Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Fountain of Immortal Drink

Yesterday, I tried to play piano for my Mom and she just looked at me and screamed, “Breakfast!!!” 
In no uncertain terms. The Irish say, “After a full belly, it’s all poetry,” which also means that poetry and music can’t be appreciated when you’re stomach’s growling. As my Mom made clear. 

Isn’t it interesting how the beginning and ending of life seem to meet to close the loop of the human incarnation? Not only the reduced movement, the diapers, someone spooning soft oatmeal into the mouth, but the language of scream, cry and laugh. The body talks loud and clear and no need to mince terms if you’re 3 months old or 93 years. “I want it and I want it now!!” cries the infant and the elder alike and woe to anyone who tries to use the language of reason or applied psychology.

But next to the agony and terror of this body’s demands, hungers, aches and pains, comes the pleasure in the simplest things. (Or what appear to be simple things—really, what is more complex than a tree and Bach?) Done with the news of the human world, my Mom speaks and understands three languages only—the body language, music and fresh air. Usually it’s kisses and music that connect us, but today, the sun was out, the fog far away and it was a rare opportunity to sit and bask in the garden. When I picked her up inside, her mouth was downturned, she seemed withdrawn, somewhat depressed and words having mostly fled from her, could only shrug her shoulders when I asked “What’s wrong?” She perked up a bit with our traditional “elevator kisses”— that was the body language she understands. But after ten minutes in the sun holding hands, I saw her face soften, her eyes begin to sparkle, a few coherent words begin to spill out. When the clock said “lunch,” she said “No!” and we sat there soaking up the healing light.

Like babies, my elderly mother knows exactly what she needs and today it was some time immersed in the music of the natural world. 30 minutes was enough. She made some comments on the beauty of the flowers and how good the air smelled and really, might we save a lot of money and time if we took all the patients outside first before going into therapy? For some of them, I imagine they would say, 
“No need now for my appointment. I just needed a little time outside in the sun amongst the trees and flowers.” As do we all.

It has been a while since I memorized a poem, but I recently stumbled into Keats’ “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” and decided to give it a go. And a hard go it was, with its obtuse grammar and syntax, challenging vocabulary and length. But worth every moment. He acknowledges the gloomy days and “all our unhealthy and o’erdarkened ways,” but comforts us with “in spite of all, some shape of beauty moves away the pall, from our dark spirits.” What beauty is he talking about? “…the sun, the moon, the trees, old and young, sprouting a shady boon, for simple sheep and daffodils, in the green world where they live…” In short, the natural world that awaits our attention and rewards us with “an endless fountain of immortal drink, poured into us from heaven’s brink.”

I could have named this posting, “I Hate John Keats!”, because he wrote things like this before he died at the tender age of 26. But instead, I thank him for his short burst of beautifully articulated words that point to the world from whence words begin and end and speak a deeper and truer language. Little children get it. Elders get it. It’s only the mass of us in-between that get so distracted by the busyness of “important” work and the junk of ever-more-instant-ever-more-constantly-accessible-pseudo-entertainment that shoots straight to the brain stem of fight and flight and feed and *#%* (one more F here) and addicts us to a hyper-speed that has us restless and checking text messages when sitting in the sun with our elderly Mom. Well, minus the texting (still no cell phone), I’m in that crowd, but thanks, Mom, for reminding me to sit in the sunlight while I have the precious gift of health and sip from the “fountain of immortal drink.” A most refreshing drink it is.

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