05: The Vigil and the Tree

My friend Sara once posted this graphic on Instagram that read, You haven’t met all the people who will love you yet.

I thought about this a lot. I liked the statement, I think, because it left all three particles of the sentence—the you and the people and the love—to the power of the yet. The mercy of yet, which, like a horizon or the edge of a dock, pointed more to what moved beyond it than itself. It stitched now and tomorrow together. You don’t just not know the people—you don’t know the you they will meet (who they will love) or the love you will make (which they will make with you). 

One of my favourite poems in the whole world is titled “And Yet I’m Not A Tree.” I love this poem mainly because it unlocked for me, entirely, the world of poetry and, like a duck, I imprinted on it (and it on me). But now, in this moment—(which will change) (like the who and the will and the you)—what I love about this poem is how it trails. Flows. Forgets. Moves on? Lets go. What do the birds have? Who is not? Why turn around and watch the chimney?

I don’t love this poem because it makes me wonder why. I love this poem because I am comfortable with not knowing ever again. With living so wholly in the cloud of that and yet.

These Summer Nights in December — 13052116012004150519: Heather Christle  From The...

Heather Christle, The Trees, The Trees

André Alexis’s novel, Fifteen Dogs, has, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful scenes ever written about love. The premise of the novel is that Hermes and Apollo, at a bar in Toronto, make a bet that if they give the fifteen dogs at the shelter next door human intelligence, not one of them will die happy. Apollo thinks not. Hermes hopes otherwise. 

One of the dogs, Majnoun, is mistrustful and skeptic, eventually, badly wounded. He is taken in by a loving couple and forms a close relationship with Nira, with whom he is eventually able to share the secret of his mind. Years pass, and, in a tragic accident on vacation, the couple passes away. Majnoun refuses to believe that they are gone. He waits for years in front of the house, evading animal control, evading the new family who moves in, attempting to evade time, which he believes is the heart of his misery. He is so miserable, in fact, that Zeus—who after hearing about Hermes and Apollo’s bet, made them both promise to meddle no further—asks Hermes to intervene. So Hermes goes and sits with Majnoun. He lets him ask what he wants to asks. He stops time for Majnoun but nothing is less painful, only frozen. Majnoun cannot bring himself to ask the only thing he wants to ask, which is where Nira is. Hermes does not press him. They take a walk at sunset. 

—I can see, said Hermes, that you’d like to ask me something.

—Can you tell me what love means? asked Majnoun. 

André Alexis, FiftEen Dogs

Hermes makes Majnoun promise that if he answers, he would consider leaving. Only consider it, Hermes promises. Majnoun agrees.

—What you want to know, Majnoun, is not what love means. It means no one thing and never will. What you want to know is what Nira meant when she used the word. This is more difficult, because Nira’s word is like a long journey taken by one woman alone. She read the word in books, heard it in conversations, talked about it with friends and family, Miguel and you. No other being has encountered the word love as Nira has or used it in quite the same ways, but I can take you along Nira’s path.

André Alexis, FiftEen Dogs

And then Hermes, god of translation, takes Majnoun through Nira’s memory, to each moment in her life when love was formed. From the briefest glimpse to the deepest confession.

Majnoon, startled and shattered by feeling so close to Nira after being away from her for so long, is overwhelmed by grief.

—There is no need for you to wait any longer, said Hermes. I will take you to her. 

André Alexis, FiftEen Dogs

“Majnoun would have done anything to see Nira again,” Alexis writes. So he gave up his vigil, and he did.

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