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.
It is 4am and I am awake, thinking even 15 more minutes of sleep is worth the next two hours. I think about happiness, what does it mean to be happy? I think my dad spent the better part of his life being clinically depressed, and I think sometimes, maybe all the time, that it might have a genetic component. I know I should be happy. I have a good job, with good benefits, I have a beautiful albeit at times struggling adult child, I have a decent place to sleep, plenty of spending money and few expenses, food to eat, hobbies to occupy my mind and soul, good friends, family that loves me, a great yard, pets that love me, dote on me, students who love me so why in this deep dark part of morning do I sigh as I turn over and place my clasped hands against my cheek and pull the covers over my head, am I NOT happy? What is missing? And I know it is not an external thing, it is something on my insides. I know I need to return to meditation, and spend more of my time on art.
I think of this event horizon. When I first met the ex, I had this intense feeling that he would have a profound effect on my life. I had always thought it was a positive effect, but I now know it was totally not that, it was this other thing. It was like being sucked into a black hole, you are one thing on one side, and you are stretched to an unrecognizably thin, tattered, atom infinite blobby particulate version of your self, where every cell is a separate entity. Nothing in my life has ever been the same, every new thing that enters my life, must pass through that black hole before I can even begin to process it. When I was struggling he texted me (his stalker girlfriend?) I am not sure I lose track of what happened, its course and its places, “I have moved out of our house, I am not coming back.” As if I wanted him back, because as of the first part of October, I never ever did. I could see that I was already unalterably torn apart. As though I had been dismembered and sewn back together and he was saying, your body will never be the same again. *S* Really? I didn’t know. *S*
Ironically my day unfolds beautifully, it is a picture perfect teaching day. I go to help a teacher with a Literacy project which requires a poster as one component of its final product. Two boys sit on either side of me, best friends, talking talkity chatty heads in my class. I show the one how to draw a zebra, and he struggles immensely. At first, but slowly this incredible beautiful graphic/design image appears and grows, I make him go back and draw lines he draws half-assed, I make articulate the decision-making process of an artist, should I do this, or that, what should I put here, is it too empty over here, what kind of tree would be near a zebra in the wild. And at the end his pride is evident. I point out to him that we have been sitting side by side for an hour and a half, and he hasn’t even budged one inch from his chair. His buddy on my other side draws a snake, and he admits he is jealous of his friend’s zebra, but also that he loves the picture. And also there is a question from him. Ms. I haven’t talked in a long time, we never sit this close together and not talk but there is a question in the sound of his voice, and I explain to him about silencing the mind, that art and talking come from different places. They confuse your mind, he states simply. Yes. Exactly.
Later my second worst class is there and they are wonderful, so good for once it surprises me. And after a student from another school comes in as a transfer to the special education class. I greet her warmly, take her hands in mine and tell her she has a friend already at this school. Her mom is visibly relieved. I needed a day like this. Maybe she did too.
I pull in the driveway and the magnolia tree is pink in its full bloom, and the flamingo in the front yard is a stunning accent to it. I change and put get my tools from the shed, I kneel to pull weeds and discover so many plants hiding under years of neglect, forget-me-not, primrose, scented thyme, cinquefoil, Salvia, oregano, rosemary, parsley, dragons tail, the dog is leashed to the iron bench on the porch, he lies in the shade panting from the heat. There is a pleasure in this, I think, and I realize that I need these kinds of comforts of routine, of the outdoors to rejuvenate. And for a moment I feel intense hatred for the stalker for taking away my park time. But I let it pass, knowing that this summer I will be in the woods for weeks without the fear of ever seeing her. I will return to it, as I must.
Now as the pirate mows the back yard, the dog, yards from me is sniffing every nook and cranny, free to wander at his leisure, the buffalo skull like God, looks empty and omniscient over us, ignoring my prayers. The pirate grins as he passes by me, and I watch him thinking of how nice it is to not have to boss him into the mowing. He curses as he steps in poop, and I laugh. The wind chimes, an ever-present music, rattle softly in the light breeze. He whistles to point out more poop for me to scoop and the dog runs to him and then past him and further on in the yard, and he tosses a ball that Sancho, even in his arthritic old man state, runs after.
