The Kitchen Table and a Pole in the Garden
It is said that when mystic and poet Rumi heard of his dearest friend’s passing, he was filled with acute sorrow at the loss, yet at the same time, such gratitude for many years of deep friendship, that the only thing he could do was turn in circles around a pole in his garden.
Thus was the inspiration for “the Turn,” the spiritual dance repeated the world over by Sufis also known as the Whirling Dervishes.
I understand, now, how that simple motion can harness energy too great to handle, but in May of 1968, when I was twelve, I did not know.
How insufferable that half-day of school had been. I looked at the clock a million times and thought my exams would never be over. Then, finally, I ran full out from the bus stop to my mother’s kitchen table. My brother returned that morning from Viet Nam—wounded, decorated, and ALIVE.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. (I alternated) To sit, or leap and shout. (I did both.) I wanted to bury myself in his arms, but then I couldn’t see his face. Silly grins melted to tears, then back again. The kitchen seemed ready to implode from rampant, unchecked emotion, but no one could leave the room. What do you say? What do you not say? How long until I would breathe normally again?
Watching the 33 miners and six rescuers in Chile emerge a couple of months ago wore me out. The glee, the relief, the rawness kept me riveted to the online live feed. When the last man exited the Phoenix, the ground team circled close and hooted, hollered, cheered, and pumped the air with their fists. Theirs was that state beyond joy, so untamed and jubilant that few humans know what to do with it. Usually, like a child, we ride the high until we collapse from fatigue.
Great joy can be nearly unbearable. When it is, turn. Or get to your kitchen table, the safe space where the wildness can wax and wane. Joy will find it’s perfect, delicious, manageable level.