Light, Hope and Moth Wings


It’s an understatement to say November 10th was a terrible day.

It’s the date Jim was handed a radiologist’s report and read the words “metastatic disease.” And then the devastated two of us headed out of a Boston hospital into a cold, black early night.  If any color seeped from that night’s sunset, I didn’t see it.

No light.  No hope.

If that day had not come as it did, engendering all the days in between, then this year I would not have found myself celebrating the November 10th birthday of a little girl who hadn’t yet been born on that deeply dark day.

I met her mom only because the universe’s butterfly wing machinations somehow had deposited the two of us on the same stage last spring to tell our stories about “Coming Home.”  Her story was about bringing her newborn daughter home from the hospital. Mine was about bringing my husband home to die, four endless short months after that November 10th.

And after watching her daughter blow out the candles on her Elmo cake–flickering lights laced with wishes, the very definition of hope–I headed back to a new home Jim never saw, complete with a puppy he never knew.

Within sight of the same Boston hospital where my young husband received the news he certainly would soon die, I caught a glimpse of old and new perfectly lit by a stunning sky.  The sunset lingered, turning to bright orange and purple.  Violet light burst from the base of my favorite bridge. Its cables fanned out against the lipstick sunset, echoing Old Ironsides’ gorgeously complicated rigging.

Even on this day, it’s impossible not to feel buoyed by such a sight.

Oh, and my lovely little friend, born November 10, is Lucia Esperanza.

Light and hope.

Let There be Light: The Bright Middle

022The bright middle: Jumpha Lahiri’s most recent novel described it as “[a] time of day lacking mystery, only an assertion of the day itself.  As if the sky were not meant to darken, the day not meant to end.”

Lately I’ve read some beautifully written books, with very different views of light.

I’ve noticed my artwork (drawings, paintings and quilts) nearly always features a day or night sky, but almost never lingers at the day’s mystery-laden multi-colored margins, relentless images in my photographs.  (As George MacDonald remarked, “We are never frightened at sunset.”)  At those blurred edges, sun and moon can overlap and intermingle, as when “[a]t times, defiantly, the sun’s glow persisted, a pale disc, its burning contours contained so as to appear solid, resembling a full moon.”


I’ve sometimes wondered why day’s dazzling apex can bring an onslaught of midnight thoughts as black as I first imagined death The Goldfinch, another gorgeously written book, touches on the common metaphor of waves of grief, then masterfully turns light itself into the lacuna: “sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illuminated in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.”

This is an author, I thought, who truly understands grief.

It’s a birthday on which the light fails to cheer me.  I’ve nearly reached the age at which Jim died, and his image is thus fixed in my mind.  The idea that I will live longer than he seems cosmically off kilter.  Ten days from now he will not celebrate another birthday.

The birthday and holiday season can be as complicated as the light.

Don’t Step on the Saints!

Bowdoin College Chapel (c) SMG 2012

I have always been afraid of stepping on saints . . . .but more about that later.

If there is one thing about the merry side of Christmas that will forever be intertwined with my husband Jim, it is the eye twinkle.  My husband was svelte and clean-shaven, where Santa is hirsute and on the husky side, and gives little hint of a diet outside my own preferred one of milk and cookies.  But they share a patented twinkle. Continue reading “Don’t Step on the Saints!”

Seeking Solstice Solace

Half-Staff (c) SMG December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice fell on a Friday.  A church bell, its percussive cut-off left to linger to its unmuffled end, pealed in remembrance of twenty children and six educators who were alive and beginning their elementary school day just a week ago.

Twenty-six knells.

When the bell began to ring it was snow-free but stormy, winds so high that a “wind warning” endured through early afternoon.  (No more practical guidance was dispensed to we travellers than has been available when a “terrorism alert” turns from sunny yellow to clementine.)

Then, as if there had been a sudden change of mind in the heavens, the sky became  brilliantly lit not long before sundown.  It remained that way–fully out of darkness (not merely halfway, as Dr. Who’s view of Christmas might have it) for the rest of daylight on a solstice far more than halfway to black.


At the time I happened to be surrounded by places of healing, filled with people like my husband Jim, who spend years of intense and difficult training in order to dedicate their  lives to professional service.

These are the kinds of skilled, compassionate people who stood at the ready at Connecticut hospitals last week, awaiting patients in fleets of ambulances which did not come.   Continue reading “Seeking Solstice Solace”

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