Monday, February 11, 2008


I've learned that life is sorrow. Also that it is joy. And both can hit you broadsided.

In 2005 I attended three funerals. Two were of my grandfather and my best friend who took pieces of me with them. My great grandmother was the third, and I regret not knowing her well. In spite of their ages I was ready for none of them. Sometimes we wade through so much sorrow that we feel we'll soon, happily, sink into its quicksand--the warmth and darkness a comfort--and disappear.

I have a childhood friend, Grace, who I literally was in the crib with. She's four days older than me. My mom has a picture of both of us together--before we were even old enough to walk--in a crib in our backyard. We are in our diapers and bare chested in the Oklahoma sun. We've laughed at how much chubbier she was than me.

Grace lost her five year-old daughter to an aneurysm in December. As much as I held my best friend and grandfather dear, I can't imagine her grief. I received a picture of Grace, her husband, son, and late daughter in the mail shortly after the death. It was a holiday picture. Everyone was smiling--a young family heading into a new year. The new year arrived but the daughter, Charity, didn't see it.

It has been unseasonably warm the past couple months. Then last night as I was smoking on my fire escape, shivering in the sudden cold, I prayed for a good snow. I have been awaiting the Northeastern winter since I moved to New York. I love the cold. And then it came. At first I thought it was just the wind blowing flurries off the roof tops that had fallen earlier that day; but they began to multiply and cover my coat and gloves. I said, "huh."

I often dwell in harsh memories. They're easier to remember. And often forget the pleasant ones. But when the snow began to fall, and forgive my sentimentality, I cried.

In a poem called "Wife," Hayden Carruth writes of an old man's insomnia, of his drinking and smoking through the night while his wife sleeps in "her half (two-thirds really) of their bed." He closes the poem with these lines:

"His last cigarette, his final gulp of chardonnay,
and he presses against her warm glow,
thinking of how he swam as a boy
of twelve in the warm pond beyond
the elms and hickories at the meadow's
edge. He turned like a sleepy carp among
the water lilies, under the dragonflies
and hot clouds of the old days of summer."

Even in the midst of sorrow, there is joy. There is joy in, as they say, the small things. Settling into bed with your wife. A coffee with a friend. A good book. A laugh.

Or a prayer answered with snow.


  1. Goodness... life is full of heartache... but we truly wouldn't be able to breathe without it... we would be too full of ourselves and that would squeeze the compassion right out of us, if we didn't have hurt to wake us up. However, there are blissful awakenings that revive us and supply us adequately... one of those being this blog.

  2. i will need to get back to you on this it enough to say that you made me cry?

    heartache and loss are beautiful because they show the depth of love that we have for others.

    these are feelings that let us know we are alive.

  3. It's been snowing all day today. I looked outside and thought, "This sucks! I'm sick and have to walk to work." Thanks for giving me a new perspective on my upcoming trek. Love you.

  4. Sad but really very pretty. Writing wise, I especially enjoy the visuals and alliteration.


    PS Just read your comment on Lizzie's VD post... You should read mine...

  5. Tough stuff, but well said. I'm glad you brought the sadness back around with the uplifting quote.

    Good luck with your new neighbor, the New England winter.

  6. i'm not full of insightful words, but I liked this very much;-]
    I miss all the people we've lost in the last few years.

  7. Wow, weird. The whole "life is this yin and yang of sorrow and joy" seems to be a common theme lately. Very nice post. Beautifully intimate.

    I didn't really think anyone looked at my blog. Life has been... ridiculous lately, and I haven't had much time to post. Of course when I have time, I just talk about life being ridiculous.

  8. Hm, I'm reading this in 2011. No wonder you write as you do. You would do the world a disservice if you never share, no, bare, your heart. As it often reveals our own.