by Czeslaw Milosz
Hear me, Lord, for I am a sinner, which means I have nothing except
Protect me from the day of dryness and impotence.
When neither a swallow’s flight nor peonies, daffodils and irises
in the flower market are a sign of Your glory.
When I will be surrounded by scoffers and unable, against their
arguments, to remember any miracle of Yours.
When I will seem to myself an impostor and swindler because I take
part in religious rites.
When I will accuse You of establishing the universal law of death.
When I am ready at last to bow down to nothingness and call life
on earth a devil’s vaudeville.
* * *
It is 9:00 in the morning and already I am sitting in our backyard, having set up two small baby pools and a sprinkler for the girls in the hope that they will give me just enough space to post a poem for today. Their interest was initially drawn out into the yard this morning by the sighting of four bunnies from our dining room window. They came out together to see if they could make contact with one, and it was a cute sight from the window. They actually stood out here holding hands, trying to achieve some sort of collective subtlety in their approach to the impossibly swift bunnies. When this failed, they decided that they might have better success playing in the sprinkler. I felt reluctant to set all of that up so early in the day, but then realized it might be my only chance of getting something done before noon.
Now they are playing in the sprinkler and being semi-independent, except that they several times have hollered at me while preparing to run into the water: “Say ‘one, two, three,’ Mama!” I told them no. And then there are lots of watch me mamas. Lots of them. I am saying no to those as well.
It is slightly embarrassing to admit to myself or anyone else that although our situation here is incredibly stable and good, I am still struggling with my attitude. Every phase of life requires saying yes all over again, renewing your commitment to the struggle, and your belief that life is good.
Lets start with the weather. It never ceases to amaze me how much mood is affected by weather. We were told all kinds of things about St. Louis summers before coming here and have been told a lot more things since arriving. In summary: St. Louis summers are never that great at the best of times, and this summer appears to be shaping up to be one of the worst in living memory. It has hardly been below 100F in weeks. All of those wonderful family friendly “attractions” like the museums of Forest Park, Forest Park itself, the zoo, the farm nearby us that gives free beer and has a petting zoo and a train ride for kids, and so forth and so on– all of these wonderful attractions feel completely unappealing when the world outside your door is an oven.
So there is the weather. But also it seems like several of my friends are going through difficult circumstances and that always affects me deeply. I carry around the sadness on the inside even when I am preoccupied by my own things. I want to tell all of my friends ever so selfishly: starting now, please take measures to safeguard yourself against all forms of heartache, loss, disappointment, and tragedy, because, frankly, I cannot handle it.
Then there was the shooting in Colorado. Suddenly my eyes are looking at America–my country–and seeing a culture that is sick, slime-coated, virus-infected. I try to steer away from black-and-white moralism and general feelings of disgust at the world, but I have to admit that having just driven all the way from Florida to Missouri and seeing hundreds of miles of highway, I couldn’t help but feel that I live in a completely baffling, bizarre, schizophrenic society. How strange is it that for large stretches of our highways the billboards alternate largely between advertisements for strip clubs and anti-abortion campaigns, one after the other? Later, in the area around Nashville, I saw three strange billboards for the military that, if I am not totally mistaken, seemed to be recruiting by using the sex appeal of guns and ammunition. Someone please enlighten me as to what strange planet I inhabit.
I had planned to steer this back in a positive and life-affirming direction, but now my girls are completely disinterested in the sprinkler and want to go inside. But really, things are fine. I am determined to keep plugging away at the things I want to do to improve our house and give a shape and structure to my life here, little by little. I bought some sand paper yesterday, bravely going to the hardware store in 107 degree heat with two children who want to explore every item they can reach and of course beg for a piece of bubblegum from the nasty bubblegum machine on the way out. And today I plan to get a few paint samples. I also finally decided that I am going to turn our third room into an office space (not a play room and not a t.v. room), and start plugging away at a freelancing career once the girls go to school and pre-school in the fall. With a birthday approaching and the sudden realization that I am speeding through my thirties, I’ve decided that it may be time to start taking myself and the One Thing I know I am really good at a bit more more seriously.
Ok, the girls are begging me to “be done with that,” and the day awaits.