Saturday, January 21, 2023

January 21: "The Vulture's Wings," Day Two, Icicles

Mary Oliver contemplates death and sunlight . . . 

The Vulture's Wings

by:  Mary Oliver

The vulture's
wings are
black death
color but
the underwings
as sunlight
flushes into
the feathers
are bright
are swamped
with light.
Just something
explainable by
the sun's
angle yet
I keep
looking I
keep wondering
standing so
far below
these high
floating birds
could this
as most
things do
be offering
something for
us to 
think about

Something about being sick--it gives you a lot of time to think seriously about subjects that generally don't take up a lot of your headspace when you are well.

I read Mary Oliver's poem for today early this morning because I was up a good portion of the night, gliding in between the black death and sunlight of the vulture's wings.  Contemplating how every experience is a mixture of struggle and blessing.

Day two of round two of COVID passed slowly with me riding riding the couch in the living room, alternating between napping, watching episodes of Holiday Baking Championship on Hulu, coughing my lungs up, and reading Call Me Athena by Colby Cedar Smith.  I did go for a walk with my wife this evening.  A little over 20 minutes that left me exhausted.

Usually, my Saturdays are fairly hectic as I move between churches, rehearsing music and laying out my weekend plans.  Most of the time, I don't get a chance to sit down until about 5 p.m., after I'm done playing the pipe organ for the 4 p.m. Mass at my home parish.

Today, however, I was blessed with time.  Long stretches in which minutes felt like hours.  It's only when l'm forced by illness or circumstance to slow down or stop that I truly recognize the chaos that defines my day-to-day life.  Very little of my time is ever "free."  Instead, I shuttle between places and obligations, even on weekends.

Mind you, I'm not complaining.  I like feeling useful.  Yet, that usefulness comes at a price.  It takes a lot of time away from my family and writing and wellbeing.  I will go for weeks and weeks on four or five hours of sleep a night, only shutting my eyes when they simply won't stay open any longer.  And then my body will shut down, and I have no choice but to hibernate for a day or so.  Sleep until my batteries are recharged.

My sister, Sally, was very much like this, as well.  She worked.  All the time.  She loved her job as a surgical nurse.  It was all she ever wanted to do, from the time she was a little girl.  Yet, I think this drive is what eventually killed her.  Near the end of her life, she was working incredibly long hours for a healthcare system that simply didn't value its employees.  Near the end of her career, she was terrified of being demoted or fired.  Eventually she was fired, through a registered letter that was delivered to her hospital room while she was dying of lymphoma of the brain.

That is the reality of a world that values money over humanity.  My sister was replaced, and the healthcare system sent a nice arrangement of flowers to her funeral.  

If my sister were alive today, she would have been 63 years old.  And I know she wouldn't tell me that she wishes she had worked more in her life.  Instead, she would say that she should have spent more time camping and going to Walt Disney World.  Spoiling her nieces and nephews.  Watching reruns of the original Star Trek series.  Reading.  

I don't think I have ever put these thoughts about my sister into words before.  However, as I sit propped up on my couch tonight, coughing, wheezing, blowing my nose, and trying to stay hydrated, I can't help but look at my life and world a little differently.  Like Mary Oliver gazing up at the black death of that vulture's wings and seeing the underwings swamped with light.

I actually stood at my kitchen sink for several minutes this afternoon, staring at fangs of icicles cleaving the view of the outside world from the window.  How the afternoon light flashed in the frozen water, and the snow and trees seemed trapped in their spears.  And I wondered if my sister ever took the time to admire icicles.

Saint Marty gives thanks for his blessings of this day of sickness.

No comments:

Post a Comment