“Listen, This Day is MAGIC,” She Said: Everyday Magic, Day 827

“Listen, this day is MAGIC and I’m not kidding,” Kelley Hunt wrote today on Facebook, and I knew at once the truth of such moments.

It helped that I’m tunneling out of one of those bad colds that makes a gal feel like she’s been lost in the underworld with only some chicken soup, a lot of over-the-counter meds, and old movies of a young Brad Pitt fly-fishing in Montana (which isn’t a bad way to be lost). It also helped that the first phone call of the day was from one of my dearest and oldest friends who, that several projects I’m involved in are going remarkably well, and that the bath was the hot and coffee was strong.

Yet what Kelley wrote spoke to me not just about this day. Everyday, without cliche-ing the point, is magic in its would-be form, kind of like what I describe poems as for students: those little capsules you drop into water so they can expand into a sponge animal you couldn’t have anticipated. In a sense, every day given to us is its own poem: something we can open our wide perception and soften our big heart toward to find what’s beyond the obvious, hear the rhythm of the life force in our most local realms, and see image after image of reality in its singular, moment-by-moment originality. It takes a tilting of the head, willingness to let go of what we think the world is to connect with what actually is, and, most of all, gratitude.

I don’t say this lightly. It’s been a helluva fall with many deaths, lots of funerals, sad stretches of news, heart-breaking wreckage of the world in Ferguson, Syria, Liberia and other points, and sometimes, anguish in watching our beloveds suffer. Because of how fragile we are, how unpredictable life is, how difficult the journey and how strange the changes that insert themselves in our days, the gratitude to feel the magic of a moment, any moment, matters more. It helps us see in the dark, and as William Stafford writes, “It will take you into/ yourself and bless you and keep you.” So here’s to listening to the day and its magic even and especially when it’s hard to hear beyond what hurts.

For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid

There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot—air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.

~ William Stafford

Astonished By Your Support: Everyday Magic, Day 442

When I launched the campaign to raise funds for the poet laureate of Kansas program, I was hoping we could reach a benchmark goal of $1,500 toward the $5,000 total for the program. Within a month, we surpassed that $5,000 (the extra will pay processing fees and for a van’s worth of gas to and from Western Kansas this weekend for the Begin Again tour).

What can I say? I’m astonished, moved, delighted and yet not so completely surprised because in visiting with Kansans and people who support our state beyond our borders I’ve continually seen how much we believe in the power of the arts. More specifically, we know about the power of words, and how what we read and write, alone and together, can change our lives.

I share this small poem I wrote and sent to contributors to remind myself of all the world gives us, all the time, and to thank everyone who helped.

In Gratitude

The wind thanks you, unfurling over the worn horizon

so it can billow into night. The stars too, whether talismans

of light dying or just being born, behind the small birds

arriving or staying behind, who balance gratefully

on thin branches of the coming winter. The squirrel

in the field, the hidden fox, the mammals under and over

ground, find a way out of no way. The world is composed,

is composing itself, anew even in a narrow time: flashes

of red on a gray day just before the red-winged blackbird

folds back in silhouette. Whatever act of kindness flies

lands in the heart of a moment, a seasonal marker

to illuminate why we live, a song of gratitude.

Life Is Going To Get Us: On Close Calls & Gratitude: Everyday Magic, Day 361

In the past few days, I’ve heard from two friends who lost close friends, another diagnosed with cancer, several facing financial despair and one in great physical pain. Then I woke up this morning to several friends’ postings on facebook about gratitude, not the kind of mild satisfaction at getting a check in the mail, but gratitude rooted in vast appreciation and understanding of what it means to be alive against the backdrop of close calls.

When I was going through chemo and bouts of fear storms about mortality, I had a realization that stayed with me: surviving anything means being around to survive or not survive another. Life is going to get us, one way or another whoever we are, whatever dark leafy greens we do or don’t eat, and whatever we believe: our beloveds will endure hardship, pain and eventually die, and so will we.

Yet at the same time, life is going to “get” us: show us who we really are stripped clean from our stories of why we are this way or that. Even the “this way or that” will fall away in a moment: sitting in a doctor’s office, trying to take in a surprisingly diagnosis; answering the phone to discover an old drinking buddy and sweet conspirator has died; running into someone we haven’t seen in decades and who only knows us long before however we clothed and accessorized our identity.

That moment, one that comes more often for me after rounding the half-way point of what I hope will be a long life, when a close call cleanses us free of any illusions is also a moment to land in gratitude. Not to say there’s not sufficient or overwhelming pain, grief, loss, betrayal, anger and despair also, but being shaken alive so often shakes people into gratitude for this life. I think of funerals where I hear, “At least she’s not in pain anymore,” or car accidents when so often the talk is, “We were so lucky to be hit on this side of the car instead of that side.” I think of the writing groups I lead for people with serious illness who, even when facing years ahead with Parkinson’s or very limited years with late diagnosis cancer, the writing and talk is both “Life sucks” and “I’m lucky to be alive.”

I remember especially a woman from an advanced metastatic disease group I facilitated last summer. She had late-stage pancreatic cancer, and wrote about how thrilled she was that her young children could now ride their bikes on their own to the mailbox and back, down their long driveway. She was happy because that showed her they would be able to get around some after she was gone which, sadly, came to pass within months. While I doubt her children will ever be grateful their mom died, I hope they can feel some of what she felt: a gratitude for life cycling itself forward.

It seems the flurry of close calls and losses comes in waves, and many of my friends are riding such a wave now. While there aren’t words to made up for whatever is gone, whoever has died or however the next medical scan turns out, I hope we can all get the gratitude on the backside of the close calls, which opens our tender, breaking hearts to the song of life.