|from my art journal 10.1.16 (Gesso, marker, acrylic paint)|
When I was 15, I first read Edith Wharton's slim novel about impossible futures. By the end of Ethan Frome, tragedy has occurred. Ethan and Mattie try for that impossible future by sledding into a big elm and neither accomplish the permanence of death. At the top of the hill, seated on a sled, the narrator comments that Ethan
"...sat still a moment, straining his eyes down the long hill, for it was the most confusing hour of the evening, the hour when the last clearness from the upper sky is merged with the rising night in a blur that disguises landmarks and falsifies distances."
And isn't this an apt description of those times we leave the present moment and try for a future that is not ours? What seems most certain in the present is obscured when we peer beyond where the soles of our feet meet earth. And yet the impulse to do so, remains strong.
Tonight I wonder what it is it about impossible futures that beckon? Why do they seem to call to us when we would rather be anywhere but the present moment. Sorrow anchors a desire for what cannot be, while being fueled by all that has been lost. The tension between is almost too much to bear. Towards the end of his life, Rob's sure-footedness here on earth slipped more and more. And I could do nothing except bear witness as the pull for life lessened. The man I married left before his last breath gave out.
The novel closes with the two residing once again under the weight of Ethan's too sad wife Zeena. The three know only sorrow and anger and pain. Mrs. Hale a fellow townsperson from Starkfield, closes the text by saying,
"And I say, if she'd ha' died, Ethan might ha' lived; and the way they are now, I don't see's there's much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard; 'cept that down there they're all quiet, and the women have got to hold their tongues."Imagine that holding your tongue is sum difference between living and not.
I'm a photographer with hundreds of photographs of our son and now each one reminds me of Rob. Something simple like getting Devon shoes when he was just a toddler is a story. I remember how very much we loved. Each image is a story we shared. A truth we learned. A record. Some are silly, others less so. But what I know tonight is that we lived fully, unlike poor Ethan and Mattie. We did not wait for a future that would not arrive. we lived. Ethan and Mattie flirted with love and lost. We did not.
No more than an hour after Rob learned he would die, my husband's thoughts were of me and our son. As his grip on this world loosened he somehow found the grounding to tell me what I most needed to know--what I, at the time, did not know I would need so dearly.
"Live brilliantly," Rob would tell me. "Love Devon and live."
I am, Rob. I am.