Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 16: Ilya Kaminsky, "Marina Tsvetaeva," Confessions of Saint Marty

That the insects have adapted is obvious.  Their failures to adapt, however, are dazzling.  It is hard to believe that nature is partial to such dim-wittedness.  Howard Ensign Evans tells of dragonflies trying to lay eggs on the shining hoods of cars.  Other dragonflies seem to test a surface, to learn if it's really water, by dipping the tips of their abdomens in it.  At the Los Angeles La Brea tar pits, they dip their abdomens into the reeking tar and get stuck.  If by tremendous effort a dragonfly frees itself, Evans reports, it is apt to repeat the maneuver.  Sometimes the tar pits glitter with the dry bodies of dead dragonflies.

Last night, I focused on gifts.  How, in the natural world and life, there are certain creatures/people who are imbued with certain abilities that cross the boundaries of understanding.  Today's passage is about exactly the opposite:  dim-wittedness.  The foolish dragonfly laying its eggs on the hoods of cars, getting stuck on a shining black surface of hot tar.  Over and over.

Humans are not too far off from dragonflies.  We make mistakes, suffer for them, and then, in a little while, make the same mistakes again.  The United States didn't learn enough from Vietnam, so we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Holocaust.  The Rwandan genocide.  George W. Bush.  Donald Trump.  Over and over.

One of my sisters is stuck on failure.  Last night, I listened to her rail against all of the doctors who cared for my sister, Sally, who died last summer of lymphoma of the brain.  To a person, my sister called each of those physicians "murderers."  Listed all of the mistakes they made in caring for Sally.  At the end of this tirade, my sister said, "Sal would still be alive if it weren't for those killers."

I will be the first to admit that mistakes were made in the care my sister received in the last year of her life.  But, until very close to the end, nobody knew what we were dealing with.  Had the doctors diagnosed her earlier in her illness, Sally might have lived a little longer.  In the end, though, the outcome would have been the same.

My sister is stuck in a forest of blame and anger, and she can't seem to find her way out of it.  Now, it's affecting her health and life.  Panic attacks.  Insomnia.  Depression.  She sees Sally's ghost at night sometimes.  All my sister focuses on is failure--the dragonflies caught in the tar.

I wish I could make my sister understand that Sally's death is not about failure and blame.  That life is sometimes simply not fair.  It doesn't turn out the way we want it to turn out.  And we can spend all our time focused on the injustice of that statement--make ourselves sick over it--or we can accept it and try to carve out some happiness from this broken universe in which we live.

Failure is a part of the world.  Every day of our lives, we fail.  I'm failing right now at expressing my ideas clearly and accurately in this post.  Life is a series of failures, interrupted with moments of joy and blessing.

Saint Marty chooses to focus on the joy and blessing instead of the failure.

Marina Tsvetaeva

by:  Ilya Kaminsky

     During the first year of my deafness, I saw her with a man.  She wore a purple scarf knotted around her head.  Half-dancing, she took his head between her hands and laid it on her breast.  And she began to sing.  I observed her with devouring attention.  I imagined her voice smelling of oranges; I fell in love with her voice.
     She was a woman who lived like a conspirator sending contradictory signals.  "Do not eat the apple seeds," she threatened me, "Not the apple seeds.  The branches will grow from your belly!"  She touched my ear, fingering it.
     I know nothing of her husband except for his fatal heart attack in a moving bus.  There was no strain on her face, but looking at her, I understood the dignity of grief.  Returning from his funeral, she took off her shoes and walked barefoot in the snow.

Confessions of Saint Marty

No comments:

Post a Comment