This time of year, I love the parts of the day that feel like night, but with lighter skies. Mid-days (even late mornings, later in the afternoons) are often too harsh; my breath constricts in my chest before it can nourish my own furthest reaches. I go into a sleepy sort of survival mode, reserving energy for when the sun is closer to setting, and I can come back to life.
June 21st marks six months since I wed, and 29 years since my mother died. Without meaning to, I’ve somehow married the yin and yang, the longest darkness with unhurried company, the brightest day with a bittersweetness like the the coffee ice cream with dark chocolate I’ll enjoy in my mother’s honor. Is it a surprise that the class I’ve taught for years is the way I live my life? And it feels very much like a rich life: complicated, inconvenient at times, challenging, indelicate, and utterly delighted with itself.
Here’s a poem I wrote when I began to understand more about my mother’s life and how her decision to die reflected what I at least think I deeply desire, and what I try to make even a teeny bit of headway in getting toward each turning of the season: freedom. “Discharge” first aired on NPR’s Latino USA as part of the kick-off to their immigrant series in 2009. May this solstice be a tipping point in your own life as you chase the last rays deep into the night.
My mother’s cloud followed
her like gum on shoe, through
decades of singing Gershwin.
The living wasn’t easy.
It hovered over friends floating
in heated pools, water licking
aging locks, creating shadows
of light that could recede faraway
looks. Try as she might, the cliff
called, its voice promising
what the stratus couldn’t offer:
to become a nova, shooting
substance into mist, letting
her luminosity out
of its cage.