It is now turkey hunting season, I celebrate such a marvelous thing. The pirate rose well before dawn, nearly still the middle of the night and left, I heard him rustling around, and then I fell back to sleep. I woke at 6am from dead asleep to wide awake, strange dreams of college friends involved in strange events. The coffee was still warm in the insulated carafe left with my mug on the counter. And I made breakfast and wasted time watching TED talks for a couple hours. Then I cleaned the bathrooms, and the kitchen, and did laundry and cat boxes, and organized my bedroom opening the curtains and windows wide. The magnolia tree outside my bedroom window cast a stunning pink light over my whole room, to go with the rainbows dancing from the crystal in my east facing window.
Work done, I took my embroidery out to the patio, but the sun was hot and I was concerned for burning my nearly burnt skin from a long day at the Crawfish Festival on Saturday. Only careful monitoring of my sun-screened skin, and making my sun loving pirate sit in patches of sun near the shade kept me from burning so early in the season. And my awesome fishing hat. I took my books and boxes, and needles and threads up the hill to where my freshly repainted metal table sits in the shade under a spruce tree. I trucked up and down the hill for water, for lunch, for water for the dog, for laundry switching, for forgotten items or dropped things, taking time in between to clean the dog mess off the lawn on one trip, carrying a very angry cat up, only to have her realize that this was a lovely place to lay contentedly in the shade and get scratched regularly.
The pirate returned sometime in the middle of the afternoon. I don’t even know when. I just know that I embroidered for about 5 hours, happily content in my zone. Finally he came up and lay in the sun on a blanket for about an hour as I drank a beer, and worked on my project. The sun was setting into the evening, all day long the pink and white petals floated down on me like snow, but as the sun was setting it was magical, like a scene from one of my favorite movies by Akira Kurasawa, where the peach blossoms rain, tinkling like bells on a crying boy.
I wake earlier than I should for the late night, watching the ball drop as I rested in his deep embrace, his firm masculine kiss warm on my forehead, telling me how good I am at hosting guests in our home, how great I did taking care of everything, how pleased he is with me, in some ways it makes me happy to hear this from him, but only because it confirms what I already know, I don’t need someone else to cook and clean for me to make people feel at home and there is nothing special about it, it is part of who I am. I make coffee and take out the dog, feed the cats and start a load of laundry before I sit to check the internet. The strings of the cuckoo clock are low near the arm of my chair so I reach up and wind it. At some point many months ago, he stood over me in this same spot, and in his gruff and grumpy way, informed me that he should not be the only one to wind it. In other words, you can wind the clock if you want to. Ordinary.
Mary Shelley said something about life being an accumulation of anguish, and I think as I hear it that though she used it to justify life, it is a statement in and of itself. Life for me has never been about the accumulation of joy. The joy has been highlights and nothing more. But the ordinary, yes that has accumulated as well. We come back from lunch with his aunt who in her way is showing the kind of meal we should eat while we try to lose weight. Our mutual resolution, I suppose, though when I ask him what his is, he says, drink more water. And I adopt it immediately, it solves so many problems. You can say, I am giving up soda, but still be putting cream and sugar in your coffee, you can say, I won’t eat sweets, but fill up on diet cola, or cola, or carbohydrates, you can say I will eat less and exercise more, the highlights, and the darkness, but the ordinary, yes that is it. Drink more water. Ordinary.
We work together scraping ice and shoveling the dusting of snow off the front driveways, and then together he shoveling off the back deck as I shovel a path around the yard for the arthritic dog, who cannot hump across the drifts as he once did. He grins at me periodically, I think he likes this, me outside helping him do the work of the two houses. And I know I like the fact that I don’t have to ask him to help, the bane of the American male, he doesn’t need to be bossed or told what to do, he does it. The dishes get washed and the vacuum run and his bills paid, and I have nothing to think about. As I lay in bed earlier I thought of this, how we have separate accounts and neither one of us would have it any other way. I don’t have to think about how his bills are going to get paid, I only have to think about mine. What a gift this is, one I appreciate more than I would have ever imagined. The the dog and I do a lap around the yard, he calls out to me, wait up for me and he does a round too, smiling at me and wrapping his arms around me, the brim of his hat burning a line across my forehead as he rubs noses with me. He goes in, the dog and I go around again. Joy.
