Monday, March 10, 2008

Growing pains

Last year, I spent a lot of time with my Auntie Jane. She had had breast cancer about five years ago, and it metastasized into her liver. The chemo really did slow down the rate of growth of the tumours. It also gave her peripheral neuropathy, and she progressively lost feeling in her feet and hands in the months before her death. She couldn’t walk, hold a fork sometimes, turn pages in her book. She couldn’t read her Bible, because she’d tear the pages as she tried to turn them.

When she was still able to read, she borrowed a book from her oldest sister, my other aunt. One day last May she asked me to copy a poem out of the book, and e-mail it to her daughter, who lives two thousand miles away. I guess this is the right place to say, we have a family of compulsive gardeners. The book she found this poem in is called "The Shape of a Year", by Jean Hersey. I believe it was published in the mid-1970’s.

The seed that is to grow
must lose itself as seed;

And they that creep
may graduate through
chrysalis to wings.

Wilt thou then, O mortal,
cling to husks which
falsely seem to you
the self?

-- Wu Ming Fu
12th century poet and philosopher

And the frontispiece of the book has this:

If your true nature
has the creative force of Nature itself,
wherever you go
you will see all things
as fishes leaping
and wild geese flying,

-- Zen philosophy

Last year, on April 15th, I moved out of the place I’d lived in for 12 years with my husband and our adult son, into a room. It’s a university neighbourhood – the houses almost all have basement apartments, 3 bedrooms, share the kitchen and bath. I don’t have roommates and I love the family upstairs. And, I’m a grad student. A friend in London, England told me on the weekend, all his daffodils are blooming. I cried. I miss my garden.

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