Like a Labyrinth

Sometimes life, like a labyrinth I wrote almost a year ago.
I think that I applied to the Grennon poetry workshop to see if I’m good enough to get in. I got in. Now I’m struggling to keep up. Not that I’m not good enough; rather my attentions are elsewhere. I’m a caregiver. I’m remembering today an art exhibit I went to back in September of 2000, when my life was my own and caregiving was absolutely not an option I would consider.
The exhibitor was Gail Nadeau, and her works were photographic enlargements of collages that she and her (dying from Alzheimer’s) mother had put together during the mother’s final days. It was called “From Artist to Caregiver: Holding the Edges Together.”
This is one of their collages, which I scanned from a postcard reproduction that I picked up at the exhibit. I was drawn to it because it’s called “Saffron’s Garden,” and the cat in it is a replica of my first cat, whose name was Saffron — you know, like in Mellow Yellow.
I made a point of talking to the artist, who was there at the opening reception. She talked of how she had given up three years of her life to help her mother through the most difficult time of both their lives. It seemed to me that she didn’t give up much as an artist, because what she did was immerse herself in an experience that she transformed into the most moving and awe-some art.
Now, in one sense, that’s a selfish way to look at it. In another, it’s a way to remind myself that life is what you make it.
I was the only one in Grennon’s workshop who didn’t really do the assignment as assigned. The good part was that, in my private session with him, he helped me begin revising the poem I’ve been having trouble with. It’s now transforming itself into three related poems. More on that another time.
The other good news is that, on my way into the building, I noticed a flyer announcing a presentation/book signing by John Horgan, science writer and author of Rational Mysticism. Now, that’s a title that catches my interest. He will be on campus on Monday, May 3. Maybe I can make it.
In the meanwhile, I go and get the book from the library. A blurb on the back cover says “A thought-provoking pilgrimage to the growing interface of science and spirituality…” I start reading the book and am hooked. It’s not that he gives any answers. There are no answers. What he does is remind me that it’s the transformative power of the journey that’s the point. Awesomeness emerges from going deep and being open to the experience of the moment.
Last night I watched an episode of “Without a Trace,” that I had taped in which one of the characters finds out his father (with whom he has the same kind of relationship that I often have with my mom) is slipping into Alzheimer’s.
There seem to be messages here for me in all of this. The messages I often and otherwise get from the world around me translate into something that seem to say ” be more selfish…put your mother aside and live your life…”
I remind myself of Nadeau’s choice and the results. I absorb Hogan’s reflections on what is truly “awe-some” about life.
My labyrinth. My path. My journey. My choice. Who knows that marvels might result?
UPDATE: Hah! So I go for a walk in the beautiful park next to my building and notice that there are a bunch of guys putting in dozens and dozens of 6 foot high spruce in some kind of pattern. “That’s a lot of trees. What’s that going to be?” I ask. “A maze,” he says, “146 trees and a quiet place to sit in the middle.” Now, a maze is a configuration meant to confuse; you can get lost in a maze. I doubt if they’d put a maze in a park where there are lots of little kids running around. But a labyrinth?? I’ll be it’s a labyrinth — which leads to a center, and in and out of which there is only one way. How about that for meaningful coincidence?

3 thoughts on “Like a Labyrinth

  1. I think it remarkable that in this point in our evolution, we still have any choices left we can make regarding our own lives. What is Awesome to me is that you still care for you mother, through the fatiguing battle of wills. I saw that WAT episode with Martin Landau and thought of you, and tried to peer, long distance, into your tired face, registering possible expressions, reactions to rude behavior for which there is no culpability… The end scene, the tired and fearful resignation, as they pick up their sections of the newspaper, trying to construct an old reality around a new, fragile world…
    I thought of you and your journey.

  2. Well, in truth, my mom at her worst (so far) has been not nearly as surly as Martin Landau’s character. But the feel of the dynamic is often there. Interestingly enough, I came to the same approach as LaPaglia — as you said so well: “trying to construct an old reality around a new, fragile world.”

  3. I came across this piece while searching the internet for something. I am glad my work had a positive effect on someone’s life. That is the moost we can hope for as artists. How are you and your Mother? Are you holding your edges together? I will be thinking of you. gail nadeau

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