I don’t usually write blog posts late at night. But tonight, I felt as though I had to. Earlier today, I had been scrolling through Facebook and had seen the image I’m including in this post: a picture of a hellebore. This post is a response to that image.
You see, hellebores are among my favorite flowers. I value them particularly because they bloom in winter, when all the other flowers are asleep, underground. They are a promise: that spring will come again, despite the darkness, despite the snow. Facebook is silly: you and I both know how silly it is. But sometimes it does allow you to see something magical, simply because it’s populated by human beings, who are intermittently magical. Some more than others, of course . . . Seeing this hellebore was like getting a glimpse of another country, like getting a sign that said “Wait, hope.”
Here, in case you are wondering what I’m talking about, is the image:
Tonight, I was trying to answer a question, which was, “Why do I feel so sick?” I thought, it’s the rich food — I never eat the way I’ve eaten in the last two days. (I had marzipan for breakfast.) I thought, it’s the lack of sleep — I’ve been overworked for so long now that I don’t remember how to be anything else. But no, I concluded. It’s something else, something deeper, a sickness not of the body but of the soul — and any sickness of the body is a symptom of that underlying sickness. I’ve gone too long needing something that is difficult to find — that deep connection with the world, or the world behind the world: the reality behind all our human games and constructs. I’ve gone too long saying and doing what I’m expected to, being who I’m expected to be. Moving through the world automatically, in a way I’ve learned to move through it, because don’t we all? So as to create the least possible friction.
Once upon a time, I lived in a teeny-tiny house in a forgotten town close to Boston, and I had a garden, in which I planted hellebores. They would come up every winter. I always dreamed that someday I would have a house with a large garden, one which bordered a wood, and in the wood I would plant all the wild flowers: hellebores, which are wild, and the old species daffodils, and fritillaries. I mention this because gardens can connect you to what is real, if they are real gardens, magical gardens. (Mine was magical.)
I’ve been so busy that I’ve barely been writing, and when I do write, it’s because someone has asked me for a story and offered me money for it. I barely write poetry anymore, because there’s no money in it. And yet I think poetry keeps us from becoming sick, and I think I’m healthiest when I can write poetry. It’s a sort of thermometer for the soul. (It occurred to me tonight that there is a certain irony in the fact that the world will pay me enough to live on for teaching others to write, but not for writing myself.)
The hellebore: it reminded me of all this, and helped me diagnose my own illness. But it cannot answer the question that remains, which is, what then? How to effect a cure? And that, I don’t know. But it does hold out the promise of spring after the snows . . .