Wild and precious

She stood in her kitchen in the low light of a winter morning, waiting for the kettle to finish. Outside, the world was waiting to be formed. River mist filled the valleys. The sleeping hills were still. Dawn crept, silently, towards the horizon. In her bare feet, she felt the cold of it entering her house, her body, her bones. Those who died today would never feel warmth again. How strange, to have reached the point of such forgetting. She leaned against the kitchen counter, waiting to shiver. The kettle was wheezing with the effort of pushing against the cold and the quiet. As she cupped her hands around its hot little body, her eye caught on the poster above it, with the quote from the Mary Oliver poem: ‘What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ It was written in large cursive letters in aqua colored ink, framed in a light, bland wood, suitable for everyone to see. The other line, she kept to herself; ‘Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?’

When she had been given her diagnosis, a whole new vocabulary had come with it; one of war and conflict. She was supposed to be battling. She was supposed to reject the possibility of defeat. She was supposed to be strong and brave and on some kind of strong, brave, battling, tragic, journey. But she was not brave enough, didn’t fight enough, was too equivocal, too sick, too distracted, too quiet, too still. Or perhaps the treatment just didn’t work. With three to five weeks left, she was planning her last day on earth. When the counsellor had suggested it, she had imagined a kind of summing up, like at the end of a workshop. She should be engaging in reflection right now, reminiscing, making meaning, drawing out themes. Listing important contributors to thank.

She gazed out of the window at the red mist, drifting. It was so quiet. Birds were huddled somewhere in flocks, feathers fluffed up, eyes closed, hard beaks tucked under soft wings. The mist was rising. She could skill see the bright prick of stars above it, but not for long. Slowly, slowly, the hard dark blue of the sky was melting into white. We are born, and spend our lives walking toward God. Or so they say. She poured hot water into her cup and wondered what it would be like to do nothing; no planning, no thanking, no last day. She would stand and watch the dawn, and then the sunset, and then another dawn. The world was pulled on strings of light. It reached, and stretched, and imagined itself into the future. She could hear it now, stirring in the silence. The great sweep of forest, the button-grass plains and tarns of ice. Out on the water, there would be patches of glowing silver, and grey sheets of sky falling into the sea, soft grey water to soft grey water. Whales would be swimming in the green depths. From her window she would see the start of it; the droplets on the wind, the bend of the eucalypts. The air that touched the air that touched the clouds that touched the sea. Her body amongst all the bodies on earth; the crowding, rushing clamor of them; the feathers, the scales, the fur, the skin; the old, the aging, the freshly born. Her senses reaching out to the world reaching out to them. Here, we are here, we are here. We are here.

Photo by Olha Ruskykh on Pexels.com

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