Inside again I finish hooking up my Wii fit to his Wii console, don’t break it, he hollers, in other words, what is this thing and how does it work, will it somehow damage my console? Then begs a Mii for himself, and tries ski jumping, besting me right away. Though I love it best of all the games. I spend the next 40 minutes trying to shed my midsection of extra weight. I resolve to start walking again, though the injury to my foot has been preventing it, okay, then maybe the bike, the dog stands in front of me, between the Wii and the TV, he knows when I am using this, it means less time in the woods for him. My heel hurts after. And I click my teeth annoyed. Getting old really sucks sometimes. Anguish.
And in the late hours after he has gone to bed I spend several hours loading music onto my ipod. Surfing the internet for the biggest CD wallet money can buy, and dream of the day I can get rid of this CD tower, and make room in this house for space. Yes, space, there is a great gift in making space in a home where there was none previously. Slowly bit by bit, I open up the space in this home. I open up space in his heart. He sat on the sofa and lifted his hand to wave at me, in that cute way he does, his curly hair standing on end and smooshed from sleeping, his face tired and his eyes sleepy. I wave back and blow a kiss, which he laughs in way that says he likes it and cannot believe I did it, then he pushes it away. Hey! I say don’t push my kiss away you are supposed to catch it, I do it again this time he puts it in his pocket. Okay seriously, I say, you are supposed to smoosh it on your face. He reaches into his pocket takes it out and smooshes it on his face, then he says there is the other kiss, its a boomerang one, and smooshes that on his face too. Then he yawns really big, and like a little kid rubs his eyes. Go to bed, I say. You just want the remote, he says. Yeah, I do. But I don’t really, I really have no desire to watch TV rather I am looking forward to the quiet of the ticking clock and my thoughts. I look up and see its weights are hanging low again. I reach up to wind them. And then reach not for a glass of wine, but instead, for a glass of water. Ordinary.
There is this kind of perfection in cooking. The slow kind. Yesterday I used the food processor, something I would have never bought for myself, because there is a zen quality, a peaceful quality, a hands in and hands on kind of quality to carefully cutting the vegetables. I love this. This act of cooking. I understand the purpose of a sous chef, but I love the act of creating the food from the beginning to the end. But today, the processor does the stalks of celery in seconds, the onions sliced, I pour them out onto the cutting board and chop them into small pieces. Saute the veggies in butter. I do not have any sage. I call and ask if anyone has it. No. I am not yet fully here in this household. Several minutes later, I have a brand new container of sage in my hands, delivered to my door, via the grocery store. And I cook it all on a stove I could never have imagined owning, it shines brand new in the kitchen, they went out to get it, so I could bake properly for Thanksgiving. I open the windows and bake nothing for the first time, as directed in the manual.
For this new family I feel a deep sense of gratitude.
In the morning, I wake early, to the crispy frosted grass and leaves. The sun is shining and the day promises to be warm. I raise my arms up and stretch in the brisk air. Lovely day. Lovely day. There are no shortcuts for pie crust. I put on Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, the heavenly choir fills the air. The dog comes to me and rests his head on my knee. I look into his eyes, he is almost smiling as he “hugs” me in his doggie way. He does this at least two more times over the course of the morning, though I am regularly admonishing him to get out of the kitchen. And as I mix the egg and ice water into the flour and butter, I feel a sense of something, I do not know what, it is profound though, and I savor it. I cannot name it.
For this beautiful animal and his unconditional love, I feel so very thankful.
He comes in from hunting, smiling, cheerful. Last night I said to him, in the hot tub, that he was clearly miserable, so clearly not happy with me living in this place with him, that I just didn’t know what we were doing. He said, I have always been miserable, but with you here, I am this much more happy than I was before. He holds his hands apart like the fish that got away. Later I tell him, thank you for telling me that, he pulls me down on top of him and kisses me. Later still he comes into the living room and places a big plate of sliced apples on the coffee table, but not in front of himself, but off to the side. I look at him, into those stunning green hazel eyes, he smiles. I get off the awful chair and sit beside him. We should bring that small couch in here, he says, it is a good snuggle couch, and put that chair in the office. Okay, I say. I would like that. I go from one house to another, my side dishes and dessert a hit, and get containers for the remains of dinner, when I come in they are talking about rings, and cruises to Alaska. They change the subject upon my entrance, but not quickly, slowly as though to tell me something. Later I show him my board of pins, ‘for the wedding I will never have”. He laughs. But he is quiet too. I don’t know, honestly, if we will ever go there, but I know at the very least, I have his love, and he is my very best friend.
