Oh the Power of Words, especially unspoken and feared ones, the ones we don’t ever want to hear, which lay coiled in wait for unguarded moments to strike. And when least expected. Unleashed, some words cut as if freshly sharpened from whetstones. And, of course, the opposite is also true:
words can be blankets. Soothing balms.
There is something to be gained from all of it- if only ‘life lessons.’ Which is a lot. Who is to say what life ‘means’ to any given person. Meaningful lives, or what each of us considers to be of meaning, are as varied as each individual person is. Perhaps other people are meant to teach us and vice versa.
This quote is from the late Henning Mankell’s memoir Quicksand:
“There is a little grocer’s shop in Antibes I generally go to when I am staying in the town. A man sits behind the counter from 7 o’ clock in the morning until the shop closes 7 hours later. He has a little TV set that he watches. I’ve never entered his shop when he hasn’t been staring at the flickering screen. He seems to watch absolutely everything. More or less reluctantly he interrupts his viewing to accept payment for goods sold. Before I leave the shop he has always returned to his telly. He’s very friendly. He seems contented enough. But his life horrifies me. Has he really chosen to stare at that television screen and made it the meaning of his life?”
In his book, which is reflective and deep (the author is dying of a terminal disease) Mankell states that although he’s occasionally made the wrong choices in life, not making any choices at all is the gravest mistake of all.
At one point he notices a lone bird perched on an aerial antenna. It begins to sing. It occurs to Mankell that here is something to be recorded on his tombstone:
I have heard the blackbird. I have lived.
I started to think after reading that passage, that if I was a bird, which type would I be– and the bower bird came to mind. They decorate their environs, like this:
“Keri Bowers- is this a pun you’ve heard? That you remind me of the bower bird?”
It’s true, I love a pun. Like me, Keri’s art can be a middle finger to stress. This morning I smelled lilac in the yard. I have smelled lilac? I have lived? Enjoying this scent -but also overwhelmed from this most unordinary week, I thought just at that moment that I should draw a woman throwing up, horribly sick, vomiting butterflies and paint spatters. Pretty puke.
But I haven’t the energy.
My daughter (who I should become accustomed to calling my son at this point in his change) created a similar piece of art which sums up this analogy:
copyright above image: Silis Gonzalez
Ever have ONE OF THOSE weeks? Situations lead to incorrect assumptions. One doubts one’s self.
Words catch on fire after hitting you, and then conversely, other thoughtful soothing words come and dampen the scorch. One is thankful for sincere kind words.
My brain is so battle weary. I’m an overthinker. I’m fatigued from trying to sort the wheat from chaff. Sometimes even ice cream doesn’t help because the words you wanted desperately to hear (and feel) did not appear. You settle for what you’ve been given.
I only wish I had an unlimited well of words to heal the hurting in others but I don’t.
Sometimes TIME is more a salve than words can ever be.
Unfortunately, my body is fatigued too. There will be no tai chi, (heehee) yoga, (haha) long walks, and nor will there be energy expended upon healthy absorption (sublimation?) in artistic endeavors. No gardening at least for now, no painting.
However, I did discover this fun fact that may be of interest to you: I installed a ‘step counter’ app on my phone with a goal of reaching 10,000 steps per day. Here’s the thing I discovered which leads me to believe I may need a more accurate app.
If I ride in a car, my step counter records this as exercise! I went 15 miles and my app thought I walked 80 steps. “That’s my kind of app,” quipped my friend Starr (who you may remember from my book Under The Banana Moon…)
Also this. If I rock in my rocking chair, this counts as steps on my app as well. In fact, before I started this blog post, I conducted a little experiment. I grasped my phone and began bouncing it with a flick of the wrist, to mimic walking. Ah… lo and behold, after 5 seconds of this activity I’d fooled the app into thinking I’d taken 15 steps! It’s so motivational (she said, tongue in cheek).
You may think I ‘need a life,’ and I assure you I’ve got one. I don’t have Mankell’s terminal illness, but I do share what was his philosophy and his insight. The choices you don’t make are as influential as the ones you do. Think before you speak is a lesson worth knowing as well.
I don’t believe in regrets. I think shouldawouldacoulda is pointless dwelling. I admit my mistakes but I can’t live in the past.
On TV the other day Bette Midler said “Why should I keep looking behind me because then I can’t see where I’m going.” Yeah trite but true. A broken clock is correct twice a day and yadayadayada.
To the young person who ambushed me last week with words like daggers, please don’t resent me for not wanting to be a bullseye. Because doormats and bullseyes are similar and I can’t be either one. It is for you to forget shouldawouldacouldas.
Elyse, whomever you are: THANK YOU. We should talk.
My heart was open and things may have turned out differently if not for the word salad onslaught. I was fully prepared when I walked in –to be the blanket you so sorely need, S. G. Not a target!
But your journey to walk is not mine. I love you more than the pleasant sorely needed scent of lilac in my yard today. Keep your card close and remember those are your words that you wrote and you meant them. The same is true of me.
The garden is progressing. As nature does. Like the bower bird, I am finding colorful bits, metaphorical and otherwise…not to attract a mate as the bower does, but rather to enrich my environment… Little things like Mankell’s bird on an antenna are worthy of my full attention.
So maybe I will take that walk today. If only to venture outside a little, to admire my sprouting seeds. Yeah —a walk is in order.
(Where’s my phone so I can jiggle it around a little.)
P.S. keep in touch squirt
My book available here