God’s Golden Eyes

It’s the third Tuesday in March, the day, though not the date, when Jim died. Its essence is off-kilter, like Father’s Day (whatever date it occupies), when I lost my father five forever years later.

After little more than an hour’s sleep and a related cluster of dreams I need to process to write about, I am revisiting last year’s letter, which I hope Jim saved.

Eight years.

Love in the Spaces

IMG_7947 (2)

March 22, 2018

Dear Jim,

I was awake long before you would have hoped for me.  It snowed yet again, though a far less fearsome Nor’easter than this month’s past three.  This morning I was in one of my favorite places, just beyond ocean dunes only miles from home.  Somehow we never stopped there together, although we brought our children just north and south of this stretch of the Atlantic.

The sun broke through bruised clouds like a lighthouse beacon, unveiling in a vast murky marsh a single gold-eyed snowy owl who turned to look straight at me before promptly closing his eyes to resume napping.

Subtlety still is not my strong suit.  A few years ago I picked up a novel because of the lacuna embraced by its title, The Inheritance of Loss, and discovered an author I wish I’d found in time to pass along to you. …

View original post 659 more words

Posted in Love and Loss | Leave a comment

My Little Girl

My little girl is still dancing through life….with a Master’s degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering….and is turning 23. How is this possible?

Love in the Spaces

SuzannahgardenOur Little Girl

I just dropped off my little girl at college.

She’s grown a bit since this picture was taken. Yesterday her now darker red-gold swoop of hair stylishly fell across a white top above a swirling violet skirt. The shoes were less practical than the wee sneakers she wore while, as a toddler, she studiously absorbed what her dad taught her about plants.

But she somehow is the same bright, beaming, sunny, fearless girl who came into our lives seventeen years ago.

Before moving into dormitories for the first time, three of my children received from their prospective universities a copy of a book that each incoming freshman was to read during the summer. All of them would be ready to discuss it when they moved in, as one of many bonding rituals for new students.

Before my youngest opened the package this summer, my fingers traced the…

View original post 765 more words

Posted in Love and Loss | Leave a comment

The Cottage of Darkness

Oops; I’ve done it again. I am trying to sort it out, having discovered my post reverted to its earliest draft again. As a person who is never satisfied before a 25th-ish draft, I am trying again….Meanwhile, I am familiarizing myself with the “Save” button and the external hard drive.

Love in the Spaces

signed feb 20 2.jpg

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

On that March 4th I first sat down with “Rev,” and he in turn introduced me to the poet Mary Oliver.

The context was beyond bittersweet.  We were discussing what Jim called his “Closing Ceremonies.”  He had urged me to leave his hospital room to discuss whether we could gather at this church, on our daughters’ campus.

The Reverend asked me, as sonorously and gently as any person could, how long I though there might be.

I told him I thought my husband would hang on to see our eldest son graduate that spring.

It turned out I was uncharacteristically optimistic, and had given off, by two months to the day.

It would be only two weeks until Jim came home for the last time.

On that…

View original post 656 more words

Posted in Love and Loss | Leave a comment

The Cottage of Darkness

 

signed feb 20 2.jpg

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

On that March 4th I first sat down with “Rev,” and he in turn introduced me to the poet Mary Oliver.

The context was beyond bittersweet.  We were discussing what Jim called his “Closing Ceremonies.”  He had urged me to leave his hospital room, to which I felt bound by an iron force field, to discuss whether we could gather at this church, on our daughters’ campus.

The Reverend asked me, as sonorously and gently as any person could, how much time I thought there might be.

I told him I thought my husband would hang on to see our eldest son graduate that spring.

It turned out I was uncharacteristically optimistic, off by two months to-the-day. (I am more casually catastrophic than cautiously optimistic.)

It would be only two weeks until Jim came home for the last time.

On that March 4th, Jim was still with us, in the traditional sense, within walking distance.  This winter surely would be his last.

Either Jupiter says 
This coming winter is not 
      After all going to be 
The last winter you have,
      Or else Jupiter says 
This winter that’s coming soon,
      Eating away the cliffs 
Along the Tyrrhenian Sea,
      Is going to be the final 
Winter of all. Be mindful.
      Take good care of your household.
The time we have is short.

Thirst, specifically, was my introduction to Mary Oliver’s poems.

A single word that can indefinitely clutch and hold any grieving person’s thoughts.

Last month Mary Oiver herself stepped “through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?”

On that March 4th, the Reverend explained at the time that this collection of poems, sun gold-glanced deep blue waves on its cover,  arose from the author’s own roiling loss of a partner.

I did not know that Mary Oliver’s words would become my constant companions, within and without.

First, just a few weeks later that March, came “A Pretty Song”–more of a prayer than a song, spoken at a dark mahogany podium as my breaking heart got the better of my wavering words.

And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.
And I say to my heart: rave on.

Breathe, breathe,” I still heard Rev’s comforting voice to my right.

The seasons rounded back to winter and I was with my daughter for another service of remembrance, this time an alumni service on her campus, where a rabbi read In Blackwater Woods:

Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

March again and my daughters and sons form a half-moon in front of me as we stand at a windswept rocky beach at the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine, one of the last vistas Jim photographed.

I find myself reading a Mary Oliver poem when my voice quivers again and a wave laps at my heel:  a turtle nudges with its bulldog head/the slippery stems of the lilies, making them tremble.”  She leads “the tender children,/the sweet children, dangling their pretty feet/into the darkness./And now will come—I can count on it—the murky splash,….”

Back again north to New Hampshire, to candle-lit Phillips Church, where another daughter is leading  an Evening Prayer.  Between two of her songs the Reverend reads Mary Oliver’s “Rumor of Moose in the Long Twilight of New Hampshire”:

the light lingered
we sat on the shore
and talked in whispers
watched the herons 

heard the owl
greeted the moon
stared at the far shore
stared at the far shore

empty in the moonlight.

I am told that in my often frenzied work setting I tend to speak in complex paragraphs with diagrammed subheadings, sprinkled with what Jim called “ten dollar lawyer words.”  (Public servants are not lavishly paid.)  Not exactly a style that lends itself to peaceful reflection among the community of beings in this dazzling world.

Mary Oliver leads me there.

Each one of these poems, like the Rev’s reminder to “breathe, breathe,” like the refrain   “Bow my head, let my heart slow,” has a soothing simplicity, a salve of repeated single-syllable words.

And I say to my body . . . .

Stared at the far shore . . . .

And when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

 

Posted in Love and Loss | 6 Comments