"Bill is a painter but so often we seem to be feeling the same things about our work; it's quite astonishing. His phrase, 'hovering around something that is about to reveal itself' -- that is exactly my state these days. And I have always known, as he does, that revelation rises up slowly if one can give it space, and if one keeps at the work, often with no apparent result."
~ May Sarton ~
The House By The Sea
I have been hovering here. I have known it but haven't been able to find the proper words to describe it, but when I opened my old weathered copy of my beloved writer and friend May Sarton's The House By The Sea, the book fell open right to the above passage that I had underlined and subsequently bracketed and highlighted on three different readings. I have read and reread all of May's work, especially the journals -- there is so much wisdom these books.
Hovering... something that is about to reveal itself. Yes, that is just it. I speak to my mother for a minute or two each day, if she is able, and I can feel her drifting away, almost ephemeral, but she, too, is hovering. She is ready to go, and it will be soon, but these times of hovering are not easy times. My mother hovers just before her own death, as if in suspended animation. A dear friend is about to become a grandmother for the first time, and her daughter's due date is very near. She, too, is hovering, waiting, wondering, when her baby will be born. I hover, just before the flower, like the humming bird, seeing a whole new life just beyond the portal, but it is not time to cross the threshold. And yet, while I seem to run through the gamut of emotions in a single day, I, too, know that revelation can only rise up if given space, and if we were able to just rush headlong into things, there would be no time, no fertile ground, in which new ideas, new experiences, might sprout. It is a time to till the garden and amend the soil. The planting of the seeds of a new life is just around the corner. You cannot rush a flower to grow, or a garden to become the glory that it will become. The preparation of the earth, before the planting, is a sacred time as well. We hover between seasons, between winter and spring, waiting to plant the garden. We wait, and waiting is good. It makes us appreciate the planting and the flowering all the more.
Oddly, I wondered, as I was writing the paragraph just above, if today's generation of young people will ever really know the experience of hovering? In a world where the current generation of children and young people are growing up with computers, cell phones, cable t.v., their whole lives going at such a fast pace it takes one's breath away, I wonder if they will ever learn to take time for contemplation, for solitude, for a lone walk in the woods, looking for wildflowers and mushrooms and creatures in their natural element? I hope so. I pray that the children of today can learn these things, for they are the ones who will shape the future, and you need silence, and solitude, to quiet the heart and the mind, to clear the path for what will come. I wonder about that as I write with a pug snoring beside me, and wonder what I will be planting in my new garden next spring. I can look at the seed catalogs, have fun choosing flowers in my mind, but it is not yet time to sow the seeds. I am hovering between here and there, and the painful lesson, just now, of being in a place of not knowing, is a very important one to learn.
An old woman is dying, a baby about to be born, and a middle-aged woman, on the cusp of Cronehood, is about to enter a time and place in life where she will fulfill her destiny, do the work that her whole life has been an apprenticeship for. Hovering times are sacred passages, wherein the soul waits and allows time to come to them rather than rushing toward the time to come. One waits, wonders, finally releases thought, and emotion, and, as if floating in place, comes to a peace about what lies ahead.
I have been thinking, just today, that until we can come to that peace, the thing will not happen, cannot begin. Does the soul have fingers? Is it holding on, just a little, gradually letting go, until it slips away over to the other side? Does the baby know when it is time to emerge from the womb, or does the womb know that it is time for the baby to slip out into the strange new land in which he or she will spend their life? Transitions. Metamorphosis. And the time just before, the preparation for the sacred journey, is the hovering place. I begin to see this time not as a hard and painful time full of grief and mourning, but a quiet, gentle time to sit in a meditative state and allow the waves to lap at my feet, facing out to a sea whose opposite edge I cannot see. It's okay not to see the other side of the ocean, we know it is there. That's enough.
My mother, just awhile ago, told me in her fragile little voice, as she has many times over this five year cancer journey, "Remember honey, every day's a good day. It is what you make it. It's all about choice. We all have choice..." and then her voice faded and drifted off. These precious last days with her I am as if a pupil sitting at her master's feet. In each conversation, be it only a couple of minutes on the days that she can talk at all, my mother leaves me with some pearl of wisdom, or a gift for me to take into the future. And though we have had a complex relationship as mother and daughter in this life, now there is only love, and a deeper love than has ever existed between us. Why is it that so often it is only in the face of loss that we hold precious and dear what we have before us in the moment right now? In the face of death nothing else matters. To love is all there is. I will never stop loving her.
And so now I hover. I will meditate on the picture of the hummingbird, and wonder if even this beautiful, delicate creature realizes, in some part of itself, just before it slips its long slender beak down deep into the flower to drink it's nectar, in the time of hovering, I wonder if just for a second there is a sublime moment, the anticipation of, the time that makes the time before just as sweet and the sipping of the nectar itself.
Death is not sweet, but it is a sacred time, and part of the Mystery. No living soul will ever understand the true experience of birth and death. We know the mechanics around the experiences, but when the soul enters and leaves the body we, who are witnesses, can only stand in silent reverie, in prayer, and bear witness to the processes that bring us into and out of life. The curtain opens and a life begins. The curtain closes after the final act, and the players disappear from view. The time of hovering is over. A baby is born, a woman dies, and her daughter, after the sharp cut of grieving, loss, and the aftermath subside, steps out of the darkness and into a new life. I imagine it as being like in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, when everything turns from black and white to technicolor. Will my mother shed her mortal coil and enter a place of color and beauty and light? Theologians and Philosophers alike speculate and argue the point, but I believe that it is a transformation beyond our imagining. I believe that the mysteries of birth and death are not for us to know, but in bearing witness we are reminded of a vast unseen world around us, and we, if we are open in the moment, can cherish now, today, this second, because it's all we have, and what lies behind us and what lies before us we cannot know.
Today, I am hovering. I have come to peace with this place. I am allowing my soul to prepare itself for the time ahead. Like the hummingbird, I am hovering in space, and I am content here, for now.
In the moment before The Mystery, I hover...