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Thoughts of Boo

I've come to middle passage in my life, and one of my fondest hopes is that at last I've gentled out. I would like to be free of the crippling anger that marred my first four decades.

But a pocket of deep resentment remains. I find myself bitterly opposed to the idea that such a thing exists in the universe -- I mean truly existsm -- as human anguish. It seems to me to be mere illusion. I oppose it wherever I can, and I feel sure that I always will.

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Last night I had a letter from one of my dearest friends. In this letter she spoke of her daughter's grief. "Little Boo is out in the cold again. She doesn't understand how she can love her husband so much and yet be separated. She told me she's likely to go to pieces."

I don't know Boo personally, nor her estranged husband. By the criteria of touch and sight, I don't even know her lovely mother. But these people exist for me in a very real and very special way. From the instant I assimilated the fact of Boo's grief, I was restless and resentful. It seemed almost as if someone had suddenly slapped my face.

A part of my dilemma lay in the fact that I was helpless. I couldn't write a letter to Boo, because she might not like the idea. There wasn't much I could say to her mother than would mean very much. Strictly speaking, it just wasn't any of my business. And yet it was my business, in the sense that I'm deeply concerned about all human "anguish."

When I went to sleep, I dreamed about Boo. In my dream she was only three years old, and looked at lot like my little niece in Marissa, Illinois. but I knew in that quaint dream way that it was Boo, and I was inexpressibly happy to be with her.

We walked together up a sweeping hill. I was able to do everything that I wasn't able to do while I was awake. I held her hand. When she became tired I picked her up and put her on my shoulders. She clung to my ears precisely the way my daughter used to do when she was a little thing.

I explained to Boo, quietly but with absolutely no equivocation, that she was deeply loved. I told her that things would be all right. She must harbor no fears about her husband, she must believe that her life was a joy. It didn't seem at all strange to me that a three-year-old girl had a husband. I love the way irrelevant realities are gently suppressed in the world of our dreams.

By the time we came to the top of that hill, Boo was laughing and relaxed and free. Her little face was just as bright as if she had never known a shadow or a drop of rain. And as for me: my heart was just dancing.

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Then it was dawn, and I woke up. As i do so many times, I wrote a poem. I did this before I remembered the dream and before I came fully awake. This earth is not for somber. Our life is not despair. Joy is the condition of the universe. We may only prevent it who go against the tide. The earth is for quiet laughter and gentle bliss. Only once must we open the door of rapture and it is never closed again in our ecstatic face.

Then I was free to remember the dream, and Boo. I rose, washed my face. As I shaved I stared at my image in the mirror, and for some reason that I don't fully understand, I nodded my head very slightly, and smiled.


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