Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"The Closest to Love We Ever Get"

My British Santa was good to me again this Christmas, filling my stocking with the several of the "Best American Series 2008." (Do they have a Best British series?) One of the gems of this year's Best Spiritual Writing is Heather King's short essay "The Closest to Love We Ever Get." After reading her piece, I googled her name and found from her bio that we both spent the 80's in Boston, but on opposite sides of the barstool. My loss. I'd like to get my eyes on some more of her work (she is also a commentator for NPR's All Things Considered.) On why she who loves quiet and solitude has lived in crowded, noisy Koreatown for 11 years King writes:

"Wending my way home with my books, my vision temporarily transformed, I'm not seeing the refrigerators abandoned on the sidewalk, the triple-parked ice cream trucks, the overflowing trash cans. I'm seeing flashes of colorful Mexican tile, the 98-cent-store mural of waltzing Ajax cans and jitterbugging mops, my favorite flowers: the heliotrope on Ardmore, the wisteria near Harvard the lemon on Mariposa. Or maybe it's not that I'm seeing one group of things instead of another but, for one fleeting moment, all simultaneously: the opposites held in balance a paradigm for the terrible tension and ambiguity of the human condition; the dreadful reality that we can never quite be sure which things we have done and which things we have failed to do, the difference between how we long for the world to be and how it must be a kind of crucifixion in the darkest, most excruciating depths of which we discover--the rear windows of the parked cars I'm walking by now covered with jacaranda blossoms--it's not that there's not enough beauty; it's that there's so much it can hardly be borne."

[This essay is reprinted from Portland Magazine, out of the University of Portland, edited by Brian Doyle. His picks litter the "Best of"s every year and are always among my favorite pieces. The above detail is Georges Rouault.]

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