About ten years ago, in Ina Hughs’s writing class at Ghost Ranch, we wrote, after Judith Viorst, a “before I die” piece. I just re-read it and thought, wow, that still holds for me. Except two parts – I have snuggled grand-babies but not great-grand-babies, and I think I have told the story only I can tell. I whisper a brief “alleluia” as I write that. My new book, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God, is that story. The paperback launch on June 13 at Op Cit Bookstore in Santa Fe will be the next evolution of that effort, but the writing is done, and I still have a sense of accomplishment! All of the rest of “Before I Die”is yet to be made manifest and I hope I finish most of it before I die.
Before I die, I want to catch babies’ eyes and distract them from tears with peek-a-boo gestures and noises from mars. I want to snuggle grand and great-grand-babies and feel their soft fingers exploring my cheeks. I want to hold children’s hands and build sand castles, ride waves and discover treasured rocks. I want to watch little eyes grow wide as I tell stories; and tickle their minds until they think a new thought.
Before I die, I want to meet a love, and practice the art of unknowing until our curiosity carries us into underbrush and wide open spaces. Until we reckon with each other’s less traveled roads, poorly played decks, transplanted roses, kick ass boots, passionate prose and pickled ideas. I want to surrender while holding onto a parachute, and traverse lavender fields with cameras, create multimedia pictures with Mozart playing in the background. I want to hold wrinkled flesh, construct back bones, and light sparks in a partner’s eyes. I want to whisper our secrets, nod across a crowded room, and glance without seeing and still know.
Before I die, I want to take an unusual barn and create a bloated room with a canopied loft, swinging hammocks and chairs, a kitchen stocked with a ten quart pot, a desk and sewing machine. I want a volleyball court, studio space, green technology, and cows bellowing in the vicinity.
Before I die, I want many occasions to share Mennonite flavors with my family, bohne beroggi, knepp, bierocks, mack-kuchen, Kase beroggi, and hand-made sausage. I want to play rook and volleyball, take walks, kick around ideas, make new memories remembering the old, laugh at our spills, spells, and rural tenacity, and hold hands against the dying of any light.
Before I die, I want to hike treeless pastures of the rolling Kansas Flint Hills, and northern New Mexico high dessert prairies, attend lectures, construct theories, and sit down with friends to warm bowls of fresh French bouillabaisse.
Before I die, I want to peck at a keyboard until words and sentences conspire to tell the story only I can tell.
Before I die, right before I die, I want to be an inconspicuous carrier of secret supplies across embargo lines, or Robin Hood, or a messenger who helps get the word out before it’s too late. I want to accomplish a fear-filled and dangerous job for a greater good, knowing that whatever price I pay, it cannot be too much.
Before I die, I want to rob fate of a futile life and a cautious death.