Saturday, October 4, 2014

There is something in the autumn... Let's call it wisdom

A Vagabond Song

THERE is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

–Bliss Carman

This is one of the many poems that I associate with my grandmother. She would recite it often in the fall and to this day, when the asters are out in full force along the sides of the road in Nova Scotia, fragments of this poem run through my head anytime I go anywhere.

I am missing my grandmother quite a lot lately. A friend posted this link on Facebook this week, a video interview about how to design a good life for oneself. In it Debbie Millman talks about how most of her design contemporaries feel like frauds who are always striving to do work of which they can feel proud. She says the only designers she's spoken with who don't seem to feel that way are mentors of hers who are in their 80s. They seem to know who they are and to feel confident and competent in their work, their choices, their lives.

In the wake of the turmoil and upset of the past year, I suppose I'm feeling a longing for the equanimity of age. I had the great benefit of my grandmother's company into her late 90s, and she could always be counted on for perspective and wisdom (along with a pot of tea and a hand of cards). I know if Nana were here she would reassure me that next year will be better than this year. Or if not next year, the year after. Having lived through many challenges herself, I know what she would say of my recent struggles with heartbreak and with peri-menopausal symptoms: "The wounds we get leave scars that we can see for the rest of our lives, but after a while, they don't hurt anymore. Don't pick at it – it will heal faster."

She said that to me more than once while she was alive. I didn't always agree with her: at times in my life I've needed to pick the scabs off things and let them bleed clean. But this time, I think her words are right on the money – I need to stop picking over my hurts and stop dwelling on feeling bad. There is nothing I can do to change what has happened. And while I do feel bad right now, I think I'll feel better faster if I don't indulge those feelings. What is done is done and the best thing I can do is accept it and let it go.

I am very grateful that I listened to my Nana while she was alive.

I am grateful I stored her wisdom in my heart against the current need, since she isn't here to tell me herself:

It will be better in time.

Don't pick at it.

Thanks, Nana.