I welcome the New Year lying in the bath. I am cold. I have the flu. My head hurts. But I am soothed by the water which I inchworm up with hot the moment that the standing water cools. I’m back in the womb – floating in amniotic fluid. My mother is in charge. I have no cares… no thoughts. The water is placid… no waves. I am “in the moment.” The hamster which mindlessly runs round the wheel in my head has had a heart attack and died.
My first husband disparaged my tub life. A shower man himself, he would raise a judgmental eyebrow, turn down his mouth and ask, “How can you lie in your own filth?” Is it any surprise that marriage failed?
A cup of water lies within reach. I’m a bit light-headed: I should be making an effort to re-hydrate. I don’t feel like drinking. I think of the Ebola victims and their need for hydration. I don’t have Ebola, but the thought spurs me on. I force down some fluid.
I try to read the current issue of The Sun. It is on loan. I am supposed to return it. Apparently I doze off, my hands relax and the top half of the magazine takes a dip. Startled, I come to my senses and sponge-dry the wet pages. The paper is dimpled. When the paper dries, it is parchment stiff. Gingerly, I peel the pages apart. They will never be the same. Will my friend ever loan me anything again? I should order my own subscription.
In the January issue, Leath Tonino interviewed David Hinton on the wisdom of the ancient Chinese poets. Hinton commented on the notion of an afterlife: The minute you buy into the idea that some part of you will hang around, you’ve removed yourself from this world of trees and clouds and birds. And if you’re not in this flowing world of change, then you’re nowhere.
I take Hinton’s point… to a point. I agree with his notion that “you’re nowhere,” but I think the essence of your being lingers on long after you are gone. I often think of my long gone grandparents and at some level we are in-touch. They are close; I feel their arms around me. The memories warn and sustain me.
A number of poems translated by Hinton follow the interview. I particularly like “Drinking Wine” by T’ao ch’ien (365-427 CE). The concluding lines read: Picking chrysanthemums / at my east fence, I see South Mountain / far off: air lovely at dusk, birds in flight / returning home. All this means something. / Something absolute: whenever I start / to explain it, I forget words altogether.
I love these lines. The “birds in flight… returning home.” Explain? Hardly! I don’t have the talent to unravel the mystery. All I can do is pay attention and marvel at Nature’s way.