“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” —E.B. White
It seems appropriate somehow that my angel has a broken wing. I purchased her a decade ago at the Findhorn pottery shop in Scotland. I actually broke one of her wings when I was looking at her in the shop, so I took her home. Her name is Joy.
Joy was not perfect, even before the wing incident. There is some blotchiness in the blue glaze around her base, so that even the word “Joy” is half obscured. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
Like many of you, in the weeks leading to 2021 I’ve been mulling over what I want the new year to hold, for my writing and my life. Life feels more precious and fragile, given what we’ve been through this past year. I want to honor the gifts I have received and the relationships and communities I have forged. And so phrases like this have come to me: Follow where the Light leads. Live in Joy.
This is not natural for me. I am a native New Englander with Puritan roots. I have a reflexive inner drive to be productive, take care of business, practice self-denial. But another voice has been calling me down through the decades, inviting me to dance, do yoga, make music, and—most of all—write. That voice sparkles and laughs, and it belongs to Joy.
A friend shared the E.B. White quote above with me yesterday, on New Year’s Day, and I thought, “that’s it!” For much of my life I have put saving the world above savoring it. “Saving the world,” in my case, means putting practical matters above the desires of my heart. “Savoring” the world for me means writing/creating and the inspiration that leads to it, such as walking in nature, taking myself on an artist date, or simply being in the moment, paying attention. And really, what good is life here on this amazing planet if we don’t savor it? What if Mary Oliver hadn’t taken time to savor the world? We all would be deprived of the poems that have felt essential to us, like "Wild Geese" or "The Summer Day." What if you or I have similar contributions to make, but we put saving the world ahead of savoring it? What if, instead, savoring the world is saving it?
After my conversation with my friend, I thought of Joy languishing in a cupboard and brought her out. Her broken wing lay beside her, and I brought it out, too. My husband, always handy and willing to fix things, has tried several times to glue on her wing for me, but each time it falls off. Maybe no one can fix her but me. Or maybe she’s perfect just as she is.
by Mary Oliver
You might see an angel anytime and anywhere. Of course you have to open your eyes to a kind of second level, but it’s not really hard. The whole business of what’s reality and what isn’t has never been solved and probably never will be. So I don’t care to be too definite about anything. I have a lot of edges called Perhaps and almost nothing you can call Certainty. For myself, but not for other people. That’s a place you just can’t get into, not entirely anyway, other people’s heads.
I’ll just leave you with this. I don’t care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s enough to know that for some people they exist, and that they dance.
Do you have a word or intention for 2021? If you’d like to do so, please share in the comments below.
Happy New Year!