News today. Hard news from a dear friend, and what can I do except … love. I’m sitting in one of my favorite spots in town, with a complementary bowl of gazpacho at my right hand, and a mason jar full of cold-extract coffee to the left. There’s sad-hopeful music streaming, and outside it’s all sun and blue. There’s a river sliding by, 90 degrees in the forecast, and white slashes of snow still on the distant peaks. Everything is lovely. And hard. The world is not nice or beautiful or fair. It isn’t.
But it is. It’s just … glorious and sad. Shake your fists at it, and it smiles gently. Carry on. Order a Slip n’ Slide, make quinoa salad, read a book that makes you believe that good things can happen.
We can teach children to be kind and respectful. We can be generous. We can ask for forgiveness, and (best and most magical of all) we can grant it. We can ask someone how they are, and mean it. No — how are you, really?
We can be moved by David Foster Wallace’s assertion that This is Water — and we can think about why, if he knew this, he hung himself in his backyard, leaving a note and his unfinished novel for his wife to find, after she’d cut him down. And then we can thank him for the wisdom he left despite the pain he couldn’t overcome.
This morning I had a disagreement with my child about naked mole rats. Yeah, I did. She declared them “cute.” I declared them the exact opposite of cute, they’re not cute, how could she say they’re cute? “They are the cutest things in the world, mama. I feel sorry for them and I think they are CUTE.” Agree to disagree. Exchange eyerolls and smiles with the spouse, the dry wit born of parenting.
There’s something in here about perfect imperfection. Ugliness inside beauty marked with flaws. I could dig out an analogy around the ideal design of a veiny, fleshy, naked rodent with huge, yellow teeth and squinty eyes crawling along on the same planet as whiskery teddy bear hamsters and rosy-cheeked human babies, and truly good people with truly hard circumstances.
I’ve faced a lot of ugly in my life so far, in varying degrees. I’ve had my tongue slashed with bitter disappointment. Shockwaves have rattled my chest. I’ve been tossed into the darkest slot canyons of the heart. I’ve skinned my fingertips, crawling out.
There is a deep, clear sweetness in the aftermath. We can soften. We are so fortunate — our arms are built just so, right and left coming together, forearm over forearm, palms up. A cradle beneath a sky of loving eyes.
My first word was “gentle.” Let us be so.