The Way It Is
by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
Looking through old photos this week. I came across this one. On the way home from a camping trip in 1991 with a friend, we stopped at a roadside vineyard somewhere in the central valley of California to cut some grapes and raisins off the vine.
Everything in the past seems soft and unfocused like the old photos that represent those periods. I was glad recently that I hadn’t thrown them ALL out in my last slash and burn campaign of decluttering. Thankfully I was too lazy to climb up to the tippy top of the closet and take down the albums. So I’m doing it now, but not to throw, to excavate.
I’m looking for photos of Bobi, one of my dear ones. We were in our 20’s when we met. Now 34 years later we have been given the gift of a long goodbye.
I’m heading back to Santa Cruz soon, back to Bobi. It’s all I think about. She’s in hospice and we’ve been sharing a very long and tender goodbye. In the summer I rented a tiny cottage across from the beach and we had planned to sit outside and listen to the surf, watch the sun set, cook in the small kitchen in December. But new things have unfolded. Things you can’t anticipate or time. What can we do, but hold onto the thread and keep breathing.
So here I am. Gone quiet these last months. Processing, writing, looking at clouds, and the moon, now a crescent, that peeks in my morning window. And the leaves in December are like jewels.
I was in Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz in November. A driving meditation in this vast and beautiful state that is my home. Driving towards Bobi. Driving home.
On the road I think of all the trips I’ve taken in the last decades to see Bobi. I think of our long lunches in the basement cafeteria when we both worked together. We would bring our dream journals and read poems and eat.
How long a life is and how many chapters it has. It was like we were building a great bonfire together with our dreams and stories and poems. A fire that warmed us and continues to warm us with its heat and light.
And now she is leaving. Getting on her little boat for a final journey to the far shore. Where she will drift under a black sky pierced with silver constellations. Orion, Perseus, Cassiopia guiding her like they did the ancient navigators long ago. I think of her there in her small vessel moving further and further away from mine, which for now is close to this shore. Soon she will be out of sight in the dark waters. But the thread, the thread is still connecting us. It is silver like starlight and moonlight and fireflies.
At night when I go to bed, I step out into the patio and turn my face up to the sky. It’s such a wonder that dark dome. How brilliant and alive it is.
I think of her under that beautiful sky that has comforted me my whole life. These gifts that the world gives us that are beyond conceptual stories and thought. Calling us into the deep present where everything that is real and true lives.
But for now my Bobi is still here. Right here in the land of the living.
When my thoughts have quieted and I am perceiving the natural world with my senses, the thread that connects us quivers. It tugs at my hand and I feel gladness.
Oh me, oh life! And the great sorrows and wonders that bind us together. I continue my long quiet journey deeper into the heart of December and my long winter break. Do keep me updated on your own journeys I love hearing from you out there in the bright world.