I breath, a sigh of relief. Would that more days were like this one than not.
After our ritual of Sunday breakfast we decide to go to a local garden store, he picks out vegetable plants and I pick out flowers. I add salvia and sage to the front garden, petunias to the pots hanging on the garage, he plants herbs in the garden by the front door. It actually feels good on my back for whatever reason. Sitting on the ground, more comfortable than standing. Take note. In the back he weeds the garden bed and then rototills it, while I use a unique tool he has to tear up dandelions. I bring beers and vegetarian chili out to the patio where we eat and continue working. I sand a piece of aluminum I found in the woods, and spray paint it, art making.
His aunt feeds treats to the dogs from over the fence while he tills a spot for more raspberries. And she thanks us for the big pot of purple flowers hanging in her backyard. Our birthday gift to her.
An Open Letter to the People Who Are Invading my Home:
You may not know who I am – well, no. Let me rephrase that. You don’t. See, that’s the thing about houses. They form such an intimate part of our lives, and then someone else you’ve never met just charges right in, cooking food in the kitchen, sleeping the bedrooms, not knowing or caring about who came before. Hence the reason I am writing to you. Because I want, perhaps need, to tell you that I was there, and that it meant something to me.
I did my final walk through my house today. Alone. It seemed appropriate. I say my house, because even though it has become yours to call home, and I have a house of my own, a part of me will always be there. I’d like to say I’ve lost a lot in my twenty-one years, but we’re being honest here. I’ve always had food to eat, a roof over my head. Not many people I know have died; I’m no victim of some great tragedy. My family is actually, quite loving, if sometimes oppressively so. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are people I’ve held on to because they’re good and worthwhile people. Despite all that, I find that I feel quite apathetic about people in general. I don’t see much humanity in humanity, if you understand my meaning. I have a tendency to get attached to places and things, and the memories that they hold.
I find it – wrenching – how empty it is here. To you, I’m sure it says “possibility”. You can look at the bare rooms and see yourself there. Do you have a family to fill up all the empty space? But all I can see is where we held Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas and Easter with people we don’t know anymore, family who are not with us anymore. The kitchen is quite nice, don’t you think? I bet it was a big selling point. I can see it now as it was before. You wouldn’t know it was the same room, the same house, if you saw a picture of it fifteen years ago. The old green fridge, the linoleum floor that our puppy did us, and, trust me here, you, the favor of tearing up so that we could put down new tile. We finished the remodeling the day before Thanksgiving. We didn’t know it then, but it was our last Thanksgiving as a family.
We had to paint all the walls in drab colors for you. The house has no personality anymore. My mother’s paintings used to hang in every room. I wonder what you think about the downstairs bathroom, and how the ceiling is painted dark purple, with stars and galaxies. In fact, the whole room used to be like that. It was painful to paint it white, and we felt compelled to leave a little bit of its old glory. When we moved in, there was this horrible beige wallpaper, with brown flowers and polka dots. (How the realtor decided the galaxies were worse than this is beyond me, but they’re both gone now in any case.) My mother left a bottle of hand soap in the bathroom. English lavender. She only likes the smell because she says it reminds her of her grandmother.
And of course, there’s the next room. You may wonder why something sold to you as an “upstairs laundry room” has the distinct odor of Gesso and turpentine. Or maybe you don’t, because you don’t know what those things smell like. My mother’s studio. It was always kind of wondrous to me – I could never capture her skill with a paintbrush. Or with pen or marker or modeling clay, for that matter. I’ve always had this image of her – young, before I was born, when she still wore her hair long, with that artsy, disheveled look, smoking, creating beautiful images with paint and canvas. And I always felt this emptiness, because I could never dream of being that person (whether or not this image is close to or far from the truth is wholly irrelevant). Recently I had this revelation that maybe my grace is in words rather than pictures, but somewhere in my mind I’ve cultivated this theory that writing is something that anyone can do, so it doesn’t really count. In any case, I find that my reality is far from the romantic possibilities I imagine for an artist.
