lilac shrieks, scarlet bellowings, and e. e. cummings ~ or ~ transformation and rebirth after the year of the fire…


Before I go any further I will tell you not to be alarmed by words like “fatal.” I am better than I have ever been, happier than I knew I could be, and there is still so much to be worked out in my life it makes my head spin once in awhile but please — folks — this is e. e. cummings, and I love this poem, and, like I will never be able to rightly explain to people what I have gone through the last year after the fire, all of the ways that I died and was reborn, all of the places in me that were killed so something new could grow, you can’t read an e. e. cummings poem and make literal sense of it. People try too hard to figure poetry out anyway. I have loved e.e. since I was in gradeschool and it is as though my inner poet understands his dancing forays into poetry with heart and spirit and wild liveliness more easily than listening to most people around me. My bi polar brain can be funny like that. So don’t try to understand it or worry over it. I’m hunky dorey, even better than that.

I said in my women’s group just a couple of days ago that while I don’t approve of the method (the fire and all of the losses and mess afterward for the rest of the year) maybe some of us need a real big kick in the keester to make the changes we need to make to have a better life. I will be 61 on April 30 and I can tell you of my 60+ years so far this last one has, bar none, been the hardest year of my life, but, without it, without every single thing that this last year has been and meant, I would not be where I am today without having gone through it all. As far as a fire analogy I thought of something the other day and said to the pugs, “Ohhhhh, isn’t that something.” What had come to mind was burning lawns.

When I was young it was the custom, in the midwest, to burn lawns. It was a carefully controlled burn and turned the lawn into a black, charred, sad looking affair, but after the burn the grass would come up greener and more lush than ever before. That’s the way I am seeing the last year now that I am past the anniversary date which, I must admit, shook me rather badly, but once past February 5 I felt like I was free-falling into a marvelous, magical new place full of potent possibility abundant which is a phrase I have been using for decades and which means, essentially, that the sky is the limit. When you have lost so much, and you have very little money, it is at first terrifying, and then an odd kind of relief. I have less money than I have ever had in my life and I am more at peace than I have ever been. Imagine that.

It takes awhile of course. There is all that chipping away at the psyche and soul with sharp fatal tools, and of course the agony of the sensual chiseling, and the squirms of chrome, and oh Lordy those strides of cobalt, but once past all of that one does indeed begin to be something different. I am becoming myself in a way that really feels like it was meant to be. (I think I really like this poem because I have gotten sorely tired of talking about the Phoenix crashing and burning and rising again. Yegods. Same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse!)

I am starting to sleep better at night. I have gone to bed as early as 1:30 and yesterday morning was up at 9:30 although I must admit I would have slept longer if the two boy pugs hadn’t startled me nearly to death bolting up out of bed in high dudgeon hollering at the top of their lungs. I almost killed myself lunging out of bed and then stood kind of dazed looking at them, all like, “Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Fer godsakes you could take it down a notch. I’m crazy as a loon, you know that. That kind of carrying on will give me a bipolar panic attack which makes a real heart attack look like something for pansies. We must go gentle into that great good morning.” I kind of leaned against the wall for a minute, sighed, then lifted the girls off the bed and out we went. I stood in the bitter cold, having forgotten my shawl, and prayed they wouldn’t take long to go potty.

Something else has happened and I don’t know quite how to say this but it is something that never would have happened before the fire. It went like this. The builder, with whom I now have a five year warranty (It sucks to have your house burn down, and to lose all the things you do, but you have a whole new house inside and warranties even!), came by to fix some odds and ends. Now, while I have been doing better with housekeeping recently, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have invited the Queen for tea. It was, to put it mildly, a roaring mess.

The way I would have handled this in the past would first of all be to lie and make up as many excuses as possible why they couldn’t come that day, and reschedule as often as possible to the point of them giving up on me whence I would then have full blown panic attacks over the state of the house which would make me spiral down so far I would have less energy than ever to clean anything up, but, since they had to finally come I would let them and then would burst into tears the minute they walked through the door as I rattled off a million apologies and excuses about why things were a mess. It’s hard for me to have people come to my house in the first place, and if one speck of dust is out of place I am completely forlorn and in a state when they are coming.

The thing is something in me just kind of went, “You know Maitri, it is what it is, they know you have issues having worked with you the past year, it’ll be fine.” And it was. I said calmly, “I’m sorry it’s kind of a mess, been kind of a run of hard days.” He said, “Oh Maitri it’s fine, no worries.” And we chatted cheerily the whole time he was here.

That would NOT have happened before the fire. I was watching a t.v. show the other night and a woman had gone through cancer and when something came up her friends were afraid she would be upset but she said, “Once you’ve been through the Big C you don’t sweat the small stuff.” Well, that’s just the thing. When you are standing outside surrounded by policemen, EMT’s, firemen down the street, the t.v. news, every neighbor within a 3 block radius watching in horror as your house burns and windows are exploding out, and — I’ll never get over this part — screaming as loud and long as you possibly can because 4 of your beloved parrots are dying in a room no one can get to, well, a messy house? I don’t think so, not any more.

And the thing is once I relaxed about NOT having it cleaned up I’ve been working harder than ever before TO clean it up. Having to have it spotless and perfect, well, that was my mother, and no matter how clean it was she still came in the house criticizing and complaining and saying unbelievably awful things to me. But you know what? Nobody is saying that any more, and further if they did I’d be like the woman on t.v. “Listen cheekie chickie, I’ve been through a lot more than a messy house in the last year, get over it.” Or something, one hopes, a tad less fractious.

 So yes, there may be lilac shrieks, and god knows, most certainly some scarlet bellowings, but those are just growing pains. I’m growing a whole new life, and it feels fabulous.

Here’s to life, and everything in it!


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  1. ah, ee cummings
    dash of this pail of that whee
    somersault poet

    i’d never read this one before, imagine! lilac and scarlet — wild and magnificent combo

  2. So aptly put, dear Maitri. My house is certifiably a disaster area and has been for years. I still haven’t reached the stage where I’m comfortable with anybody coming over and if my mother were to come over I’m confident she wouldn’t set one foot inside my house. But, I’ve had so many things to deal with over the past few years, I’ve just come to the realization that a messy house should be the least of my worries. Baby steps – I’m working on one tiny area at a time. I’m certain that long before I make it through the entire house the first part will be a gawdawful mess again but I have much better things to do with my time than to obsess over cleaning it constantly. It sounds like you’ve come a very long way in the past year. Love, light and hugs!

  3. Teresa Myszka says:

    Maitri, you’ve come a long way baby! I’ve never had housecleaning as a top priority in my list , of must do….not even in the top ten. I do mop my floors on a regular basis because I have 3 rescue puppies of the Heinz 57 variety , with whom i share my life, who are now getting up in years, and they have accidents. The cob webs can wait, they’re not going anywhere…my life on the other hand can’t. So Cheers my friend, for not worrying what anyone thinks about your messiness….if they don’t like it, they don’t have to come back.

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