Usually when I drive home from the airport I just know I’ll be finding my plants hanging over the edges of their pots, even though I gave them all a thorough soaking minutes before leaving. That’s how sunny this house is, with its big old windows admitting so much light (and wind and in summer the prying fingers of ivy that work their way right around the edges of the screens.)
But there were no thirsty plants this time because of course this time I had only been gone from the house for 30 minutes. I felt a dip of desolation in the pit of my stomach knowing I was alone here, and would remain alone for some days; but then something nice happened when the implications of that state became manifest:
Within two hours my head cleared and I realized I could think. I could both picture the week ahead more calmly than usual and I could reflect more clearly on the week just passed.
The week just past held a death, the news of which turned my legs to water as I learned of it in a text message as I stood pulling on my street clothes in the Women’s Locker Room at the Y.
The week just past also held a birth of a darling baby girl who I count as a new grandchild for David and me, though her parents are related to us not by blood but by the bonds of love.
I didn’t sleep at all Friday night while this little lady tried and tried to get herself born. At 3:30 Saturday morning, after the last text from the would-be dad spoke of fetal distress, all texting from him ceased – for hour after hour after hour. At 6am I was about ready to pull on my clothes and drive straight to the hospital.
But – finally – at 7:30 in the morning in came word of a safe passage: the child was here and she was perfect. The mother was safe and undamaged.
All this I was able to ponder yesterday: the arc of our lives, the great passages, the way joy and loss are so often tangled together in our experience.
In my solitude I worked all day, emptying a 12-foot-wide bookcase of its hundreds of books, dusting them and sorting and packing them in boxes until we get done painting the room in which they are displayed.
Behind the books I found a sheaf of sheet music that my former child Annie used for her recorder lessons. I found a copy of The Advocate, the literary magazine on whose staff my onetime boy-child Michael worked in college. I found a lock of hair belonging to my former fourth grader Carrie, my own firstborn, who has had from the beginning a mane of hair so thick and long the horses all envy her.
We have lived in this house for 34 years this month, their father and I. We look back and know that those years passed in a twinkling. Will we get another 34 years of life? Why not? I say. No way, says he.
Solitude just seems to invite ruminations: About birth, and death, and the way ivy will press its hands against your windows and stay all summer until the cold comes once again and turns them to scarlet and summons them earthward.