Six months. Ridor reminded me. I counted on my fingers... Oh, I don't forget. Not her. I have her picture next to my computer, smiling, on a day she introduced me to her brother. Ha, and two days ago another friend gave birth. Life and death, altogether. The way it's supposed to be, maybe? But it never gets any easier.
I thought of a poem when she passed, by John Whittier: "Snowbound." It always felt strongly tied to her.
As one who held herself a part
Of all she saw, and let her heart
Upon the household bosom lean;
our youngest and our dearest sat
Upon the motley-braided mat
Lifting her large and asking eyes
(now bathed in the unfading green
and holy peace of Paradise)...
Do I believe in Paradise? No, not anymore, wretched pagan baby that I am (and yes, I've had people at work call me that. In good humor, or so I hope. No, my truth is that Life is a cycle, like anything else, and "where do we go" is a pointless question because we will go everywhere. It is like going to one point on the road and saying there is a distinction between this point and that point. There is, because of the surroundings. But the core, the road, remains the same.
With me one little year ago!
The chill weight of the winter snow
for months upon her grave has lain:
and now, when summer southwinds blow
And briar and hairbell bloom again
I tread the pleasant paths we trod
I walk the violet-sprinkled sod
Where once she leaned, too pale and weak;
the hillside flowers she loved to seek...
Six months. And yes, the snow has been on her grave; and every day I walk streets which every day covers with another patina of history: so layered and so thick by now! This is Life, too: the process of painting everything with meaning again and again till it looks ridiculously-formed, like one of those pipes in school they just keep covering and covering until it's almost elephantine? New York has so many meanings for me by now.
...yet still I wait, with ear and eye
For something gone that should be nigh.
And now comes the part that always makes me cry, the part my English teacher Mr. Cannon read (my interpreter told me) with such love, but - and this is the "fun" of poetry, I guess, the part which always interested people, how meaning deep can be different from meaning superficial. To me it has always sounded in my head like the dirge of someone cheated out of years, and very, very sarcastic, but maybe almost unconsciously:
And yet, dear love, remembering thee
Am I not richer than of old?
Safe in thy immortality -
What change can reach the wealth I hold?
What chance can mar the pearl and gold
My love hath laid in trust with thee?
As if life itself wasn't change, and the glory he thought of wasn't seeing her grow up, and marry, and have children of her own, and one day sit with her on a dark night and know... and know... but then he confesses:
And, while in life's late afternoon
Where cool and long the shadows grow -
I walk to meet the Night that soon
shall shape and shadow overflow.
I cannot feel that thou art far
since near at need the Angels are:
and when the sunset gates unbar
shall I not see thee, waiting, stand,
and white against the Evening Star
the welcome of thy beckoning hand?
We fear Death because we fear we fall off the road when we die. We don't: the road continues, and we are the road. We fear losing each other as we travel; we hold hands, like mothers warn their children, like jumpers in the sky before they pull their parachute.
I don't think she'd be waiting. She'd be working. And, hey, eventually, we're all going to catch up. Zhai'helleva, ashke. *rainmound salutes* Wind to thy wings.
Nor is it given us to discern
What threads the fatal sisters spun,
Through what ancestral years has run
The sorrow with the woman born,
What forged her cruel chain of moods,
What set her feet in solitudes,
And held the love within her mute,
What mingled madness in the blood
A life-long discord and annoy,
Water of tears with oil of joy,
And hid within the folded bud
Peversities of flower and fruit.