14 September, 2015
I received a lovely email from a reader in response to the last post: BALANCE. In her email she told me she has been following the blog for several years and that sometimes she was tempted to stop when it “got too dark.” I’m glad she didn’t, and I’m extremely grateful for her honesty and encouragement. I try to write about reality as I experience it; certainly it’s only my reality and the way I experience it isn’t always on the bright side. So I have often wondered how many readers are put off, or lost, as a result of my “darker” experiences.
I think it was Chekov who said that happy families don’t make for good fiction. I would add that perpetually writing only about “happiness” doesn’t make for a good essay. Nor is it of service to those of us who are willing to experience the suffering that is part of life. I admit that I went through a rough patch for a few weeks this summer. I could have kept my pen capped and waited until I could tell you that said rough patch had passed and how grateful I was for it and how much I learned. But I chose not to. Maybe I should rename the blog “The Whole Hog,” because, really, life is a pig sometime,s and I’m not interested in pretending otherwise.
However, I am happy to report that my return to Tuscany on 6th September, after 2 weeks on Cape Cod, was absolute joy; the miracle of landing safely from two flights; the joy of coming in my garden gate; the blissful embrace of this simple home; the delivery of fresh eggs from the hens down the lane; the gift of groceries from Luana’ the hugs from everyone; the sheer, inescapable beauty of the landscape and the deep comfort of slipping into bed – albeit with out my Joel – gazing out the window to the night sky; the hills recumbent yet pulsing with the mystery of centuries.
I couldn’t wait t tell you that as much as Cape Cod was familiar and beautiful, it no longer holds me in its thrall. It was somewhat like seeing an old lover, one that had been a grand passion and from whom parting had been a heartache. The kind of lover that keeps a piece of one’s heart for a while, causing it to flutter when a surprise sighting occurs. Then, one day, you see the ex-lover on the street, or at a party and your heart stays still. You are free to love again. Now, my heart belongs to Tuscany.
And what a thrill, the day after my return, to find myself speaking Italian without aforethought. It was as though not speaking it for 2 weeks had let that part of my brain absorb, uninterrupted, all that I have learned so far. I spent that day, Monday last, pottering around the garden, surprised and proud at how much it had grown in two weeks; much the way I used to feel when my daughter would return from summer camp. I spent that day and the next two, reveling in my solitude, eating what and when I wanted, playing piano, gathering thoughts about the next essay for the blog and working on a new series of drawings.
Meanwhile, my dear Joel had gone from Cape Cod to New York for 9 days, for work. We missed each other, but talked and laughed daily via Skype. Life was rich and we were – and still are – excited about Joel not taking on new projects next year. Instead we are planning to travel in Italy and the rest of Europe where we have many friends.
On Wednesday evening, Joel’s “baby” brother, Steve, was killed in a car crash. He leaves behind a wife, 3 children, and an extended family along with so many friends that his funeral this past Sunday filled the synagogue and spilled outside. I don’t need to tell you all the details. I’m sure every one of you has experienced tragedy and loss. But I can tell you this: kindness is everything. I can tell you that we must all do our best to seek beauty and light and that even so, there will be ties when the heart is so heavy that beauty and light can only be registered for later use. And I can tell you that I believe we are light and that our light is full of the beauty and mystery of all time.
On Wednesday evening, before I had learned of Steve’s death, I lit all the candles in the house. On Thursday evening I designated one for Steve. When I went to light it, I saw that even without a flame it was already lit. I choose to believe it was Steve’s spirit and that his light, like that of each of us, remains forever. It is up to each of us, for as long as we are alive, to look up and register it.
With love to you all.