Colors of Dawn (c) C. Coltrane 2012
Barbara Kingsolver’s prose has beckoned grieving survivors out of the lacuna before: a child’s ghost exhorted her mother at the end of The Poisonwood Bible: “Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will . . . . Think of the vine that curls from the small square plot that was once my heart. This is the only marker you need. Move on. Walk forward into the light.”
It happens that Jim gave me another book by Barbara Kingsolver in my fearsome flying days, only weeks before his diagnosis. It could not have occurred to me how uncannily its title foreshadowed the immensity of our impending loss, the enormity of the missing pieces.
What’s in a black hole? Is it, as a French dessert chef once told Homer Simpson, like the chocolate ganache “so dark that no light can escape its surface”?
How lost is the light, and how empty are the spaces? I haven’t a clue.
I’ve recently changed the blog’s title, a small linguistic effort towards recognizing it has steered away from a loss leader (as it were) and more towards thinking about what remains, even in seemingly empty spaces and thin places.
Some significant challenges already are penciled in for the calendar year 2013.
Some solutions and resolutions, one hopes, also are in the works.
I know that I will be circling back to the work I love most, and completing at least one manuscript that had been nearly finished at the turn of this century. It was the one Jim had a chance to read, before life lent itself to unexpectedly different forms of writing.
High Tide in Tucson contains essays by Kingsolver, one of the few novelists Jim and I both favored. I shall finish it surrounded by the physical and emotional debris of our loss, our move, our assorted medical and financial crises.
My children have grown up within walking distance of a rocky shore. I grew up outside Boston, near a far longer and busier shore. We got away to a variety of more distant sands, including the pristine white beach where one of my sons spotted a glorious empty craggy crimson and yellow shell brought in by the tide for another creature to inhabit. Presumably its first occupant had simply outgrown it; I do not know if shell-dwellers downsize.
Of course low tide is notorious for less-than-resplendent scents and scenes: decayed seaweed, buzzing with black insects in the warmer months, cloudy jellyfish no longer glistening in sunlight, jagged artifacts of bright broken plastic pails, corroded lobster traps.
Perhaps above all, low tide is marked by what is left behind once the water recedes. The beach may be littered with flotsam or left seemingly swept clean, tiny clear bubbles the only clues to clams ensconced below the sand. The sand may disgorge a smattering of smooth pebbles or rough rocks–or irregular, semi-opaque sand-ground green and amber jewels transformed from quotidian broken beer bottles on some distant shore.
There is never nothing left behind.
Kingsolver wrote: “Every one of us is called upon, perhaps many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, . . .a move, loss of a job…And onward full-tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another–that is surely the basic instinct. . . . High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.”