As I walk up the stairs, the sound of my footsteps echoes through the house. It’s such an empty sound that the word “empty” doesn’t capture it. It’s a cacophony of silence, vast, infinite, destitute, vacuous. Upstairs, I start with my mother’s room. It still smells like her – it’s not something I can describe, not a perfume or a candle. Just something warm and safe. She left the walls painted sage green, as an act of defiance. Even this color defines her, and it strikes me now that I’m not the only one leaving a piece of myself behind here. My grandmother made the curtains that are still here – they define her as well. A batik, ubiquitous in the many quilts that she makes and gives to family, friends, charities, people she knows of who are in need of a small comfort.
In the smallest bedroom, I’m ambivalent. We housed two people here who had no place else to go. Two people whom I love in that deep down kind of way that you love family you don’t see very often, not an active love, but an eternal fondness. But it was also my mother’s ex-husband’s office, where he would hole up for hours, and rage if you dared crack the door to retrieve an item or ask a question.
My final stop is my bedroom. It’s difficult to even look at. But I sit down, between the two windows that face the street, where my bed used to stand. Here is where I lost my virginity with the man who is now my husband. And here, I consider for a long time how many hours I spent in this room. With friends, alone, learning, growing, it’s all very cliché. There’s a mural on one wall. My mother painted it when I was going through a Zen phase, which, to some extent, has stuck with me. I hope you don’t paint over it. We already painted over the other three walls for you. They were this wonderful, bright, spring green that I chose when I was finally allowed to dispose of the cold ice blue that had been chosen for me. It – the green – was so warm and sunny. You can still see a little bit of it in the crack between the wall and frame of the closet.
The longer I sit, the more ghosts I count, and you are inheriting all of them. I’m happy to pass them off to you. Some may seem insignificant. Two cats died here. One, we couldn’t bear to euthanize until she was too weak to stand, a selfish cruelty I’ve since regretted. When she died, that was the first in a long series of more serious troubles. After that, little bits of our family broke off piece by piece. Where there were seven, four remain, and in four, maybe five years, it will be down to two. The other cat – this isn’t really relevant, but it breaks my heart, my mother and I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – take in. You see, in her old age, she had lost her fondness for doing her business where it belonged. So, when we left, she stayed in the empty house, all alone, deaf, going blind. I feel this terrible ache of guilt whenever I think of her now.
Then, of course, there’s the front steps. This is where my mother’s husband sat and told her that he was leaving her. No trying, no second chances, it was over. And here is the part of my story where I started down the road to adulthood. A road that I hate and resent. Here, where my bed used to be, is where I lay, listening to my mother cry half the night away for months, too tired and frustrated to try to comfort her. I felt overwhelmed by her grief, inadequate for not having the answers she was looking for, helpless in the face of her anger, unworthy for not meeting all her expectations, for not easing her worries in the wake of what had happened, responsible for keeping life moving, for protecting her, and finally, ashamed and childish, because while she was devastated, I had found love, and wanted most to focus on myself.
Now, I’m lying on the floor and the light from the setting sun is shining through the windows. The house creaks and thuds and settles. For one electrifying moment, it’s so loud, I think that somehow someone has entered the house, but as I listen carefully, I realize that the normal sounds of this old house are amplified by the stillness. In truth, I didn’t live here for a long time before you showed up. My things were here, but I spent maybe one night a week in my old room. This filled me with guilt and loneliness, thinking of my mother alone here, in a house brimming with the past. It sounds silly to say, but the ghosts drove me out; the memories that I didn’t like thinking of. Now I’m clinging to those memories, because they’re all I have left.
