It’s a lovely day. I’m floating on the lake in my kayak. The Appalachian Ridge is slowly shedding its summer clothes in exchange for a colorful autumn cardigan. The leaves are falling, floating first on the breeze and then on the water.
A gorgeous day. A glorious day. But the world is such a fricking mess.
When I was 19, my 38 year old dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After an extended stay in a hospital, months of tests, HIV and TB scares, they had finally figured it out. We were told it was Stage 4. We were told the prognosis was not good at all.
It may have been that very day, or the next day, I’m not sure, that I found myself on campus, but not at all in the mood to go to classes. I hung out at the radio station, as always, but not even the music could console me. So, I went up onto the roof of the student center. I remember it being warmer than it should’ve been. The sky was blue, and gray and white, and the sun was shining at its late September angle.
There were people below me. A solitary student sitting here, and another there. A young couple walking hand in hand. An absent minded professor hurrying across the quad. Groups of students kicking a soccer ball, tossing a frisbee, playing hacky sack. Coeds walking arm in arm, laughing loudly.
Overwhelmed with emotion, I pulled out my pen and my notebook. I wrote a poem that began with the line ‘It’s a beautiful day in this godawful world.’
Soccer, laughter, frisbee, love. How could it all go on while my dad was lying in a hospital bed? How could it all just continue on while my dad was dying?For those below me, it was just a beautiful day…
I wrote furiously. The words pouring out of me, as if I had been infused with some divine inspiration. And as my pen moved across the page, I saw it. I saw it all. The interconnectedness of everything. The urgency and the brevity. The joy and the sadness. The beauty and the horror.
I have no idea where that notebook is. Like so many other things that I’ve written, it has been lost; to time, to moves, to outmoded technologies. Gone, forever. But that line remains written in my brain and on my heart.
And it has surfaced again today. To rest here on a floating leaf. Conjured by the late September sun. The gray, white, blue sky. The brightness of yellow leaves contrasting against the deep greens. The beauty of the day contrasting against the current ugliness of this world.
It’s a beautiful day. In this god-awful world. There is both. There is always both.