In the library last week I spotted a book of Mary Oliver’s poems with which I was not familiar. I picked it up, opened it randomly, and found this poem.
HEART POEM by Mary Oliver My heart, that used to pump along so pleasantly, has come now to a different sort of music. There is someone inside those red walls, irritated and even, occasionally, irrational. Years ago I was part of an orchestra; our conductor was a wild man. He was forever rapping the music- stand for silence. Then he would call out some correction and we would begin again. Now again it is a wild man. I remember the music shattering, and our desperate attentiveness. Once he flung the baton over our heads and into the midst of the players. It flew over the violins and landed next to a bass fiddle. It flopped to the floor. What silence! The someone picked it up and it was passed forward back to him. He rapped the stand and raised his arms. Then we all breathed again, and the music restarted.
I had to smile. What a beautiful description!!!
The local cardiologists, surgeons, and electrophysiologists have all conferred & told me that there is nothing more that they can do to help my heart. They did, however, enthusiastically suggest that, since the leakage in my tricuspid valve is “torrential,” I might be a good candidate for participation in a research trial involving a new procedure developed by Abbott Labs. One of the trials is being held in a large medical facility only an hour and a half away, so they sent off my records & I settled down to wait for a response, wondering, hoping. At length, the doctor running the trial called me down to Charlotte for yet another echo-cardiogram & a clear, enthusiastic,and quite fascinating explanation of the procedure. The doctor said that one trial had just been completed elsewhere with exciting results and that “You’ll be reading about it!” [And sure enough — yesterday (3/5) the NY Times had a long article describing the symptoms and the trial’s excellent results: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/04/health/tricuspid-valve-clip-leakage.html ]
I was told that during the next few days, the research team would meet to discuss my case & by the end of the week they’d call back with a schedule of tests needed before the procedure.
Indeed, a call came, not to offer a schedule but to set up an appointment to talk with the doctor. I knew then what to expect. Every time a doctor talks to me, the first sentence is “You know your case is very complicated.” The ensuing conversation with this doctor began the same way. The team didn’t think they could successfully carry out the procedure on my heart and, even if they managed to do it, they thought that — given all my other heart & lung complications — it probably wouldn’t make much difference anyway. So…. a dead-end.
Well, I’m telling you this long story only because of the surprising (to me) and wonderful, joyful outcome — truly old Trickster teaching me his famous side-step! Somehow I feel liberated! No longer wasting energy considering possible remedies, various strategies, what-ifs & hopes, I feel free to just accept, with gratitude, that this is how it is going to go for me & to get on with finding ways to live my life as meaningfully as possible anyway. Every life has its constraints. These are mine. So what?
Acknowledgement & acceptance have led to a wonderful increase in — or reclamation of — my inner Fire. This has helped me finish a project that had been languishing or, at best, proceeding very, very s-l-o-w-l-y for months. Somehow, my conversations with the fibers must have continued to simmer in some hidden inner cauldron. Now the embers rekindled & flamed and the cooking began in earnest. I began to show up more regularly in my work/play room & my conversation with the fibers began to flow again. The completion has (as always) hit some snags & included some tedious bits but, once I started to work again, the impetus — the Fire — stopped faltering & grew.
This past year, I have heard 3 different Slavic stories of the beautiful magical Firebird [not to be confused with the Persian Phoenix who rises from her own ashes]. I told one of the stories in my 9/23/22 post.
These stories have enchanted and evoked some deep resonance within me. Encounters with the Firebird are never simple. Always the finding of a Firebird feather signals the beginning of a difficult adventure that leads one deeper into one’s true self. The adventure usually involves a tsar demanding (with the threat of death) that one capture the Firebird, the delivery of the Firebird to the tsar, and then the freeing the Firebird at last. The Firebird is elusive and wild. Those in power seek to cage it for themselves, but always it must be, will be, freed — just like the Fire within ourselves. And just as the Firebird is wild so, too, in the required series of tasks & adventures, the “hero” requires help from an animal (a talking horse or big gray wolf in the stories I heard). No rule book could provide the necessary map & answers nor could his own human rationality, but Wildness itself showed the way. There is much here for me to learn.
[On a larger-than-personal level, my shift is a bit like finally having realized that we are, in fact, already in the midst of the disasters (ecological, political, economic, technological, etc.) that we have struggled for so long to prevent, hoping we could somehow stave them off and return to what we’d thought of as “normal.” Our need to act remains, but — recognizing that deep & irreversible changes have already taken place — can we channel more of our emotional energy away from fear or ranting or trying futilely to “stand our ground” when that ground has already become shifting windblown sand dunes? Can we focus our energy not on so much “combat” as on creative responses to the evolving situation? I believe that, in spite of everything, we can uphold our gratitude & reverence for all life and “remember who we are and how we got here, accept the inevitable, honor our grief, and prioritize what is pro-future and soul-nourishing.” We can live “meaningfully, compassionately, and courageously no matter what.” (Quotes from https://postdoom.com/ ) ]
“Sometimes I go about pitying myself. All the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky.”Chippewa Song
I understand your sense of fredom.
A friend of mine — not a close friend but a dear one — died a few weeks ago. Among his last words he left this: “I was not afraid to live so I am not afraid to die”
Is this not at the heart of The Firebird’ teaching?
For I see you doing exactly this, my beautiful Sister. May I join you in this eternal moment?
Love & Blessings, Warrenpeace
We tend to put our lives on”hold”, at times, when we are dealing with difficult issues, especially health issues; waiting for answers, hoping for good outcomes, getting answers and then deciding if we can continue to take each day as it comes. We become stymied, oblivious to many aspects of our creative life while dealing with this upheaval. You are an inspiration Margery in how you have handled the results of the heart trial; acceptance and liberation. I sat with this and thought of what my dear Dad used to say when issues presented that seemed to consume all else, in my life; he would say this old adage, “when one door closes, another opens.”
The door opened and Firebird, came knocking again, but this time, you were ready to receive her, invite her in; not that you had not done so before but this time, you met her with a renewed purpose, open to the story that had been waiting, the story of your journey and your destination to acceptance…
Beautiful and truthful comment Marti.
I can’t say in an experiential way, but I think I understand. It seems to me like going up floor after floor seeking something you need only to end up on the empty roof. Then jumping off (perhaps in despair) and discovering it’s not the end. You have wings and can fly. It truly must be a wonderful feeling.
You are Amazing .. I admire your ability to write the way you do. Straight from the heart in a way one would talk to a forever friend. Sounds weird maybe for me to say that I’m happy for you .. acceptance is such a gift as you have written here.
Firebird is done and will be treasured for many years to come. I pass by Ember everyday never tiring of her beauty. Your talent and generosity will live in my home and heart forever.
Sending you big love and Blessings as you embrace this final chapter .. like every great novel that comes to an end your story will be remembered forever.
Gratefully yours ..
Margery, this made me weep and feel that freedom you must feel too. Your writing captures my heart each time I arrive on your doorstep and your amazing art does so as well. As i am taking my own journey, I am especially touched by how you’ve moved through yours and I am so very grateful you are here to tell your story to us. I sit at your knee and listen carefully. xo