Indigo

 

There should be a name for the color of the particular blue deepening into purple-black indigo of winter evenings, especially as a day of snow slips over into sleet. The indigo glow through my windows right now brings back this poem from February 2007.  The barn and shed and silo are still there, though the farmhouse burned. And l need a bigger wagon, there’s so much more to hold than a hole now.

Valentine’s Day

The first real storm washes out the little color
in the landscape, the barn and shed and silo
weathered to the gray of a cut snow bank.
Sparrows peck in the perennial bed, tall stems
and seed heads clustered through snow. Small storms
of snow blow up off the roof of the hay shed,
sweep past. We would ski at midnight to catch
the pure snow before the storm slipped over to sleet.
So much happens every day, I need a wagon to hold
the hole. Last night I lay on the kitchen floor,
where our cat slept for her last year, her old body
bony, weightless. I noticed the narrow maple
floor boards running under the hutch, thinking
the world is flat even as I know it is round.

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Welcome, Sun!

Welcome, Sun!

Ritual

Music summons the wise
daemon, notes of young genius
stirring. We light candles
with wishes, untether

the expectations of smoke.
A chorus of voices rises
above the scotch and red wine
and we remember exactly

what we meant when we said
exquisite. Time has been kind,
we try not to repeat last year’s
desires. No one cries, none of us

died, our circle gathered again;
the sun creaks, stops, reverses.

Winter Solstice 11:28 a.m. EST

Silver Water

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Though David and I have been renting a camp on Jenness Pond, a few miles from our house, for over a week now, we’ve only just started staying here at night. There’s been a wonderful assortment of people filling the camp — family, friends, and friends of family, including our children and grandchildren and our children’s friends and their children, lots of little ones from age eight to two. There’s nothing like the noise of children playing in water. There’s nothing like playing in the water with children, no matter what age.

With fewer visitors coming through the camp this week, last night we blew up the air mattress to sleep on the screen porch for the first time, something I’ve been thinking about since we did it last summer. Falling asleep in the night air is such a treat, and not having to set up, then crawl in and out of, a tent to get that sky-just-past-the-mesh feeling, is a highlight of this camp.

Except last night was the coldest yet this summer. Rain all day, wind, and temperatures in the low 50’s, by dinner time we lit a fire, the first time in this house, probably the first time in July. After an evening warming up by the fireplace in the living room, we went out to the porch to go to bed. Layered between two comforters beneath and three above, David in a wool hat and down jacket and me in a hooded sweatshirt, we fell asleep with a cold summer night all over us. What a treat.

This morning David and I sat on the porch couch, a comforter over our laps as we read. A pair of kingfishers spent the morning chitting from the trees along the shore, flying to the post at the end of the dock and the railings of the raft ladder, scanning the water for a meal. At one point a guttural squawk made us both look up. A heron was flying directly towards the porch, then turned and moved along the grasses on the shore.

Late this afternoon the noisiest event on the pond was the flapping and prancing of ducks, lifting themselves out of the water by the dock with a furious slapping of their wings. The sun and clouds traded places and the pond was silver and then black. There was enough sun to warm the air, enough that I probably won’t have to pull up the hood of my sweatshirt when I go to bed.

I’m so lucky.

 

Peony Porch

 

 

Home, on my porch, as gray storm clouds pitch across the sky and peonies poke through the balusters. For a change I’m not going to miss peony season in my yard. The last couple of years I’ve been away during the peak of peony blossoming. To extend the season, I wrapped buds in newspaper and stored them in the refrigerator. When I took them out weeks later, once I was home for awhile, they bloomed.

This year I’ll get to pick the heavy heads as they open their extravagant faces, petals tucked in petals tucked in petals in silky folds that seem like forever. The house smells like heaven. I have such peony bounty yesterday I brought a bunch to a family gathering in Massachusetts.

This morning I sat on the porch of the beach house my siblings are renting, watching sun begin to brighten the ocean out near the horizon, the never ending in and out of the waves, white water on white sand. Beautiful.

But I’m happy to be home. Instead of the hot, dry, empty, full ocean beach view, now I face a green world of rampant vegetation and peonies so thick they become part of the porch. I live in a beautiful place and it’s a treat to be here in the height of the light season.

I’ve been away a lot. Last week I was in New York playing with Emilio. We had a blast — a ferry ride to Fire Island, wave tag on the beach, ice cream every day, a DIY water park in the backyard with Ava, timing how long it took to round the bases of a ball field and run the smallest circle on the running track at the park. Short distance, Emilio is faster than me. Youth is a powerful thing.

Now I’m sitting still on my porch as the rain approaches and wind begins whipping the tall grasses in the field across the street. Most of the coming week ahead I’ll be home. Next week too. And the next and next and next until I’ve been home the seven weeks I don’t have to be anywhere else for longer than an overnight. I’m delighted.

I’ll bring in a fresh bouquet of peonies every day. Then it will be zinnias and cosmos, marigolds and nasturtiums, salvia, rudbeckia and poppies. Plus lettuce, kale, peas, beets, squash, cilantro, basil, peppers, and dill.

