7th October 2017
I’ve been putting off writing for the blog for a couple of weeks now because frankly I was afraid of what I might write. As I’ve said before, one of the joys of writing, for me, is that it is always a journey of discovery and that by opening oneself to that, one can be pleasantly, or not so pleasantly, surprised by what pours forth. So, I have hesitated to embark on this particular journey because the world is in such an ugly mood at the moment that I felt, well, no-one wants to hear more negativity; we need good news, uplifting stories, inspiring thoughts. Well, I thought, you’d best shut up Maggie and keep your pen capped.
We’ve been enjoying a mild start to autumn here in Tuscany. Sunny warm days in the low to mid-70’s and then that sudden drop around 5:30pm that has you hurrying to don a warm cardigan before going back out to pull a few more weeds and bring in some firewood. We have the fire going by six now, and yet one is still able to have the door open so that one can experience the outside. I love this time of year. A time of between-ness. Of one thing ending and another beginning. And that delicious suspension of time that evening carries no matter the season.
How blessed to sit by the fire and through the open door hear the birds chattering away, hundreds of them, flying into the hedges to bed down for the night. What are they going on about in such a boisterous manner? How I wish I could pull some branches aside and see what they are up to. I like to think they’re catching up on the news of the day and hope that theirs is better than ours. Although like us, I’m sure many of them are recounting tales not only of the beauty they’ve seen mid flight over this exquisite land, but also tales of near misses and catastrophe; all those who didn’t make it home but fell prey to speeding cars, the pounce of a cat, a gunshot.
As soon as I write the word ‘gunshot’ an image arises of hundreds of terrified people fleeing for their lives. All those people who thought they were about to be entertained for a few hours; a temporary escape from the news. And then they became the news. And like a bird, my imagination soars above our planet to visions of suffering so enormous one wants to fly home and bury oneself in the hedge.
The local nurserymen spent the day here yesterday, cutting back those hedges all around the perimeter of our garden. A couple of hundred yards in circumference, they had grown so tall over the summer that they had, in many places, blocked our view of the rolling hills surrounding us. And here, I believe, nature provides us with an example of the 50/50 nature of reality.
On one long side of the garden, in order to see the landscape beyond it, it is necessary to cut the hedges back by about 3 feet. But while they obliterate the view they also hide the power line that runs the length of that border. So, the choice is; do you let the hedges remain high so that you don’t have to see the ugly line and yet give up the view? Or do you cut them and reveal both?
The other reason I haven’t written is because I’ve not been well. Actually I haven’t been well for a few months during which time I chose to grow the hedge of denial in order not to deal with what might by an ugly truth. Let me put your minds at ease; I am no longer in danger. Without boring you with details suffice it to say I have, for the last 14 years had a condition, which, if I didn’t take a little pill every morning, would kill me in 8 weeks.
Just before we left for New York, I finally accepted that all was not well and my choice was to either cut the damn hedge so I could discover what was behind it and perhaps do something about it, or I could stay within the limits of my personal interior and pretend I didn’t really need the bigger picture. I decided to stop hedging my bets. After three weeks of intensive testing via my New York doctor, I’m proud to report that my heart, liver and kidneys are in super shape, with the exception of some slight heart regurgitation…but whose heart is not regurgitating in these frightening times? What wasn’t doing well at all was the thyroid and adrenals, which were close to collapse. I nearly downed my own power-line!!!
The little pill was no longer doing its job, and so an additional one was needed. Frankly it scared the shit out of me and I envisioned myself becoming one of those old ladies with a bedside table full of bottles. And this, I think, is the nub of what I’m trying to uncover in this essay: that our need for perfection, our need to remain forever young and then die quickly and nicely at 90+, our need to be seen as indomitable, as beyond the realm of failing energy and failing body parts, is not only futile, but the energy it takes to pretend nothing is changing gobbles up what precious time and energy we do have left. In other words, if we want to experience the fullness of life we must also accept its limits.
I’m sitting in the afternoon shade of the dondolo looking out to the garden and beyond to the newly revealed view. Sure, I wish the power-line wasn’t there, just like I wish I didn’t have a medical condition and like I wish there weren’t so many evil assholes in positions of power in our world. But I refuse to let the bastards stop me from seeing all that is good amongst us. And I refuse to hide the fact that I m aging. And I refuse to let a condition rob me of the gratitude for the many things I am still capable of doing and experiencing.
We have choices in life. We can pretend that ugliness doesn’t exist; we can accept that it does, but let anger keep us focused on it to the exclusion of all else, or we can accept the existence of the power-line and look beyond it to the greater beauty of the landscape.