Word Medicine

Writing and Healing: exploring the art of healing and the healing of art

Making Honey May 11, 2018

Filed under: Chronic Illness,Healing,Transitions,Writing and Healing — saratbaker @ 10:35 pm

A few mornings ago, my husband with great excitement pointed out all the bees covering one of my rose bushes. It seems as if last spring and summer was one long, sad vigil for honeybees, which we spotted only rarely. Four summers ago I had weathered a difficult passage in my life by getting up early to work every day in the garden, and what I most remember about that time was the background hum of buzzing–a happy, companionable sound. The silence of the garden last year seemed—was–eerily unnatural. Why the bees are back I don’t know, nor do I know how long they will stay. But their presence feels like palpable hope.

I’ve been in need of hope recently. My illness waxes and wanes, but it has been waxing quite a bit lately. I’ve not been able to do as much as I’ve wanted, especially the writing I want to do, which has made me both despondent and angry. It feels I’m in for another adjustment of my expectations. And I don’t want that. Haven’t I adjusted enough, given up enough, curtailed my life enough already?

To feel better, I took my dog Bella on an evening walk. I stopped by one friend’s house to see if she wanted to walk, but she wasn’t home. I decided to take the short route home—a route I don’t usually take—and who should I bump into but a friend I haven’t seen for probably a year. He said he had just been thinking of me. He was walking my way and we ended up walking quite a ways. He too has a chronic illness and so is someone I can be honest with, but more than that he has a wry sense of humor and tells great stories. I ended up feeling considerably cheered.

Both of these experiences spoke to me of abundance. I had almost given up on the honeybees, but there they were. I had thought I would have a lonely walk, but instead I had an enjoyable companion. I thought I had a clear picture of the world: the honeybees are dying and I’m not in such good shape myself. But maybe my picture of the world is skewed. Maybe it doesn’t allow for enough possibility, enough healing of the world and of me. I was put in mind of Antonio Machado’s magnificent poem, “Last Night as I Lay Sleeping”. Here is a stanza from that poem:

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

(See the entire poem here:https://allpoetry.com/Last-Night-As-I-Was-Sleeping)

I love it that Machado doesn’t dream the bees are erasing his failures, but that out of them they are making sweet honey and white combs. Both are true, the bitter and the sweet. But grace prevails. Marvelous error indeed!

 

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The Sense of an Ending September 29, 2016

I was lucky to get a quick visit in with my sister Megan the other day on her brief visit to town. Like me, she is a recent empty-nester. She said she and her husband were enjoying their new-found freedom, as Todd and I are. Although, I said, I have a profound sense of something being over. It’s done now, active parenting, for better or worse. We are no longer in the open-ended, creative stage of parenting. We both got tears in our eyes. How did it go so fast, she said? And I agreed. It all seemed to be over in the blink of an eye—although that isn’t how it felt at the time.

I hope I was a good enough parent, I said. I told her about a poet who once told me we give our kids our failures as material for their lives as well as our successes. Then we proceeded to swap our worst parenting actions ever, which will not appear in this post!

I had a similar sense of completion today when I held the proof of my novel, The Timekeeper’s Son, in my hands. Here it is, the story and characters that have lived in my mind all those years, out in the world between two beautiful covers. Which means all the felicities of the story and all its failures, too are in the world. All I can hope is that it is a good enough story. I think it is. But it is done now and there is no going back, no endless meditating on who the characters are or what their fates might be.

Autumn is harvest time, and it seems especially, poignantly, so to me this year. I am reminded of the first stanza of Wendell Berry’s wonderful poem, “X, from a Timbered Choir:

 X

by Wendell Berry

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

Parenting and writing are both foreseen in joy—the love of two overflowing to create a third, or a glimpse of a form, a feeling, that calls out to be embodied. But the seeing through of these visions to their completions requires everything we have.

Both my sons are in the world now. The sense of an ending. And the sense of a new beginning.

covertts

The Timekeeper’s Son is forthcoming from Deeds Publishing, November 29, 2016. Books can be pre-ordered here: https://deedspublishing.goodsie.com/the-timekeepers-son-pre-order

 

 

 

 

 

 
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