Oh, sure, a wedding kiss is among those which can be preserved on film. The wordless whisper of a kiss can be memorialized on canvas. Auguste Rodin carved an indelible ode to the romantic kiss. But the sensation and mood and memory of a kiss may be as difficult to convey as is pain.
Our beagles begin every morning by stretching out to improbable lengths, their front paws flattened to the earth and their white-tipped tails wagging furiously from upright haunches. Their next task is to rush to open air and lift their quivering noses to take in whatever is upwind.
During the past several months I’ve probably given more thought to the idea of “home” than I ever had before.
“The Glennon family was home,” said Uncle Randy at my husband’s memorial service, referring to Jim’s purchase of his very old dream house and land. With an eight-acre pond. Jim, who did not long for many things, always had yearned for a pond. On this unnamed pond, he taught his children and their friends and his nieces and nephews to ice skate.
Jim built benches to drag out onto the ice so children could sit there and he could glide over on his hockey skates, winter jacket flapping open and cheeks as rosy as the toddlers’ were, and pull tightly on their laces and double and triple-knot them. Then Jim would smoothly skate backwards, holding small hands with fingers ensconced in bright hand-knit frog-shaped or dinosaur-patterned mittens.
One winter Jim and I skated over the pond’s thick frozen surface and I looked down and saw fish swimming beneath us, in blue water clouded over by waves of frozen silver.
The pond and surrounding woods attracted animals of all kinds. Jim took his camera down to explore and take pictures of swans, red fox and newborn kits, herons, beavers and their formidable dams.
The sun would rise over Jim’s pond, beyond the broad arc of his bountiful bird feeders. I have never seen so many sunrises as I did during the sleepless nights of his illness, when the fear of missing a waking moment with him–even as he slept–seemed more than I could bear.
The house itself was and always will be “Jim’s house.” The new part was built in 1805. Its thick glass window panes, Indian shutters, original FBUSs (Floor Boards of Unusual Size), ten fireplaces and two brick beehive ovens reminded him of old houses he had worked on with a favorite uncle when Jim was growing up.
As with a Marilynne Robinson character (a widower who remained in the home he had shared with his wife and many children) in Home: “The house embodied for him the general blessedness of his life, which was manifest, really indisputable.” “Such times you had!” the widower told a daughter revisiting the house–“as if the present slight desolation were confetti and candy wrappers left after the passing of some glorious parade.”
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.
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”
On your very next birthday, I’ll give you the moon
On the end of a string, like a golden balloon . . .
When our children were young and birthdays still held the magical power of persuasion that the earth stood still to welcome one’s arrival at the party, we would read these words to them on their birthday eves. The book–among the most precious gifts one can be given–was from Aunt Laurel.
I never let go of a good children’s book, though some of them these days are difficult to come across. Last week, I fished through another of my random boxes of family belongings. (Aunt Laurel also masterfully packed up and labelled boxes during last month’s move, including the jackpot: “Official George Carlin Box: ‘Move your s*** over so I can put my stuff down!'” She has mad organizational skills.)
I found the tiny swirling blue hardcover, Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, and remembered how our children would love sitting on Jim’s lap as he read it to them, unfolding the pop-up pages with big-eyed wonder, believing that their impossibly tall, protective, superhuman dad really could procure a star for them if that were their wish.