Saturday, November 6, 2010

Too much voltage

It's 4 am, and I find myself tossing and turning in bed, haunted and humbled by the images and events of one of those high voltage days.

I call it that because the intensity of events sometimes gets to me -- though perhaps it's just my superego kicking in with criticism when I've had too much wonderfulness.

The day began inauspiciously: I'd taken an early ferry in so as not to be late for an 8 am meeting, but that meant I was an hour early with nowhere to go (school was closed). 

So I sat in the parking lot and reviewed my notes, shivering a bit in the cold car and uncomfortably aware of a homeless person sleeping on the ground by the fence on the other side of the lot.

Class was good -- educational, thought-provoking, entertaining -- and I struck up another new friendship before leaving early to catch the 5:30 boat home.

I'd arranged for my younger daughter to meet me at the ferry because I knew I'd get there too late to put the car on the 5:30 but I wanted to be back on the island in time to attend the opening of the new exhibit at my gallery, as they would be showing my new metal pieces, about which I was very excited.

My daughter met me at the car with not only a walk-on ticket, but also a gift certificate to a favorite store and a chocolate starfish -- both amazingly thoughtful gifts.  She stayed with the car (and, sure enough, it missed the 5:30 by 2 cars) while I walked on the ferry.  It was an awesome gift for her to do that, to wait with the car and drive it onto the 6:20 so I could attend the opening, and between that and the other gifts I was feeling just ridiculously blessed.

Walking up from the ferry I got a text from my friend M who had broken a previous engagement to come to the opening -- another delightful blessing -- and I arrived to find two of my images in places of honor, one just outside the entry to the main room of the gallery, and the other on what I think of as "the primo wall," the wall that gets the most attention. 

It was thrilling to see that, and doubly so to hear all the positive comments; people loved them, and loved my new direction.  To top that off, I'd arranged to have dinner with G, another artist friend, and to celebrate the evening my daughter and M and another delightful couple I'd just met decided to join us. 

So we all went over to the little restaurant next door  -- which I'd never visited before -- and it turned out to be surprisingly pricey; something I hadn't anticipated.  Spirits were high (though my daughter and I weren't drinking as we'd both be driving home), service was a bit slow, and by the time dinner arrived my husband, who'd been at a meeting, was able to join us.  G had ordered a duck confit, and when it arrived, a tiny circle of very elegant food on a large white plate, she began complaining rather loudly about the conspicuous consumption it represented --too much money, not enough food, and no vegetables to speak of -- and how dreadful the island can be, that it supports this sort of thing when people all over the world are starving.

Which of course reminded me of that bundle of rags I'd encountered in the morning, the homeless person sleeping in the parking lot while I shivered in my car.

We all managed to play through: the restaurant gave her a lovely plate of squash treats, my new friend's husband kissed G's hand, applauded her outspokenness, and paid the bill for all of us.  We all thanked him profusely and headed home. 

But, as I said, the voltage was too high for me, and so I woke at 3:30, humbled by my own conspicuous consumptions, by the gift of my daughter's generosity, and by the images of all the people flowing through the gallery, the bright lights and the wine, the elegant restaurant -- all vaguely reminiscent of images from books and movies over the years of the aristocracy partying while the hungry and homeless stagger through the streets desperate for food and shelter.

I am trying to stay with it, to hold it in my heart, to breathe in the shame, the hunger, the shock of the cold pavement through a threadbare blanket, and breathe out the sheer joy of loving family and friends and the beauty of all the images in the show (oh, the quilts in the show are just GORGEOUS).  And now I see that the only way through the intensity of that contrast is to hold my breath a bit at each end of the breathing pattern. 

Breathe in the pain, wait. feel. acknowledge. ache.

Breathe out the joy, then wait; hold. feel.  acknowledge. ache.  Allow the learnings to flow in, love the good parts and the hard ones, the friends within and the lost ones curled aching and chilled in the corners of my soul.

But I don't think sleep will return anytime soon. Not for me, anyway.  And probably not for that man in the parking lot.  He's just too cold.  And now, of course, it's raining.



Louise Gallagher said...

Hello lovely Diane, your beautiful heart is awash in gratitude -- and that is a good thing.

For the man sleeping by the fence, sometimes all we can do is hold them in our hearts and pray. Sometimes all we can do is acknowledge their presence and continue to create beauty in the world around us and revel in its presence. And in our expression of beauty, awaken beauty for those we encounter.

Anonymous said...

The chocolate starfish might have been an excellent surprise for the homeless person to wake up to. That's what came to my mind.
Very thoughtful daughter, indeed. And congratulations on the exhibit!
Oh, and when you get up at 4:30 it's already 2:30 pm where I am!

Maureen said...

If you hadn't noticed the man, that would be one thing. You did. Others would never even have looked in his direction, pretending he didn't exit. There is not a single opportunity He gives us, but many, to do with what we see. When we see. . . we can do, and also be thankful for being blessed ourselves.