I first learned there was such a thing as metaphysics from Tracey K. We were both pulling summer shifts at a potato processing plant in our hometown back in the late eighties. I’m not entirely convinced Tracey K. worked at the plant, but I did for several summers in a row – the money was good. It’s just that in my mind the word “metaphysics” – its actual utterance – comes from Tracey K. and it comes with an image of the McCain’s plant in Peony Farm, a semi-rural community of our childhood home. We were either working at the plant together and standing out front of it after our shift – you know smoking cigarettes in our industrial blue overalls and hairnets; or we were driving by the plant very slowly and exactly as Tracey K. said “metaphysics” I was exactly then looking at the potato processing plant. Trouble is I also see a line of trees, very tall, shelter- belt trees lining a country road, with bright swords of sunlight on the dirt road and I know for a fact this road is perpendicular to the potato plant. Regardless, whenever I think of the word metaphysics I think of Tracey K.
Some of what we face is of such enormity our enforced confidence is tempered by our niggling fear we’re ab out to fail. Reading a magazine piece on learning how to surf, writer Elizabeth Winters relates that both surfing and her passion for yoga, require patience and nonjudgment. Ours is a society that privileges expeditiousness; waiting is seen as weakness. But there are times when the waves are so daunting; being too earnest could be foolhardy – instead a waiting, a knowing, a surrendering to quiet moments gets us up on a board to ride the perfect wave.
I think of Mum – and the enormity of what she was undergoing. The biggest challenge of our life is to die well, to serve as a guide to those left with some living yet.
A poet writes of her own mother surrendering her body to chaos, to collapse, in a final gesture of abandon and love.
Over the phone, the day before she died Mum summoned all her strength and through her rasping breaths and moaning she said, I love you too son.
Such loss makes you wonder. During some episodes of our lives when we feel we’re about to drown, we open ourselves.
And rise from the trough to the crest. On a board. On a wish. On a need.
And from time to time thereafter, our openness is such that in rushes happiness.
We are standing in the sunlight. Tree-lined shelter-belt. A country road. The back of a potato plant and she said with a happy smile, “I’m studying metaphysics.”
In a way we all do. If we wait. If we are open.
If we surrender the trough to the crest.
(note: every once in a while I set myself a task to write from whatever I can find at hand. Today it was three magazines — Yoga Journal, Orion and the Missouri Review — and a memory of a friend who has reconnected with me throught Facebook. I tend to write these suspending judgment, in order to see where things might go… I like this, the result, but I can’t really tell you why or exactly what it means).