...Deep in a life
is another life. I walked out, the nest
already by the step.
- Marianne Boruch, Nest
On top of a light fixture on the back deck, a robin has made a nest and inside that nest I imagine there are eggs and soon there will be baby birds. This nest building began a few weeks after Rob died. It was at that time that I first began to notice the bits of twig and grass that started to accumulate in front of the door. And the mother bird has chosen well. For this is a protected place, up against the house, off the ground. There are trees nearby for the mom to sleep and still be able to reach her babies in a second. A fine home made ready.
A week ago, I noticed the nest had been more fully formed and now the mother protects it, flying in and out, especially in early morning. There's something oddly poetic about this building, making, securing a future and how it began when a life that mattered so much to me had ended. All around are signs of life and I marvel at how this pulse beats so strong.
After Rob's death, when the word grew so grey, so heavy, I thought I was writing each day in order to save my life. It felt like I was slowing drowning in a large pool of sadness and writing helped to keep me afloat. It helped me to keep an eye on a distant horizon, for even in that foggy state the horizon was noticeable, present, beckoning. My will to live is strong. So no, I am not writing to save my life.
Now I see a bit clearer and wonder if I am not writing in order to preserve a life. For the last 28 years I have been a central part in what grew to become Mary Ann and Rob; Rob and Mary Ann; and later Devon's parents. I still wear the slim wedding band Rob placed on my fingers all those years ago. I still feel married to him--more wife than widow.
I write, in part, to preserve the life I have made with Rob. Letting him go is too difficult, too unnecessary for now. The stories we have shared, made together are ones I tell, in part. I write to keep alive and to explore my memories of my husband and of myself with him. But this too is incomplete. What compels me to write is bigger than all of this.
Yeats opens the poem:
The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.
Come build in the empty house.
This morning I am writing in the diner that Rob had breakfast more mornings than not. I am seated in the booth where he most often sat. Against the noise of dishes being cleared, orders being taken and served--I am writing mostly to loosen the wall. To reimagine, to reinvent my life. To wonder about who I am after Rob's death. Who is this woman? What does she favor? Want? What matters most? Least? How can she best serve others?
In February, when Rob told me to not hide away, to live brilliantly, he gave me a gift I knew was important instinctively. What I could not know then was how those words would carry me after he was no longer here to do so. Even on the very morning we first learned that the cancer had spread too far, too quickly and Rob would die too soon--his love for me led us. When I told him that I could not imagine a future without him, he commanded me to not hide away, to live brilliantly. He said this so directly with such certainty, that even now, months later I can feel the power of his conviction, the certainty of his love and I am humbled by this, motivated by his words.
After Rob's death, my life felt empty like Yeat's starling's nest. And during the last two months I have emptied it further.
Yes, emptied it further.
For the first time that I can remember, I have slowed working to a trickle and uncluttered my days, confronted the sadness, the pain, the loss. These days, my life consists of more contemplative arts like walking, painting, caring for Devon, gardening, grief counseling, talking with friends, photographing. At the end of the week, I will begin learning transcendental meditation.
Friends, I write to loosen my walls so I can try on the new, the repurposed, the starling's nest.