I take one last look at the view out my windows. The street, the garden – always wild looking, filled to overflowing with flowers, berries, and herbs. I exit through the back door, to the covered stone patio where I spent so many rainy afternoons playing cards, and to the raspberry bush, but it’s too late in the season – too late for one last taste of summer.
There’s a circle of stone sunken into the ground near the back of the yard. I’m unsure of its purpose, if it had one, but it looks like once, perhaps, a well stood there. As a child, when I uncovered it, I hoped to find something there. I was probably a strange child, because, although I hoped of finding “treasure”, I was looking for artifacts, rather than gold or some other such silly notion. I wanted to find something someone buried there intentionally, a story of who had come before. I found nothing, but I buried my own time capsule there for you, or posterity, or future archaeologists who would of course be fascinated by the plastic Charizard figurine I’d buried there (ironically, I had a passionate hatred for Pokemon, but at the time it had been such a pop culture phenomenon among all the other eight year olds, I imagine I thought it was an important piece of prepubescent history). I may or may not have dug this “time capsule” back up a short while later. I planted my favorite flower over top of the spot. Forget-me-nots. Now, in early May, the backyard becomes a blanket of tiny blue flowers. Thinking about it now, I wish that I had a piece of that blanket to bring home to my own backyard. But it’s too late in the season, and all traces of the flowers are gone. They must be turned over to you, to do with what you will.
As I pull out of the driveway for the last time, I hope that you will love this place as I have loved it, and as those who came before both of us did. I hope that fewer ghosts will haunt you here than have haunted me. And I hope that you will not forget that there were those who came first, and that little bits of us linger in the corners here. And finally, I hope that when you are gone, you will leave your mark too, because it will have meant something to you.
March in all of it’s bi-polar madness, warm days, sunshine, snow and cold pouring rain. The time change is brutal, I curse the person who invented alarm clocks, and then the one who invented clocks, squeezing human beings into a construct of man when we are creatures of nature.
Tuesdays are especially brutal, I have to be at work 40 minutes earlier, when the perfect time for my internal body clock to arrive at work is a full hour and a half later. I open the door to the drizzle, a steady one, if I were living in a rainforest, I imagine this rain would have its own name. And then I hear the song of it, and in the rain with my boiled wool sweater and steam punk style brimmed cap, I search for the singer. And then there it is high up in the maple tree. I know you cannot tell what it is by this picture, but the song said it all.
“Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions.” ~ Longfellow
If March were a human being, it would have bi polar disorder. Two days ago I woke to an inch and a half a snow on the ground with more steadily falling, within a few hours, it was all melted away. Some days in March have a cold bitter wind, but today despite a cool breeze, the sun was shining, the skies were blue. We missed the first half of the lovely day, on another adventure, but in the afternoon, the pirate suggested going out to enjoy just wandering around the yard in the sunlight. I love this thing about him, this thing that loves to look at the things growing in the yard.
I told him this morning as we were watching a story on the news about the time change, that I would love to have a box full of clock parts. We wandered, separately and then together and then apart again. I am looking for ideas for making art books, for ephemera for collage and mixed media. Then he calls me, excitement in his voice. I look over his shoulder and find a box full of pocket watch parts. I am thrilled.
I work with a wonderful, creative, kind and thoughtful woman; she is a bit quirky, but that’s one of the things I like best about her. Today I came outside actually leaving work several minutes after an all call announcement was being made about someone blocking in someone else in the parking lot, please move your car.
My friend was there and so frustrated and upset, she had someplace to be and could not back out of her space. She was parked front in towards a snowbank, with another snowbank on the passenger side of her car. The second car had pulled up behind her as though parallel parking but left a wide 2/3rds car length space behind her.
I asked her if she would let me get her out of the space. I am a pretty good driver and I felt very confident that I could do it. So I hopped in and then essentially did a reverse of a parallel park pulling her car along side the other car backing only at a slight angle out of the space she was in.
