I have a strange affiliation for that moment when transferring the coffee beans to mason jars they perfectly fill them; no leftover lonely handful of beans in a crumpled bag nor half full jar reminding of the inevitable need to buy more. I have even gamed this by grinding the coffee and filling the coffee maker, filling the grinder for the day after (really for noon with the rate coffee is consumed around here, but such are the lies we tell ourselves). to get that moment of seemingly perfect balance. The messy lawn because the mower is still busted, the dishes ebb and flow whatever the cats are messing up or shedding on can be forgotten in that moment.
Similarly when a window slips into a frame, a two-by-four to a wall or a door to an opening, just sliding with barest effort gives me a moment of inner joy. That feeling of completion when the paint matched on the wall replacing the garage door and looked like it had always been there, or a note played at just the right moment to make an entire song pause before diving back. I call it grace, but there are a million better words for when one is at the right place at the right time and everything works. These moments come and go like joy or sunsets and are easily overlooked. They will come and pass and I try to keep my mind open to them. That too comes and goes.
Many years ago a new girlfriend used “earnest” as a derogatory. I should have just ended it there. I knew, in my heart that there was no future with a person who mocked earnest effort. There is more respect in my way of thinking for an earnest failure than a halfhearted victory. But I loved her and thought there was a way around this moment. We lasted longer than we should have based partly on my earnest efforts. That is not to say her aloofness is lesser or greater than my outlook and wherever she is I hope she is happy and content, but certain things do no not mix and we were two of them. So along with just-filled mason jars you can add earnestness, and so folk music, old country, ballads and sad waltzes.
To have these moments one has to know where to look for them, which mostly means inside one’s own head. It has been the greatest lesson that it is easier to for me to be prepared to experience joy if I know myself. One cannot constantly betray their own identity and be happy. In my relative middle-class-white-American-man comfort this has been challenging to me and I look in awe on people who have actually struggled with their identity and been open at great personal risk to themselves, who have risked their jobs, friends, family and lives to say “this is who I am”. Do I always understand what they are trying to do? Not really. Do I understand how essential it is to been seen as who you truly are? I do not believe there is any other way to truly live.
I had a relative who I admired greatly as a child, and wanted nothing more than their love and acceptance. Through hard education it became apparent that they would never return that love. Over the decades since it has become clear that this was because could not love themselves. While they made their own choices, they were grounded in that post-war American paradigm of beauty in conformity where the less-pleasing realities needed to be buried like the baby in a Sam Shepard play. But like the child, ugly truth always lies just beneath the placid surface of pretty lies and reaches out to consume in an effort to fill a void beneath. The work is hard, requires effort and many failures. And this to is beautiful.
I remember hating the play when I read it at twenty. I railed against the assigned reading because it seemed so wantonly ugly. A friend suggested that my ire was indicative of some personal need to understand it. Older than my just 19 by a decade, she said; “when you get it, you won’t hate it anymore” and I told her she was nuts. Time has proved her right because the truth is that their is much ugliness in the world and pretending it is not so will not cure our ills, but in laying them bare and building a new world beyond the damage; a wound can not be sutured once infected, as the illness must be cleansed for the healing to begin. And there is beauty in scars well gained; “our injuries are the story of our love” another wrote. Stretch marks and C-section scars, damaged knees and battered hands are the marks of well loved life.
I have learned so much from so many over this life, and I borrow freely but try and recognize the source when I can. From my Vermont friend I have taken to closing my blogs with a quote, although mine tend to be more on the low-brow pop culture side of things.
“Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel There’s a fire just waiting for fuel”- Ani DeFranco, Fuel