How To Hold On And Still Let Go

 
There’s a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver that I’d like to share with you – it’s title is “In Blackwater Woods”

Look, the trees

are turning

their own bodies

into pillars

 

of light,

are giving off the rich

fragrance of cinnamon

and fulfillment,

 

the long tapers

of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders

 

of the ponds,

and every pond,

no matter what its

name is, is

 

nameless now.

Every year

everything

I have learned

 

in my lifetime

leads back to this: the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side

 

is salvation

whose meaning

none of us will ever know.

To live in this world

 

You must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal,

to hold it

 

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it,

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

Fall is breathing its freshness into the air.  A time of transition – and I’ve never been good with transition.  Once I get to the other side of it, I’m fine – but the subtle and not-so-subtle angina of knowing things must change makes me jumpy.  And yet, fall is when kids go back to school, when the forgiving schedules of summer become more intractable, when we shift our sensibilities to what is yet to be.  I celebrate as my best childhood friend seeks to find her new rhythm now that her daughter has started a new career in a city far from home.  My friend D cries in her daughter’s room after she leaves for her freshman year of college (I totally get this – I slept in my son’s room for two weeks).   I sometimes still wonder where my place is in my own little family – as the boys have established their own married lives and I had to give them the room and space to go about their adult lives – and on a daily basis, their schedules and plans have nothing to do with me.

And all these children/adults are doing exactly what we have wished, dreamed and prayed for – they have become caring, responsible, decent people who are loving and loved.  People who are delighting in the lives they are making for themselves.  These are the times when I remember clearly the words of the rabbi at our wedding, reminding us that we are not lucky, we are blessed.  I think about that a lot.

I think about how I’ve yet to let go of my parents though they are no longer here.  In my heart, my friend Alex never hurt with such relentless despair that she would have to leave this life.  I hold on.

I hold on to being in my junior seniorhood and inwardly jump up and down when my trainer tells me that I can still rock ‘cute’.  Of course I’m paying him, I know that – but there are few adjectives for retired cheerleaders that aren’t totally nauseating (and I only did that for one semester in college).  I listen to a friend as she struggles through a huge life change and wrestles with the idea of letting go of that which is already gone.  And look forward to a wedding this coming weekend when two young people let go of their old lives to begin one together.

Perhaps the salvation is not in the letting go, perhaps it is in holding on loosely.  Not necessarily with the intent to try and reel the past back in, but to able to regard it as a touchstone from which to move forward.  To know that as life proceeds without our permission, that which we love with all our being still remain in some way ever-present.  Perhaps that is how we can move forward and embrace the transitions that leave us breathless.