A Sudden Tug

I’m on my third cup of coffee, which is probably not a great idea. I dreamt last night about B’s dying for the first time. Then I had an awkward dream about eating in a restaurant – and being in the way.

On her podcast B. talked about creating meaning in things, rather than searching for them, as though they are items waiting to be discovered. It isn’t the first time I have heard her talk about this. It is central to her approach to life, I think. And something I’ve learned from am learning from.

I know it isn’t an “original” idea. Even before Sartre and Camus, the philosophers have been talking about our role in creating meaning. I think that the hard part is taking these ideas and actually applying them to everyday life. I mean taking the time it takes to consciously form meaning, rather than passively and unconsciously accepting something prepackaged like a prophecy, omen, horoscope, or pop-culture trope.

Nothing comes from nothing, but the act of creation is about recombining, re-purposing, and juxtaposing odds and ends – fragments – into something that exists in this moment, this context, and in this way is true.

In Bangalore, riding in an Uber with 5 other people, I watched a congregation of egrets fly perpendicular to the path of the motorway. It meant something to me. Even though I pointed it out to everyone else, it meant something only to me – within the context of my life.

The first time I noticed a great egret was in Fort Worth, Texas. I was running along a canal and felt the world was new again. She was whiter than white, and elegant in her crooked lines. I had just had a long talk with L., a woman old enough to have been my mother, and who would continue to be a role model in my life.

I had a good cry. I felt salty. Scrubbed. Whiter than white – feet in the mud.

Later I began to notice all grey herons and common cranes. I learned about the silence of storks. And I began writing a private mythology.

I began reading feathers, not tea leaves. But I consider them Rorschachs, not missives from the gods.

There is a single white duck that hangs out in the nearby pond, alongside a hundred or so mallards and brown hens. She stands out in the 5 am darkness. Leonard tugs on the leash as we pass by. I feel the anger hardening the muscles between my ribs. Constricting my breathing.

This is my fault. I’m not consistent enough with him when it comes to leash training. I’m not good enough at this. Not good enough.

I think there are still lessons to learn about choosing what kind of meaning I give an incident, a lonely white duck amidst the the brown team, a painful jerk of the arm, on an otherwise quite morning.


Leave a Comment

  1. Your description included. Beautiful. Meaning is intimate. How else beside the universe of experience that we are. We each, being the singular source of how we see. More more, the shorter I see my living, the more I appreciate everything. To exist, phenomenal. How didn’t I see that all along? Choices are consequence. Meaning is the part we eat. Choose well.

    I like listening to you. (whether or not I always understand every word, no matter)

  2. Don’t poets create new meaning with every word they write? And meaning doesn’t have to be something that anyone else understands. Though, of course, the greatest writing is that which contains a universal truth. But then that’s not to say that something only we understand right now won’t have meaning for others in the fullness of time. We’re all good enough, btw. And what Neil says – it is a wonderful thing, to listen to your voice.

  3. As I age, the presence of birds, the idiosyncrasies of my pup, all take on new meaning or no meaning. I no longer interfere when a hawk swoops for a dove.