I rise and look out at the trees.  It’s cold and the heater is running.  I sit with the concluding words of Mary Oliver’s poem “Today”.

Stillness.  Out of the doors

Into the temple

Contemplating the branches of an Ash tree, I wonder about the curves, the rise, dip, and reach.  I see a woodpecker approach first one part of the trunk and offer a few pecks, and then another part, peck, peck, and then fly off.  

The May National Geographic has an article on a study scanning the craniums of cosmonauts before and after six months in space. Scientists found that “their gray matter – responsible for things like muscle control, memory, and sensory perception became compressed by an increase in the cerebrospinal fluid that cushions it”.  Sitting here on earth, I nudge my gray matter to expand and receive a massage from the fluid surrounding it. I suggest we make tender waves.

And speaking of waves, though I prefer my ashes be scattered in the temple of ocean waves, I learn I have options. My ashes could be made into a diamond, or a company called And Vinyly could make them into a custom-made vinyl record. Who knew there are ways to continue in somewhat permanent form even after death.

It’s been sixty-three days since my brother passed and I miss him.  The grief is deep and maybe that’s why the woodpecker and cerebrospinal fluid intrigue me right now.  How do I peck at and cushion grief?

Years ago, when my children were young, I read A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech.  He writes of how children enter school as question marks and come out periods.  I want to stay a question mark. When I die, I’ll become a period, well, an ashy one, but right now, I want to keep questioning and learning.  I’m inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. I may not have his genius, but I can keep looking and asking, delving, pecking, probing, waving, and receiving.

In Ursula le Guin’s book Left Hand of Darkness, she asks if we lived on a planet where we never saw anything fly, would it occur to us to want to fly.  I have no answers but I find myself feeling my gray matter expand to play with the fluid that surrounds it as though it were a branch looking to curve, or a trunk calling “come” to a beak.

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