‘Loss plays us like a violin, never free
of its rub. It simply lessens its intensity
till only the one closets to what was lost
can hear it. If you haven’t lost something
or someone, this will seem sad, even frightening.
But after a century of heart-time, I
went to the immortals who envy us our ability to feel
They looked at me with their longing to be human.
And the saddest among them took my
hand and said, “I would give eternity to
live with what you’re given, and to feel
what is opened by what is taken away.’
“It was a curious thing. Robert had filled the bathtub and put the fish in the tub so he could clean their tank. After he’d scrubbed the film from the small walls of their make-believe deep, he went to retrieve them.
He was astonished to find that, though they had the entire tub to swim in, they were huddled in a small area the size of their tank. There was nothing to contain them, nothing holding them back. Why wouldn’t they dart about freely? What had life in the talk done to their natural ability to swim?
It makes me wonder now, in middle age, if being spontaneous and kind and curious are all parts of our natural ability to swim. Each time I hesitate to do the unplanned or unexpected, or hesitate to reach and help another, or hesitate to inquire into something I know nothing about; each time I ignore the impulse to run in the rain or to call you up just to say I love you–I wonder, am I turning on myself, swimming safely in the middle of the tub?”