Twelve years ago I tried to answer a question I considered binary; yes or no, right? I had to think about it for a while but eventually said, yes. And then promptly forgot about it. Periodically the question popped into my head and mostly the answer was yes. When I felt 'no', eventually I changed my mind because I could always find something. Eventually.
Then there was the time of darkness; not too long ago. My thoughts on dark have always been lights out. Also terribly binary and for a while the absolute truth; an extended period of darkness is deadly, for mind, body, and soul.
By the time I moved to Vermont, I couldn't see my hands in front of my face. I asked the question a few weeks before I left New York. An immediate and definitive NO.
I needed to shed most of my possessions to make the transition work. By 'most of', I mean what I do still own doesn't quite fill a 5x10 storage space. At fifty-seven, that can be brutal but it'll strip you down to the truth of who you are. These days it feels like freedom, but sometimes when I visit the box I remember the hole in my gut. It's still there, but I notice it's filling up.
Holes in the gut: we think of them as wounds that need healing, wounds that need to fill in and close again and hope like hell we don't miss anything when it closes to avoid infection. From personal experience, that's a long term process.
I was sitting on the deck staring at my father's meadow and the mountains a month ago when the question popped back up. I slow coming with an answer, not because it wasn't there, because I didn't trust it.
What does a yes feel like? It feels like daybreak and then sunrise, but it's a slow process I don't necessarily notice unless I'm slapped upside the head with it. One or two upside the head slaps don't leave as much light behind as you'd think, but they do something you might miss if you're not looking.
The hole isn't repairing, it's filling, which means the periods of light outweigh the dark. That's a thing that might be missed but it doesn't mean it isn't happening. It is and it has been.
This photograph was taken on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. I put the fiddle down, tried a few other string instruments and then there was the banjo. 'You can't make a bad sound', she said. 'You make your own music, you make it for you.' She asked if I'd like to borrow it and at the end of my fiddle lesson I walked out with my hands full.
Before I left, she asked me to look up so she could take a picture. There are, in fact, several photographs but this is the one that matters right now.
The answer to the question is, YES. Yes, no doubt, no question. Maybe I could have come up with that strong an answer thirty-five years ago. Maybe. But maybe the last definitive YES was in 1969. That doesn't mean the years between 1969 and 2021 were dark, it just means I didn't feel it all the way to the center of my belly.
And there was the time of darkness when I would look around and see what should have created a yes, but was too numb to touch it.
THAT is the worst sort of darkness, the most horrible sort of no.
Yesterday I was sitting on my bed with that thing on my lap. I plucked and knocked a couple of strings, and there it was --- YES.
So ask the question, now and then because I think it's one of the most important pieces of information we can have as humans these days. It's a benchmark, it's a litmus test, our own personal North Star. Ask the question and think about it.
Is there joy in your life?
Why, yes, there most certainly is and if you're having trouble locating some, Mr. Cohen's got some advice:
Anthem - Leonard Cohen - 1992 (became particularly relevant in 2020)
"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"
...back to my editing...