I perch on that edge, jump back and forth across the line, ignore it, bow to it. Some days I refuse to recognize possibility, let inertia carry me like a raft on the Pacific tides, beyond sight of land.
Last night I could not sleep. Instead of counting sheep or getting out of bed for a glass of warm milk and a game of solitaire or even arguing with a Higher Power which I could not describe coherently if my life depended on it, and it does, I borrowed a long-time friend’s metaphor and listened when the vulture flew in and perched on the foot of my bed, for a chat.
The vulture has a firm purchase on negativity, knows my weak spots and loves to talk. Earlier in the evening my daughter and I had been discussing a young person who a couple years ago had the world in the palm of his hand. Today he is sitting in jail, a heroin addict.
I was easy pickings for the vulture which zeroed in on my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness for the young man and his family.
Next he attacked my fears of diminishing economic reserves. A flat and empty pocketbook is a frightening thing.
Once the vulture had me hopeless, helpless and broke, it conducted, without medical training or license, a body scan. It found every pain, every weak muscle and aching joint and concluded that I must be dying of a rare and yet unnamed disease.
Hopeless, helpless, broke and nearly dead. Oh, but the bone-picking beast is not finished. “Not only that,” the vulture concluded, “you are isolated in a strange land, unable to speak fluently, surrounded by scorpions, and really should have your head examined.”
Now I am hopeless, helpless, broke, dying, friendless, scared and insane. The vulture nodded, winked, flew away and left me to deal with my inadequacies. Somewhere around 4:30 a.m ., I fell asleep out of self-defense.
Morning rolls around. I have my routine. I take my mug of coffee and my pow-wow chair to sit outside my front door in the shade. I enjoy perfect solitude even though I live in the city only a block and a half from the beach. Solitude is a gift in which I revel. In solitude I find my truth. I lose myself in the slate of turquoise sky.
Across the street on my left towers a large office building, something to do with administration of area agriculture. Every morning many people walk by on their way to work. A few recognize me as part of their daily scene and greet me. “Buenos dias. Como esta?” We smile, make eye contact, a small connection.
Two doves, a half dozen sparrows and a pair of gold finches play around my feet. They show up every morning, hoping for a crumb of bread. This morning the moon still hangs visible in the sky at 10:30.
Hopeless and helpless? Yes, when a friend or family member becomes prey to any addiction, I am powerless. There is nothing I can do but continue to love, to care. I have friends who have crawled through the pit of addictions and walked out the other side, to live a happy and healthy life. I have hope.
Broke? Today, I have food and shelter. I can buy more food and pay my rent tomorrow. I’m not yet reduced to living in a cardboard refrigerator box under the bridge. Today, I am rich.
Despite contrary words from the vulture of the night, this morning I’m still alive. I have friends all over the world. I’m not afraid of life or change or surprises the day might reveal.
Insane? Crazy in love with life, with people, with the land wherever I am. Certainly, I cannot deny that life brings pain and sorrows, disappointment and loss. The same life brings beauty and creativity, joy and love and healing. Who am I to judge? Will I still worry? Will my pet vulture return? Of course. I’ll invite it in for another sleepless night of morbid chit-chat. I am human, not some plaster saint.
This morning my raft of possibility bobs gently on the ocean of what is. Today the sun and moon share the morning sky. How beautiful is that.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She found, upon her return, that things are a little different. Now, she's headed on a new journey. She has moved to Mexico. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)