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Transactions with Beauty.
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- Shawna

 

 

No Lessons Can Be Drawn From This

No Lessons Can Be Drawn From This

We’ve reached that point in August where everything is magnificent, the flowers are giving it their all. They’re even showing off as they decline, so dramatic, so tender. 

Which reminds me of the poem by Kay Ryan. 

Tenderness and Rot

by Kay Ryan

Tenderness and rot   
share a border.   
And rot is an   
aggressive neighbor   
whose iridescence   
keeps creeping over.   

No lessons   
can be drawn   
from this however.   

One is not   
two countries.   
One is not meat   
corrupting.   

It is important   
to stay sweet   
and loving.

 

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So I’ve been thinking about tenderness and rot this past week, and how they go together, not so much as a lesson, but just because that's the way things are. I’ve been also thinking about the way things are, the way things go, and how we get places. Maybe it’s unrelated but there’s this story from my daughter's youth that keeps surfacing for me, and I asked her if I could share it, and she said, well it’s sad, but sure. When she was in junior high, about mid-way through, and it wasn’t fun, those years are rarely lovely for anyone. But she was the art kid, the daughter of an artist and a writer who worked part-time at the library. We read books rather than go out on the town very much. We weren’t the most social at that point. We encouraged her to be herself, and probably subconsciously, to be like us. Anyway, it was the midway point give or take, of junior high, and we were talking one day about what it was like. And she said that given everything she had read and anticipated about these years, what had been surprising was that she wasn’t popular. There was this awareness that she had imagined being one of the popular kids, but that she was not. And I remember being simultaneously heartbroken and also quite glad on many levels. Also, there was something funny about this, funny-sweet. I mean, given her parents, there was no way that she was going to be one of the so-called popular kids. For me, I looked at the popular kids and always felt very blessed that my kid was my kid. We got her; she got us. I wouldn’t have had the faintest bloody clue what to do with a popular kid. We understood each other. We still do. 

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Mulling over this moment in our past, I was also thinking about how life goes, you’re in your 50s suddenly, and sitting in the same backyard you’ve been sitting in for 20 years. Is this the way I thought it would be? Did I imagine all the tenderness, right beside all the rot? It is important, as Ryan says, to stay sweet and loving. But have I? 

The things I didn’t expect at this point in my life is to not have spoken to certain members of my family for a couple of years. There are friends that I thought I would have forever who are no longer in my life, and then friends who surprisingly have stuck with us, bless them. I know we’re not easy to be friends with. It’s all strange, and it’s also all fine. I’m getting to the point where I’m able to imagine the best for those people to whom I’m no longer attached. I really do wish them well and am also doubly grateful for those who are in my life. 

The thing is we’re not the popular kids. But “no lessons can be drawn from this” either.  It’s just interesting, sometimes, to sit in the middle of your life, and go, huh. That’s the way things are. 

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