Thursday, December 29, 2016

"May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe"

From Mary Oliver -

"Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor. With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me, so many heavy coats. I didn't choose them, I don't fault them, but it took time to reject them. Now in the spring I kneel, I put my face into the packets of violets, the dampness, the freshness, the sense of ever-ness. Something is wrong, I know it, if I don't keep my attention on eternity. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever upstream. May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect."

- from Upstream - Selected Essays by Mary Oliver 2016

I love the image of the many heavy coats - the layering of responsibilities building bulk. New layers pulled over old and not quite forgotten cardigans. I imagine what that would feel like - the stiffness of movement, the heat, the weight. We do choose these layers - maybe we aren't aware of what those choices entail or perhaps we can't quite see the choice given our social, cultural coat closet - but those old choices feel like layers that were given to us. Our arms were thrust into their context whether we liked it or not. To fault them is to cling to blame. Blaming solidifies those layers into a foundation of meaning. We grow use to defining ourselves - identifying ourselves - with those many heavy coats even as they weigh us down.

But neither do I reject the responsibilities that have claimed me - I'd rather simply peel off the coats, releasing their strangled hold on who I am right now. All that bulk, each layer seemingly predicated on all the other layers. Stripping them off takes time. I softly release what no longer serves. I run my hand across the textures of fabricated values and beliefs, the meaning I have made of each particular coat - are these truly mine or am I touching the social, familial vision of who I should be and how I should waddle forward, stooped and bound by all those many heavy coats.

Stripping off some layers gives me a sense of my own form. And yet, I am still encased in layers that have yet to be peeled back - some that never will be peeled away and others that will continue to come off as I age and release myself into the care of the universe. But still, a different awareness - to go lose myself in the world, to wander upstream as Mary Oliver writes, continues to help me shed what no longer serves me.

What kind of nail do I want to be, tiny but useful?

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