The influence of gaslight or electric light on the growth of paraheliotropic trees

bonebrushing the edges of the res interna (upper transcend)

Good Friday

It is Good Friday. A year ago, Good Friday was on April 10th, and my father–with his brain tumor accelerating and changing and moving into its final form–had a gran mal seizure in the room in his house called the Sun Room. Last year, it occurred on the 1st day of the Omer–Chesed beChesed, Lovingkindness in Lovingkindness–and began for him the period of his illness which the literature refers to as End of Life.

I had deliberately avoided reading about the End of Life during his disease, which he had now had for about a year and a half–I think once, early on, I had read about it. Then, at some point during this period–after Good Friday, I think–as he got, in the words of Warren Zevon, “all fucked up,” I read it again. The literature was concerning–for many people with glioblastoma multiforme, End of Life typically meant just more and more sleep–

And as I type this, I think of my newborn son, Thomas, upstairs, who, now, seven weeks since his birth, is beginning to sleep a little less each day–a year after the death of my father which was the culmination of a seven week period in which he slept more and more until finally his eyes closed forever–I am looking at my son’s blue eyes widen and waken more and more–

As I said, the literature was concerning–while most with GBM had relatively peaceful Ends of Life, others had more troubling experiences–hallucinations and the like–it was upsetting–

At this point, however, on Good Friday, we did not necessarily see this as the Beginning of the End–we had been told that as the disease progressed, the likelihood of seizure would increase–

I don’t remember exactly what happened after. Margaux and I had been there for the two Seders, and my sister had stayed on, so her and her husband and the girls were there for the seizure–I didn’t come that night, I don’t think–maybe the next day? Maybe that night. I don’t know. I don’t remember.

I go to look at my photographs. I have a photo from Holy Saturday in my apartment, of five Lego Voltron tigers, lined up on a bookshelf. So I wasn’t in Elkins Park then. The following day, I have a photo of a calendar, taken at 5:29 PM, which we laid out with my sister and her husband and Margaux providing a schedule where one child would be with our parents every day–two days on and four days off. On April 14, there is the photo of a check taken in Elkins Park for the plumber to fix the output pipe from their kitchen, which S clogged when she tried to shove potatoes down the garbage disposal–

But back to Good Friday.

And what it meant. And what it means.

This is what Chabad says about Week 1 and Day 1 of the Omer:

Week 1 – Chesed

Love is the single most powerful and necessary component in life. Love is the origin and foundation of all human interactions. It is both giving and receiving. It allows us to reach above and beyond ourselves. To experience another person and to allow that person to experience us. It is the tool by which we learn to experience the highest reality – G‑d. In a single word: love is transcendence.

Day 1 – Chesed b’Chesed

Examine the love aspect of love. The expression of love and its level of intensity. Everyone has the capacity to love in their hearts. The question is if and how we actualize and express it.

Ask yourself:

What is my capacity to love another person? Do I have problems with giving? Am I stingy or selfish? Is it difficult for me to let someone else into my life? Do I have room for someone else? Do I allow room for someone else? Am I afraid of my vulnerability, of opening up and getting hurt? How do I express love? Am I able to communicate my true feelings? Do I withhold expressing love out of fear of reaction? Or on the contrary: I often express too much too early. Do others misunderstand my intentions?

Whom do I love? Do I only love those that I relate to and who relate to me? Do I have the capacity to love a stranger; to lend a helping hand to someone I don’t know? Do I express love only when it’s comfortable?

Why do I have problems with love and what can I do about it? Does my love include the other six aspects of chesed, without which love will be distorted and unable to be truly realized.

From A Spiritual Guide to the Omer by Simon Jacobson

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So, for him, Good Friday–the day of the beginning of the end, the day of the beginning of the Omer–was the aspect of Lovingkindness within the Sphere of Lovingkindness–Love, Loving Love, Love loves to Love, and that day, he woke up next to his wife of 40 years, the love of his youth, and his august middle age, and now, of his rapidly approaching final days–and his beloved daughter was there, with her strong, kind, beloved husband, and their two beautiful beloved granddaughters, the two joys of his twilight–that house, on that day, was bursting, bursting, bursting with love, with the love of love, with so much love, with only love–

And the bursting of the vessels–the recovery of the shards–nothing Gold can stay–is that not the very definition of a seizure–that the lightning of our mind slips the fragile channels, overflows, brightens, makes a terrible and awesome light–and if the lightning is Us, and if who we are is Love, Loving Love, then it was Love that overpowered the channels, that brought the lightning storm, that awakened the doom of destiny that was coming–

For us, this year, we are four days behind, for us, this year, Good Friday is the Fifth Day of the Omer, and it is not the Love of Love, but the Humility of Love, Hod, Hod b’Chesed.

