Wrinkle in Reality

Photo by Mary Dessein
A wrinkle in time. Sure, I’ve had one of those… okay, several of them. One fold happens when I look at the framed photo of my eighteen-month old curly-topped son hanging in my hallway. Then I realize he and I haven’t talked in three weeks. Oh yeah, he lives 2,500 miles from me and is thirty-five years old. My starz.

My wrinkles are not as remarkable as Madeleine L’Engle’s. Even though it was fun to remind my son of when I drove with he and his dad to Portland, Oregon when he was about four years old in order to hear Madeleine speak, he didn’t remember the trip or Madeleine L’Engle. However, it was a lovely reminder for me of the seats we had up in the curved balcony in a huge old church to see her, to hear her talk about her father’s health condition and her spending time as a little girl living in a castle in Europe. Remarkable is barely the beginning to describe her.

Ava DuVernay’s recent movie version of A Wrinkle in Time is worth seeing. It is as much about love, family, loyalty, community, belief in one’s self, and tenacity as it is about science fiction and interplanetary space travel.

In part, what launches A Wrinkle in Time is an inadvertent consequence, an unpredicted result to a pursued goal (Dr. Alex Murry, who is the main character, Meg’s father, achieves his goal of finding the tesseract and successfully tessering, however he gets trapped on a planet far away and cannot escape.) Oh my, I’ve had one or two of those unpredicted results. Haven’t you? Such as getting the promotion then getting transferred and having to leave all the co-workers who helped you get it and whom you trust. Or bringing your spouse with you to volunteer at the Food Bank, who then falls in love with one of the other volunteers, and a year later you find yourself divorced. I know, I know, “one door closes and another one opens;” and the ever popular “life presents us with opportunities for personal growth.” I do endorse those beliefs, it just takes me a little time to get back in the saddle.

In the three deleted pages from A Wrinkle in Time, released by her granddaughter in 2015, pages which the publisher perhaps thought too political or controversial, Ms. L’Engle talks about the dangers of pursuing security, that security is a seductive thing, and that the sick longing for it is a dangerous thing, and … insidious.

How are we manipulated by supervisors, credit card companies, politicians, retailers, spouses, neighbors, perhaps even our children, by their threatening our security or offering to enhance it? By dictators and autocrats? Yee gods, that list is endless and will continue to be so. Fascinating that Ms. L’Engle called this out in a conversation between a father and daughter. The father attempting to show his daughter a larger view, that questioning, exploring, and taking risks are what move us forward.

My regrets in life, the few I have, are related to what I did not do for my children. Sometimes it was that I did not set limits. My most lamentatious ones are when I did not protect them, or did not stand up for them. I was unable to de-stabilize my alleged security. In hindsight, I say alleged as it really wasn’t stable. With their dad, with my employer, with my sense of obligation to others, or that nebulous entity: what I thought others thought of me.

And another wrinkle – security and safety are not the same nor interchangeable.
None of that was within my grasp twenty-five years ago.

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” Madeleine L’Engle.

A Goose

The Field photo by Mary Dessein
There were two inches of snow on the extensive lawn and soccer field below my home, it was about 34 degrees. Frozen, cold, beautiful.
There was a lone Canadian goose stepping back and forth in a small area down on the field, about three hundred feet from my window. After a few minutes, it simply stood still. It was unsettling to see the lone goose there.

Surely it would fly off. It didn’t.

What could I do to help it? I was sure approaching it with bird seed was not a good idea. I would watch it. Perhaps call Animal Control if it didn’t fly off. Surely it would fly off.
Geese are not supposed to be alone. They instinctively stay in community and watch out for each other; often dropping out of their flying wedge formation if they detect one of their own is struggling. I came back to the window a little while later, the goose was still standing there, now with it’s neck drooped down, head lowered as if hopeless.

When I returned home, it was mid-afternoon. The goose was then sitting down, with its head lowered, in the same place it had been standing.
My heart felt like a fifty pound lump of coal as I looked at the lost, alone, cold bird. It hurt to stand there and watch the bird. I went off to find some phone numbers.

Two days before, on New Year’s, I texted a close friend, wishing her a fabulous 2018 and telling her she rocked! Her answer was, “I am afraid.” Of course, I texted back asking if she needed help, was she safe?

A few minutes later, she explained she was afraid of 2018. As 2016 had been a difficult year with several family dramas and sorrow, she had looked forward to a happier 2017. Which turned out to be so filled with pain and betrayal, she felt she couldn’t live through anything more. So … she was afraid of what 2018 would bring.

Where do you turn, what do you do when you are afraid of the next day? The next month? Who do you turn to when those close to you have left you? Aren’t we supposed to be a community and watch out for each other?

Fear. An F-word to be sure. Some say it is an acronym for Forsake Everything And Run (censored version), a short term strategy to avoid the problem causing the fear. However, the problem will likely still be there when you get back. More helpful to me has been False Evidence Appearing Real, as over time I recognized that most of my fears grew out of my self-doubt, trepidation about doing something new, or standing up for myself.

I saw a t-shirt years ago at a department store emblazoned with “Fear is a Thief.” It stopped me for a moment as that truth registered in me. Indeed, my fears had held me back from many things. Many things you don’t, I don’t, get a do-over on.

My heart hurt to hear of my tender friend living in that fear and foreboding on New Year’s Day, when so many people are high-fiving each other, celebrating a fresh start after some time off, and looking forward to opportunities. What could I do to help?

Be in her community. Alas, my magic wand to tap her three times and dissipate her fear has long since disappeared. I had it when I was five but somewhere along the way, I lost track of the darn thing.
Maybe that’s for the best.

There are times when I think of that goose. It still twangs my heart to see the picture so clearly in my mind of the elegant bird alone and hopeless in the white expanse. That day when I came back to the window after finding possible animal rescue phone numbers, the goose was gone.

Where? I’ll never know, I can only hope. My friend? I will be there to listen, and walk with her.
Maybe hope will come along, too.