Feather cloud above the cerulean skin of the Pacific

 

Yesterday afternoon, walking east of Victoria’s Breakwater along the Dallas Road cliffs, above the brilliant cerulean skin of the Pacific, a cirrus “feather” cloud formed above us.

I stopped in the middle of the trail, reached up to take its picture. I stood there, my head cranked back, until the dizzy point arrived and a couple wearing concerned smiles moved past me.

feather cloud (GrowMercy)

There are days when things cohere, and stillness and clarity draw near as if on cat feet.

There are days when love floods our calculations and manipulations, and this world-in-travail drops away, exposing those petty resentments that lead us to war (within and without), and we change a little, if we wish.

There are days when every crystalline cloud prisms a rainbow of ways through your darkness, signals the glory of drawing breath on this earth, offers you the great bounty of just enough.

And there are day’s when you arrive exactly where you should be; a place that’s not “down on any map,” as Melville said, “true places never are.”


The Psalm of Humpty Dumpty

kazooplayer

praise with sounds of accordion and kazoo
praise with pots, pans, chicken dance too
praise with lute and lyre, the loons and liars
praise empire and emperor
          (ochre-topped-sprat stocking the global swamp)
praise the diamond-eyes and mouse-eared minds
          of the new plutocracy
                   and the coffin of democracy
praise the clay feet of Wall Street; the sallow heart of Walmart
praise Exxon and Chevron, Johnson & Johnson, GE and Disney
         boneyards of benevolence
                  greedifiers, anesthetizers
                           fathers of Godzilla-consumers
praise the paper men down at the Pentagon
         comparing their missiles, tanks, and penises
praise Putin, Jong-un and the last POTUS
praise history’s allegiance to the victors
                           its footnote for the vanquished
praise the neo-liberals prostituting for the mega-corps
praise the washed-out left; and the washed-in-righteousness right
praise the lineage of lost leaders who birthed the great Symptom
                          believe me, the very greatest
praise pro-life, lethal injection, and environmental vivisection
praise Focus on the Family, the anti-gay lobby and America’s gun hobby
praise everlasting Guantanamo and the private prison archipelago
praise Fox, Breitbart and The Rebel; praise Beck, Ezra and Bill O’
praise CNN, MSN, NYT and the WaPo
         and all the mainstream journalists who forgot long ago
                  that journalism means descent, not advertising revenue
praise the instant image, where neither nuance nor context cohere
praise every half-witted fabri-fact on every so-called social stage
praise the universal University teaching what to think, never how,
         because how-thoughts are hard and should be left
                  to the one with the greatest brains and the very best words
praise thick-witted hair-trigger action and the expiration of contemplation
praise the fundamental end of wonder, mystery and the life of the soul
praise Christ and him crystallized
praise the gospel of affluence and the inevitable mega-church
praise the Eucharist concession, the con-transubstantiation
         the body turned to Twinkies, the blood to Cola-slurpees
praise Jesus of Washington, called on behalf of the star-spangled blazers,
         called to bless each war, ban every Muslim
                  and bury every Standing Rock
                           which keeps him very busy
praise the doctrine of sovereign impunity
praise the great wall and the cracks to come
         praise Humpty Dumpty
                  all praise the great fall
                           rushing to crush us all


My Father is…

Dad1991

…up long before dawn, deep winter, 40 below, helping a neighbour jump-start his truck;

…in a darkened farm shed bent over a steel disc, shocks of light coming from a 7018 welding rod collide with shafts of sun angling in through chinks in the log walls;

…in the plywood-sided bin by the slough, dust balloons out the door, dirt in the creases of his forehead, rivulets of sweat run down under his cap, down the side of his face, shirt stuck to his back as he shovels the last of the barley into the auger hopper;

…at the back of the general store, leaning back in his chair, beside him, a shin-high stack of newspapers and magazines, he’s reading the Western Producer, talking to mom, hopeful about Canadian Wheat Board;

…standing at the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool calendar in the kitchen, noting yesterday’s rainfall amount in that acre of space beside each date;

