There are modes of living that seem almost impossible to me. That tree, for example – how long did it grow while impaled on the iron fence? In its death it becomes an ode to the defiance of gravity, of enduring despite. But in its stability there is also instability. I understand the latter. It’s stability which seems an inaccessible grace for me. Perhaps for many of my generation.
I am thinking of my ongoing job search. I think of the migration to the states and back again. Before that, to Australia and back again. Continents blur. Weather and photographs and study and marriage and love and bedbugs and driving in terrifying snowstorms and fretting about the rent and the utilities, the pacing through hot streets and under dismal bridges searching, going about my day. The knowledge that the next five years may prove to be just the same.
The economy is ailing. The recovery is jobless. A flicker of breath at the lips. Chance seems to rule the day. May you live in interesting times. The unstable market, the stalls folding one after another. Those remaining grasp their goods to their chest, eyeing me as I walk by.
Some people hunker down, collude, gain. Other people march and riot. Some things improve, others continue to deteriorate slowly, secretively, like old wallpaper succumbing to spores.
There is, among this, a different kind of grace to hold us together in this period of aftermath. I am not thinking of The Tree of Life, which I haven’t seen – the way of nature, the way of grace – why would there be such a dichotomy? I’m thinking of faith in moments. I’m thinking of the stilled sky at dusk. Of the way that woman in the Pina Colada stand has closed her eyes, is holding the city crowds back.
There is grace in the quiet operatic singing I hear from my upstairs neighbour, normally so chaotic (a bedsheet she has hung out of the window to dry after a flood, still there four days later).
There is grace in the hand that helps you up. In solidarity with those who need it most, I think even if you cannot help directly, there is grace in thinking of them. Of being always humane. Of reading to learn your humanity and maintaining conscientious engagement with the world. Of applying this where you can, small amounts of grace that will never run out in the way of money. More like daylight, ebbing and flowing with what you can give, if you are too depleted and need retreat and rest.
There is grace in getting through despair. Not denying it. Not shuffling sorrow and disappointment under the rug. In tholing them. In realistic optimism. In siting on the sofa, looking at your hands as they age in front of you.
In trust. In doubt. In the smell of coffee, even if you can no longer drink it. The bloom of bread rising in the oven, though you can no longer eat it, because your stomach has shrunk or grown weak.
In the secular and sacred moments, when the sun comes out, when the wind blows the hair about you, and the air is full of water molecules a billion years old.
There is grace in never giving up.