This and This
The Gracie Stories, part 9
She holds her leg up when I retrieve her from the Italiano dog pen next to my palatial estate, just as she used to when she was little and about to launch after a rabbi or a rabbit or a squirrel in the yard. Rabbits are bunnies after they cease being charming, rabbis generally are heavy of tongue and expositors of conventional wisdom and entered this story with a mistake of the keyboard, squirrels for international readers are large rodents that look cute but aren’t.
In Hebrew squirrels are sna-eem; from a root that signifies they are hated once you get to know them. They make their homes in attics and eat all the wires of the house until the house short circuits. Then they take over with legions of co-animalists who await the darkness. It is unknown as of this writing where they sleep at night. They live wherever one lets them. I had a neighbor once who shot them with what used to be called a squirrel rifle; he has been gone for years and what happened to him I hesitate to imagine.
Now and again I see Gracie return to a posture of her youth, just as I remember my mom and grandmother did in their old age when recent memories eluded them but a person place or thing long buried in the past rose as if it were present in front of them. Gracie doesn’t see and she doesn’t hear but one of the wild orange cats of the neighborhood still gets a rise out of her now and again and the tensing of muscles as if she were about to chase after as she once did. I love this and find it not sad exactly but that word I learned in Portuguese from the Italian writer Tabucci who passed away last week: saudade, as in nostalgia, wistfulness, a yearning for what is lost, evanescent and perhaps unattainable.
I am nodding to my own Portuguese Jewish pause in our exilic journey to the New World by acknowledging an emotion that overcomes many others in my feeling pack; saudade what my friend the Lily the Queen reminds me has an approximate in Hebrew: er-gah, with an ayin.
It is Sunday second day of Passover and I am sitting on the porch with Gracie pacing. I just finished with a student and Gracie ate a meat dog jerky and seems almost oblivious to the surroundings but I notice the release of heat in the air brings her some extra energy. It is cool today. She paces and looks better than yesterday.
She has had a way of reviving through the last several years so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised though it is clear how uncertain she is on her legs. I have learned to accompany her up and down the steps with just my hand on her collar and this seems to help; when I am impatient I carry her up the stairs but I don’t really have to right now. I yield to my own impatience and I know this is the way with all care-givers (see nomen professionalis in a previous entry) whether taking care of old mommas or old doggies. Patience. Relax into patience.
I mentioned in an earlier post how deep my meditations have been with the group I have been sitting with, that continues and I am sure the relation with a deepening meditation practice and a deeper well of patience in my care-taking are joined in the geometry of the giving self when self recedes and giving ascends.
Last night we offered up a second seder for the folks at the Covenent House. There was a woman sitting right near me who just celebrated her hundredth birthday. She told me she couldn’t see well enough to read the Haggadah and I didn’t know how closely she was listening.
During the part of the Haggadah when we discussed the Wandering Aramean section, I am always struck by the telegraphic notion of bringing the first fruits to the Kohen, after all that to take a little something of what you have grown to the priest, give it to him, then tell him your whole complex story, you and your ancestors, in a single paragraph. “My father was a wandering Aramean. . .” etc., one paragraph what a skill it is to express oneself that way. I could talk for two days straight and not express my tale, this in a paragraph. Hemingway would struggle with it but not Homer and not the little Jew who brought some vegetables and fruits to the High Priest after having walked out of Egypt through the Wilderness and into the Land and grown something to survive on.
Just after the Wandering Aramean segment, the one hundred year old lady who reminded me of my own Grandma Ida, my Daddy’s mother long ago passed, took a plate of goodies and mounted her walker and told me she had to leave but not before she stopped on her way out to whisper to me her story, a hundred years of it, in a paragraph.
Haggadah means a telling, the root is n-g-d: to be against, set against, this and that to tell by means of this and that, but there is no that. It’s always this and this.