All my life I have tried to capture the extraordinary with a crystal lens,
and still I have not seen anything that helps me understand the why –
only the what, when, where and how beautifully or cruelly our fate unfolds
It is certainly not my place to know the unknowable and, in any case,
I would always choose love over peace of mind.
Cameron Bloom ~ Penguin Bloom (The odd little bird who saved a family)
It fell out of my notebook this morning, a piece of lined paper, still fresh with the presence of my handwriting from that alpine morning 8 weeks ago.
The day we remembered what we had all forgotten.
A title, ‘La Riviere Enverse’, above a sketch of mountains. Below it a stream of consciousness in black ink tumbling down the page. And there, next to the title, a date – Friday 11th August. The day he died. Just fifteen. Half way around the world. Out of sight.
Back then I was sitting on the small chalet balcony, a light drizzle falling, cup of tea by my side. Below me the valley of the river Giffre slept suspended in low lying cloud. Nearby ash, elder, birch and beech shivered, alive with the movement of invisible wings. Just then the leaves gave a great shudder sending an explosion of birds into the air. Stillness quickening into a moment of emergence and grace. In the distance the Alps breathed in geological time, a basso continuo holding the fleeting span of birds and trees. In my sight an ‘M’ shaped mountain holding my life in the blink of her eye.
“Bothness is everywhere” I began, my pen meeting the page, “immutable rock in an ever changing dance with unrepeatable patterns of cloud”.
As I watched the mountain all but disappeared from view. Of course I knew she would re-emerge. She was still present, just out of sight. Her dance of concealment and revelation felt playful, a game of hide and seek on a grand scale. She pulled the clouds over her face only to burst out a minute or two later. Peekaboo! she laughed. She knew I was watching.
I’m a mother. I know this game. I know how important it is for toddlers. It teaches them about ‘object permanence’ – the concept that things and people can still exist even though we might not be able to see them. Permanence, the half truth-half lie we absorb deep into muscle memory in order to live our everyday lives, in order to parent our children, to let them go. We forget (so that we may love) the dark twin of our existence – impermanence.
Impermanence – the reality that when they are out of sight, things and people may in fact just cease to exist, may simply disappear.
Into thin air
Friday 11 August. The day we all remembered what we had forgotten.
Now I cannot forget. Now I can’t be so sure that things and people will still be there when they’re out of sight. And I find myself asking – dare I really love my children. Is my love strong enough to set them free, free to experience those quickening moments of emergence and grace which they will only discover away from my sight.
So I take myself back to that alpine morning. I look at the black ink tumbling down the page. And then I remember ‘bothness is everywhere’. I see as I did then, the whole picture – permanence and impermanence. To love is to hold the ever changing dance. And then I know that I will always chose love over peace of mind. Then I know. That I will love.