I was doing an ordinary thing, the same ordinary thing that millions of housewives do, possibly even synchronistically (we”ll never know, and it doesn’t matter does it?), anyway I was just standing moderately still pushing an iron across a board with a shirt draped over it, but mostly I was listening. I was listening to Jeanette Winterson on a morning radio programme, thinking how she articulates so well where my thoughts have been, prods and pushes them to go elsewhere. She was talking about how some of us are dead already, measuring out lives without consciousness, and how important it is to make ourselves take notice now; whilst we can. I remembered a letter I wrote perhaps thirty years ago to a lover, explaining how we commit our own suicides times over. I remembered a favourite poem by Stanley Kunitz, The Layers, and how it burned when I first read it. ‘ I have lived through many lives, some of which have been my own ‘, the feelings of excitement and thrill from sharing visions with people I will never meet. How extra ordinary is this life we inhabit, the one I’m in now, tapping away on a keyboard , aware of a major humanitarian disaster having wreaked its havoc on hundreds of thousands of people in the oceans far away, and feeling such pathos for the victims. How can I live so free, so full, so contentedly amidst this world, which hurtles through space disinterestedly and do nothing? How can I? But I do. I forget to make the awareness count. I don’t live on this planet alone, I share it with you , and with those who have no food, no homes, and no hope.
Jeannette Winterson was not making a political point yesterday morning, the discussion was about the individual coming to terms with him or herself, but it is a political point too. Each individual life is connected to each other individual life. We might not like it, or want to think about it too often. But that doesn’t make it false. So I wonder about what I am going to do today, to take some responsibility for a tiny part of the colossus which makes up humanity. It won’t be big or heroic, I can’t run marathons and I havn’t got much so can’t give much, I am the ordinary, but when lots of ordinaries come together, extraordinary happens.
Serendipitously I read a short poem before I sat down to write, it came through my in-box via Brain Pickings – ostensibly about the companionship of her dog, it is about being alive, by Mary Oliver;
THE SWEETNESS OF DOGS
What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. It’s full tonight.
So we go
and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit, myself
thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.