First the Mourning. Then, the Work

from a window's upper sash

When I wake mornings, I look out the window and across the street at ‘my’ trees first, which are not mine at all except in the sense that we come to think of as ours all  the things we truly love. I see them bare and bony right now, though they toss with buds in spring, and are all ruddy at the top, like kitchen matches, in the fall.

Watching them yesterday as the sun edged up over the horizon, I saw something I had not noticed before: cast into perfect silhouette by the horizontal rays of its rising light the familiar peaks and gables of my own house, sewn like Peter Pan’s shadow onto their barky breasts.

It startled me, as a reflection caught and given back to us in passing shop windows startles; and it reminded me of something, elusive at first, but then coming clear: Old photographs taken at the dawn of my life, in those dear quiet days of the corduroy overalls and the very-early suppers.

I have these photos, as everyone else does, piled in a shoebox, recording us children costumed for some school play, or rosy-cheeked in snow. And in many of them, more than our photographer-grownups ever intended, appear, lying in the foreground across the swath of green lawn or white snow, the shadows of the grownups themselves, with the hairdos and hats of another era, heads inclined and shoulders hunched in concentration over the small magic boxes of their cameras.

They thought to record us. I see now with keener eyes that they also recorded themselves.

Thus do we sense the light press of our presence in the world, I thought yesterday when I woke: intermittently, and almost by accident.

But we are in the world, and we can do more than we think.

Watching the outpouring of emotions here on the internet stands as testimony: we can rid our society of gun violence. We can make the world safer. Think of the saying widely attributed to Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This next week: the mourning. Then, the work.

8 thoughts on “First the Mourning. Then, the Work

  1. I knew, Terry, that you would write words that create deeper thoughts, comforting thoughts. A psychiatrist on TV said for those who are ridiculed for crying and/or talking about and watching the reports a lot, that they are acting in a healthy manner, letting out the pain and stress. Those who keep it in, shut off their minds because the pain of facing the awful is too much to bear, may well be causing themselves to become ill. Your mention of the bony trees reminded me that on my way to get some more Tylenol from the market, I passed a short, squat, bare tree, almost ugly looking yet draws one’s eye toward it – the owners had hung several large colorful oversized ball ornaments on it. It was almost like saying, Death, we rise above your sting and still celebrate life.

  2. Yes, Terry, I have a black and white photo of me about 2 yrs. old with my father’s shadow in his fedora on the sidewalk beside me. I love painting buildings that have one facade in bright sunlight contrasted with the deep shadow of the side 270 degrees away. Like Edward Hopper does so evocatively.

    1. So that’s what Edward Hopper is doing hmmmm.. I know what you mean.. It does evoke real feeling to see that contrast. the Lonely diners seem all the lonelier. Ah and your father’s fedora!

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