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  Monday October 20th, 2014    

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Disorder In The House (12/14/2003)
By Janet Lewis Burns
"Letting go/in order to hold on/I gradually understand how poems are made." "There is a place the loss must go./There is a place the gain must go./ The leftover love."

The first and last stanzas of Alice Walker's eloquent poem, "How Poems Are Made/A Discredited View," tilt me toward sadness and, at the same time, stimulate.

It's November 29th, and the mad rush is over. The grandkids are in their own homes and have, no doubt, settled down. A prayer goes out to Joel's family for a safe trip home to Illinois. My final Thanksgiving 2003, offering was devoured this morning with a ham, cheese, and egg bake. Delightful giggles and screeches of the three little tykes, their sunny faces and comical antics, have left the now-emptied house with a hollow, lackluster cast.

For the first time in many years I was not the Thanksgiving day hostess. I was so grateful to my lovely daughter Kelly, and Heath, Alyssa and Ally, for doing the honors this year. Our customary Friday outing together, the gals and the kids, to Rochester's "Festival of Trees," petitions to Santa, and then dinner at Victoria's, proved to be an enchanting day to embrace in memory.

As the house is straightened and I return to routine and a backlog of laundry, I glanced outside as twilight crept up on bare tree silhouettes in neighbor's yards. A wicked wind seemed to be dragging drab fall leaves across stones and dry grass, some blades closer to death than others.

As I got lost, for the moment, in patterns in constant transition, I was reminded how fleeting life is. A touch of dread always accompanies the love and emotion I harbor toward my family, fearing that I may one day be forced to see one of them suffer or, worse yet, let go of one I adore so very much.

Chaos seems to be a component of most everything. As I type, I am playing the last CD put out by singer-songwriter Warren Zevon. He died of lung cancer two weeks after the release of "The Wind." His intense rendition of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" echoes like destiny's theme. In "Disorder In The House," Zevon alludes to the bitter cup of pain and despair.

I look up from my computer to the caress of sunset's striking pinks and blues. I feel contentment, with its dash of caution, flood through me, allowing me to wallow in family remembrances and children's shenanigans, hugs and kisses still warm to my flesh.

Warren Zevon sings with heart-wrenching emotion: "Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath. Keep me in your heart for awhile." "When the winter comes, keep the fires lit and I will be right next to you." "These wheels keep turning but they're running out of steam. Keep me in your heart for awhile."

I think of "Nature's Chaos," a book I'll soon resume reading. Science writer James Gleick notes, in his collaboration with photographer Eliot Porter, "The essence of the earth's beauty lies in chaos, in the disorder of grasses strewn in a meadow, the blotching of green lichen on a tree trunk." "Snowflakes are born in chaos. The delicate balance between order and disorder." "Nature is balanced only in rhetoric; in reality few of the earth's processes settle into an even kilter."

Porter writers, "Only in fragments of the whole is nature's order apparent." When a photographer finds harmony, Gleick muses, "...it is rarely a static and balanced harmony - rather, a wavering, lurching, animating harmony."

"I understand

how poems are made.

They are the tears

that season the smile.

The stiff-neck laughter

that crowds the throat.

The leftover love."

- Alice Walker

As for the art of living... I will dare to love my family too much, to care too deeply, and to accept chaos as a storm passing through. I know how poems are made...the leftover rainbows, invisible and bittersweet.

So sad that the leftover love, permeating this spirit of Christmas, could not be evenly distributed. I wish you rainbows and blue and pink sunsets. 

 

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