our friend, Dan, was staying with us this summer. he had found himself in between permanent housing. in every cell & in every thought, he was an artist. it was the only language he was fluent in. speaking to those who didn't recognize this tongue left Dan misunderstood.
I remember we were in the car & I asked him for advice on working with plaster. it was one of my brewing ideas still in infancy and he was the artist who had had his hands in every imaginable medium. we brainstormed together. and that always felt good.
not long after that, we learned that there was cancer making a home in his body. all over his body. I have had this thought for years that I am meant to sit with the dying, bearing witness to the moment they are born into their next place. Dan died about 6 months after what he called the 'cancer hunt'. (he declined most diagnostics & never considered conventional treatment.) I was not there at that very moment he crossed over. initially I felt an emptiness for missing that experience. that milestone. like weddings & graduations... a life event balancing on the point of a pin, as if nothing else surrounds it. it's held up like royalty that towers over the messy subjects we call "Every Day".
every day is when our eyes meet in understanding or our toast burns in the oven. every day is when someone rings the doorbell & the dogs race to the door barking. every day is when we grow to love beyond what we conceived. every day is so imperfect & mundane. and also, it is when magic is slipped under our pillows. it is when the sun rises (yet again) masked in colors created solely for sunrises. it is when my fingers & yours clasp together with tenderness.
I believe building shrines is a way to bring reverence to every day-- opening ourselves up to the honor of this experience. before Dan's last exhale of this air, there were six months worth of every day. and I can recount those every days of washing his dishes or bringing him food if he wasn't too nauseas to eat. and I can recount the days we held hands. he was in his bed too weak to do much more than be, and I was in the chair beside him. we would stare out the window & comment on the way the remaining October leaves still clung to tiny branches bouncing in the wind. he taught me to notice how they moved up & down, not just to be enthralled with the colors we already appreciated. and eventually the leaves fell off, creating a brilliant spectacle of dying. there were every days that I sat silently next to him. and days we spoke. perhaps we commented on the way the sun found his bedroom thru the window or the characters in his paintings that hung on the wall. I am so thankful that Dan gave me the honor of sharing in those every days on his travels.
I have begun building plaster shrines. its no milestone. its not a rite of passage. but I'm not afraid to trade every day for the fireworks & the spotlights. most of life unfolds gradually & sneaks up on us. surprising us. babies aren't born out of nowhere. we grow. and often our growth is hidden in the pockets & folds of every day. I don't feel compelled to dress up every day & disguise it as this single life changing climax. I'm more comfortable bringing tenderness & reverence to the imperfect & tedious & magical Every Day.