And a year later, with him gone–yes, we are humbled. Humbled in our love. We did not know how much we loved him, or how much he loved us, until the very end. I feared the final day, the vigil, and when it came–it was so terrible, so very terrible–the vessels broke–

I did not do enough. We can never do enough. All of life is failure. Failure to love enough. Failure to do enough. Failure to be strong enough. We try to hold it up, and we tire, and we falter, and we break. To be mortal is to fall. And Time–Time must move on, it must keep going, it must leave us–but does it stop? Does it stop for a moment to sit with us, when we fall, while we fall, to hold us, in its embrace, slow or fast, hard or soft, holding our weak selves with a strong warm darkness that is simply a light we cannot see–

Oh, the Love, the love, the love–

Hod means meaningful acceptance. Submission. Majesty, splendor, glory. And the submission to the Great Energies that allows us to give it Meaningful Reflective Form. To be humbled by love and to reflect on it, to give it word, to say, to whisper, to understand–

I love you, we almost hear him say, and know, so painfully, that we will never hear it again.

Love in Balance

Love in balance. Love in the balance.

I learned recently–watching my father die–that the other side of Love–the other part of it–is the searing and excruciating pain of not having its object–life-changing ecstasy at having, life-changing pain at not having.

Love is like water, it flows inevitably, obeying not its own sense or volition but merely flowing pursuant to the demands of external motions and forces–along paths and channels laid out before it. If you stop its flow, it flows elsewhere, or it rages against the banks and shores–

Strength and discipline–control–the control of love–it is like the good strong earth that holds love, that channels it, the banks of its rivers, the basins of its oceans, the gravity that pulls down the air and the water in it and holds it close–

My baby–my six week old baby–True Thomas–he rages and flails his hands and legs, his movements, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, by him, wake him up, distress him–he seeks, and he does not find, and he pains–and when he finds, he rests, and appears happy–

When he rages, when he flails his hands, I go to him, I hold his hands for him, I hold his arms, I wrap him tight, as my father and mother did me, as my love did for me last night, when I cried in her arms, in sorrow, in pain, at all I have lost and all I will lose–

Today is the Third Day of the Omer. Love is in balance, the beauty of a love comes in how it is restrained, how it is channeled, where it lies, what it seeks, what it refrains from. Balanced with its disciplines, harmonious in its proper places, in its cycle of forms, its stations–

My father, when he was a son-less son who had never loved, found my mother, and my mother found him, and with their youth and perfect simplicity, and fresh hearts, and eager eyes, chose to love, again and again and again and again, and like the poem about the jar, placed that love in a little field and watched all the world come around and whisper well-wishes and sing its joy–

A great whirl–Love. Beautiful perfect love, made beautiful by its limits.

My love for him. Made beautiful by its limits. Foreseen before he died, fulfilled when he died, preserved by his death. A love that proceeded him and survives him, a love that proceeded me and will–I pray–survive me.

I write again because I need to write and because my lover gives me no room to speak–but I love her anyway as I know she loves me. There is beauty there, beauty in us, beauty in our love, and beauty in our pain, and beauty in our loss, and beauty in what we will lose–

Oh, Oh, Oh–

It is the Third Day of the Omer.

Can I speak? In love with a mute, I am muted. In love with an earthquake, I am shaken. Quicksand. When we mix violently, quicksand. And neither water nor earth likes that.

Who has time

Who has time to be angry?

Do you want to see darkness? Do you want to see despair? Do you want to see hopelessness? The litigator in me says Zig when you say Zag, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When you despair, I could join you. I could surrender.

Changes

I have a son. I have a wife. I have a house. My father is dead. My brother has moved to California. My sister’s life is much as it was, with her husband and her two beautiful daughters.

A year ago. A year ago. He sat at the head of our Passover Seder, he said “Next Year in Jerusalem.” On Good Friday, he had a seizure, and by Sunday, he was coming back, but even then, the decline began, the decline.

We count the Omer for 49 days, from the second day of Passover until Shavuot. He died on Sivan 4, just before sunset, on the 48th day of the Omer.

