A Fourth Dimension

When you’re a child you learn there are three dimensions
Height, width and depth
Like a shoebox
Then later you hear there’s a fourth dimension
–Ron Padgett

My husband knows I’m in a bad place emotionally when I start texting him Zillow listings of houses for sale. He knows the situation is especially severe when the listings feature new construction homes completely out of our price range. It has become a running joke and always seems to recur this time of year.

Mid to late August, the summer turns sour. Weeds rise up through the cracks of our driveway and fruit flies overtake the spoiling fruit in our kitchen. The air is hot and stagnant, and a film seems to be growing over everything. Looking for a brand-new house feels more enticing than entering into the unrest of reality.

For me, this time of year is equivalent to what poets call “the turn.” In Italian, the word is “volta,” and it simply means the shift that must occur for the mounting tension of a poem to resolve. This shift is synonymous with the climax of a story and could be a subtle resolution or a dramatic transformation in the writer’s point of view. The turn usually occurs three-fourths of the way through a poem, just like August falls three-fourths of the way through a year.

Historically, August has begged a decision from me. I can see the pattern now. After recalling past events, I’m curious how this month has consistently pressed me to change directions, create new connections, or make amends. Unfortunately, the change rarely involves buying a brand-new house that time has not yet corrupted! Rather, it requires that I tend to relational or spiritual conflicts in my life that aren’t as easy to address.

It was two years ago, in August, that my daughter Lucy was hit by a car while riding her bike. As I rode with her in the ambulance to the hospital, I thought we might lose her. I prayed over her body in Jesus’s name, begging Him to let her stay with us. That night, in the dark hospital room, I knew in my bones that life was too short to nurse old grudges and harbor contempt. I felt God’s Spirit turn me towards a posture of openness and grace because of the grace I’d received. I felt convicted to make amends with an old and dear friend. That day, the poem of my life shifted directions.

I find myself here again.

Last week I sat with a neighbor friend on hospice care during his last hours on earth. I had gone to visit him late in the afternoon, and the next day when I returned, the shift had already occurred: his breathing had shallowed and we could hear his lungs swell with fluid like the cabin of a sinking ship filling with water. His skin had grown cold and gray. His body was rapidly turning towards its final resolution.

This man is now in glory, and the unexpected turn of his life towards heaven has prompted a change in my life too.

I woke up last Sunday morning, the day after my friend passed away, and felt a nudge to return to the church we both used to attend, which I left last August after some division with the leadership. My friend had been a champion for women and misfits who didn’t feel welcome in many churches. What an unexpected turn, that in my friend’s absence I would feel God coax me to return to the place I’d left a year ago. It felt so strange and humbling, but it also felt like coming home.

A common theme I see in creative writing is “time as both friend and enemy.” Whether we have it or don’t have it, time messes with our heads. We need time to mature, to work through emotional tension and conflict, and having this time is a gift.

Time eventually requires that we make a decision about what we value and act before it’s too late.

This August, I’m aware of the ways that time has pressed me to get over myself and take a new turn, to live again in the tension of a “fourth dimension,” where people and circumstances are both glorious and flawed, blooming and spoiling, and most of us are just doing the best we know to do.

The brevity of a human life makes my heart swell with forgiveness. It makes me want to just love, love, love, because in the end, we don’t have much time at all. I hope that the poem of my life shifts toward a posture of humility and forgiveness, time and time again.

Libby Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow, Relief Journal, Driftwood Press, and Literary Mama. A veteran of the US Air Force Nurse Corps, she now resides on the coast of Virginia with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, and keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as registered nurse and teaches poetry workshops. She is passionate about a good cup of coffee, bumming on the beach, and finding meaning in the ordinary moments of life. You can find her at www.libbykurz.com.