That is when I saw her problem. And when she did too. Oh MY GOD she said, I feel so stupid! Why? I said, it was no big deal. I know she said but I was trying to back the car into that space, trying to pull it in between the two cars at a right angle! Well no wonder you couldn’t, I said, I wouldn’t have been able to back around that much into that space either. It just never occurred to me to try to pull alongside the other car!, she exclaimed.
Teaching right now is enormously stressful, all the reforms have been thrown at us like a deck of cards in a game of 52 pick up, only every time we start to pick up the cards, they tell us to drop them all and pick them up in a new order, or in a different way. Its been horrible. It isn’t just that, she is in a room this year that has been very intense with children who are emotionally disturbed, we educate all children, even the ones who might be better served in a setting equipped to handle the kind of deep mental problems that these sweet, troubled little babies are already carrying. On top of that our school has also experience a huge transition, new principal, vice principal, reading specialist, math specialist, lead secretary and custodian! The deep core of the school has completely been altered!
She has mentioned more than once that she is thinking of quitting and finding a job which is less stressful, she is not the only one, one of my art teacher friends has told me the same, that person also called me late the other night, almost on the verge of tears, asking for help in one of the new procedures that they could not figure out. A long term master teacher in our building said that she is okay if the district fires her via the new evaluation system, she would rather collect unemployment and not have to deal with this tremendous amount of stress. We are overwhelmed, and the reforms seem at times to be nonsense, to be like a trip through Wonderland, as though a person who has never spent a day in a classroom randomly decided these things without actually considering what a real live teacher might actually find practical, practicable. Either way, today, my friend was suffering from what so many teachers have suffered this year, complete and utter brain freeze, and mental burn out.
So as I drove away I thought about this notion, that sometimes, when you are stuck, and you are frustrated, and can no longer figure out what to do to get yourself out of that stuck place, all you need is some new perspective, maybe it comes from another person, maybe it comes from walking away and then coming back and re-examining the situation. At an rate, our frustration may keep us from seeing some new reality, from seeing that our reality may not be the ONLY reality. Maybe one person’s solution to a problem, is literally not the way to solve the problem at all.
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.
I know what it is to be in a relationship with someone who is a true scrooge. I know what it is like decorate a Christmas tree with my child, but I also know what it is like to be angry, sad, and eventually numb to a man who doesn’t want to join us. I told myself it was his culture, until his sister arrived on the same day as the separation papers, in the middle of a snowstorm, two weeks before Christmas, and told me otherwise.
We bushwhack our way up to our Zombie Apocalypse meeting place I don’t want to park in the mud so we find another spot which is why we are struggling through the tangle of grapevines. We cross the lower trail where we have marked a tree with a rock and a Z etched in its surface and clamber up the steep slope to the upper trail. It is a hard push and I get the harsh cold feeling in my lower bronchi that will lead to a coughing fit at the top. I tell him I need a bandana and he scoffs. Okay I say, you will see. At the top my breath is ragged and then I cough softly once, twice and real hard several times. You okay? he asks. I told you. I tell him as I start to breathe again. I should know my own body after 45 years, and he reaches out to hold my hand, which lasts about 15 steps before we mutually let go. I really prefer to walk without it, unless I am feeling scared (Halloween Horror Nights??) or need reassurance for some reason or another (large crowds).
We backtrack on one of the several trails strung across the gravel studded scrubby hilltop until we find the ratty Charlie Brown tree we had seen the other day. He hangs his backpack on a tree and takes out the decorations, I hang garland as he puts wire on the decorations, finally topping it with a star. It looks great I say, as I take out my camera. Wait, he says, we aren’t done. Then he takes two white doves out of the bag and arranges the garland into a shape of a heart around them. And instead of a tree skirt we put apples, carrots and bread at the base of the tree, which the dog is quite curious about, indeed.
I am grinning so hard my cheeks, which are half frozen in the brisk wind, hurt. I cannot stop grinning. I throw my arms around him and tell him, you are so wonderful, you have absolutely no idea. No I’m not, he says, though he is grinning too.
We scramble down the steep slope to the low path and make our way through the swamp and reeds to a bushwhack and back to the car.
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