On my way home tonight, walking, after a very long, very harried and busy shift, walking down past Dumbarton Oaks, down along R Street, past the park, where I stopped for a moment, then past Katharine Graham's house, slow enough to notice a dying back up in the high limbs of the maple along the iron fence, I remember how hard it always was for me to leave my father's house. Powerful emotions tell you something, and I tried to accept whatever it was that put that distance between us , that thing which seems like adult life, places to start careers.
I stop to complement and hug a linden tree on Q Street. How beautiful you are, and I love your bark, and I see how you have grown, so wisely, so intelligently. Never underestimate a tree, the wise beings that they are, how fully they represent life in this world. I stop and sit in a small park and I see how all the trees balance, reach out, a play, a conversation, an agreement going on between them, ballet between earth and sky. And in the background, the old trees that play with all, the larch, the evergreen, that reaches everywhere, each limb a discussion, each limb gathering in the energy of sunlight. The original tree, the original vigor and lesson of tree life. (Too bad the blaring light in the right of my field of vision above a parking area.)
Kids had left out chalk on a sidewalk. I stopped and drew a snoozing cat, an octopus, a bear, a doggie on the brick sidewalk. That's about all I'm good for in this town.
What an unfulfilled life, it seems when I wake, as if I couldn't follow through even with the things I wanted. What is it? And yet, there is nature, there to appreciate on a slow walk home, leaving the restaurant at 2:30 in the morning, stopping to look at trees, just as the cold had finally ended.
As I curled up into a nap, still exhausted and hurting in all ways from my efforts, it occurred to me, the obvious problem of humanity, as if staring one in the face. The great vulnerability. How close to the ribby surface is the heart, how easy to reach. How easy to hurt us, to kill us, or to make it so we'd wish to take our own lives, as if our own functions might almost tear at us from within. "All the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,"in Shakespeare's terms… No wonder an animal like us likes the reassurance of being stroked along the ear and muzzle, the back of the head. No wonder, the great need to protect oneself, to have time alone, to clear. (Written of well here: http://marispai.huginnpress.com/2012/03/14/e-is-for-empathy/ PERMALINK) It's the great empathy within that drives us, and it can get misused. It can allow us to be misdirected. (And this is why nature is so important.)
This was why I liked tending bar, out of a natural empathy for people, but it also let in the abuse, making me lose focus on my own self. Too kind, not selfish enough, not having enough of a protective shell, such that it would almost hurt to be out amongst people after the week was over. (And maybe now you need a stronger shield, always reachable, always in the marketing bullseye…)