Yes, I’ll say it again. I’m happy to be home.

 

Deathaversaries: When Dates Line Up

 

This deathaversary season (what Adrienne, Sam and I call the anniversary of Eric’s, or anyone’s, death) has felt harder than other years. Or do I say that every year? I don’t think so.

The accumulation of other losses, the spread of grief in my circle of friends and family from those losses, and the communal dismay of the majority of Americans at the continued display of arrogant greed, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia (okay, I won’t go on forever) among the white fuckboys currently trying to run/ruin our country all contribute I’m sure.

But I suspected dates were lining up in a way to remind exactly of what was going on 11 years ago, when Eric was diagnosed with metastatic cancer just before Passover. I was right.

David and I had a busy weekend, spending time with my family to celebrate Easter in a decidedly secular way then coming home to host a Seder with a group of friends we’ve been celebrating Passover with for many decades.

Wasn’t this the weekend in April 2006 that we had a much diminished Seder after Eric got home from the hospital with his grim diagnosis? We’d planned to host the Seder with friends that year, but had called it off earlier in the week when we understood Eric’s back pain and accelerating fatigue was from bones full of cancer. Instead of a dozen friends seated around the table, we had a small family Seder, using a two minute Haggadah someone had sent to Adrienne. Eric sat at the head of the table as he always did at Seders, leading the ritual telling of the story of the Jew’s exodus from slavery in Egypt, embellishing the minimal text with his own knowledge of Jewish history and custom.

Yesterday afternoon when David and I got home I pulled out my folder of calendars and wasn’t surprised. Yes, the dates line up. The day Eric got home from the hospital in 2006 was Friday, April 14. We had our small Seder on April 15. This year David and I hosted our Seder on Sunday, April 16.

No wonder I’m feeling the presence of sorrow. The 2006 calendar is repeating. The sun is at the same angle, birdsong is rising out of the fields in the morning at the same pitch, the brook out back is running high and hard, and the red buds on the maple tree out front are fattening into their familiar, fuzzy flowers. On some level, my body takes this all in and connects it with that scared and bewildered body 11 years ago.

There is a difference in the Jewish calendar though. Passover is ending today, not beginning as it was in 2006. Tonight I’ll light a Yahrzeit candle, which I just learned is a tradition on the last night of Passover.

How fitting.

 

Snow Party

 

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Since the election I haven’t done much of my usual personal writing, because what does some happy or sad moment from my own life count in the fight to make sure our country stays as just, diverse, safe and equitable as possible?

But there is life beyond resistance to whatever roll-backs of social justice the Trump administration will bring and I need to live that life sometimes. Or perhaps the life beyond resistance is resistance, because living from a place of struggle to make the world a better place requires joy as much as persistence.

Sam was home last week and over one of our predictably competitive Scrabble games we had this exact conversation — the need to balance how life goes on in the face of struggle. How much would my life actually change with Trump as President? Couldn’t I keep enjoying what’s good even if we have a dick for a President?

Melia and Sam’s friend Mike were here too and this lead to a long discussion about what would change, what mattered, what we were afraid of, what was upsetting us the most. Was it a gendered response that Melia and I are more worried about reproductive rights than Sam or Mike? Sam and Mike are most upset by how little people are listening to each other and how ready they are to judge others based on their votes. They both live in states with far more Trump supporters than Melia or I do.

So how is this about joy?

The Scrabble game (I got crushed) and discussion were on Thursday afternoon and that night we got over a foot of snow. A group of Sam’s friends planned to visit and the thickening snow didn’t stop them. Trucks still arrived in the driveway with young men and boxes of beer, one with his Christmas tree ready to burn.

Burn it we did, drinking beer while snow swirled and slid off the solar panels on the barn roof in clumps that thumped and drenched us. We watched flames catch the limbs of the tree and curl up into the needles, hot pine burning yellow then glowing red as the fire moved on to the next branches.

It was an elemental celebration, because this is how it all started, getting through the dark part of the year by gathering with family and friends around light. Most holiday parties are lit by electricity and candles, cheery and warm. We love the sparkle.

But when the light is outside in a snow storm, the knot of of energy created with a circle of faces to the fire and backs to the darkness is tight and strong. Joy. To carry into the new year.

Here I go.

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Unplugged

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“This is the most unplugged I’ve been for a long time,” David said last night as we drove back to our house from our camp rental on Jenness Pond.  After three weeks of living on the water, mostly sleeping in a corner of the screened porch so that lying in bed at night I could look out on the overhanging maple and oak trees to the night sky beyond, and spending much of every day in the water or looking at the water, I knew just what he meant.

For the last three weeks it’s often been almost unbearably hot out in the world which continued to report the usual bad and distressing news.  On the water it’s been comfortably cool and when it got too hot, I got in the water.  When my periodic checks of the NYTimes website to stay updated on Trump missteps was too distressing I clicked off my phone, put it on the hutch on the porch and went outside.

