Wednesday, May 19, 2010

joy unspeakable

There are two reasons, I guess, why I keep secrets from you. The first is to protect people who did not necessarily ask to share their lives with a writer who uses his personal experiences as cannon fodder for the page. This means, also, that I cannot use my writing to fight lopsided battles and pay people back for the injustices I perceive them to have done me. As my friend Austin the Actor says, this is why we write films - so we can enact our revenge and feel that somewhere, out there, in the darkness of an unnamed theater, the villains of our lives are seeing, understanding, and feeling the cold weight of justice (eg: the opening credits for "500 days of summer").

The second reason to keep secrets is that some of life's experiences are too intimate, or precious, or sacred to defile by baring them indiscriminately to the world. As William Wordsworth famously said, "we murder to dissect." Sometimes life hands us delicate little moments that for this reason we wrestle with sharing - wanting to preserve their lives but bursting with anticipation for the joyous climax of the telling.

So I wrestle, now, with sharing about the significant event which capped off this day for me, moving me to tears. I wrestle, and lose, and begin:

I suppose to understand today, you'd have to go back to last weekend, when I had a conversation that convinced me, once and for all, that my marriage is irrevocably over. If you know me well or have followed my story, you may well be thinking "no duh, Josh... there's a light bulb that has been burning for quite a while now." But hope springs eternal in the heart of man, and it sometimes takes a stick of dynamite to do a job that, were it not for the boundless optimism of hope, could be accomplished with a well-placed poke-in-the-eye.

So anyways, the dynamite went off last weekend and after the dust settled I was left with a deeper sadness than I had ever felt before, made all the more remarkable by the unexplainable joy that seemed to spark at odd moments within it - because even down in the darkest valley, the light of life is still indescribably beautiful. Today was a day that seemed to be very much on the dim side. All day, I felt a disembodied heaviness - the sort of sensation that is hard to describe and very inadvisable on a motorcycle - so I ended up feeling on the ride home from work a sense of impending doom at the thought that I might at any moment float away from my body; leaving it to crash, un-aided, into a roadside tree.

I pulled with some relief onto the gravel driveway of home and stopped at the mailbox to grab my mail. Letter from the bank, letter from the bank, letter from... some unknown person with nearly-illegible handwriting in Montana. Hmmm. Don't know anyone in Montana, I thought, as I tucked it into my jacket and rode down the drive and up the dirt rut that leads to the shed where I live. Then, as I pulled under the porch awning and extracted the letter, I remembered the note I had sent a couple weeks ago to what I had hoped was the home of David James Duncan.

Mr. Duncan is the apparently somewhat reclusive author of a number of beautiful, beautiful books - two of which that I have read recently with laughter, joy and tears. The difficulty of this past year has left me nearly overwhelmed with gratitude, at times, for the moments of joy that I have been able to experience, so I decided to use a bizarrely serendipitous gift to take a stab at expressing that gratitude to Mr. Duncan. See, a few months back I bought a book on Amazon, and the woman who sold it to me was so sure I'd be thrilled with the purchase that she included a stamp, an envelope, and a blank "Thank You" card. Weird, right? I set it aside for when some un-defined, perfect moment would present itself.

After trying unsuccessfully for a while to find Mr. Duncan's address on the internet (which I took to mean that he didn't want it found), I decided to be weaselly and use my serendipitous card to fire off a missive to a place that I thought might work. I figured that it would be nothing risked, nothing lost, so I wrote him a carefully crafted "Thank You," popped it in the mailbox with a prayer, and promptly forgot about it.

Until today, when I opened the Montana letter and found a beautiful, perfect message from a stranger whose books had filled me with love. I had hardly begun to read when I started to cry. He thanked me for the letter and commiserated on the thoughts I had shared on his book. He expressed his sorrow over the loss of my wife, and his appreciation for the way my grief had opened doors within me to love. He said some other things, too, but having begun to write this I feel that I have already wounded a precious, perfect thing. So I will stop, and head off alone to cry out in gratitude once more for the joy that lives within all pain. I will say to you what he said to me, that "I'll meet you at The Truth."

I love you. Today, and every day... even when I forget.

4 comments:

  1. equals "crying at the computer"

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  2. Everett 's field of yellow flowers.

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  3. Perhaps my favorite post ever Josh, thank you for your writing bro.

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