Karen Rivers

"do you know why you are on this planet, Rivers?"

Karen Rivers

Yes, Stork, I do.  

I am here for the daffodils.

I'm pretty sure it's for the daffodils, anyway.   I've thought it over, and that's my answer.

Let me explain.

The other day, I was walking with the kids up a winter-ravaged, muddy trail.  It was a grey day.  Everything was dun-coloured.

And then.


There along a fence in small yellow technicolour clusters were daffodils, blooming.   The Birdy actually fell to her knees and gasped.   She said, "Look, Mummy.   SPRING!"   

Which reminded me of when my grandmother died and as she lay in her hospital bed, tearing at her feeding tube, she kept murmuring lines from Wordsworth:  When all at once, I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils.   Her brain had cobwebs, she explained.  She kept wiping her hand in front of her face to get them away.   She wanted to see the daffodils.  I remember so clearly the smell of her hospital room, and reading out loud to her from the printed sheet:  I wandered lonely as a cloud.  And her face when she half-smiled, her head sinking back into the pillows.

Unrelated:  I got a fortune once that said, "When Spring comes, so will great joy in your life."  I kept it.  I don't know why I kept that fortune and not a million others that I could have found meaning in.   And now, when I see the daffodils, I think of that. 

Joy.  And all joy's possibilities.  

Isn't it those possibilities that keep us moving forward?  

I'm here for the daffodils.

I think.

Of course, the idea that there is a reason for our presence -- for our lives -- presupposes that there is someone or something up there who has a plan.   A lot of people like the idea of a plan.  A reason.   But take away the belief that there is someone or something, and then what?

If there is no "why", does anything really matter?


What matters?


I had this Raymond Carver quote on my wall for a long time.  (The quote is still there, but now the room is empty.   Find the metaphor.)

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.



To love and be loved.  

Is that the point?

We spend all this time seeking it, hoping it, feeling it, wanting it, losing it.   

I think that love, some kind of love, lies behind all the possibilities, greater purpose or not.  

Is that cheesy?

I think it's true.

To feel ourselves beloved on this earth.


We are so lucky.   SO lucky.   We live in a place where our problems are so middle-class that it would be funny if we didn't take it so seriously.   We aren't struggling to survive or being shot at or dying.   We can sit back on our leather couches and look out our double-pane windows at the falling rain, we can be eating whatever we want while we do this, sipping designer tea, and we can luxuriate in this thought:  So what is the point?  

Then we can turn on our big screen TVs and anaesthetize ourself against the rush of fear we feel when we realize there is a possibility that there simply isn't one.  

And what if there isn't?

Or maybe, just maybe, the pointlessness is the point.  

Draw it in circles on paper:  an endless line, tracing a path back to the beginning of itself. 

In the meantime, it is almost spring.


A few years ago, I found a quote in a magazine and I stuck it on the fridge.  It was about marriage and it was from a movie that starred Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere.   The movie was terrible but the quote was good.   I don't still have it because my ex, during a fight, took it off the fridge and tore it up.   He was angry, he explained.

(The paper was so tiny, an inch square.   I imagine him furiously shredding it and I think, That -- right there, THAT is marriage.) 

The quote said:

”We need a witness to our lives.  There's a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything.  The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day.  You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.  Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness'."

(I am only slightly embarrassed to be quoting from "Shall We Dance" in order to answer your question, Stork.)

I think my answer, similarly, is that I think we are here to witness.   I think that is the why.   I think that is the point.

We witness spring.  Love.  Life.  Death.  Hope.  Fear.  Skinned knees.   Broken hearts.  Suffering.  The next first kiss.  We witness our grandmothers dying in hospital beds.   We witness choices.  Music.   We witness the way the rain trickles down the window panes after being blown there by the wind.  We see art in shadows.  We look closely at the dirt and witness the first green leaves of the daffodils pushing past the composting leaves and the thin layer of frost.

We are the witnesses, and we have a job to do.

We write down what we see, so other people can see it, too.

I've heard other people say that they were put on this planet to write, that is their purpose and they know it.  It is their why.   And I want to adopt that and feel it and believe it, but I'm not so sure.   Is that the point or is it just one of many points?

Is it enough?

I love to write.  I feel most myself when I'm writing.   Or when I'm behind a microphone, talking.  

Is that my "why"?   Am I (just) here to write?

Or is my why about my children?  Am I (just) here to raise my kids up to be good people so they can raise their kids up to be good people and then, with all of us doing that, maybe we can all be good people?

Did someone put me here for that?

Or is that a cop out?   The kids will grow up.  They will likely be good people.  

I may run out of things to write.

Or say.

Then will I cease to have a why?


There will still be daffodils, every spring.  There will still be love.   And joy.

That's why, Stork.