“Anything you lose, comes round in a different form”—Rumi
I just got back from Lanesboro, MN. It is a stunningly beautiful part of MN, bluff country with farms and forests and miles and miles of bike trails.
And for all of us in Minnesota right now, in this late October, has there been a week this beautiful? The trees are on fire with colors I swear I haven’t seen before. Each day they are holding on, flaming with their last bit of life before winter. All weekend, I biked and walked in a canopy of brilliant leaves, crunching the fallen all the way.
Summer is over and Winter is coming. How is it that sometimes when things start to die, things become even more stunning?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty shining through all the moments of our pain and loss. Last month, my husband hurt his knee to the point where he couldn’t walk. He has been on crutches, in great pain, before, and now after his surgery. The sudden loss of mobility and independence is painful and disorienting. He and I have been together a long time, yet this needing each other in a new way has carved a new depth. Certainly it has brought painful change to the surface, but also a beautiful closeness. With the rawness of the loss, perhaps clarity arrives in some form.
With this knowledge, then how do I reconcile that in the midst of Summer, I never want it to end, but Fall arrives, and to me, it brings a beauty wholly different from Summer.
This weekend, in Lanesboro, I paid attention to all of the small moments. Time slowed, and I enjoyed myself knowing the colors will be gone when I return. Unable to bike or walk, my husband spent three hours making apple-cinnamon walnut pancakes for us(delicious!) and sewed patches on twelve pairs of the boys’ jeans. As I sat and watched my husband, I enjoyed him all the more for being with us in these different ways. Enjoying these things he wouldn’t have done if he could walk.
But it’s not that easy. The fact is that I want him to walk, to not be in pain. My mind prefers no one ever to get sick, need surgery, or generally experience and “negative”change. How do I hold this idea even though I know pain and loss has brought depth, aliveness and beauty to my life?
Last week, a friend of mine, experienced an unexpected debilitating illness (none of the 5 specialists could explain), which left her unable to walk and in extreme pain. She had all kinds of strange symptoms that disorientate her. A young, vibrant woman, she also has two children to care for. When I stopped by to see her, the change was dramatic, and at first, it filled me with fear.
Yet, the hours we spent together radiated with honesty and caring, because of the great pain and fear that she was willing to share with me. We experienced each other in a way different from other hours we had spent together. At one point, she asked if she could make me some coffee, and I said it was unnecessary. No, she said, I want to make you coffee so I can have some dignity right now. Slowly, she made her way to the kitchen. And as she ground the coffee to the exact coarseness, poured the hot water slowly in a circular motion into the filter, and then waited exactly four minutes for it to come to a fullness of flavor, I sat admiring. Her ability to translate a mundane task into a thing of beauty and and share it with me felt much like the canopy of brilliant leaves I’ve been walking through this last week. Her beauty and aliveness shone through, like the trees scorching with color. But the loss and pain are still there.
Why do I persist in thinking that if I do everything “right” Fall won’t come to me, that somehow the loss and pain are not part of this life? Why do I keep thinking I can have Fall without Winter? Can I deny that unasked for and unexpected pain/loss have arrived continually, and even in the worst season, without my deserving it, beauty, reverence and brilliance also come.
How can I continually forget the scorching beauty of a world that catches me surprised again and again?