THE METAPHORS WE PAY FOR

The other night my car broke down in front of a butcher shop. It was a Sunday night in a sleepy town. My phone was nearly dead, and AAA’s system had apparently malfunctioned. I also had a migraine. I couldn’t read to while away the time, so for three hours I lay back with my seat reclined, willing my body into perfect stillness as my review mirror lit up periodically, reflecting the headlights of a slow, unaffiliated parade of sedans, wagons, jeeps, motorbikes. No tow truck–not for three hours. I had plenty of time to notice that migraines can make my teeth chatter, a strange and overwhelming sensation. Also in a slow parade, dog-walkers. Several brisk women, one shlubby barefoot older guy, another guy more kempt and alert to my propped-open hood. He eyed my car walking up the opposite side of the street, then paused walking down the sidewalk past my window, which was lowered for the fresh air in an interlude between days of torrential rains. He asked the basic questions, made friendly conversation. We must have talked a good 10, 15 minutes. His dog, meanwhile, had settled expectantly in front of the door of the darkened butcher shop. His haunches seemed to twitch like the legs of tennis players waiting for a serve; I wondered if he could somehow smell the meat through the door? “No,” said the man–“the owners of the shop give him treats.” I was nonetheless mystified–the lights were out; there was no one there. Surely that was apparent…? But the dog was fixed on waiting. He didn’t respond to his name, he didn’t respond to tugs on his leash. It was Sunday night, and the store would be empty till mid-morning on Wednesday. Yet there he sat, oblivious to everything except his memory of lights and people with treats. So deep and alive was his expectation that I believe he might have waited sixty hours if not bodily removed at last. That’s what it looks like, I thought. But what was “it”–was it beautiful, amazing, miraculous faith, or was it something more like a foolish consistency? I can’t decide in part because I lived it, and I saw how it could be equally one or the other. Incidentally, it was my starter that needed replacing. It cost $235. Expensive, but well spent.

+

Text and image copyrights held by me. In a world overabundant with content, you landed here and read this far. Thank you. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it with anyone you feel might like it, too.

LOST AND FOUND

 

 

I saw this little shoe on a walk this past month, presumably set on a step near where it was lost, to catch the eye of a parent who might have circled back to look, or who perhaps passes naturally in the course of regular strolls through the neighborhood. Given the year I’ve had, and the challenges I still face, gratitude hasn’t come readily to me, but I’m grateful for this shoe as a simple object with symbolic potential. It reminds me of the people who love and believe in me, who have sustained me through 2019—including my father, who has proudly worn a scarf I knit, on every cold day for the last decade, telling admirers that his daughter made it for him, as if it were a treasure among treasures. A decade, and still to this day. That detail—in the arc of life, a scarf is a detail—is meaningful in ways I can’t explain here. Families can be complicated, and mine has been since I can remember—painfully so, for me, with ramifications in every direction. I’ve always envied those I know whose families are close and warm. But the scarf stands out as in a painting, jaunty red, each stitch knit with care. Bright as a kite or a flag, and warming his neck so he can sing. He’s never lost hold of its meaning to him. I’m grateful for that.

ROSA RUGOSA

 

Rosa Rugosa

 

There seems to be a particularly deep peace in the early morning after a summer holiday night. Twenty minutes of fireworks, costing goodness knows how much, the sparkles beguiling but the clouds of colored smoke reminding me, unfortunately, of bomb blasts in distant countries—I was glad to wake to birdsong at dawn.

Walking, I came upon some metaphorical evidence of the humming life within all seemingly still things, charged like electrons, active as the heart while drowsing alongside one’s beloved: the determined industry of bees.

Working with families in a community mental health agency, one of the greatest obstacles to overcome is absolutism, especially as it usually skews negative. Whether or not people begin by believing the condemning things they say, in saying them, they’re helping to enact them. You hurt me? You’re a menace. You betrayed me? You’re a cheat. Feelings about behaviors blow up into characterizations; to surmount them is a Sisyphean task. And I’m not talking about couples counseling—parents express these feelings toward their children! Their learning, growing offspring who are, primarily, shaped by their home environments and the nurturing they get or don’t get!

A great part of a therapist’s work, in such situations, is to solicit alternatives, shades of gray, moments of success—which typically involves demonstrating patience, modeling genuine curiosity, making judicious observations, and celebrating the tiniest of shifts. As a historically catastrophic thinker, I’m often moved and inspired by this process. If in February, Angelique and her mother were fighting bitterly, and they’re still fighting in March, it’s nonetheless notable if their body language has changed. They sat apart, now they’re sitting closer; their legs were crossed away from each other; now they’re almost touching. There’s hope in that.

It was a big shrubby rose bush that caught my attention today. Almost all the flowers were long gone, revealing green rose hips, and the few remaining blossoms were tattered and shattered. Nonetheless, for the solid hour encompassing my walk—I passed it twice—bumble bees were diving in and out, clearly determined to harvest all the pollen they could, their padded back legs proof of their reward.

Whilesoever there’s a blossom, however damaged, there’s work to be done—a treasure hunt that makes possible all the blossoms to come.

+

Out of respect for client privacy, names are always changed. Text and image copyrights held by me. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it. To subscribe and receive future posts, please click the “Follow” button, accompanied by a plus-sign, in the lower right corner of your computer screen. Thank you for reading.