Life as a Ghazel

The wind is moving through the house. It slams against the siding and creeps between the cracks. We’ve had a mild autumn. Only now does an edge of winter bite my ears and nose when I walk to the train. I pull tight the ties of the hood of my jacket to cinch it together, covering my neck. Like a turtle pulling into its shell. And yes, everything in me wants to slow down and hibernate through these dark months.

This morning I drag myself out of bed by the promise of coffee. I sit here, in front of the computer, while gusts of wind knock at the window like annoying companions reminding me to get going. To get going in this weather. In the darkness. But I want another cup of coffee. Another easy neck roll and deep breath. An attempt at a deep breath.

A morning moving from one still state to another. A very strange kind of yoga flow. Inhale. All the way. No. There’s an obstruction in my lungs. The nurse said we’ll check it out. The doctor said we’ll wait and see.

-“So you’ve ruled out lung cancer or something like that?”
-“I didn’t say that.”

To be honest, I don’t know a lot of people. I spend a good deal of time on the periphery, watching. I think I hold so deeply to a shared moment that I remove myself from it. Then move on. Like a series of pearls on a string. Discontinuous engagement with the world. I’ve rationalized that my brain has been shaped by the nomadic aspect of my childhood. Which continued into my adulthood. Now more figurative than literal. Land, keep an eye out for danger, savor what you can, and move on.

Let go.

This doesn’t mean that I’m emotionally distant. On the contrary. All these weak ties are emotional. Sometimes inexplicitly so. If all the narratives are lost, the emotion remains in the body, in a sudden twist, or a gesture, or a pose.

I heard a story once about a woman who left her family to become a nun. She was held up as a potential saint because of her compassion.

I know that reads like a non-sequitur.

What I was going to say is that I have reached an age where my peers all seem to be facing cancer. Illnesses like Parkinson’s. Bones that break all too easily. Unexpectedly. Everything hurts. Everyone hurts. And we are still comparing ourselves to one another.

Some of us move through the days thinking: but that won’t happen to me. I’ll be one of the shining septuagenarians on Instagram snatching more than their own bodyweight. Some of us hold on to the moments.

Some of us. Maybe only me. Have given up on narratives and justifications.

Here is my beginner’s mind. I pause in stillness. Then inhale and rise along the gentle slope of a polished pearl. Then exhale into stillness. One rich movement at a time, like gusts of wind slamming the body.

I read once that the ghazal was a series of discrete couplets, connected like pearls on a string.

(That sentence just hangs there, doesn’t it? Like the pause before an exhalation.)

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