Cancer has slowed me down. And slowness has opened my eyes and sat me down. Sometimes there has been little beauty in this forced slowing of both body and mind–the crumbling finger nails, the missing eyebrows–but sometimes, the slowing has made space to see so much. And I want more of it, whether it’s the words on a card from a friend, the intricate embroidery on a pillow case, a play that expands your view, the translucence of citrus peel being candied, or the sunlight in the cemetery on my regular (slow) walks.
All of a sudden I am also struggling with beauty and how I perceive myself in this world. Losing the hair on my head did not phase me but losing my eyebrows in these last few weeks has rocked me. I feel like I actually look sick just as I’ve finished chemo and started to feel more like myself again. This tension is hard and I think, “what of it?, what does it matter?” but in this very moment it seems to matter. So I turn to other beauty; the poems below, the feeling of sunlight on my face right this minute, to the abundance of love in this world, despite all the despair and darkness and turmoil and I am alright.
Sleeping in the Forest
By Mary Oliver
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.