by Zinta Aistars
"Let me not turn away. What I am is all that I can carry."--from Trapeze by Deborah Digges
When the bright of morning blooms, I am warm and curled into the sheets of my bed, three animals surrounding me. Guinnez, the chow mix pup, although no longer a pup, has his golden furred back in perfect arc against mine. His nose is tucked between two paws. Tommy, the tomcat, born wearing a tuxedo and forever trying to keep it clean, has his pink nose but an inch away from mine. He opens his green eyes when I open mine, a darker shade of green, and stares. I am sure there is laughter of the most mischievous kind in those eyes. Jig, black calico, is stretched long and lean along my other side. She only pretends at relaxation. Her nature is the very essence of suspicion and anxiety. All three of them come to immediate attention the instant I open my eyes.
They've been waiting. It's Sunday.
And a pleasantly rainy one. A soft spring rain rattles the window, like a lover tossing pebbles against the glass to gain my attention. I'm up, I'm up, wrapping my body in the warm and the soft of a favorite old robe, and my furry troop bounds ecstatically in front, behind, and around me at every step. I pretend annoyance, chiding them and laughing at them in the same breath.
Spooning sticky coffee beans that smell like heaven into a grinder, I have time and leisure to consider the laziness of a Sunday morning. No rush necessary. No clock demanding to be noticed. No inbox awaits me, no phones, no bosses, only this gift of time that belongs to only me. The beans are ground, and my nostrils flare, eyes closed--few pleasures entice more than Sunday morning coffee, and this pot an exotic peanut butter cup flavor.
No adoration is greater, no gratitude more profound, than that of my furry troop as I feed them. Surely these dry bits and smelly canned stuff is manna from heaven, how they bound about me for every glop and crumb. Even Guinnez gets a spoonful from the cat food can. In his mind, having grown up around the two felines, he is puppy-cat among his two adopted siblings. He produces an odd growly purr in his throat at my caress. He walks the arms and back of the sofa behind the other two, cautiously balancing his 40 pounds. But Tommy, who fancies himself a kitty-pup, growls jealously at the loss of that one spoonful, bats Guinnez hard across the nose, and leaps at his dog brother's face in mock threat. Meal downed, both animals lick each other's ears and snouts clean. Peace is restored. Jiggy avoids it all.
But I have my face in the first cuppa Java. Inhaling. Lips just touching the heat. Hum of pleasure at the first sip. This is addiction, and it's glorious.
We all have our routines, and they bring sense to chaos, become a safe oasis of predictability in the toss and roil of stress at our workday lives. My Sunday morning flickers on my coffee table, an array of scented candles and lamp oil in a tall bottle, once filled with lime vodka (something for my Saturday night), this favorite mug of coffee held between two hands, a small stack of books to one side for my current reading, and a blanket to pull across my lap. The rain only adds to the blessing. All three pals find their new spots and curl into them nearby.
In these morning hours, I speak quietly to God, bringing in my own church into my living room, my own congregation of simple souls. I speak of my fears, the battles I wage within, and the demons who assail me, and at times the demon I become. I speak of my hopes, these golden and delicate wishes, secrets of my heart, dreams I weave and for which I require not only blessing, but divine and guiding help. I do not walk alone. I speak the long list of blessings, and in so counting them, I begin to realize how infinite they are. I name the names of those I love, and those too number many. Lives woven with mine. Lives long ago gone in another direction. Lives running parallel, only now and then crossing paths. Each one adding to the quality of mine. No woman is an island. I speak of my transgressions, and humbly ask for absolution. I fail, and I fail again, and yet again, in so many ways and in my foolish pursuit of so many illusions. I offer my awe and gratitude. For this day, and every one before it, and the gift of each to come. Even those I have resisted, even those I curse, and even those I would rather not experience. Perhaps those are the greatest gift of all, offering me wisdom. I whisper: thank You.
The candles flicker. The rain patters and slows.
My books beckon, and I bring my knees up under the blanket to read some slim volume of poetry. I have my favorites: Rilke, Milosz, Gluck, Ivaska, Dybek, Carruth, Oliver, Olds. But every Sunday I gather a new one to the fold. Words tease and tingle, my mind blossoms in welcome, unfolding in greeting and invitation. Touch me. Teach me. Enlighten me. Transform me. And they do. It is my second form of prayer.
A novel draws me in, and for an hour or two, I become someone else and live another life in another time, and yet, when at last I close the cover, it is myself I understand better.
The rain has stopped. I had not noticed it. A wan sun spreads butter across new spring leaves bursting over thin branches outside. I open the sliding glass door to the back yard and let my little herd go out and play, and send myself to the showers, to dress, to prepare for play myself. The day lies ahead like a lover with open arms. My body and my spirit have been nourished, and I am ready to greet whatever awaits me.