I count the Omer now. For him, and for me. For my son? I don’t know. For my wife? She has no love or interest in it. I am so deeply offended by that. I am angry with her. So angry with her.

She says we have to stop blaming each other. Who’s blaming anybody?

I blame her for changing the plan. I blame her for choosing herself over me. I blame her for telling me I wasn’t good enough. For being angry at me that I got laid low by the COVID vaccine and couldn’t help her.

I want to leave her. Leave her. Leave the house. Leave my son? I’ll see him, I’m sure. I don’t want to fight with her, but she cannot be reasoned with. Can not be talked to. She makes me angry and sad and she makes me feel unloved.

Today is the second day of the Omer. Discipline in Lovingkindness. The decline. The decline.

A dark mirror? Is this foolish life I seized for myself simply a dark mirror, a dark parody of His? His story repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

The Boy with the Violin

Buskin and Batteau

There he sat, by the river, by the road
watching for an omen, waiting for the signal to begin
looking for a way out or a way to get back in
the boy with the violin

A gold Mercedes slowed down, pulled aside,
A golden lady opened the door and stepped into the night
She could see the silhouette of someone in the moonlight
A boy with a violin

She said “Boy, where you going, are you okay?
Would you like to travel my way?
If you need to lay down, I know where you can stay
Young boy with the violin

The boy said…

On the way to her mansion, he never said a word
The sound of a fallen teardrop
Was all the woman heard

So he lay in the guestroom he didn’t notice her come in
His eyes were far from what was happening
She pulled back the covers and she kissed his tender skin
The boy with the violin

She awoke in the morning
And she reached out her hand
Her fingers closed on no one
And she did not understand

But the window was wide open
There were footprints in the dew
In her heart she was hoping
But deep inside she knew

“Is Tom Wolfe dead?”

I stand at my kitchen island, eating granola and reading the New York Review of Books’ article on Susan Sontag, and the author of the article is writing about her striking looks, and her photograph, and her death, and I think about how I once saw her speak at the Writers House, many years ago, and about how life becomes history through the operation of death.

And I think about the first writer I saw at the Writers House that really thrilled me, Tom Wolfe, my first year there, and I ask the Echo sitting on the island next to me whether Tom Wolfe is dead.

“Tom Wolfe died on May 14, 2018, in New York, USA,” it says, calm, feminine. “He was 88 years old.”

More wishes.

The fulfillment

All my life, leading up to this. All my writings, foreshadowing this. Nature’s constant theme.

I do not know how much time I will have with him. I do not know if I will have any words to write.

My spirit rebels against turning this tragedy–this central tragedy of my life–this secret tragedy I did not know would sit at the core of my journey–into something as poor and dirty as Art.

Art. Artifice. Dumbshows.

Hamlet screamsHamlet eschews speech, and groans, gutturally groans.

For the first month, my life flashed before my eyes. All was reorganized. I committed to a woman. A tree, an anchor, a Big Bird love. I let uncertainty settle into certainty; I decided that I no longer wanted to wait between possibilities, that any possibilities to be needed to be made actualities, while time remained–

I am in this with him. I am with him. I go to face my second great fear. I go to sit with him, through a pain that I know is strong enough to sear the structure from my self-state, to unglue my model, to blow down my house-of-cards.

Shall it remain? Shall it remain standing? Is there any profit in that anyway?

Yes. Some part of me wants to survive this.

To think that I will have to spend these many years living in this world without him–it is a pain, a great pain–but I have things to live for, he wants me to live for those things, for those people–

I have responsibilities. I have loves beyond my love for him–my strange, hesitant, love for him, that knew him, second.

Oh, the love they gave me–together–oh, our little lives. So precious. So quick. Ephemeral. Held in place only by the strength of my own vision and memory.

Perhaps the art can serve that end. Not to make what was impermanent permanent–we are not our gravestones. But to make a stone-standing-witness to a world that once was, a relationship that once was, the churning moments and passages of a life–lived for one’s self, and lived for others.

I wail, wordless, but I also write, two contradictions, in one mind.

I love you, Old Father. I wail, but I also sing.

Cruel like January

Old Tom Eliot, what a joker. April is the cruelest month? Never went through a climate change January, then, first 5 degrees, then 60, then 27–broken up, after years of trying–yeah, Tom was just being rhetorical–January–after New Years–heart of winter–alone with yourself, and the nights so endless–that’s the cruelest. April? I’d give a toe to Rumpelstiltskin for April.