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.