Already in this young calendar year, I have become irrationally upset at having missed a sunrise. This dazzling world‘s irreproducible morning display.
I voiced my sadness to a colleague later that day, telling her how extraordinary the color had been, white-gold waves seeping into bright pink and variegated plum. It was, I told her, similarly as saturated as the Valentine’s Day sunset I had chased into her west-facing office (from my windowless one) last year, sliding her vertical blinds aside and pointing to the enormous bruised purple heart cloud floating on a wavering sea of yellow-orange crepuscular rays. (Mmmhuh, she nodded politely. Evidently I was the only one to see it that way. It was another particularly tough February 14th.)
Quite rationally, she wondered how I could so vividly describe a sunrise that I had missed.
It took me more than a few beats to realize I hadn’t missed sunrise at all. I had seen it at its glorious peak as I exited the highway just as the sun was about to emerge on the horizon.
What I had missed was the chance to take a picture, to commemorate a part of it–to be able to share it, to pass it along to someone who had indeed missed it.
I collect sunrises, but do so very imperfectly, and without the overwhelming synesthesia of solitude. My photographs don’t dance with the glittering indigo diamonds of cross-wakes as fishing boats glide out to sea. Living things become one-dimensional shadows–a viewer can see only the most recent vogue pose struck by a silent cormorant atop a mast. Looking at a picture, you cannot taste the sea air or feel the crunch of underwater barnacles or hear the morning light lyrically unfold.
And in my friend’s observation I may have discovered a key to my writer’s block.
All I can ever capture of loss, of my husband and all other missing beings who have become some part of me, is what I can put into the language of words and pictures. I want to tell their stories, but the tools I have are, in the supremely elegant words of Primo Levi in A Tranquil Star, “inadequate and [seem] laughable, as if someone were trying to plow with a feather.” That language “that was born with us, [is] suitable for describing objects more or less as large and long-lasting as we are. It doesn’t go beyond what our senses tell us.”
Perhaps it has become difficult to write because I feel I should have moved forward–that I have nothing useful to say now that I am somehow on the cusp of a second decade of living with this never-ending grief, now augmented by the half-life of the additional losses we all accrue.
All I can ever capture of a sunrise is what it looked like, but maybe that is–or should be–enough. Maybe that dollop of beauty, which I am almost always the only person in sight to behold, is enough to share. And maybe it’s enough to be able to write about what you know of the people you love and have loved, especially those who can no longer tell their stories.
I did not, after all, miss that sunrise.
Let me tell you about it.
I have known people who live and have lived lives filled with kindness, humor, wisdom, and grace.
Please allow me to tell you about them…