Maybe Enough


The hummingbirds have discovered the bird feeder. For weeks it hung outside the kitchen window, forlorn and ignored, until very suddenly the liquid was gone and we needed to refill it. Today, I stepped outside to put some eggshells in the compost bucket and looked up to see two hummingbirds hovering nearby, trying to gauge whether it was worth the risk of coming within arm’s length to get to the feeder. I held very still. They evidently decided that this was a good sign and fluttered in for a drink. A third one approached, sticking out his threadlike tongue like a dog panting with anticipation as he waited for one of the feeding holes to become available. Through the course of the day they came in fours and fives: zipping back and forth, utterly unconcerned about the humans watching them through the window. Doing the dishes suddenly became a lot more entertaining. In the course of a single day they’ve consumed about a fifth of the volume of syrup in it: at this rate we may need to refill it by Wednesday.

In the afternoon the weather turned dark and rainy and a headache settled over me while we were out running errands. I came home and curled up on the bed for an attempt at a nap. A cat came to join me, but struggled to get comfortable and would get up to turn in a circle every few minutes preventing me from fully falling asleep. 

At last I got up and forced myself to go out for a run. The weather had cleared but was still cool and it would have been so much easier just to stay inside and relax. My iPod was nearly out of charge so I selected some of the longest songs that I had: medleys of film themes by John Williams, and just let them play.

As I made it my turning point, I was listening to the medley of themes from E.T. which always makes me think of my late professor Kenny Hall. As I ran, I wondered where he was and whether there was an afterlife or a god or whether it was only the here and now upon which our entire lives find meaning. Here I was, literally running in a circle: going out and turning around to retrace my steps to go home without going anywhere. Was it a waste? I don’t consider myself to be an especially religious person: I’m somewhere between a rational agnostic and a spiritual atheist. I don’t believe in god, per se, but I believe in the possibility of a higher power: I believe that I cannot know all things and that in the places between the unknown and unknowable there is a beautiful doubt where god could exist. Somehow, as I thought this, the idea opened some deep part of me and I was suddenly overcome with a mighty emotion that I could only describe as agape- not the thin, elegant spiritualism of doves and light, but a tide of feeling so strong that I started to cry because there was nothing else I could do. I became aware that I was a part of something so huge and complex that I was experiencing the tiniest pinprick of it and it was surging up in me until I was sobbing as I ran: Loud and ugly, glad that no one was around to see or hear me. I kept running, somehow utterly pain free, somehow not struggling for breath. I suddenly realized how painful it is to be loved- we think of love as comforting and pleasurable, but it is deeply painful too: to know that you exist with such meaning and worth. I kept looking to the luminous sky in the west, still radiant with the setting sun, marveling at how much beauty there was in this world that I was a part of. I was reminded that not every journey has to go into unexplored places to be meaningful: that sometimes it is just to go out into the world for the sake of strengthening our bodies and seeing the world- and that at the end will always be home. 

The sobbing only lasted about a half a mile. For the rest of the run I felt a sense of calm after the onrush, although it is coming back to me with nearly equal intensity as I write this. For my recent feelings of frustration and directionlessness, this felt like a response, if not an answer, from whatever power runs the clockwork behind my life. I still don’t know my way or my worth, but I know I’m not nothing. I know the world isn’t empty. I know that at the end of it all I will find my way home. And maybe that’s enough.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on February 12, 2017.

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