Then, just before I left California, I felt an ominous bump arise on my lip. I've been getting cold sores since I was a young girl; as an adult, there's a direct correlation between unacknowledged stress and the appearance of one of the yucky lesions. This time, I couldn't figure out why it had chosen to make an appearance. I wasn't stressed; I was having a great visit. Surely, the latent virus had made a mistake.
Then, I looked at the calendar. Probably, it was not a coincidence that the sore arrived on the anniversary of the date of her death. Probably, it was not a coincidence that the 20th anniversary of 9/11 was just a few days later.
Sure enough, as I dug inside for insight, grief began to bubble - my personal sadness amplified by memories of a bright blue sky on a perfect September day; the day I watched in disbelief as I turned on the TV just in time to watch the second plane impact the World Trade Center, my mind struggling to make sense of the images on the screen.
I remember stepping outside. I looked at the perfect sky, free of jet trails. Tears flowed freely as I cried for all those killed in the attacks. My heart skipped a beat or three as I tried to imagine the many ways our world had just abruptly changed course. I was frightened, and rightly so.
This poem surfaced for me on Instagram this week (W.S. Merwin):
There is no reason
for me to keep counting
how long it has been
since you were here
alive one morning
as though I were
letting out the string of a kite
one day at a time
over my finger
when there is no string
The words brought me to tears. No string? No string.
The connection I long for, still, was severed 44 years ago. The course of history was changed by angry men with boxcutters 20 years ago. There is no reason to keep counting.
Yet, as evidenced by the cold sore, count my heart does, whether I will it or no.
I've cried a lot this week; my sleep has been unrestful. I have been overwhelmed by the legacy of darkness stemming from the 9/11 attacks, the ways the world has hardened and become less kind in response to the terror.
But. And yet.
I went to a neighborhood picnic on Saturday, and fell in love, as we waited in line for ice cream, with a three year-old pixie. Her bright smile, framed by the sparkly orange and green ninja turtle mask painted on her face, was impossible for me to resist.
I went to a jazz concert in the rose garden in the park on Sunday. The air was warm, the breeze was cool, and carried on its breath the perfume of the flowers all around us. The (properly socially distanced) people were relaxed and enjoying the evening. The live music filled some empty spaces in my soul; spaces recordings, however good they are, rarely reach.
Today, I have a renewed resolve to do what I can to be on its side. It's a selfish resolve - I do so like my days better when I see the Beauty that's always there when I remember to look for it.