starlings--Mark Hearld

Underwear, Avocado, and Being Loved Inside the Hunger and the Mess


The year I was 43,  maybe even this year, I swear I stained half our wardrobe. You could blame the fact that I still cooked most of Mani’s meals at that time, and most of Mani’s meals at that time were cooked in copious amounts of butter or ghee. You could, but the truth was that I bought an adorable apron with gnomes on it for the express purpose of saving our clothes from ruin, and for all the stained tank-tops and t-shirts we’d had to toss in the trash, I had only myself to blame.

Today I read a response by Rebecca Solnit to someone who’d left a comment, referring to climate change, that read: “We have only ourselves to blame.” She wrote, “Who is we, and what good is blame?”

So, it didn’t matter whose fault it was that I kept splattering and wasting our wardrobe with grease (though clearly it was mine). What mattered was that she didn’t get angry and I didn’t grow fearful of her becoming angry, and this, in a nutshell, characterized our entire relationship.

One day, maybe even today, on our way home from her having a procedure at Cooley Dickinson, the hospital in nearby Northampton, we stopped for me to zip into Whole Foods to pick up a few things. I was shaky with hunger; in feeding Mani and my kids and due to stubborn, old habits, I wasn’t always so on top of feeding myself.

I took a hand basket and ventured into the produce section, selecting one ripe heirloom tomato, a bunch of fragrant, fresh basil, and a perfectly ripe avocado for myself, three bunches of organic broccoli, a bag each of local yellow squash and zucchini, and a bag of organic gold potatoes for her. As I walked past the antipasto bar, I spontaneously decided to fill a small plastic container with fresh mozzarella to eat with the tomato and basil rather than spending more money on a pre-made sandwich.

As I lifted the small circles of cheese onto a serving spoon, olive oil flew onto my dress in a vertical line, from the midpoint to the hem. I immediately heard a pang of self-criticism in my head. Damn! Really, Jena?

After we got home, I stripped off the dress and doused the splotches with detergent, hoping I’d caught it in time. I threw on a t-shirt, forgetting to remove my sandals. then put away the  groceries and proceeded to assemble my sandwich: Whole wheat pita, sliced mozzarella, thick slices of heirloom tomato, half of the avocado, salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a heap of fresh basil. I clapped it all together and sat down on a green kitchen chair to eat.

Mani had just finished a bowl of Rice Chex and was talking to me cheerfully about something I forget now. I was ravenous and mostly focused on my food and how quickly I could consume it before a 4;00pm coaching call. And that’s when it happened.

It’s in the little things we see love in its purest form.

“You have avocado on your cheek,” Mani pointed out, raising her hand to her own face to mirror mine. Her eyes filled with a look I can only describe as adoring. There I was, devouring a falling-apart sandwich in a hurry in my underwear, the stained dress in a delicate cycle in the adjacent pantry, and my wife was suddenly overcome with love for me. We laughed about it, recognizing both the ridiculousness and preciousness of the moment, so exquisitely ordinary and belonging to us alone.

Later, after I’d finished eating, I got on the phone. “I’m in my car eating a pop tart and drinking coffee,” said my wonderful client. “I’m in my house in my underwear and a t-shirt and I just wiped avocado off my face,” I replied. We laughed and went on to talk for an hour about writing and real life, measuring up and what bullshit it is, what courage feels like, and the oppressiveness of trying to keep up with the idea of what you think your life (or writing, for that matter) “should” look like.

This is the life I want, where we can splatter butter, ruin outfits, drive each other to the hospital, laugh, and listen. I want the life where I tell you I’m sitting here in my underwear waiting to see if the stains come out, and where you tell me you’re eating a pop tart and your heart is broken or healing.

Give me this life where I don’t cringe at the sight of my own flesh or wish I were someone else, and where I am not only tolerated but loved most of all, most adored, in my hunger, in my mess, in my half-naked sandal-wearing ruined beauty.

If you get lost in a fog of fantasy or sucked into fear that your ordinary life isn’t interesting enough, send me a picture, send me a message, send me a sign — and I will return yours with one of mine. We can remind each other to laugh.

