Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A broken heart gets in the way

The other day I was watering the garden and right in the middle of the walk, as carefully placed as if by plan, was a small stone in the shape of a heart.

A broken heart.

It stopped me in my tracks. I picked it up, turned off the water, and walked over to the pergola and sat down to contemplate it.

It is a tiny thing. about the size of a nickle. But its impact was huge. Because I had been telling myself I was doing really well.

I was lying. My heart is broken. I am in the most familiar of places and yet I recognize none of it. Without him, all is foreign, all is strange, meaningless.

I am lost.

Stand still.
The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. you must let it find you.

"Lost" by David Wagoner
From Collected Poems 1956-1976

"Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known."
That is how I reply to people who ask, "How are you?" I say, "I am here." But Here is indeed a powerful stranger, unknown territory full of mysteries.

Last month his will was probated, a legal procedure so dry and formulaic that it made me want to scream, "Stop! What he wanted mattered more than these muttered rote words and scripted replies in a courtroom. He is not just one more 'case' come before you. He was wonderful, beloved, delightful. Can you not see that the whole world is diminished without him!?"

But of course one does not act that way in a courtroom when one is just a bit player in a minor legal drama that just happens to deal with the death of a beloved husband. 

So now I am officially his sole heir and executor. He had already made provision for others to be cared for, so his will was very simple and straightforward. Now I am tasked with inventorying our "estate," a word much too grand to encompass our eccentric and very personal creation of a home.  How am I supposed to put a dollar value on our life together? For that is what it feels like I've been asked to do. 

I have sat down again and again with all good intentions to start this task and end up walking away again and again, helpless before the impossibility of it. Yes, I have found deeds and records and all manner of documents, but I can't seem to go much beyond that. 

So I wander outside and watch Raven and Wren in the garden, although my Raven is actually Crow. Yes, Crow has taken up residence here this spring, and unlike the busy noisy wrens, he is a creature on a schedule. He comes to the pergola fountain at the same time every day to drink, scattering any loitering squirrels and daring my dogs to challenge him. They just act like they haven't noticed him. He perches on the bubbling top of the fountain and boldly drinks without even looking around. He doesn't care if I am sitting three feet away watching him. When he is done, he looks directly at me, and we eye one another in silence for a time. Then I tell him he is beautiful and he bobs his head at me, and takes off over the pergola, crying his raucous challenge to the skies.

Odd how I have come to count on those encounters. I sit and watch the birds, and the lizards and other creatures who share this space with me and wonder if they notice how different it is without him. And I wonder if grief is making me a little bit mad. A good friend who has endured a huge loss herself told me to call her whenever I needed to ask if I was crazy or not. Now I know what she means.

Grief does create a mad space in one's life, a space that makes no sense, a Here that is a powerful stanger, one that may or may not give you permission to know it.