of marriage. It’s almost too much to fathom to me, two people spending so much of their lives together. And wouldn’t it be, that just a few months after Gene died, Helen joined him. And wherever they are, I can’t help but believe they’re together. As I see it, they were probably the same being to begin with.

This winter of sorts, with Earthly death surrounding, brought me crashing into Spring without a helmet on, so to speak. I lost myself in grief again; tended to too much out of my hands; thought I was different than who I am, and what my disorder entails I do and do not do.

I’ve spent most of my life trudging into this moment in time, and yet have made it difficult on myself to be well, I suppose. My mind is often found to me with brilliant claps of thunder, as metaphor, but they are no more thoughts I have than thoughts that appear. I jot them down sometimes; usually give them a melody to sing along with. I’m mainly a songwriter, at any rate. I try and pull from the ether- true that the ether seems too often spent these days.

So to say, I am recovering from regret. And from the guilt my church of confirmation too often shades its members with. But I’m working forward with a sense of purpose, perhaps. And absolutely with a renewed faith in the Way.

Institutions, I remain with an immense distrust. Most are buildings locked when you need most to go inside, or with entry fees too steep for the lowly to afford; with brand names refusing to pay their workers to live well; vaults stacked with pipelines and deep ocean drills; or with guns too loaded with racism and injustice.

I am built this way: to seek life in a sky of blue. And to stand with my face up in the rain. With my head held high when I can. My soul trying to be an open door. To feel the sun and the rain. And to sing; my fingers flying across six strings I’ve spent my life conversing with.

So I sit here tonight remembering Paul and Gene and Helen: Just the three people close to me who have most recently moved on. Some may hope they rest in peace. I have this idea that their Peace is in eternal movement. And when the next time I stand amongst the trees, or with my feet in the dirt, or when sitting alone pulling songs from the unconscious, I will remember them fondly. And will seek their spirit in the eyes of my neighbors. For I know it is there and everywhere.

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