Sitting on the front porch, drinking a giant glass of iced coffee and eating a very sugared scone, both of which I have sworn off and desperately needed this morning. After inhaling the scone and sucking up half the coffee, I begin to feel humanity seeping back into my bones. I look down to see the nose of a squirrel about six inches from my foot. I startle at exactly the same moment as the squirrel—I know this guy, he spends many a morning on my porch. He moves around me, not quite out of sight. This is his porch as much as mine. I feel my heart beat quickly after the startle and I imagine I see his racing in his chest. We are not friends, both wary of the other, but not exactly unfriendly either. I put my plate of scone crumbs on the floor six feet from my seat, half the distance between us. He is still; his eyes on me. I sit back down and he advances to the plate much more quickly that I would have advised had I been his mother. He eats. I do not offer him a sip of coffee but wonder if caffeine would have made him a squirrel-ier squirrel this morning.
We are three days shy of a month before we leave for summer travel and I am overwhelmed with my to do list. From finding hotels and planning excursions in Italy and London to fixing my broken laser printer to finding someone to accompany Julia to Girls Rock Camp to mulching the garden to figuring out Julia’s summer school work to spending time writing to working out at the gym to Italian lessons. For every task accomplished, another two are added to the list. And there is planning for story telling for the next Quest meeting. Reading over the instructions/suggestions, I remember how finding my metaphor when I was a participant, propelled and knitted together the story I told.
Metaphor. Before I found it, I did not recognize that I was searching.
Today, it is compost. Metaphorically speaking.
Life = compost heap. Heap, not bin. Not contained as it should be, as I usually plan. The bins not emptied as they usually are earlier in the spring. Lots of reasons why, sciatica last fall was awful and friends cleaned the garden. Sciatica this spring left me very careful of how I moved and what I pulled and pushed, but the piles of gardening rubbish and vegetable scraps are ugly and take up more and more space in a small garden. And I am finally, finally stronger.
It is all chaos. I hardly need metaphor for chaos but there you have it. It has appeared. I feel the chaos of undone tasks, of unorganized plans, of wild ideas that know no boundaries, of a process gone wildly rogue. And whether it is a house in disarray or a writing loose and unwieldy, I shrink from the chaos of it, scared in my soul that the “it” in whatever corner of my life it exists will not come together.
And most of the time, it does. I am taking a little bit of refuge there. In the place where the chaos is bearable and perhaps even sorts itself out. Perhaps I should begin to take refuge in the idea that ordinarily, not always of course, but in many cases, it is possible to tame the chaos into something akin to order, into some recognizable shape or form. Thus, that monster chaos is little more than a step in a process, raw material, the mound of ideas, an opportunity to discover something new.
Is the measure of an artist her facility with chaos?
This morning, chaos lurks in corners, but as the caffeine seeps deeper, I find the gratitude buried within. Like a compost heap. Gratitude for the experience of the day. For slender stalks of Japanese iris and blousy pink peonies. For small travel decisions that set some boundaries for planning. For the opportunity to hear Temple Grandin in June and see da Vinci’s Last Supper in July. For Julia’s first interest in China as she puts together the big, final project for seventh grade. For friends who have listened to my whinings and worries, and those who eat what I cook and laugh with me. For hard journeys on every plane and the strength and support I need to embrace what is difficult.