There is no one to blame for how lovable you are, except whatever name you give to the mystery that gave you to this human form, gave you a body to feed and clothe, and gave you this love, where you learned to truly forgive yourself for being all-the-way human.

* After the first line of Anne’s Sextons’s poem, Courage: “It is in the small things we see it”

starlings--Mark Hearld

No Matter What

This stellar swarm is M80 (NGC 6093), one of the densest of the 147 known globular star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. Located about 28,000 light-years from Earth, M80 contains hundreds of thousands of stars, all held together by their mutual gravitational attraction. Globular clusters are particularly useful for studying stellar evolution, since all of the stars in the cluster have the same age (about 15 billion years), but cover a range of stellar masses. Every star visible in this image is either more highly evolved than, or in a few rare cases more massive than, our own Sun. Especially obvious are the bright red giants, which are stars similar to the Sun in mass that are nearing the ends of their lives.
This stellar swarm is M80 (NGC 6093), one of the densest of the 147 known globular star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. Located about 28,000 light-years from Earth, M80 contains hundreds of thousands of stars, all held together by their mutual gravitational attraction. Globular clusters are particularly useful for studying stellar evolution, since all of the stars in the cluster have the same age (about 15 billion years), but cover a range of stellar masses. Every star visible in this image is either more highly evolved than, or in a few rare cases more massive than, our own Sun. Especially obvious are the bright red giants, which are stars similar to the Sun in mass that are nearing the ends of their lives.

No matter where you are tonight. No matter what you’re going through.

No matter how busy or bored, confused or tired, pissed off or content.

No matter if you’re grieving or celebrating, wound up or unwinding,
healing or crumbling, discovering or forgetting
or sitting in that place where these meet that has no name.

No matter if you’re hungry, full,
or consumed by some unspoken craving.

No matter if you’re satisfied or searching.

No matter if you’re scared or in denial or facing the facts.

No matter if you’re home or away,
here, there or neither here nor there.

No matter if you’re alone or surrounded, or surrounded yet alone.

No matter if you’re playing games on your phone or watching Netflix
or reading a book or trying to stay awake at work
or tucking kids in or wishing you were somewhere else
or unable to sleep or deep in a dream.

No matter what, I am so glad that we get to be here on the planet at the same time. I mean, what are the odds?

Billions of years, billions of people. And here we are. Here we are.

#biglove

starlings--Mark Hearld

For My Wife Who Keeps it Simple

Sky
Sometimes you want to read just the right poem for the end of the week but you look and look and none of the poems are that poem so you realize you have to go and write your own end-of-week poem.

When I am cranky and hormonal
your vacation photos make me jealous
and then I feel like a shmuck
because I’m sitting here
in my comfortable home
while the washer and dryer spin.

When I am fried and spent
your politics make me spout off
reminding me of people I don’t like
being around who never stop talking
and make you wonder when on earth
the evening will be late enough
to make a graceful exit home.

When I am dripping wet with pond water
and the sun hasn’t yet gone down
but the day is still sticky
with the unconsummated threat of rain
and I see you on the beach
I focus on my blue towel
and rub the sand from between my toes
so as not to have to say hello.

When I admit things that make me human
that seem ugly and even despicable
and then I finally have that cry
the quaking one I waited all week for
she still loves me and I am amazed.

“Thank you for carrying me,”
she says, and I look at her
all of my disbelief melting
into the relief of the reception
so clear between us,
like a radio station
with DJs whose voices
make me want to turn it up
and drive all night,
one hand on the wheel
and the other on her thigh
till we get to some all-night dive and in this part
of the fantasy that has taken over the poem
she can order anything she wants
from that giant trifold menu.

We get margaritas and cheese fries
then lie on the warm hood of the car,
fingers interlocked and stars falling
over our heads like the rain we needed
that never came
and I forget why I was such a martyr
and I forget why I ever felt like crying
and we turn our heads
knowing it’s a movie moment
crack a smile
lips touching
and decide to stay like this — wait for it —
forever.