Saturday, January 7, 2012
On the Trail
The day before that, a total stranger, out for a run, cared for me, my random life. We were crossing the street together, where the trail crosses the road, in opposite directions. We had waited for one car, and another was just then turning left out of the school parking lot. She'd had time to see us and was driving slowly, and had paused, but I think he noticed how she was now blinded by the sun, and he made eye contact with me and said, softly, "Watch out," not to frighten but just to alert me in case she lost me in the sun. We all survived.
This small spontaneous kindness fills me with all kinds of wonder. Of course, this is what we should be doing for one another in the world, caring for and protecting one another, but so often we don't. People go on in their routines, neglecting one another or not paying sufficient attention, and wham! or alas! or dwindle...sigh...
Anyway, my heart was warmed, and so was my body, by the winter sun.
Once, by Meghan O'Rourke, a book I reviewed for Rattle here. I was reading it before Christmas, not knowing that the poet's mother would die on Christmas Day in these poems. There was plenty I did not know about O'Rourke, and, I guess, was glad not to know, and only learned today, reading this other review, by Greg Weiss, also in Rattle, of Halflife, a book I got hold of, used, after reading Once. (I look forward to reading it but will wait till the perfect, random time!)
And, by chance, I had a lunch meeting with a poet friend over the holidays who had just finished reading The Long Goodbye, O'Rourke's memoir about her mother. She found it sentimental. I did not find the poems sentimental, just straightforward and fairly spare. I must ponder what is meant by "sentimental" each time that comes up about someone's writing, including my own. (And I have to answer a question about avoiding sentimentality in love poems for an interview pretty soon!) I consider myself tenderhearted but not very sentimental. I have too much irony in me for that. But that doesn't stop anyone from accusing me of it! Which I say laughing, because, among the things one might be accused of in life, sentimentality is harmless and not illegal.
Greg Weiss, I didn't know anything about Meghan O'Rouke before I read Once, except that she'd written these other books and had a professional career. I find myself cringing a bit at the "gossip" that Weiss notes has attached to her, and I continue to feel the same compassion I felt before, now adding some for the suffering that goes with being gossiped about. I wish her a full and gentle healing as she continues the lifelong grieving for her mother, and I am glad she has writing as an outlet for this grief. All the rest is her own business, and no doubt she's attending to it. If I were a runner on the trail, and saw a car too near, the driver blinded by the sun, I'd make eye contact with her and say softly, "Watch out."