It comes in threes for me, it seems ~ inspiration ~ often three seemingly disconnected events dance around me in synchronicity, until I notice how the elements attract each other, how they fit together, and how their combined force amplifies the electricity of the epiphany that shocks, then soothes, me.
Last Saturday night, after about four hours of a grueling hike against the wind to a snow hut that dangles precipitously on the edge of a ridge in the Sierras, I sat at a wooden table with three strangers and two friends. The low, flickering light from the lone candle cast long shadows on the white-washed walls. As we sipped wine and Manhattans and Maker's Mark (in my hot cocoa), and as the dense cloud of a marshmallow bobbed up and down in my cocoa, I soaked in the warmth of the night, despite the freezing, frantic winds howling outside. Later I will write about the actual weekend and the snow trekking that I never thought my body could withstand, but for now I want to think only about the bright smile of the person who recommended I read the book Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
I bought the book a few days ago and put it at the top of my pile of "books to read" ~ the books near the bottom of the pile sighed sadly, resigned to the fate of waiting even longer to seduce me. But Three Cups of Tea seemed confused when I walked away, leaving it naked and unopened at the top of the pile, wondering what it could have done to entice me right away. But I was thinking about it ~ and that counts.
Then a couple of days ago, a lovely twitter friend posted a stream of tweets chronicling a conversation with someone she adores, who wanted to tell her about the death and birth of stars ~ she didn't want to forget what he was telling her about the infinite mass (and thereby possibility) of space and time ~ so she flung his words (and her fascination with him) into cyberspace, to seep in under the skin of someone like me.
So I remembered ~ and I checked ~ yes, new stars are born out of the atoms and molecules of stars that have exploded, and gravity is the driving force behind the birth of a new star. And, although gravity is a weak force, it has an infinite range, so that slowly but surely it pulls the particles together, and they then accelerate inwards. The process is very slow, but there is all the time in the universe for it to happen.
And I liked that.
Then it reminded me of the massive midnight-blue sky above me that night at the snow hut ~ I went out after dark to walk around and was mesmerized by the infinite salty sky above me ~ that's what it looked like to me ~ salt everywhere, the seemingly random granules forming protective walls around the beautiful constellations.
So today I took the book with me to the tea shop, and over two pots of tea, as the steam floated up and made the still-present salt in my eyes burn, I read this in the first chapter, aptly titled, 'Failure':
The wind picked up and the night became bitterly crystalline. He tried to discern the peaks he felt hovering malevolently around him, but he couldn't make them out among the general blackness. ... Sleep, in this cold, seemed out of the question. So Mortenson lay beneath the stars salting the sky and decided to examine the nature of his failure.
And so I did that a little ~ really sitting at the counter with my Failure and asking it how I did it all so wrong. It sipped tea with me a while ~ and the tango music on the speakers taunted me ~ we both sighed. As I finished off my food and sipped the last of the tea, Failure put its heavy arm around me and walked with me outside. And then it let me cross the street alone, on to the place where I needed to be next.