22 October 2008

Not Excellent and Fair, but Pretty and Pretty Damned Good

Shakespeare may not have called this day "excellent and fair." But it was pretty and pretty damned good in its own way.

Not the least of this day's delights was the sky. No, it wasn't that cloudless sky under which I pedalled the weekend before last to Point Lookout. It wasn't even the mostly clear sky that graced most of last week.

Instead, it was a kind of ceiling one sees only at this time of year. On the horizon, the clouds were thickening and their undersides wove ashy gray waves and ridges. In spite of their expanse and hue, they did not grow heavy and ominous; rather, they refracted rather than concealed the light above them.

And that light is what makes them the kind of cloud unique to this time of year. That refrected sun and sky is the surest sign that the summer sun, even the early fall or Indian summer sun, is long gone. Instead, the air will be a reflection of this light, especially on a day, like this one, in which the wind begins to strip yellow and crimson leaves from branches that will twist and knurl bare in a couple of weeks. But for now, the trees still have some of their vestments. And the earth, in spite of the chill and wind, does not feel desolate under the shawl of clouds.

Yes, a shawl. There's actually something rather reassuring about the sky today, like a strength one acquires because one is vulnerable. We think of women--usually, older or religious or both--when we think of shawls. But, really, who has more wisdom than they have? They know what they know and what they don't know; they may seem frail but they are the greatest founts of useful advice about how to live. Maybe it's because they've loved and lost more than anyone else.

At least that's what I belive, based on nothing more than my own experience. And that experience also leads me to believe that shawls can be so beautiful (I love wearing them!) because, in some way, one has to earn the right to wear one: after a long journey, or in the presence of whatever one has to wrestle in order to gain wisdom and strength (which is not the same thing as power). Now that I think of it, the only men I've seen wearing shawls are the Orthodox Jews with their teifillin. Some wear them every day, underneath their other clothing. I think now of Daniel, with whom I used to ride: Sometimes I would see the fringes of his shawl poking from under the hem of his bicycle jersey.

I'm also thinking now of a Langston Hughes poem in which the breeze spreads a shawl of leaves across a bare garden. I don't recall the exact words of the poem, but I do remember that image distinctly.

So what lies ahead? Am I gaining some sort of strength or wisdom for something, perhaps a struggle, that lies ahead? That wouldn't be new, of course, but the circumstances for it are different. I don't mean to be cynical when I say that in looking forward to, and preparing for, anything exciting or exhiliariting, I now anticipate struggles and challenges. But I'm not letting them scare me off: the possible rewards are just too great. In this case, they include more fully becoming the person I truly am.

Just to show you that I'm not cynical: I know winter's coming. And it might be a tough one. But it's also an opportunity to wrap myself in both physical and metaphorical shawls and blankets. Likewise, during the early days of my transition, the challenges and sometimes the hardships gave me the opportunity to find out that, yes, there are people who love me and who would help, and sometimes even protect or defend, me. And I learned of them, paradoxically, just as I was starting to learn what my strength and strengths actually are. The funny thing is that it's actually humbling to learn that I have the ability to help other people and to write well. Maybe it's because my vulnerability led me to those strenghts.

And this day was pretty. But it was pretty damned good, too, because it's a harbinger of things to come, including the winter: the difficult time that teaches me to find nurturance. That, in turn, shows me how to be a nurturer--which is something I've been told I am.

Now that's excellent and fair!

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