Grass on the hill was rippling in the wind like the pelt of an animal this morning, orange poppies and purple lupin poking up through it. Small patches of fog skittered past, sun darting in and out. Dogs swirled about, chasing balls, each other, shadows, ghosts. I turned on my MP3 player and started up the hill, exchanging smiles with a woman walking down, both of us three-legged with our canes. By the third bench, I was in enough pain that I had to sit down–no great misfortune when I could listen to the wind in the eucalyptus and look out over the city. High above, a kestrel caught the draft and floated by. People and dogs wandered past.
A large black dog mounted a smallish white one on a leash and hung on for dear life as the woman holding the leash tried to pull them apart, finally succeeding with a frontal assault on the black dog, who tumbled to the ground. White dog immediately presented her backside for further attention, but her owner yanked her away. Seeing the hopelessness of his cause, black dog withdrew with dignity and trotted off determinedly into a pine grove, demonstrating independence.
Almost a month since I wrote here last, a month of shattering violence and heartbreak all across the world, of an unexpected death in our extended family, of another year gone by, of the slow and uneven stumble to move on. I am older, sober, and slightly more mobile, but it’s been a tough month.
Selling the house is much harder than I thought. Instead of complaining about the hills and stairs, I’m now remembering how much I like the light, the great sweep of sky from our living room window, the ironwood tree we planted all those years ago.
Downsizing means getting rid of things, but memories stick to them. I put a teacup in the giveaway box and take it out again the next day. Since we drink coffee and tea in mugs, why not give away my mother’s teacups? Because I see her in my mind holding one, lifting the cup to her lips, smiling and talking. My father’s slide rule, my children’s early drawings, those brooches of my mother’s I’ve never once worn in the years since she died, that pile of magazines with holiday recipes…decision after decision. I am too old to tote around this load. Someone, please, just take it all away. Every time anyone comes over–kids, friends of kids, our friends–I thrust something into their hands. Bits of your life shouldn’t go to strangers.
The change is hard because the memories are good. I am 73 and wake to mockingbirds. Outside my window, trees sway in the spring winds. Humming birds flit through the sunshine. My youngest grandchild blows me kisses with a pudgy hand. In this dark and chaotic world, I’ve had a lucky life.
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
And the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.
After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
And I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.
–Wendell Berry, Sabbaths