Today marks 35 years from that January 7th when I got married.
January 7 – past and present
1984 – It’s my wedding day. The weather is chilly and foggy in Northern California. I am too excited to sleep late. I have a date with my fiance for a morning meeting. He comes to pick me up at my parents’ house. My grandmother is aghast that we are seeing each other before arriving at the church; it’s just not done. But we know what we want. We want to focus on each other, on the meaning the day has for us personally before being caught up in the ritual. We park the car under some oak trees in the foothills. We decide it’s too damp and cold to walk, so we sit in the car and talk. We are calm and happy. He drops me off at the house. The next time I see Jim, he is standing at the altar, grinning. …
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This post was written for The Be Zine which is dedicating its April issue to International Poetry Month. As a Contributing Editor, I am honored to be able to join with truly accomplished poets in celebrating Poetry, but I am well aware that my skills do not match those of my colleagues! Treat yourself to some truly substantial fare by visiting the magazine here.
My favorite poetry is philosophy dressed in dreaming, not logic. It imagines a larger reality, a more expansive love. Rilke is the gold standard, I think. Oh, but that is the pièce de résistance, and there’s so much more besides that. I am a poem consumer, not a gourmet chef. I know very little of form or craft, but I love to taste and participate. So I’ve written a love poem to my late husband because, well, you might as well start with breakfast.
Thick, boyish lashes fringe
Other eyes, perhaps as blue,
Open, tender toward Beloved
Still smiling youths may offer
Eager grins, warm confidence
Gleaming ‘neath soft whiskered lips
Clear voices might ring
Thrilling, gentle as yours when
You sang at daybreak just for me
Surely now first loves make vows,
Grow mature together, devotion’s
Friendly joy becoming solid strength
Fathers must bend heart and arm
Wrap manhood’s grace boldly around
Each golden, blessed child – like you
No doubt live sorrowing pairs
With looming loss, still holding,
Fingers trembling, to brave last words
I cannot boast an only, greatest grief;
I know this storied world is vast.
But still I weep in fond belief
That you and I loved first and last.
I have been invited by Terry of Through the Lens of My Life to participate in a Five Day Challenge. Each day, I will post a photo and write a story to go along with it. (I probably will interpret the term ‘story’ quite loosely. I do that.) I will also invite one person each day to take up this challenge on his/her blog. I’m excited to participate, as I have been eager to set aside time to indulge my creative side. It’s a spring awakening, of sorts, so thank you, Terry! Here’s my first offering:
Sometime during the night, a winged spirit must have visited my window. There are the traces of his presence and his flight, frozen against the pane. It’s as if he were caught peeking in at my dreams, and perhaps left a note to apologize for the intrusion. Dear Messenger, does your scrolling script bring word from that soul who lives in my memory and heart, the figure of my dreams, the love of my past youth? If so, then I thank you for this precious gift, gone with the rising warmth of morn. A brief delight, as was his kiss, a fluttering pulse. It is enough to tickle my imagination and leave a smile.
– Next, I invite you to visit Naomi Baltuck at Writing Between the Lines. She has already accomplished much more than this challenge requires, and as a professional storyteller and author, she may not have time to participate in this specifically. (You’re off the hook, friend! But you’ve been tagged for visits. 🙂 ) I love her posts…it’s like nestling into the cozy corner of a children’s library for Story Hour. Her photos and stories are like the picture books that you loved to discover as a kid: humorous, expertly illustrated, and with a great message to take away. Enjoy! And thanks for spending time here!
My mother revealed to me a nickname that she had secretly assigned me when I was a young teen. She thought of me as “The Waterstrider”. Ever seen those long-legged bugs in a still puddle who are able to stroll the surface without ever breaking the tension that keeps them above water? Here are a few:
My “Waterstrider” tendencies changed, my mother noted, after my sister and I were in a car accident and she was killed. I turned 17 only three days later, and began to ask the Really Big, Serious Questions about life. I began to search for Depth and Meaning, but mostly from only one perspective – Christianity. When I was 45, my husband died in bed beside me early one Saturday morning. My journey toward Depth was not over. I decided to look from a different angle. I needed a bigger perspective.
