She asks me to send news of glad things in my life, and what I think of first are the flowering trees all along the sides of the roads in the neighborhood where my excellent friends took me to dinner tonight. The pear trees and the weeping cherries, in the early evening sun, laid out lane after lane of light: the flowers themselves delicate, but their blossoms so profuse and the trees so many and thick that whole houses disappeared behind them. And I think of the wine we drank with dinner, a 2005 Muga that balanced paella and calamari just so. And I think of the crabapple blossoms we saw after dinner, spots of near-red just ready to burst, waiting to bloom sometime next week. And I think of not having had my camera for any of these things, of having now to offer you yet another of my local flowers, since we don't have that profusion of trees or that slant of light. "You'll just have to remember it," said my excellent poet friend, as we made our way to our restaurant (a restaurant named, in fact, for the very city my glad-things-needing friend will soon visit).
What I think of most, though, is that all these things are, in and of themselves, not unlike all those flowers on all those trees tonight. They're beautiful and quick; the new leaves will push them all aside in so short a time, and then we will be fast in the thick of summer, with all its thriving and living. And they were beautiful and brief even within the space of these so-swift last weeks of our semester: I fear that first thing tomorrow, the idyll will break as the reality of the days ahead hits me once again.
But here's the thing: every one of those days--even on the ones when I don't understand why things are happening the way they are, why relationships shift the way they do, why unfair things afflict people I love--I will see or hear at least one small thing that will salvage the day. There will be the emergency sirening cardinal hiding in plain view inside the burning bush outside my officehouse, or the cat in the window next door, looking to see if he can see to my kitchen, looking to see if I'll come pet him through the windowglass. Or the eight curled tulip leaves spearing out of the college lawn, all apart from the other flowers, presumably remnants from some earlier planting. There will be a hairwashing and a haircutting, and to get to them, I will have to hurry away from school more quickly than I'd usually do on a Monday, but once I'm safely arrived, I'll have the pleasure of someone's tending to my head for a little while. There will be a set of events I'll have to take care of on Tuesday, but once they're underway, I'll have the pleasure of watching students and colleagues meet a new person's work. The week will go on like this, five big things after five others, not even one by one by one, and I won't get everything finished, and I'll once again think that the weekend will save me. But all around me, more birds will make themselves heard, and more trees and bushes will push their fine buds out of their woody branches, because now it is time for these things to be.
I've been fighting against myself in my writings here lately because some of what's happening with me either feels not particularly interesting or is downright frustrating, to the point where what I'd like to write is something that would come out of anger and sorrow. But I think of having described this space to a friend, back in the fall, as a project more about a maintenance of a certain affect than about almost any other thing, and I know that what I want is not to blaze out the fieriest things I'm feeling but rather to figure out how to let that fire be there, be present and real, without letting it out to eat up everything I'm doing and thinking and writing in front of other people. What I want is what I keep on breathing towards: a kind of solid equanimity that, as if it were some big emotional bicep, I'll have strengthened enough in the easier days so that on the harder days, I'll be ready for the heavy lifting. Lots of things feed that equanimity: the enormous, strange birthday card my parents sent me, which started singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" at top volume this morning in the post office; picking my slow but increasingly competent way into a piece by Beethoven; figuring out how to load 120 film into a camera. And a lot of deliberate breathing, the kind that, at the doctor's office on Friday afternoon, almost put me to sleep while I waited for my nurse practitioner to arrive.
I don't know if all of this thinking aloud constitutes anything like a set of glad things in my life. So here's a last offering: a sheep I saw nearly a year ago, the day I climbed a mountain in Wales. Because who wouldn't love a sheep like this one, one-third of the way up a mountain?
That's what I've got, other than to say that I'm in the struggle with you, girlfriend. You're not alone. Every day isn't a good one, and I'm betting that Sunday will be better than Saturday was.