“…that transcendent experiences arise from the raw material of human biology…” These words come from a review I read this morning of Alan Lightman’s latest book, The Transcendent Brain: Spirituality in the Age of Science.
“Yes,” I nod, “that’s exactly right.”
When I awoke—again—and for the last time on Saturday morning, I knew it would be a day of challenges. It was Earth Day and the “Celebration of Life” (even now I balk at those words) for my dear friend Michele about whom I’ve written often and who died on March 12th. The event capped a week of intermittent tears, anxiety, and preparation. In the days leading up to this, a small, earnest group had worked out the glitches, staged, and rehearsed, so all would go well.
I opened my email inbox and headed straight for the poetry. Usually it’s Poem-a-Day, but that day I began with Knopf. It offered “Class Picture” by Cynthia Zarin.
Cynthia Zarin, why does that name seem so familiar? As I read the poem, that thought niggled. My eyes traveled up to the poems I have affixed to the wall before me, fixed moments of wonder, of reflection. There I found her, her name handwritten at the bottom of a poem, a column of beauty in syllables, titled, “Flowers.”
When I first read that poem, Michele had received her diagnosis and time’s passing became palpable. “Flowers” begins:
“This morning I was walking upstairs/from the kitchen, carrying your/beautiful flowers, the flowers you/brought me last night, lilies…”
Michele had shared the bounty of her spell-binding garden with so many of us, those who love her. September always brought the lilies, wild, redolent, flamboyant friend-reminders:
I will mark this moment as a “transcendent experience,” the raw material of my being. Cynthia Zarin is not a poet whose books I have, not one I know well, but on this morning when I truly need…something…there it is. All I had to do was lift my eyes.