January with Jane – 8. Balance

Balance is noticed most when almost failed of–

In an elephant’s delicate wavering

on her circus stool, for instance,

or that moment

when a ladder starts to tip but steadies back.

There are, too, its mysterious departures

Hours after the dishes are washed and stacked

a metal bowl clangs to the floor,

the weight of drying water all that altered;

a painting vertical for years

one morning—why?–requires a restoring tap.

You have felt it disappearing

from your own capricious heart—

a restlessness enters, the smallest leaning begins.

Already then inevitable,

the full collision,

the life you will describe afterward always as ‘after’

A few weeks ago I woke, rose to my feet at the edge of the bed, and the floor suddenly slanted like the deck of a small fishing boat in a choppy sea, throwing me to the decks. Regaining my sense of self, I tried again to walk, only to be tossed into the wall this time, this time to hurl over that ship’s gunnel. It was the strangest experience, indescribable really (unless you’ve experienced it too?) , the way my body could no longer feel the pull of gravity in the proper direction. The room tilted this way and that, as did my helpless body, until it brought me at last to my knees, to crawl across the floor, the sobbing rising up from my gut at the sudden disorientation . Only lying perfectly flat and still could the world stop spinning.

Later (after I’d called for help, and we’d conferred with the ambulance personnel who arrived , concurring that this loss of balance was not at all a stroke, but vertigo as we’d guessed), a dose of motion sickness medicine eased the madcapped tilting of this once-flat and steady earth. I could once again rely upon my body (my eyes and proprioceptive sense of my body in space– though not my ears, which house those amazing wonders of cilia swaying in the fluid of its canals, like anenome floating in the sea, to inform my brain which way is up, and which grow their own tiny grains of calcium carbonate rock crystals, which feel the pull of gravity as down, down, DOWN!! not sideways or up!!) It would take several days for those wonders of organic biology to restructure themselves, and restore equilibrium into those rooms that I had somehow inadvertantly thrown into chaos, for the messages from my ears to match the ones from my eyes and my body and allow my confused brain to comprehend the at last reoriented, unmixed messages.

What storm did I set in motion to wreck that tiny universe? That watery microscopic world of wonder suddenly reeling at the onslaught, in what had yesterday been so long a constant that I was utterly unaware of its reality , that it existed within me, taken for granted, an unappreciated life at ease– peaceful, silent and serene.

I close my eyes today and I can feel it, dive down into that watery realm. swim inside that swaying field of grace. Grateful that I have discovered such a place within me, where once there was chaos and destruction. My inner world feels an order even as the one without (outside) reels in seeming disarray, the center of my being holding steady, like the proverbial eye of the storm in the midst.

What does that eye behold, as the world around it spins asunder? And will that eye hold its gaze when my personal life will inevitably will be cast into the tragedies that are built into this life of deep joy and terrible sorrow. It could happen in a moment, like that waking up one day to the world suddenly tossed askew. Like Jane’s metal bowl, or her full collision….

Sometimes I fear i am testing the fates to speak in such a way, as if there is some hubris that will be flattened within me. And yet, still, still (that inner stillness being operative here) I hold out hope that what is deepest within me might not be shaken…. that tiny crystal grown beautiful enough inside of me to reflect light even in the darkness to come.

I wait for the shoe to drop….. no, not eagerly, not inviting it, no… but with apprehension, if i am honest. Am I ripe enough to be tested by that knife? The ladder tipped that morning as I awakened to the fear that this might be something serious –my life direction set off upon another course in a heartbeat– before the world righted itself. Meanwhile my friend’s life shifted cataclysmically in the same breadth of a heartbeat as her own beloved’s life crashed to the floor, never to stand up and walk again.

Is there is something reliable within me, which I this day I trust (in the hubris of my world being relatively stable) will still and forever-after be there, regardless. Is it truly now a part of me, this core soul steadiness, as i believe it to be, this deep ‘All is Well’ even when ‘all is not well’? A well-spring within which those sea grasses sway. Consolation even in desolation. The potential to dwell in both worlds at once, the terrible grief, the equally terrible beauty.

My friend says that the grief so flattened her in those first days that she could not go for a walk without someone helping her, holding her up, her sense of feeling held by those who love her in her very bones…. the way that Don held me upright on that day when my world was shaken asunder. It sometimes takes the other to assist us until we restore balance…. balance between tragedy and joy, between ‘all is not well’ and ‘All is Well’— is restored.

Precarious balance, reliant at times upon the tiniest of crystals growing within.

And this trivial treatise, of course, speaks nothing of Jane’s (my own) simply restless heart. Can I trust, also, in my heart’s deep contentment with Life As It Is, without requiring the spector of catyclysm (nor ecstasy of miracle!). In the ordinary, the unchanging, the stillness of even stagnant water, might I draw from a deeper source. Need I the approach the spector of tragedy at all in order to know life as precious, as it is, here.

and Now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: