This is the beginning of a longer rhyme, often recited in response to sightings of magpies. Since Jane, my wife, died, I have been ever so slightly obsessed with this rhyme. In the first few days, I only ever saw one magpie, and the universe seemed to be reinforcing my sorrow. Endless grey skies with unseasonable rain accompanied endless lone magpies.
Over the following months, Adelaide has returned to the mainly sunny winter days that we both loved, and as Chico, the dog, and I, walk around our streets, we see. We see the singular blossom hidden in a barren tree, an elderly man planting a rose bush gifted by his neighbour, and a second magpie hiding nearby whenever we see a sole sorrowful magpie.
I wondered if the universe was telling me, that wherever there is sorrow, there is also joy in hiding, waiting to be discovered. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even this year or next. Maybe the joy is in tiny doses, split seconds within the sorrow, containing a spark of ‘not sorrow’. Like the single flower blooming in the winter sun. We, Chico and I, rarely see a single magpie now. Three months have passed and the sorrow has settled into the ground on which we walk.
I had thought sorrow might be a cloak, but the magpie pairs, swooping and dancing with each other in the air, remind me that sorrow and joy are not two sides of the same coin, that neither can be a cloak that captures the wearer. Rather they are reflections of the soul and the mind in the moment. If I stay in the moment, and look, truly look at the blossoms, at the concentration of the elderly man planting the rose, and the playing magpies. I see both their joy and the sorrows that have gone before and may come again.
Everyone and every creature experiences loss, it is not unique to me. Loss can be fleeting, a grain of sand lost from the beach to the ocean, or massive like the bushfires that devastated huge swathes of Australia early in the year, racing up cliffs and over roads, destroying everything it its path. In loss, with time there are inevitable changes. The coastline changes shape and the regrowth of ash fuelled country will occur after enough rain.
I talk to the elderly man when he is out in his garden. Chico bounds up and down like a puppy in the winter grass in the park. We met a lady whose home of sixty odd years was being sold and subdivided, and spent some time listening to her loss and pain. The trees she spent time among, with her father, will soon be gone, as he is long gone. Validating her sorrow, I wished her moments of joy in her journey forward.
Take time in your busy days, to be that moment of joy, or that possibility of shared sorrow easing a sorrow that was held before by one. There is no infinite sorrow, nor infinite joy, instead there are moments that could be lengthy or moments that could be infinitesimally short. Be present for the moments of joy, no matter how short and know that the moments of sorrow shall end eventually.
One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret, Never to be told.