If you would please indulge me here, Dear Reader, it seems that I do have a story to tell after all. And I am only now figuring that out for myself; perhaps beginning to glean some worth in the mess, some reason to tell it. All of my adult life people have said that I should write my story, and all of my adult life I have dismissed this suggestion as frivolous, egotistical, and frankly, boring.
But let’s begin anyway by noting that the most recent blog post here was September of last year, nearly ten months ago. Shortly thereafter I “went south” (sounds like I’m on vacation) – my personal term for sinking into depression and withdrawing from all but a few close soldiers. This recent willingness to risk sharing again was sparked, as inspiration is, by the funniest little thing…a photo in a magazine article about a cottage restoration. God works in mysterious ways. Actually, I think God works in any way available, whenever there is an opening.
There I was, reading my favorite blog, drinking my morning coffee, looking at pretty pictures…the blog, Content In A Cottage, (wish I’d thought of that name!) is an almost daily hit of inspiration about life in a small space. Rosemary Beck is a realtor, a middle aged woman like myself, and has shared the huge recent losses of her Mom and her beloved dog, Webster. But she has found a rhythm that suits her in posting often and briefly, sometimes by simply sharing what someone else has already written. Today it was a picture of a cute house with a link to an article in Gardens And Guns Magazine. Well! First of all, I would never subscribe to a magazine with the word guns in the title. It made me laugh right off though, thinking of Will Thacker in Notting Hill, posing as a writer for Horse and Hound.
This article is so well written by Allison GLOCK (God has such a great sense of humor) that I want to read it again. I think it would have been delightful even if it hadn’t been about my favorite subject. The transformation of the house is inspiring, the result altogether enchanting. But, (and isn’t there always a but for me?) frustrated and grief stricken by over sixty years now of not being true to myself, some of the photographs brought tears of sadness and disappointment. Everything that interests me seems bittersweet at this stage of my life. And there – in that split second where delight and discouragement co-exist simultaneously and rises up to shock and surprise us – THERE is the crux of any meaningful story. There, for my son and all the others who live in that juxtaposition, is the gift I will continue to explore in my writing. Because only there do we have a choice to make – that can, and does, effect our future.
One photo showed “freshly cut olive branches” in a vase on a table. That was all it took. The tears could not be denied. My olive trees are gone. I still miss them. Years ago now, my then husband and I drove up to a house we were looking at to buy, and five twisted old olive trees bowed noble along the drive, the stubborn survivors of a long ago orchard. They were FULL of Cedar Waxwings. I knew immediately this was my next home. It was magic. I fell in love with those trees the longer I lived with them. The leaves were soft green on one side and silver underneath. Thomas Jefferson said “the olive tree is assuredly the richest gift of heaven.” That quote, cut from a magazine years prior, was glued into one of my notebooks. I had always wanted olive trees.
One day I drove home from work to find the olive trees gone, leveled by my husband and a chainsaw. Stumps. “Messy old junk trees,” he called them. I was devastated. I couldn’t talk, and went straight to bed. I had no inkling he didn’t like the trees; never knew they were in danger. Never had a chance to defend them. I knew the Waxwings would not come again. But the real tragedy took hold slowly over time. To this day, my now former husband doesn’t know I loved those trees. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t trust him with my heart. I knew he would become defensive and angry, telling me how ridiculous and unreasonable I was being over stupid old trees. It was, of course, also about more than the loss of the trees. It was about not being considered in that decision. I knew then that they were never our trees. They were his. This wasn’t our home, it was his. It took a dozen more years, another move, and many more heartbreaks before I would leave. It took my greedy silence and selfish denial a lot longer to surface before I would come to realize this path of stoic silence was a death trap for my soul, and that I was worth saving.
In the movie The Martian, there is a scene when astronaut Mark Watney must launch himself into space without a ship or any safety mechanism, and soon he will either be rescued and go home, or he will die. Either way, he will never be the same man who left the earth on this adventure. He can’t go back. After fighting for survival all this time, you watch the dawning of this realization move across his face – that this has all been immeasurably precious, each terrifying, hard and painful moment he has endured. Precious. And he cries. Seldom has a movie caused such a response in me. I, too, experienced the moment with him, of despair and terror and elation and hope – all at once. The crux. The “bleed through”, as Nadine calls it, between life on earth, and the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Instant, A Course In Miracles calls it. Whatever you may call it, know that these precious moments will come again and again until we live in the “bleed through.” Because life, like space, does not cooperate.