…half a mile away from the house, singing above the roar of the 1550 Cockshutt tractor, singing, It Is Well With My Soul;

…at our cousins, telling the only off-colour joke we’ve heard him tell, about the farmer who found a whistle in a manure pile: What did he do with it? He blew the shit out of it! All the kids roar. Dad too. Aunt Nettie and Uncle Harold not quite as much;

…stuck in a drift on the way to the Riverside Farm, thick black wavy hair sprouts from underneath a toque that has climbed up the back of his head while he lays up a laser-straight row of snow beside the red and white Ford half-ton;

…raising pigs, raising a thousand turkeys that will die from some disease in the space of a few days, raising hundreds of laying hens; then he’s a general store owner, a public school trustee, a Co-op board president, bus driver, deacon, a Gideon;

…reading the Daily Bread at the kitchen table and I secretly thank him as he pretends not to notice the scent of tobacco after I come back from smoking a rollie behind the barn;

…wearing that robins-egg-blue suit of his, drapes the blazer over the back of the chair at the head of the dark-wood dinning-room table, we gather for Sunday dinner: grace, roast beef and a surreptitious interview: a son, a daughter, has brought home a date;

…building a bonfire in the tractor-rim fire pit, grandkids are gathering around, some scout for wiener sticks in the bush behind the old cabin, which was once the warehouse attached to the store in town, now retired, re-purposed, rebuilt on the farm, rooted in memories;

…up long before dawn, at his narrow desk, 40-watt bulb casts warm yellow light over his open King James bible, folded hands, propped elbows, bowed head;

…rhapsodizing at his 50th wedding anniversary, two months before his death: pride in his voice as he names his five kids, recounts the good each one did (edits well). His kids are listening, smiling, happy in the way all father’s want their kids to be happy.

Mom&dadcourting2

And what of families touched by suicide?

No, touched doesn’t name it; more like being struck by a semi load of girders. And some families are struck more than once.

A few days ago a man I knew died by suicide. He was an acquaintance, but my wife and his wife were closer, had shared important moments together, encountered common themes in their lives, and for a while supported each other in a necessary dance of dissidence against certain traditions. The family’s second oldest is also a long time friend of our second youngest. They share a trajectory that places them on mainstream culture’s margins. So the news hurt.

Our hearts are torn for this family who have been struck twice. (Many years ago the oldest son also took his life.)  You are in our thoughts, and in our inadequate but earnest ways, we pray for your peace.

And our hearts go out to all who find themselves in that grey expanse of numbness. A shock to go from daily habits: shower, coffee, commute, work, to the new fact of someone’s absence. How long to adjust to a fragmented reality? How long before the crush lightens and the days become liveable?

All this awoke memories. Certainly for my wife. Reminded of her father’s suicide, she was, we were, momentarily dropped into that old pool of roiling emotions.

After my father-in-law’s suicide we attended a rally called Lift the Silence on Suicide.  The secret phantoms of guilt and shame make everything worse. Silence makes things worse. Open communication, they said, resisting suicide’s stigma, its taboo status, can save lives.

But not everyone makes it through. Too many don’t: call it depression, unnavigable darkness, a mental prison, emotional suffocation. Call it a precipice under a blistering sun, or a flatness under a slate blanket sky.

Fact is, the healthiest of us can be swallowed by some monstrous loss. And should there be no one around to link arms with, the vacuum may be too much.

But there’s an equally important fact: for some, there are mental health issues, things breached and broken that no amount of family support, communal support,  communication, professional help, can restore. And it’s just here where those phantoms of false guilt can come to accuse and harm those who tried to help.

Either way, we are all in this together. We all need the pressure of a warm handshake, we all need our name called out in the street, a friend running to catch up, a hug, a slap-on-the-back greeting.

We hold each other…so we can hold ourselves…so we can hold each other… For it’s through gentle giving and receiving that we live and grow and are released into the mystery of community…which to my mind is simply another name for God.

candles