|Calvary (M.A. Reilly, South Dakota, 2010)|
We must be tender with all budding things.
Our Maker let no thought of Calvary
Trouble the morning stars in their first song.
-- WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS, The Land of Heart's Desire
It's the absence of cohesion that most confounds me. Being fine after Rob's death could be considered possible only by someone who did not know this loss, who did not wear this sorrow. It is fragmentation that best defines me.
I am scattered pieces.
Years ago, Rob got enamored with John McPhee's works and spent the better part of two years reading work after work including the one I still have on a kindle, Annals of the Former World. At that time the compilation hadn't been written and four of the books that would later be joined to form Annals were available as separate titles. Rob read all of them. And so it wasn't surprising one afternoon in early spring when Rob asked if I wanted to hear McPhee. That night we left Fort Lee and traveled to Princeton University to hear the lecture. It must have been in the mid-1990s. I can't tell you what McPhee said, only the excitement I felt at coming up against big ideas and discussing these with Rob. This is what life with Rob was so often about. He was all energy and thoughts and passion. At the time I was a doctoral student at Columbia and I had gone there to learn how to write theory. These discussions with Rob fueled so many ideas I would later work with when it came time to write my dissertation.
Years later we headed west on holiday. We had no destination in mind. This is how we most often went on holiday. Get in the car and drive somewhere. I was most often making images, Devon was lost in Harry Potter, and Rob was experimenting with sound. On this trip he strapped an audio recorder to the front of the car with the idea of making sound collages. Rob insisted that we read, at the very least, the first book from the Annals before setting out and so we did. This text chronicles the geological history of New Jersey. After reading parts of the first book I knew driving through western New Jersey would never be the same. Reading McPhee helped me to see landscape differently. We wandered west then south, then west and north until we got to the Badlands in South Dakota where our too-old car broke down.
This is what life with Rob was most often like.
Part adventure. Part meditation.
Imagine then, that just a mere six years later, Rob would be dead.
Some days I feel as if my heart belongs to someone else. Even the beat of it feels off. I look in the mirror and stare. I wonder at the image of self I see reflected.
I hardly know her, I think.
Is this the woman who Rob knew? Who Rob loved?
There is no one I have ever met who interested me as much as Rob did. We shared such deep, abiding interest in the power and grace of the written word, the spoken word, the stories we tell and witness and how love rises up alongside the stories we make while living. My husband was a remarkable intellect, a kind and passionate man, a master teacher. He was most often comfortable telling a joke, throwing back his shoulders and head in laughter. That is how I mostly remember him. He was a generous man who loved to laugh and loved to tell a good story. He was a man who loved his son and who loved me like no one else.
Nearly a year after his death, I know only one thing: the measure of loss, like love, is iterative.