Many years ago I had a dream about wild horses. It is a dream that I've thought of often recently, as I attempt to find what is exquisite even in the most challenging of circumstances. In the dream I am watching wild horses -- big, strong and beautifully sleek multi-colored horses that are most definitely untamed and free. They dance with each other & rear up onto their hind-legs in an intricate give and take. Someone is trying to catch them, and I laugh knowing that will not be possible.
Last week I found myself in the emergency room, hooked up to machines, fluids dripping into my IV, waiting for the results of my CT scan and blood tests. Part of me questioned whether I really needed to be there, as the symptoms of extreme vertigo had mostly passed, and the either real or imagined numbness and tingling in my left arm now seemed more phantom than not. But I had to wait... For the test results, for the doctor to assess everything, for the discharge orders. There's not much like hours in the ER to spark contemplation. My wild horses stopped by for a visit. They made space and time open up, even for just those moments - a visceral reminder that the exquisite is always available.
Recently, I read a poem by Marie Howe, on sorrow, and the first lines have been echoing through my head:
So now it has our complete attention, and we are made whole.
We take it into our hands like a rope, grateful and tethered,
freed from waiting for it to happen. It is here, precisely
as we imagined.
If the man has died, if the child’s illness has taken a sudden
turn, if the house has burned in the middle of the night
and in winter, there is at least a kind of stopping that will
pass for peace.
Now when we speak it is with a great seriousness, and when
we touch it is with our own fingers, and when we listen
it is with our big eyes that have looked at a thing
and have not blinked.
There is no longer any reason to distrust us. When it leaves
it will leave like summer, and we will remember it as a break
in something that had seemed as unrelenting as coming rain
and we will be sorry to see it go.
Sorrow. So now it has our complete attention, and we are made whole. When I wonder about the connection between sorrow and finding the exquisite, I think of this poem, this line. It is an understanding I didn't have have at 20, not at 30. I might have approached it at 40. Now, at 50, I think I understand, or at least am beginning to get it. I suspect that my learning curve will continue to be steep as I move forward through new and unanticipated challenges. These relationships - sorrow and joy, finding our own wholeness through challenge and contradiction - are part of what I'd like to explore in my writing here, and I hope that others will join me in the conversation, especially woman who are both grappling with, and reveling in, the fascinating facets and contradictions of growing older.