A setting of a different sort.
We had yet another glorious day here, the kind of day when a four-mile round-trip walk to lunch is as welcome as the good food you're being fed once you're at your destination. I built blanket-and-umbrella houses for a host's five-year-old child; I improvised conservatories and cupboards and ballrooms ("Every house should have at least two ballrooms," I told her, so that later when we asked her where in her house she was, she replied, "In the ballroom!"); I created annexes and nooks and various modes of ingress and egress; I taught the word "disaster" when, before the introduction of clothespins from the garden, cloth walls fell from umbrella ribs and rent roofs.
When I rejoined my host and my friend at the lunch table, my friend said to me, "Let me say, though I've never met him, that you are your father's daughter."
It's true, of course; the structure and design principles come from him, as does much of the commitment to modeling open, freewheeling creativity for children whenever possible. The cloth-working, though, and the creation of safe and lovely domestic spaces, and the ability to apportion time for a small child while not losing contact with the adults in the room--that's my mother working through me. "I want to build a different house," the child said to me while I was writing out my gluten- and dairy-free pie crust recipe for her mother and having some tea. "I will," I said, "but first I need to finish this for your mother." She started to pout just a little. "So now," I continued, "I need you to go mastermind the new house. Decide what kinds of rooms you want, and take the old house apart, and then I'll be ready to help you." She grinned and scampered off. A few minutes later, we heard her giggling and talking to herself in one of the back rooms, under the big golf umbrella. Her mother had told her that we adults were being lazy at the tea table. "I'm being lazy in my house," came the little voice from under the fabric. Something fell, somewhere, and she rippled out, "Oh, no, another disaster!"
And then she disassembled the house, and then we rebuilt it in yet another compact yet capacious way.
So, it was a gorgeous and lightsome afternoon, though under it were running some familiar refrains and questions, none of which is particularly joyous. Weeks and months keep going by, and I realize that next month will mark the half-decade anniversary of the beginning of my last relationship, and I feel as though I have no remedy for this thing about my life that I would have be different. All I can do is keep feeling as hopeful and acting as non-reclusive as possible.
When I returned from my lunch outing this afternoon and checked my e-mail, I found a comment waiting to be approved. It was on a post nearly two years old, one I'd written just as I was realizing that I wouldn't be going out anymore with a person I'd only seen a few times. It's one that I think of as vintage Cabinetry, now, from the days when I was more wide-eyed and eager and able to spin you long narratives and meditations.
At the end of this particular day, having re-read that old post, I realize that that comment has kicked me into some potentially healing kind of recursivity: I wrote it to bolster myself two years ago by reminding myself (and telling you) about some of the most self-bolstering prose I know, from Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. (Hilariously, someone tried to convince me just the other day that I should re-watch Igby Goes Down. I voted no, strenuously.) I wrote that post to remind myself (and to tell you) about the premium I put on a certain kind of patient, faithful, hopeful self-care. I wrote it as catharsis, largely: I remember exactly where I was as the hours passed and I continued weaving those words together; I remember realizing that I wouldn't get my grading done that night after all, or even start it; I remember stopping every once in awhile to sob and ball my fists, and then returning tear-streaked to my typing.
I remember writing my way toward a final line (echoing Rilke) that's still true, though I feel steelier about it now than I did two years ago, in part because I still don't understand why the things that have happened since then happened: "I'm too much an idealist not to believe that somewhere, some other solitude is growing and waiting to be greeted. I hope it's only as painful as he can sing out lovingly."
That comment came in today at exactly the right moment, pointing me back in the direction of writing that was, after all, about being reluctant to take directions, even obvious ones--and that was about worrying that my directions and instincts would always point me toward solitude. It pointed me back to a declaration that "I refuse to mess around, to suffer fools lightly, to play any more games with my heart than I can help."
Some days, nowadays, I'm more afraid than hopeful, more pessimistic than otherwise about whether, say, I'll ever again get to be the kind of girl designed to be kissed upon the eyes. I'd like to dance till two o'clock, or sometimes dance till dawn. Or, if the band could stand it, just go on and on and on. I worry that the chance is gone. I worry that I made it go away, simply by refusing to mess around. Even when I know damned well, in a rational way, that that's not the case, the worry, which is not rational, pays a visit sometimes.
When the sun went down this evening, its palette was an altogether different thing than we had yesterday--and a better one for my feelings at 5 p.m. We are on our way back out of the darkness, in leaps and bounds; next Sunday is Candlemas, the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox; so much of my life remains illuminated, and so many more things light up every day, though those lights are sometimes muted yellows rather than stunning, joyous orange-reds. I don't know that there are reasons for the ways life works. I don't know that I'll ever reach a point where I'll say, "Ah, that's why that happened."
I suspect there's just one thing to be done, and that's to look this feeling squarely in the face and keep singing Luisa's words at it: "Perhaps I'm bad, or wild, or mad, with lots of grief in store. But I want much more..." I've always wanted much more. Someday, I still hope, I'll have it. Until then, I'll hug myself until my arms turn blue, and I'll love to taste my tears.
Also, I think I'll put on some a-ha and rock out a little.
(Thanks for the timely intervention, long-time reader.)