’tis the season — for mankind and for football. It’s Christmastime and the playoff season. The Sunday of the semifinals and the final week of school before winter break.
And I have so much I want to do. Like to do. Am struggling to do. All the baking and buying of gifts, the playoff chili cooking and cheering for my student athletes and football family. I want to do all the things I usually love so much about this most glorious of seasons.
But then, my body rejects that desire. It shudders. And shutters itself inside a husk of general malaise. And I cannot.
My joy has been ransacked. I find tinges of it — glimmers of it shining in the rubble. Like broken glass or teardrops caught by glancing blows of brightness and light. Fleeting.
This morning, I watched the sun climb stair-steps of cloud over the river, the shelves of them distinct and layered like a smog and smoke parfait. It was haunting, the way it cast shadows over a split rail fence in the distance, a long, lean checkerboard where crows, not ridged game pieces, hopped the squares.
Their tinier siblings were there too, a carpet of blackbirds, rolling in low-slung, oily black clouds from yard to yard, scavenging in swirling, lifting tornados to light in naked trees, filling them with feathered foliage.
The King of the Crows, a giant among the blackbirds, scared them away and perched himself at the top of a wobbly, half-dead fruit tree in our backyard. He teetered from his own weight, wings outstretched for balance, a pendulum in chaotic motion, a blunderbuss of blackened breastbone searching for balast. He gave up and flew away.
Death never feels like balance. I’ve learned it topples you, leaves you yearning — for joy, for love, for the person you’ve lost. Everything feels off kilter. Out of balance.
But the experts tell us Death is the ultimate balance of Life. The two bookends. lMaybe so, but it never feels right for those left behind. I swear, my father’s book wasn’t finished.
I wish Death had failed to light that November night. I wish the balance had been off. The pendulum too chaotic, the ballast not there — not quite right for the Harbinger Crow. I wish that Newton’s Law had kept my father’s heart in motion.
I’m sure, somewhere on this earth, there was an equal and opposite reaction. The moment my father’s heartbeat ceased, some new one began. Beauty birthed in pain. Darkness and sorrow begat magic and light. So the pendulum swings.
I see both. I feel both — but the light side, the bright side, it comes only in flashes right now. Flashes of comfort and joy: cuddles with my twin boys at bedtime, curled like squirrels against my side while we read our bedtime books; Friday night’s quarter-finals game, stadium pulsing with our come-from-behind win; trips to the mailbox to find cards with well-wishes and Christmas greetings.
But then I swing back to the grayness and fog and numbness, and on into darkness and pain and mourning. And back again.
’tis the season. A very, very hard season.
Still, I am here to bear witness. To feel it. To live it — in all its shifting shades and sensations. The wildly-careening spectrum of color and composition that makes and brings the beauty AND sorrow.
The wins and losses. The memories and their making. The rise and fall. All the majesty and magic and quagmires and pain of Life. Without it all, we would be so flat and empty.
So I’m taking these broken wings and learning to fly again. Into the depths and heights of the pendulum swings. Into the light of a dark black night.
”tis that season for me.