Sometimes gold is everlasting and sometimes it touches down to earth and then disappears into darkness.
Sunsets lately have featured bursts of blinding gold that quickly dissipate to orange and into black. I often watch them while touching the unending smooth circle of Jim’s gold wedding band.
Jim and I lived in many homes together, from our first 500-square foot Boston apartment to the home where we raised four small children and tried mightily to tame the extreme youthful exuberance of one of our beagles.
Every place we lived was known in marital shorthand as “the nest.”
“Nice nest,” I told him on our first night in the old home he always knew he wanted, looking through the thick glass windows towards an October sunset as it washed over gold maple leaves which wavered in the wind and formed a lace-like overlay on our view of the church across the town green.
The year before we moved, we had brought our baby girl to a conference in California. While we were there we visited Jim’s cousin Chris (who memorably remarked upon how “well-marbled” our baby was) and his parents, Uncle Donald and Aunt Ruth.
Uncle Donald touched the aforementioned plump pink skin of this beautiful bare-footed newborn as Jim propped her up on his knee in the California sun.
“These are the golden years,” Uncle Donald said to us with a smile suffused with memories of his children as babies.
In an enduring Mondegreen, I believed until today that a song I love contained the lyrics “I swear in the nest we made, we walked in fields of gold.” (Now, this may not entirely have made sense, but poetic license applies to lyrics, too, doesn’t it?) I always had associated the song with home–with our “nest,”with the love and wonder that filled every day with our growing babies and toddlers. The years of fields of gold.
It seems that the line is actually, “I swear in the days still left, we’ll walk in fields of gold.”
I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I’ve broken
But I swear in the days still left
We’ll walk in fields of gold
So the lyric is not backward-looking, as I thought; it looks forward. . . but in a consciously limited way. It looks forward in the way Jim did when he knew how few days he had left: he never succumbed to self-pity or wasted a moment. He never gave up hope for what remained humanly possible. He never lost his grace and gratitude for so much in his life that was gold, even knowing that he could not hold onto it for much longer.
Jim also left us with a gallery of gold from those same days in the last year of his life: photographs of beach sand turning from stone to gold when touched by waves; an infinite golden spiral from the top of a stairway; sun-kissed flowers and birds; a majestic iguana (that Jim, with a wink, turned into his profile picture after we returned from our final family trip); Fourth of July fireworks just days after our world changed forever.
Robert Frost wrote:
Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Not true. So much gold can stay.
Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold