|from my art journal, 9.19.16 (acrylic paint, deli paper, marker, stabilo pencil)|
Early spring I planted pots and pots of flowers and placed them on the front steps leading to my home. Bright red geraniums and variegated vinca vines spilling out of French blue pots. It was only a couple of weeks after Rob had died and late March remained unseasonably warm. One Saturday, with too much time and too idle hands, I filled a dozen or more blue pots with plants.
Something must live.
This evening I noticed how vibrant the geraniums have remained all these months later. They will likely bloom longer than Rob fought to live. That first weekend after we received the diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer, I watched lectures about treatment from Sloan Kettering late into the night, one after the next and then cried off and on while seated on the floor of the bathroom shower, seated long after the water had turned cold counting off the months Rob would likely live. And the only moment of comfort I remember was when I finally thought, "So long as you can touch him, nothing bad has happened."
Surely he would live.
By that April, the need for Thoreau's 'tonic of wildness' rose up and no suburban geography could quell what Rob's death had unseated. In chapter 17 of Thoreau's Walden, he explains,
"We need the tonic of wildness...we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature...We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander" (p. 265).I live a mile or so from a modest forest and it was there I found myself wandering further and further each day that spring, breadcrumbs be damned, and it was only tired legs that found me heading home when I so wanted to stay lost.
When the world is less familiar there is comfort in what is left unnamed.
Tonight, with autumn coming on and the geraniums blooming red petals like a color-crazed Morse code, I want to stop a moment and let my fingers decipher intention. What is it I am learning? I want to pause and say out loud that the tracing is never a map. That which is traced is always a system closed and I cannot walk where I walked with Rob before.
Grief is an unexplorable tension--an infinitely wild geography where the logic of boundaries fail. Here there is a language of starts and stops--utterance I cannot seem to hear and yet know to be true like my very breath. To trod a path new to the feet--is to know momentarily that there is no coming back, there is only becoming and though this knowledge hurts, it also is the first moment of grace.
After so much inconceivable loss,
there is no
There is no back.
There is no
On the days when the pain feels unrelenting, it is good to stand in this new country, to hold in my heart an incomplete map, and imagine that over that next rise is life pasturing freely.