Author’s note: These words I put together late at night and into the wee hours of the morning, after attending the community celebration for the life of Pava LaPere, Co-Founder and CEO of EcoMap. The celebration took place on September 27th at 6:30PM, at the Washington Monument, as a way to start cementing her legacy in that historic square she loved so much.
No matter how fast the pace of the world, we must remember that the human spirit was never meant to process trauma and loss within such a short time frame. We need the space and grace that does not always come easy. Some things require a slow burn. Solace for me has always come from music, literature, and poetry. So this is where we begin…
“Look, the trees
their own bodies
These words open the poem “In Backwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, a poet whose gift was to both simply and profoundly state what is. Her words I often seek in both times of beauty and peril. The poem goes on to talk about how we’re all connected, how one thing feeds into another, the life force ever flowing. And then it closes with…
“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”
This is the harsh reality of our world, how fleeting this life is.
How despite the stories and rationales we tell ourselves and build our lives upon, this world can still take from us in ways that are inconceivable. Ways that cut deep, wounds that don’t easily heal, scars that stay with us a lifetime.
“…and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” How easily these words are written that conclude this poem. Dear Mary, how exactly do we let it go? Can you share the cliff notes, please?
To love in this world is perhaps a true act of rebellion.
Because, to quote the poet Maggie Smith from her poem “Good Bones”, on the facts of life that she keeps from her children:
“for every bird, there is a stone thrown at a bird.”
So to love is to go against the grain and insurmountable odds. It is to have hope when others have none, and to create what many cannot see. It’s a special kind of alchemy, to delight in this life and enjoy it, and in fleeting moments forget that it can just as easily slip through our fingers. To be gone with the wind. Dust returning to dust.
Despite all our plans and hopes and dreams and preparedness or lack there of, what and who we love can leave us in such devastating ways. The only thing constant is the changing landscape of our collective journey. And we are told to let it go. Just when I want so much to tighten my grip, we are told to let it go.
How can someone who loved to watch the city come to life each morning… Someone who rose each day with a fire in her belly and light in her eyes… how can she not be here to see the next sunrise? Why does she not have ten thousand more sunrises? Does she now become the sun?
And maybe the most unsettling part of this tragic end of a story, is that this could have been any one of us, our eyes ever hopeful and filled with such purpose and promise, swallowed by the city we pour our hearts into. Swallowed by the world.
If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?
Ask the other trees. We hear you. We see you. We love you and hold you in our spirit.
Maybe the letting go, the loosening of my fingers, the opening of my palm, is to let a spirit transcend. Is to let something break into a million little pieces. Is to let go of the ending I imagined for the one we got. Oh, how I wish I could turn back time, but all we have is the next step and the path forward. All we have is this day, and if we’re lucky, the next one too.
In the book The Fault in Our Stars, the young terminally ill leading character says:
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities … There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbound set. But […] my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity.”
So maybe it’s all about perspective. In that some infinities only look bigger than others. And some infinities that seem very small are worth just as much as infinities ten times their size. Truthfully we all walk a long road, and cannot stay.
And to quote again from “Good Bones”, where she takes on the persona of a realtor showing a home that has maybe seen better days, but a home with good bones nonetheless. As a last hopeful plea:
“…this place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.”
Love, despite the pain, and there is sometimes so much pain, is still worth it.