I discovered that there is so much more than I had ever noticed before. Depth goes in different directions: up and down, inward and outward…indefinitely. Maybe it was less overwhelming to be a Waterstrider, but it was also less genuine. In the depths of the sea, there is reflected the vastness of the heavens. In the solitude of a silent moment, there is the ageless Now. In the recognition of something we “know”, there is the awareness of Mystery that we will never comprehend. This might be what some people call “Wisdom” or “Maturity”. I tend to think of it as simple Truth. If you’re not afraid to go below the surface, you may discover the wonders of Depth. It feels different. It surrounds you, puts pressure on places that may not be used to bearing it. But you may discover a strength and resiliency you didn’t know you had…at least I did. Then that depth makes you feel buoyant and free…as if you were flying!
(Thanks, Word Press, for a great theme!)
January 7 – past and present
1984 – It’s my wedding day. The weather is chilly and foggy in Northern California. I am too excited to sleep late. I have a date with my fiance for a morning meeting. He comes to pick me up at my parents’ house. My grandmother is aghast that we are seeing each other before arriving at the church; it’s just not done. But we know what we want. We want to focus on each other, on the meaning the day has for us personally before being caught up in the ritual. We park the car under some oak trees in the foothills. We decide it’s too damp and cold to walk, so we sit in the car and talk. We are calm and happy. He drops me off at the house. The next time I see Jim, he is standing at the altar, grinning. I take his hand. I notice it’s cold and clammy, so unlike the warm bear paw I expect. I smile at him. He’s caught up in excitement. The wedding mass is a long event. We emerge from the church and see sunlight for the first time that day. It doesn’t last long. The reception in the Parish Hall is intimate and bustling. It’s dark when we leave. I get home and change. My mother takes care of the dress. The station wagon is packed with my belongings, gifts, and leftover bottles of champagne. We drive south to Pebble Beach. I’m hungry. I hope the restaurant at the inn is still open by the time we get there. We find we are able to get sandwiches at the bar. We retire to our room. I feel so incredibly grown up; in one day, I’ve suddenly matured. I’m married. I’m 21 years old.
The sun comes in the southeast window, and I begin to stir. As my mind brightens, I remember the day. Steve is sleeping beside me. I pull out the battered photo album from the box in the corner and settle back on the bed. Was it really cloudy that day? I flip through the pages in front of me, my mind turning over more leaves than my fingers. My phone beeps. My daughter is texting me to let me know she’s thinking of me today. Her baby face smiles at me from a photograph. She will be turning 30 in a few weeks. Steve begins to stir. I look at his face as his eyes open. “What are you doing here?” he asks. That’s a good question! “It’s a long story,” I laugh. But that doesn’t really answer the question. I am living. I am aware now of the present moment. As I look around, I see the beauty of this day, this year. The air is cold and dry. The trees outside are bare, the branches dusted with snow. I look down at my left hand. It is lined by swollen veins and wrinkles. There’s a brown spot just there. I have a ring on my index finger with a blue topaz heart set in it. No other rings. My fingers press Steve’s arm. “I am waking up. And you?” “I am Steve-ing.”
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”
Well, this is an obvious one. After all, I am a widow. How can I forget the love of my life, my one and only husband, the father of my four children and the man who bought me my first Canon (an AE-1 for Christmas when I was 17)? I am in a wonderful relationship now with a new partner, Steve, and he’s featured in many of my posts. But Jim is my first love, the man who was beside me for 30 years, from the time I was 15. So much of my adult formation took place in those years, even though profound change has happened since. Shortly after Jim died, I became an empty-nester, I sold our home, and I stopped practicing evangelical Christianity. Gone are my ‘suburban mom’ characteristics…the van, the mortgage, the disposable income, the salaried position with a Christian company in my home town, the prayer groups and Bible studies, the daily involvement with my kids. My life is definitely different. I am much more independent and self-reliant now. But I haven’t forgotten how well loved I was, how dedicated Jim was to taking care of me. As his best friend said at his memorial service, he was a Prince of a man. And he was definitely Charming.
I haven’t forgotten what we shared and how much it meant: how meeting you for the first time made me feel…
…or the sweet music we made together.
I haven’t forgotten the caring; deep, yearning, hoping for all good things for you.
He whispered these things to my heart, and I responded, “Neither have we, my darling.”
To us: many happy returns of the day.
