Saturday, April 29, 2017

veering off corse

We don’t have to feel like poverty-stricken paupers, because right in our heart is everything anyone could ever wish for in terms of open, courageous warmth and clarity.
—Pema Chödrön

I HAD BIG PLANS, during our 5-day trip to Corsica over Easter, to write here every day and present an engaging, constant flow of images and reflections. I’d mapped it out, how I’d post regularly, maybe even include sketches I’d done; at night I’d put le petit garçon to bed and then set to work, diligently. But then, as some kind of cleverly-masked gift, my committee of angels stepped in, cut off my access to the internet, and the plans swiftly changed.

Not to knock ambition, much le­ss discipline. But apparently I had another lesson to learn.

On the first day, I did in fact rise early and make my coffee in peace, but then it was too chilly to sit outside and inside was uncomfortable and dammit, le petit garçon woke the very minute I’d settled down with my notebook. And from there it went speedily downhill, The Frenchman was awake too. Argh! You people! I began to stomp a little. I hunted for my spot, my time, which I needed.

I was just getting ready to push them away with a book or a look or something, when I felt a proverbial tap on my shoulder and a thought occurred to me: Darling, maybe this isn’t a time for you to be alone. Maybe it’s time to be together. Just embrace the thing that’s here. Don’t fight it hoping you’ll have some sort of meditation all by yourself. You won’t get it, first of all, and resisting it will do little aside from cause more pain.

Sometimes I shush meddling voices, but I decided to cede to this one. A moment of potentially heart-opening wisdom; lately they arrive so unexpectedly. 

So that first day, when le petit garçon asked persistently Do you want to play with me? I said Yes. I decided to try to stop arguing with the reality that we were three, I am a mom, and we were on vacation in a pint-size place. Instead of fighting for time and space and attempting to write in the evenings as if it were some kind of working holiday, I read to my child and passed out directly after, exhausted. I sunk my teeth into a new Zadie Smith. I stared into space and admired the landscape. I accepted the invitation of Valentine, our hostess, to share a morning coffee and chat.

When we hiked, I thought, I’m really rusty at this, this parenting. I’ve assumed this guy could just come along for the ride pretty much. I’ll push us ahead, and he’ll come along, and he’ll play with whatever. I felt out of practice, in a rut even, which seemed unlikely to me given the fluidity of our lives right now.

But as we walked in the woods and he fashioned every other stick into a pistolet and wanted to talk about the storm troopers who were following us I finally said, OK. I put on my 6-year-old thinking cap and said, Which ones? How big? What color?

If someone had told my 17-year-old Edward Abbey-loving self — let alone the staunch pacifist in me — I’d be playing with guns in the forests of Corsica without even a wave of discomfort crossing my face I’d not have believed a word. Yet there I was, a clone trooper fighting off bad guys with my twig, soaking in the scenery and smelling flowers on the sly.

One morning le petit garçon said, tears welling in his big blue eyes, I feel like you keep dressing me too cold. So rather than insisting on the outfit I wanted I said, You’re probably right, how can we fix this? I wondered: How can I just help him, at whatever stage, if he needs it? Can I think like a 6-year-old here?

Do you want to build a sandcastle? Who wants to build a chateau? 

We talked a lot about wild boars, and Corsican forests, and we wished Obèlix was with us.

We discussed Easter, the Easter Bunny (how big is he? does he talk?), Jesus, the whole cross and crucifixion, tombs and burials, and after a quiet stretch of intense analysis I heard from the back seat: “I don’t think the Easter Bunny is real. I think it’s some Catholic people who dress up and hide eggs. Mystery solved!

Working independently, on art or writing, is perplexing. When does one say, No, I have to do this, I am committed and have to clock in or I’ll get sidetracked forever, and when does one say, OK, I’m going to just let myself flow along with this? In Corsica, I opted mostly for the latter, and although I’m doubtful as to whether it’ll result in any material, it was at least less of a fight. I accepted that for I am a parent, and that is time-consuming, and this kid is not made of steel, we can’t just forge ahead and go-go-go. One might think I’d have figured this out after six years but no, I am not so skilled or perhaps so generous, and it’s an ongoing lesson.

A little more Yes and a little less In A Minute. As Pema Chödrön might say, How can I stop trampling over this jewel that’s right here?