A friend has had a recurrence of cancer and it doesn't look good. Another friend's best friend's sister has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 22. Six months to a year to live. She has a little baby boy.
I breathe in the news and sink into a state of incomprehension. Puts things into perspective. Sure. But not a perspective I can perceive. I'm only left stunned, sad and without any sense of forward motion. Instead, a state of stasis. My eyes feel useless. The only sense operating is that sixth sense that lives somewhere between the heart and the belly.
I try to understand why.
Trying to understand why cancer for these two women right now is like trying to understand why all things work the way they do. There is little understanding on either side of that equation. It's like trying to understand why rocks are the shapes they are. Why they are the colors they are and why one is broad and flat and the other one tiny and sharp at the one edge.
It's trying to understand time with a disregard for its passing.
Time is tiny. Or perhaps, rather, we are tiny in time. Our time, then, is tiny.
Time is the thing in our lives that's meant to pass, and we're meant to pass with it.
Passing is beautiful.
On a walk recently through the woods, I watched a thicker, darker, older world pass before me. I watched in one tree the passage of time. In one bed of leaves the passage of summer as we move into fall.
I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you, too, that I wanted nothing more than to hold onto the beauty found in those woods. The sense of history there, for we wandered along one trail thinking nothing of it until we got to its end where black cliffs rose up on either side and pooled out into a roundabout with a dark, tiny waterfall. The rocks there were beyond the color of night. They were beyond the color of black. A depth held there. Another space. Another time.
In awe I was, then. And a sense of belonging swooned over me. I felt held in history. And I felt this was okay, that time is tiny for us and passing is beautiful.
But it was a feeling, not an understanding. I don't think I'll ever understand why cancer takes the lives of those we love. I know I won't, for I lost someone I loved very much to cancer when I was little. And that grief is part of who I am.
Find an appropriate scale for your worries and anxieties. Let time be tiny. Surrender to a sweeter fleeting. Or at least know that I am trying to surrender to the passage of time. It's why I love to make dances. And I think, sometimes, I write to deny that passage, make something permament for myself.
So you have a comrade in me, then. We are fleeting sweetly together.
Or as W.S. Merwin writes: "We are asleep with compasses in our hands."