My life has not moved in a straight line. There was a time I was somewhat shipwrecked, and I called this couple, who hosted me one night; I remember her taking me to brunch in the morning, and talking so reasonably to me about life and what it is we need to do, even when the odds are stacked against us, even when it looks like we lack the necessary strength.
He looked gruff, but was a Steiff, my mother used to say. When I showed him my poems, he scoffed and wrote two lines of Pushkin on the Recreation Club napkin, saying, "This is poetry." I cannot find that poem at the moment, but the line was something to do with a young woman and her eye, underlined. He allowed me to interview him to get my first byline; anyone could get a Pulitzer by asking him questions.
So when I saw "Birds don't belong in cages" this morning, I thought of him. He was quite the general towards the end, never complaining. Talk of good wine and cigarettes would bring a glint to his eye. "It was good to see him smile especially over that last glass of wine." I thought of the uncaged bird and Szymborska's "Prefereces" (via): "I prefer not to ask how much longer and when. I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being."
As if to just be in life is a way to stay open - empty for awe to fill the spaces. "They who preserve this method of Tao do not wish to be full (of themselves). It is through their not being full of themselves that they can afford to seem worn and not appear new and complete." (15) Today, people seem to want to appear free of vices - which are often not even vices. To be the oenologist is to appreciate life, not caging it into seems or rigidity. Do we properly appreciate the things we may partake of in life, things naysayers criticise as being superfluous? It is a special kind of work to recognise the nuances of that which we appreciate: it requires learning, internalising, the nuances.
But maybe we are tempted by cages at some point in our life because we wish to contain that which we appreciate - though to siphon off experience in a concerted way can destroy it. Being is to receive, not control. "I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order," Szymborska writes.
And if we have got the hang of being, hopefully we have around us people who love us, who knit over our own weaknesses, and showcase the beautiful aspects of ourselves that are worth remembering. This would be a successful tapestry of life, which I have had, and have, the honour of witnessing in one couple.
Scarf being knit from this Purl Bee pattern.