The spring morning fifteen years ago I defended my doctoral thesis, I got an email from my sister Jane. It was brief and meant to wish me good luck, and it did; all’s I remember was this one line:
It’s a beautiful day!
It really was, late May in Princeton is spectacular. Of course I was thinking as usual on deeper levels, and also as usual, musically. I pulled out All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
I love that CD for its title and most of the songs but also because my son had bought it for me at a U2 concert he went to, I think in Paris, with his father. I had told Christophe sometime the year before, in reply to his dismissing the group as passé, that these guys were just the coolest ever and continually reinvented their music as true artists do, and definitely not to be written off. He got religion at some point, maybe it was the concert.
Until I began writing this and looked it up I don’t think I’d ever seen the video of “Beautiful Day,” and so it was also cool, given how transporting I find the song, to see it was shot at Roissy, or Charles de Gaulle as most know it, an airport I know pretty well. Images of transit, of passengers and lovers, terminals and luggage carousels and hangars, and big jets at low altitudes taking off while Bono and the guys play below, earthbound, unphased by the planes passing incredibly close overhead.
The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
Less so now, but certainly at different moments over the past few decades I’ve struggled with the sense that those around me have been taking off while I remain firmly glued to the ground. Those takeoffs could be literal– trips abroad, across country, across state– or metaphoric. My budget was too often a limiting factor for the former, so, my son never got the trip to Disneyworld or Fiji or Beijing, though we usually made it to a favorite beach for a few days every summer, and there are way worse deprivations for sure. But for the latter, that was a journey of another kind I had to walk, alone, to figure out my place, my trajectory, my pace.
You’re out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you’re not moving anywhereYou thought you’d found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace
The week of Thanksgiving I experienced the grace of a friend asking why she couldn’t find anything recent from me on the topic that is at the heart of this blog– she wanted to read more, she said– why had there been such a lag? Well the jelly sort of took over, I said. But that is only a very small part of the answer.
“You bend to the work because it feels like hope, like grace.”
Back then I wrote: “That is all we can do, often as not. Tuck our heads down. Work, hard. And push forward. Or what feels like forward. It is in this pure effort when all seems lost and stripped away that a space for grace may, just may, open.”
We can’t wait for it, or expect it; we may only hope for it. Time is short and grace may come or not. Far more elusive and harsh a mistress is happiness, though. In the soul sucking search for her, we are sure to lose the beauty and grace of oh so many moments of bliss.
It’s a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Take me to that other place
I know I’m not a hopeless case
See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
What you don’t have you don’t need it nowWhat you don’t know you can feel it somehowWhat you don’t have you don’t need it nowDon’t need it now
Anti-consumerism mantra, we pretty much do have everything we need at any given moment. We really are so very complete, while being ever incomplete.
Never done, the work, to see the light. Abundance in every moment, gratitude in the midst of loss, humility throughout. To understand profoundly that it is just a work in progress, our life. The universe has so many lessons to teach us and most of them we don’t want to learn. They push us out from the inside in the most uncomfortable ways to become greater, larger, more graceful human beings. If we can bear the excruciating discomfort of opening our eyes, like moles emerging, there is so much to see, all the canyons, all the colors, all the light, all the love.