What makes a life? A friend of mine told me she once took stock of her life, tallying.
How to measure a life? By a house, bank accounts, grandchildren at the Thanksgiving dinner table? Or perhaps none of this. When I look at my sprawl of past and present, the one thing I think is: love better. The best and most fulfilling things I have done have been freely given. Perhaps this is why to love as a parent (while unbelievably difficult at times) is so fulfilling; any morsels of childish love passed back are pure gravy, savory sweetness.
I’ve never known love as greeting card, prettied up with pastel hearts. Love is as indomitable a force as a woman’s contractions in labor, bearing down to bring a new being into this world, or slender coltsfoot blossoms cracking apart winter’s ice. Love better: surely that would mean widening your heart in unexpected ways.
Today, in this April brown and beige world, I saw a cardinal fly into a thicket, a rare bright bird this far north. I went looking for the hidden little feathered creature. I knew it harbored in those tangled branches, its tiny heart hammering away fiercely in this cold.
And now, I have my own household of teenage girls to attend to, with their own laughing and open hearts……
Locking Yourself Out,
Then Trying to Get Back In
You simply go out and shut the door
without thinking. And when you look back
at what you’ve done
it’s too late. If this sounds
like the story of a life, okay….
I stood there for a minute in the rain.
Considering myself to be the luckiest of men.
Even though a wave of grief passed through me.
Even though I felt violently ashamed
of the injury I’d done back then.
I bashed that beautiful window.
And stepped back in.
– Raymond Carver