For this man, who is difficult, moody, miserable, and sometimes positively awful, I am so very thankful.
She comes to the door without being announced, he lets her in. She sits in her favorite chair, the cats come to her to cuddle, the dog sits beside her. I pour her a beverage, it is kind of fun to have a drink with my baby, though she is not a heavy drinker, and I have water. After he goes to bed we tickle each others backs, a multi-generational ritual of affection, that I have not had the pleasure of in months. After, I tell her come here, and she cuddles me like she did when she was little. It’s hard huh? I ask. She nods her head as she sucks her two fingers. Harder than you thought, isn’t it? She nods her head more vigorously. But, she says, it is so worth it. I know, I say, and it will get better if you are prepared to work your ass off. I fall asleep while we are watching reruns of NCIS, she nudges me awake, come on Momma, she says. Do you want to drive your car home, I ask her, as she gets in the car I have not owned long, but is now hers, minus, for the moment, the title and registration. Yeah, I do, she says. I feel butterflies in my stomach, as I realize that I am still being the fearful mom, but she has got the driving thing down. It is my tension, not her maturity that is the problem in this moment. Its a good car I tell her. It is a grown up car she says, I see now the truck wasn’t a grown up car, but this car, is a car for a grown up.
I am so very grateful for this child, though she is now an adult, most of the time, she has brought me so much joy, so much worry, so much love, so much angst.
It is late, but I started to straighten the house as we watched TV together, folding blankets, sorting junk mail from bills, organizing my side table, preparing the dishes to be washed. I come into the dark quiet house. I notice how the house looks better day by day, than it did when I moved in. The gorgeous hardwood floors hidden under a horrible cream Berber carpet. The organized area where the shoes were, the cheap cruddy looking throw rugs gone, the kitchen de-cluttered, and more open, my belongings scattered throughout the house, in spots here, and there. I wash the dishes, clean the bit of pie off the bottom of the new oven, note the work to be done, the rugs in the kitchen need a wipe down, the wallpaper torn off and a pale blue wall added, the out dated light fixture moved to the middle and replaced with something a bit more modern, simple fixes. Small steps.
For this house, which I live in, for all intents and purposes, for free, I cannot even tell you how unimaginably thankful I am, for the halved work, for the beautiful space to paint in, sunny, airy, open and the warmth of a wood stove to make it a four season room, for the deer that are in the yard, for the hot tub, for the bird feeders in the lawn, that he loves as much as I, for the herbs and vegetables he has planted, for the sanctuary of my own room, for the slate rock patio, for the sunny front steps, that cured a recent bout of the stomach flu, 36 hours into it (first time I have been viral sick with more than just a cold in literally four years), for his willingness to help me make it the kind of home I want to live in, though it takes a great deal of dragging, for all of this…I am humbled. So grateful.
And for the love of my family, my friends, my Mom, whose birthday was today, for my students, and the cats, and their conditional love and occasional affection, I am full of gratitude.
And there is that feeling, as I clean up my room, organizing my jewelry, I stop and notice it. What is that? I ask. I notice it, this ordeal, I think, has been divine in its making. Long did I think it in the dark hours, with all the weird things, the odd coincidences, divine. I have hated it, and I was destroyed by it, but it had to be, didn’t it? Divine? And as the things happen, as I get further and further away from it, it feels divine. As I sit, at a desk, waiting for my new vehicle to be prepared, this song comes on, and I stop, I listen to every word of it. I cannot believe that only a few months before he left me, he played this song for me, sending it to me by phone, from the concert we were watching. I listen to it, for the first time, with a kind of passive acknowledgment, why would this be playing, here, now, when I realized this morning, that this is perhaps one of the last steps in the letting go of what I had lost. I am grateful for the gifts of things I wouldn’t have without it. And there are good things I carried out of it, for sure, but the greatest gift of all, is how much better my life has become with the after.
In the cool night air, I stand, same place I stood as the sun was rising, and I look up to a blanket of stars, and there, staring me in the face is the constellation Orion. I thought I was free from it here. But I see, it will never be wholly gone.
It is like the act of cooking, it is the process, the act of being whole and present, and putting your self into each moment. They say I am a good cook, but it is the love of the act that makes it so. The wholesome ingredients, the small bits of knowledge, the years of experience, the immense failures taken as lessons, the lack of attention resulting in burned ruins, the pleasure of sharing the meal, and of partaking in a meal alone.
