Merry and Bright

Miraculous day! We stepped out of our houses this morning and felt the air. Strange. Cool and dry. I am sitting on the porch, and get this . . . not sweating. As if October had visited a little early. Or we all went to sleep in New Orleans last night but woke up in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s downright freakish this completely out-of-character shift in the weather. A gift. A respite from the oppressive damp muffling blanket of August. Doesn’t seem possible. It won’t last. Nothing ever does. But I’d like to say “thank you” to whatever produced this blessing of a morning. Makes a girl feel almost human again. An unexplained and undeserved release from suffering can make the memory of suffering evaporate like spit on a hot sidewalk.

My metaphors are not nearly so elegant as Emily’s. She’s in a good mood this morning, too.

#850, c. 1864

I sing to use the Waiting
My Bonnet but to tie
And Shut the Door unto my House
No more to do have I

Till His best step approaching
We journey to the Day
And tell each other how We sung
To Keep the Dark away.

Nothing like a new bonnet and a boy at the front door to put a lilt in the poet’s voice. She’s not frivolous, nor am I. But it’s true that everything changes all the time, and we do possess the capacity to rise out of the dark. Our psyche, spirit or whatever wants to sing. Will sing. Because that is the natural flow that follows the ebb tide. No one remains in the dark forever. Nor do we have any control over how or when the shift happens. We exist in concert with patterns beyond our peculiar circumstance. Patterns that are frequently a mystery to us. So what do we do? We sing. When we can. As Emily says, there is nothing else to do sometimes.

What I like about her and her poem is that she drops her killer line at the end: “To Keep the Dark away.” Emily points to the dark in the periphery around the bright bubble that she walks in this day. She can’t help it. Emily and her companion may walk and sing and enjoy the simple pleasure of being . . . just fine . . . for the moment. Yet Emily, with her relentless gaze, can’t pretend she doesn’t see the shadow following them down the street on their merry walk. She’s too honest for that. Her honesty is a form of compulsiveness. She lives at the mercy of her own honesty, which doesn’t come from any learned ethics or structured integrity. It’s more a function of her constitution. She sees what others can’t or won’t. That all the tap dancing and whistling holds something dark at bay, something that follows ever near.

I don’t sense that she enjoys her day any less. Perhaps more so. Instead she focuses on the thread that stitches the merry brightness to the suffocating dark sludge. Emily can’t stop running her fingertips over this border that joins the two opposites. Each is intoxicating in its own way, each powerful and mesmerizing. Both the dark night and the bright morning has the power to convince you that it will last forever. Each speaks so loud and so close that it can make you believe there will never be another. Then change it does. Always. That is the only thing that lasts forever. These qualities may fool most of us into thinking either: “Everything is great and now my life progresses on an endless upward trajectory. I am the champion!” Or: “I will remain in the grip of this agonizing pain for all of eternity.” Both of these are equally false and yet equally persuasive.

Only Emily keeps tapping her fingertips on the seam that marries the two liars. For her the only truth is the paradox in this bond. She is not fooled by either party. Rather she embraces them both.

In the meanwhile . . . enjoy.

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