Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Suspended Heart

To my mind, there is nothing that could be worse than not knowing the fate of a loved one, particularly a child.  A parent suffers the most when a child is missing; the parent’s mind and heart are suspended between hope and fear.  I bring this up because of a dream I experienced last night. 

It is the start of May, a spring time of possibility, of new growth, of hatchlings in their nest with wide, hungry mouths to feed, of sunshine that penetrates the atmosphere bringing forth life on earth in our northern hemisphere as our planet tilts toward the epicenter of our solar system.  I am fortunate to live in a safe community, a place full of people, potential, communal happenings, trust and generosity.  There is an abundance of young children and teenagers and parents and families, a flush of humanity in my village, which has yet still to awaken to this new day.  I sit here drinking a dark rich coffee and writing the workings of my mind as the sun rises over my shoulder and my heart sings its own thanks for all the goodness in my world. 

Yesterday my community, Hamburg, put on an all-day music fest.  This festival brought to town 1000 people wanting to party, enjoy music and celebrate the beginning of another beautiful Western New York Summer.  A few of us sat on my backyard patio sipping Lemon Drop Martinis and snacking on appetizers soaking in the last of the day’s warm rays.  I walked to Hamburg’s Memorial Park to join 500 other people, young adults, families, seniors, and children playing and laughing.  At 8 p.m. sharp one of the organizers of the Hamburg Music Fest led the audience in a sing-along of “All You Need is Love,” joining other people throughout the town in singing an iconic song that reminds us of what we all, one way or another, live out our lives for.

I meandered with friends up Main Street, Hamburg, USA, a slice of Americana at its finest with businesses flying the American Flag and coffee shops, pizza parlors, hair salons, local banks, restaurants, including Mexican, Italian, American grills, bars, offices, a floristry, an even an educational center equipped with commercial kitchen and yoga space dedicated to enlightening our community about healthier eating and being.  Another 300 people gathered on Main Street drinking beer and wine and listening to the live music provided by local musicians.  It was quite a scene.  Every few steps, I would encounter a friend or someone I knew.  It felt cheerfully good.

Turning to walk home early, I wanted to join my children and sit on my front sun porch so I could listen to the sounds and musical happenings from the comfort of my own space, an arts and craft style bungalow that I purchased and rehabbed 10 years ago when I was just separated and my boys were only 2 and 5 years old.  My how a decade has flown by, and my children have grown taller than me, and I have witnessed the growth of families with new babies in our neighborhood every year.  I am forever surrounded, and happily so, by children both at home and work.  I love how my next door neighbor’s children peek through the opening of the fence, a perfect entrée, between the yards and unhesitatingly join me in my backyard.  Just the other day these same children, ages 2 and 7, came over to help me sow peas in my raised beds.  You  could practically hear the microbes in the soil rejoice as little happy human hands moved the earth about adding seeds that would soon sprout to life and bring forth more life on earth, in our little corner of the planet.

Awakening this morning, my mind quickly registered the sounds of the dawn chorus, in particular the resounding honk of a flock of geese overhead while I still rested my body in my own bedroom nest. 

My backyard garden beds are bursting with life.  The ferns and Forget-Me-Nots and Bleeding Hearts grow prolifically overnight.  One day they were just barely visible buds poking out of the soil and the next they are startlingly in voluptuous bloom.  It is sacred and sensuous and moving, all this growing and living around me in my small 60 by 50 foot backyard.  As small as it is, it doesn’t change the basic truth of the goodness of rebirth.  It reminds me of when I was first pregnant, when I was told that my uterus was the shape of a lemon inside of me, probably I was only 2 weeks on, but I felt the immediate pull of life inside of me being.  And I am reminded of that in my garden beds, that even when the winter snows began to melt away, and only the memory of the garden life from the year before is a present reminder of what would once flourish again so abundantly, I still viscerally feel an awareness of the budding life and the truth of all that is reborn each spring time.  Then to find myself again amidst the rampant growth of everything in my yard, grasses, buds on the Norway Maple above my head spitting tree pollen all over the patio furniture and concrete below, the yellowness of the plump dandelions, the Viburnum that pushed forth its leaves through pregnant buds as if overnight, the ferns beneath the rapidly producing Dawn Redwood that grows ever taller to the heavens above each spring after its winter’s rest, and the ever reliable hosta that unfold their leaves so sensually each May.  How could we ever doubt the basic goodness of a rich, green life-producing earth that always remembers to wake up?

This entire continual verdant resurrection taking place is a calming reminder for a heavy heart and troubled mind with which I awoke to the world this morning.  Rebirth is something we can count on each year, it never fails us, and it is basically good for certain.  As I fell asleep last night before 11, after having read a chapter of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, a book that I am reading in sips, I felt moved by the longing and love of one Russian’s heart.  My mind, as it dreamed last night, encountered a reality that for me is the most difficult any human being could face, the loss of a child, but even more specifically the unknown fate of a child.  In my dream, there was a turbulent sea whose level had risen unexpectedly, and my youngest son had boarded a vessel without any other members of his family.  Waves were rising and washing everything in their path out to sea in a violent torrent.  There was no stopping the onslaught of water’s fury.  And all I could see in my mind was my son as he parted from me to board a ship, alone.  As the water pounded the land and homes, a group of people had gathered and all I could do was think of my son’s fate.  My heart was heavy and broken, my mind grasped on to some small ray of hope that the sea faring vessel had somehow managed to ride the dangerous swells of water and that he would be okay.  I felt myself crying in my dream, and even though I knew that I was only dreaming, it did not take away the heaviness and deep sadness that settled into my heart.  It reminded me that this is some people’s realities right now, that a child or loved one is missing, and that the mind naturally longs for the child’s return. 

The heart always holds out some hope for a safe return while bracing itself for the worst and fearing the loss, yet fearing even more the not knowing.  A suspended heart of sadness is a grief that never seems to be assuaged.  As difficult as it is to not know, wanting to stay in a suspended state because the grief of actually knowing with absolute certainty that one’s child is dead seems too large a suffering to bear.  Yet never knowing is like meeting death and impermanence over and over again, moment after moment.  Which grief is more, I cannot say?   I was just grateful that when I finally did rise from the nest of my bed and go to my son’s room, I felt the palpable relief and supreme gratitude that he lay there serenely in his own bed, face down in his own dreams.   

Today, I will sit quietly and contemplate during my morning meditation all the people who are suspended between knowing and not knowing.  I will extend the fabric of my heart to them.  I will wish them some small peace, all the while realizing that they live in constant fear.  I will acknowledge this and give thanks for the original peace I feel and remind myself to not take the blessings of my life for granted, not even for one moment.

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