"Driven!", or, "You can’t rest until you know what you should have done!" says Nancy. Yet these are the sorts of phrases that may govern us unreasonably. The one is creatively induced. The other is guilt. That ‘should have’ phrase is the catcher. It sets up defense; suggests one is insufficient. Yet you or I can only bring to every and any situation the sum total of who are in the very moment of our doing any one thing. Of course we ‘might’ have done differently were we more lucid, more sober, more mature, more insightful. It is an easy excuse. But we were really not more sufficient unto ourselves at the time, despite even knowing more-better. Thing is: Do not accept what you yourself have done and how can you possibly accept what another does? Forgiveness does not condone, it does not forget; it takes away the self deprecating attitude of recrimination or hate or "I'm being stupid" that might attend the wrongdoer. As such, we learn from each other. And we go easy on ourselves, on each other, though we be in the thick of decisions to make.
As I type it is after 9:00 pm. M’Lady at 90 is doing the ironing. She stands at the board in the kitchen, adjoining my room, and plonks down the iron and sets sharp the creases, takes out the wrinkles. She wants her clothes neat and tidy, the house kept presentable and clean, not for others, but for herself! And it takes a great deal of effort and care. But at 90 she keeps going. To the left of my desk my bed is turned down, the table lamp turned on, the blind pulled down. I've been here two weeks and three days, and never caught her at it. “Well, it’s always done like that in the best hotels,” she laughs, when I thank her. Meals are always (!) served along with five vegetables. It’s a rule. She established it with her children and does everything she can never to waver. Order, decorum, dignity. Sundays she does the laundry. No dryer! It all goes on the line. And then she folds and hangs and sorts and gets everything ready for the week. This evening she made her extensive list for the grocery shopping excursion she gets taken on by Home Care on Wednesdays. And she posts off mail. She writes cheques, pays the bills, and today wrangles with the air-conditioning man about the excess water dripping from the outside outlet. This is a woman who has things under control. But you’d hardly know it; it is done with a feminine delicacy and grace of tone, a lightness of step and a pleasantness of demeanour, and the days dwindle down not so much to a precious few, but acquire the longevity of an altogether comforting continuance.
The intensity of the Memoir project persists unabated. Photos are taken off the wall, freed from their frames, scanned, put back together, glass cleaned, and re-hung. She brings each to me with a certain triumph! The pace at which she lives is indelible. It dances in the mind. It stirs at the languid inclinations of the unproductive, and it bolsters and affirms. But even she will get weary, and break for a cup of tea.
Two of my favorite analogies persist. The man who throws a single starfish back into the ocean from the hundreds left stranded by the tide; “makes a difference to that one!” The monk who with full care picks just the right pebble, colored pebble after coloured pebble, and places it in the sand picture, only to wipe the slate clean no sooner than it is complete: “One lives in this precise moment; and now....”
“Sink into it,” a friend wrote. He speaks of the time I have here. And with each thing I do I feel more and more that I come to protect, preserve, and honour not only that which is past, but that which is present. And as we clean each artifact, scan, photograph, codify, label and sort it out before putting it possibly to its final rest, there is a sense of leaving things not just as one found them, but leaving each more-better.