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QUINTESSENCE

The Aria & the Catalyst

"Hush, beloved. It doesn't matter to me
how many summers I live to return:
this one summer we have entered eternity.
I felt your two hands
bury me to release its splendor."
- "The White Lillies," Louise Gluck

I am deep in the quiet hours. The summer heat of August has abated behind the low clouds off the distant ocean. Almost an act of grace, my mind is tranquil, moving in loops down river banks of slow-moving thought. I have been thinking about the connections, the bonds of love. I began thinking about truthfulness between couples, saddened by the infidelity and break-up of the long marriage of a friend of mine. At the heart of their parting, a painful truth that neither wished exposed, but when brought to light, erased even the pretense of a loyal foundation between them. He played roulette and lost; she wished she'd never known. What was their truth?

The fundamental song in dramatic love is the aria. A melody and a response. A call and an answer. A cry and a caress. Two voices that sing their passion and expose the story of the human heart. In the intertwining melodies of song, in the weaving of dreams lie secrets, a wordless language. The call and answer determines the fate of the lovers. What we ask for and what we are given. What we offer and what is taken. Recently I saw a French film, "Coco & Igor," the story of the relationship - complicated and inspirational, secret and harsh - between Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky. A story of two muses, lives sacrificed to art. Who called out first, who answered? So much of their exchange remained wordless, physical, understood. Watching the interplay of their passion and the ways in which its fires fueled their individual commitment to art, I sensed the secret nature of this one kind of love. The affair was not important, what mattered was the bonfire of inspiration. There are so many arias, so many whispers we do not hear.

What does seem true is that even for the most ordinary of us, love is what we make of it. Are we lovers for the small, sacred moments of living, or lovers running from life's dangerous territories? Do we build or destroy? Love is only as permeable, as pure an elemental essence, as what we give of ourselves. What is demanded of us, how we value one another. Some of us love in sorrow or separation, others hold the hand of someone to comfort, others fall into that certain slant of light that becomes the gilded heart. Love unfurls. Place a rose on your kitchen table and watch the bloom drench the moment in grace. While most of us, unlike Coco & Igor, love for what love itself is, an act of the soul as transformative for the lover as the beloved, there is no denying elemental spark. Love is catalyst.


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