For this life, I am grateful, deeply, profoundly.
Thank you for destroying me, because by that act, you have made me whole.
I loved you, I love you still, and I always will.
I am sorry I was hateful and so terribly angry when you left, see what happened was, that I made the mistake of following you, into the dark.
For the path I made out of this darkness, I am so very grateful. For this new life, of my creation, I am so very grateful.
The fire here, is set on simmer, and the meal promises to be good.
“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Rumi
He arrives right on time. He has, of course a coffee, black the way I actually drink it, waiting for me in his truck. His eyes are so beautiful this morning, he compares them to tiger eyes, but they are not like a tiger, more like a panther. They are brilliant, golden shining things that I want very much to be looking at me. It takes him forever to dress and I laugh at him and at my own life telling him how my father would whistle and pace when things dragged on too long. I tell him I am there lets go, only I clap my hands and say chop chop princess you look lovely. I love that he is a strong enough man to take being teased. He has made me a leather strap to hold my brass tankard to my belt, the brass tankard I spent 3 dollars on at the Antique Show and that I spent an additional three dollars for brass cleaner. I love how it is faceted and sparkles in the brilliant July sun. I texted him earlier and told him I wanted a boot knife, he has pulled through at the last minute and brought me a lovely prop dagger that is perfect for my boot. And I also am carrying a muskrat purse attached to my belt. It was also at the Antique Show, but I did not buy it, instead he went back the second day without me, and he bought it for me. Today he is dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow and the children follow him around running up to him and saying hi, and the young women blush and cover their faces and ask to have their photos taken with him while their young indulgent boyfriends look on. And there are also the older women too, who smile with a saucy knowing look and ask for the same. It is I behind the camera, pleased more or less because I see how it delights the pirate, and the ladies. I love too that the ladies here dressed in their boostiers and corsets are like me, flirtatious and tossing innuendos out like fallen handkerchiefs. Three of us most buxom beauties stand abreast, and our pictures are taken, it is a six pack. We begin to talk to another Capt. Jack Sparrow, a young handsome version, and his father and their friend. We end up somehow spending much of the day with them, walking away and meeting up again. The rum, rum jello shots, and secret liquor is passed in silver flasks, try this. MM. Try this.
While I am waiting for the long line to pass where my pirate is waiting to obtain beverages, I a plate of pierogies in hand, I am talking to the group from the alternative Capt. Jack. Are you going to eat those or just stand there holding them, one of them asks. No I am waiting for my pirate, I say. I am saucy with these gentlemen. Flirting cautiously, innuendos abound. They laugh and smile and one of them says you are a treasure. Thank you I say, I just want him to think that. He does, says the gentleman, he just doesn’t want to let on, because he is a man and that is how we do things. We turn and his back is to us. Ah I say but he does not glance at me from across the room, so I cannot be too sure. I turn away. And the man I am speaking to laughs and says he just looked over here. I smile big. Cool. I say. Very cool. And when I turn again, he also turns and I see his panther eyes like the moon shining as he grins at me.
At the end of the day, our bodies are hot and sweaty and we are just a short drive from the lake, so we get in the truck and drive there, I change into my bathing suit in the parking lot, doing what I can discreetly and then he graciously holds a towel up guarding my modesty while he looks on with those panther eyes. Perfect. Absolutely Perfect. The water is so refreshing it is not necessary to stay in it long, ten minutes and then we are on the beach passing the camera back and forth between us, taking pictures of the rocks, the driftwood and the sun as it is setting over Lake Ontario.
And here is where I place my hands on my face, covering my eyes before God. I give thanks for this precious day, though it has not yet ended. I remember so many years ago, having days like this, where I awoke early, laughed and grinned and had a most pleasant day, spent time in nature watching the sun set, and that feeling the one that you get when you have had such a perfect day is settling into me right now. I am so thankful. When I uncover my eyes he is looking at me, and he gestures for me to come to him, and I run in my muppet like fashion to be with him. Eager for his kiss.
Later when he helps me bring in my things, he hands me a wrapped package. And I take it from him. I knew he had bought something, and he has teased me, not letting on more than the accidentally slipped secret that he had bought two items when I had thought he bought one. I am unwrapping it expecting a zombie, but instead it is this gargoyle. I am pleased beyond measure, even more so than if it had been a zombie. I am touched, deeply, and as I look up from it to him, I see those golden eyes, sparkling at me.