This week, in a post created specifically for this challenge, show us an image that says REFLECTION.
It could be a person who helps you see things clearly, a place you go to collect your thoughts, or an object that reminds you of your achievements. You could also go for something more literal, like a reflection in water. Or something that demonstrates both interpretations of the word.
“A person who helps you see things clearly…”
What would you say about someone who meets you in your greatest grief, who doesn’t turn away but faces the tough questions with you, offering presence, not answers? Someone who challenges you to pursue those questions and discover the emotions they evoke, the hopes, the fears, the identity that emerges from within…and who then asks you to decide who you want to be? Someone who promises simply to be aware and who asks simply for your awareness?
Steve met me 8 months after my husband of 24 years died. I was in a state of profound transition, the fabric and framework of my homespun in complete collapse. On our first date, we hiked around glacial terrain, enjoying the fall colors and talking. Beside Nippersink Creek, I stopped. I became silent. I no longer wanted to fill the space between us with words and thoughts. I was finally unafraid to be aware that I was with him, in a new place, with a new person, as a new life was beginning. He sat beside me, quiet and reflective as well. What I saw clearly was that Life is beautiful and that death does not diminish that one bit.
One of the most fascinating gifts of the human brain is Memory. On my Advent countdown, this is something to open with caution. “When faced with his past, the strongest man cries.” (from a Dan Fogelberg song) “Memory is like the sweetest pain…” (from a James Taylor song) The question I must ask myself when I am drawn to memory is, “Is this useful?” I could get sucked into the morose for hours, wallowing in widowhood, motherhood, womanhood, childhood. What would I learn? If it brings appreciation or perspective, very well. If it gets me ‘stuck’, then it’s not so good. Here’s my post from two years ago:
Ever had a piece of music bring up a memory, a time and place from the past, with such clarity that you felt you were actually there? Last night it happened. I came home from my Memoirs class, having read my essay aloud with such a rush of nervous adrenaline that my heart was still pounding. I decided to have a glass of Chardonnay and listen to some of Steve’s recently acquired CDs with him. So, I was relaxing and in “memory mode” when he put on a CD of the Tallis Scholars singing a mass by John Taverner, written around the turn of the century – the 16th century. Oh, the flood of my heart!
I was 20 years old. Jim and I had become engaged on my birthday over the summer. I went back down to So. Cal. to school, to continue with my bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance. Jim and my mother were in a Bay Area singing group together, called Renascense (or some archaic spelling pronounced ren-NAY-sense). I came home for Christmas and was invited to one of their concerts. I close my eyes and picture them: Jim in his black tuxedo, ginger mustache, the smatterings of a beard he’s grown for Rigoletto. He is 22, teddy bear-like with twinkling blue eyes, blonde hair and a killer Italian grin. But while he’s singing, he is an angel, mouth perfectly forming straight vowels, eyebrows imploring heaven. He is a tenor. His voice melts butter. My mother is dressed in a mail order catalog nightgown, polyester, rust-colored, that has been trimmed with gold & black cord around the waist and across her bosom in an X. Only women who have sung in choirs can imagine how absolutely ludicrous these outfits can be. No woman looks good in a choir uniform, let alone one that has been made to look “period” on the cheap. It is ridiculously embarrassing, but I forgive her. She sings alto in a hooty voice that blends well. Her quality is not stellar, but her musicianship is indispensable.
I have been so homesick away from school. I have been staring at my diamond ring, counting the days until break. I sit in the concert hall and look at these two people whom I love more than any others on the face of the earth, and I am so proud of them. I’m proud of their dedication to music and their fond relationship to each other. I admire them completely, and I am jealous. I want to be with them; I want to be them. I want to feel the music in my breast float to the clerestory of the church and entwine in that beautiful polyphony. I ache for this memory. And then the tenor line soars above the rest, and it is Jim himself, singing to me. The recording is perfection. I can tell that it isn’t Jim, but there are moments when it definitely could be. My will takes over and I make it him, in my mind. I am there, in that sanctuary, and Jim is singing to me, alive, young, vibrant with love and mystery and warmth.
Jim before his Carnegie performance – 2002
Music folds time in patterns that defy chronology. I sail far away on its transcendent waves. It is a grace to travel toward those we love without limits.