“All the years of sorrow?” Well, this topic is so easy, and easy too to see it is a trap. Someone, trying to be helpful, says: “Make a list.” You don’t want to hear it; and it’s been playing constantly in my head all these years, all the time.
And yet. There is meaning in this, if only to mean that I am somehow going forward. In fact, have been going forward all the time. This lifetime can seem circular, but it is a helix, not a rutted track. Easy to deceive myself that I’m seeing the same ruined territory for the gazillionth time.
But am I? Clearly impossible, since the person I was yesterday is already transformed by today. Go ahead, Paul, I dare you, read a journal, a writing, conjure up a feeling, and tell me, how is that the same as this now? This now has everything, every circled wheel, shiny ones spinning like a top — and the rutted, the broken, piled on top of each other. A junkyard of broken wagon wheels that ever crossed the plains and never made it to the coast. I sit on top of this pile, and tell me, that’s not perspective? Cresting Mount Failure: that’s success.
Enough to inspire a new cowboy song. Imagine Sam Elliott singing it, filtering it through a vibrato and his moustache, his gravely, somber, lyrical voice saving the day, saving all those rusted and warped wagon wheels simply by eulogizing them into melody. Yes, we do come to praise Caesar, even though also to bury him.
Because it’s finally one of the components in the alchemical mosaic that will resolve the puzzle into an intelligible cypher. I continue to decode, because all the pieces are shape shifters, and are more fluid than stone. My love of meaning will not let us do any less.
I had intended to create this piece to gingerly approach the tar baby of regrets. “Hold regrets very close,” say the Masters cryptically. A first step towards a meaningful transformation of that Great Wall, that monolith, that broken axel, called regret?
Yes, unname regret — put it rather into the mosaic with the names that it can better occupy as terms of endearment: grief and forgiveness.
Which may mean traversing the land of despair. I think of David Whyte, and his characterization of despair as waystation, not destination. I have tried to live in such way stations. long times, but ultimately, I can move on, because it’s hard to get a shower, a good hot meal, a consistent friend there — after all, everyone else is just there to get on another train.
A fascination with wheels manifesting: the need for train wheels to keep moving, the need for those wheels to stay on the tracks, the need for those wheels to be greased, and to be maintained in some kind of expert ways that seem arcane unless you live within the fraternity of railmen. They have stories. I could do well to listen closely, for their benefit, and mine.
Because there are few things more dangerous than well calibrated frictionless well-greased wheels that have no brakes.
These things, grief, and forgiveness, they are the brakes. Listen to the loneliness of the train whistle on the empty vast plain or chugging up incomprehensibly steep wilderness mountains. There, I hear the truth of that unreckonable grief, that mystery of forgiveness. It’s going somewhere alright, with a determination you couldn’t buy in heaven; but don’t think for a minute that mournful tune is not carrying everything that came along to become a boxcar, a tender, a fleet cabooses along with it.
Much then is about care and maintenance, even as I often feel I am going nowhere, even as I feel like I have been in that waystation of despair at every whistle stop of my lifetime forever. There’s no way around the fact that I am going somewhere.
It’s just a question of understanding that the view I will see, maybe even am looking for, does not show up on a post card. Post cards; so two dimensional anyway. A reminder with depth — simply listen to that lugubrious fluting of the train’s full-throated warnings to all who wish to pass in front of it: things in motion have a momentum that take many miles to stop.
I’m getting on a train in a couple of weeks, as usual chasing dreams that haven’t been slept on yet, and as I look out the window, and the quotidian mind details its visual lists, my aspiration is to listen better than I look.