There were stretches every day when I didn’t know where my phone was and didn’t care. There were days I didn’t open my computer.  There were many meals with many friends and lots of family eaten on the long porch table, watching the sun set over the pond. There was an unending supply of zucchini brought to the camp by visitors.  Emilio learned what a “dip” in the pond before bed is (a skinny one) and learned to jump off the swim raft, plunging deep and popping back up above the water with his eyes wide and blinking every time, as if he was just being born.  That was the big news of the week.

Now I’m on my porch at home, listening to geese chatter as they circle the farm ponds across the street.  There’s a breeze and late light on the horizon, the geese silhouetted as they circle the fields.  Tomorrow instead of waking up to water off the porch it will be the cows in the pasture.  But I may keep trying to lose track of my phone periodically. Unplugging  can be blissful.

On Jenness Pond

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A small fish jumps from the water beside the dock and skips five times, like a flat stone, disappearing into the rushes that circle the pond, a green edging blushed with the copper of small flowers.

Dawn, no wind, thin shreds of mist floating a few feet above the water. When the sun breaks the horizon behind the trees to the east it colors the clouds which colors the water around the dock, a peach atmosphere.

A heron cuts across the view framed by the screened panels of the porch, barely clearing the water, great wings floating in their long, slow rhythm.

Light fills the sky and the hill across the pond brightens, a single tree near the top already golden, a beacon.

Wood plank rafts float in a curve that follows the shore, a long lane for swimming.  The water is warmer than the air for a change.  When I dip my foot in it feels like a hot tub.

A fragment of rainbow hangs over the trees on the far shore,  deepening as the morning comes on.

Swallows scan the surface of the pond for insects, twirling and swooping, touching down in quick spurts that send rings out into the barely rippled surface.

The clouds directly above begin to unthread and a rich blue shows through.

David and I sit at opposite ends of the table on the porch, writing.  A bald eagle flies by, scanning the length of the pond.

Evenings, a pair of nesting loons with two chicks float past the end of the dock, making a circuit on the pond, then scream and warble as dusk tightens.

The Power of Ten

 

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What is it about the years divisible by ten?  All the milestone birthdays are in increments of ten — people especially note turning 30 or 40, 50 or 60.  Money rolls out in increments of ten.  We celebrate anniversaries of major events in tens — marriages, assassinations, great scientific achievements, disasters.  Pretty much everything would be counted in tens if we used the metric system like the rest of the world.  Ten means starting again, because that second digit comes in, the need to go back to the first finger to continue keeping track.

I’m thinking about this because in May it will be ten years since Eric died, and right now it’s ten years since Eric began to be really sick, though we didn’t realize yet that he was dying.

Dawn has crept further and further into the night and now I’m waking up many mornings with light already in the sky, after months of being up for hours in the dark.  Birdsong comes along with the light, the beginning chatter of birds awakening to the next season, starting to build nests and call to each other to mate and start the whole cycle of birth and death again.  The rise in morning birdsong is burned into my psyche as signifying the rise in Eric’s cancer.  Birdsong = Impending Death.

Not very spring-like.  But there it is, the twittering of purple finches and melodic call of a robin and the chink of red-winged blackbirds.  I wrote a poem about it this morning, one of many in a long line of poems about what spring birdsong means to me now (like the first poem in The Truth About Death, which I posted here around this time last year).

But there’s a twist this year.  I also made a collage.  Does that have anything to do with the tenth anniversary of Eric’s illness and death?  Or is it simply the process of aging and getting better at giving myself permission to do things because I want to, because I have an urge to create in a different way, because I care less and less what it means and just want to do it.

I’m  signing up for a drawing class.  Maybe next I’ll draw the birds.

Day Fourteen — Tilting Back Towards the Sun

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December 21:  Black morning, lights over the kitchen table, coffee in my mug. Today the North Pole will finish its furthest tilt from the sun – 23.5 degrees. The sun hasn’t really been slipping down the horizon until it sets behind the old silo. We’ve been tilting away.

Yesterday David and I climbed Parker Mountain, the first hike we did together, on our first date, almost eight years ago. It had snowed the night before, heavy and wet, and we trudged up the first steep incline on snowshoes, me well ahead of him. Was I testing whether he could keep up with me? Probably. He didn’t climb as fast as I did, but he got there.

At the first peak we stopped and looked out over the coastal plain to Portsmouth, a plume of smoke from the tall chimney of the power plant, ocean a flat line behind it. David talked about his sadness, his worry about losing friends. I talked about losing Eric.

We’ve climbed that same trail probably 50 times since and yesterday was glorious. On the north side of the mountain, we started in shadow and climbed up into the sun. The trail was a pageant of sage lichen on gray granite, dark green hemlocks, shiny green white pine, brown oak leaves burying the path and then piled alongside, deep purple stalks of bare, scrubby blueberry.

By the time we got back to the car, it was twilight, leaning over in to dusk. David and I don’t talk all the time as we did on that first hike, as we did in the first months and even years we were together. But we still talk most of the time. So much happens in our lives and, for us, in our heads. There’s always plenty to sort out.