my fifteen minutes in the morning

I had fifteen minutes to myself this morning, and they made all the difference-

a rare slot of quiet, a pocket of stillness in which my parched mind could receive a soothing trickle of words-

reading and writing have always been my painkillers of choice, and my estrangement from those simple acts – or acts I once performed without thinking much about them, nonchalantly, arrogantly even, like all things done by the very young – has kept me in a sort of protracted withdrawal syndrome- can fifteen minutes in the morning do the trick? These here lines perhaps?

recently…

Samantha French, Breakthrough II, 2013, Oil on canvas, via http://www.samanthafrench.com

…a passing. A quiet exit: a labored curtsy, a smile. I keep seeing her in that photo from the week before, at the birthday of her two granddaughters. I think this is how I will see her from now on, old, frail, and laughing with eyes closed, hands on her lap, wedding ring on, cross sitting on her bosom, surrounded by that small part of the world that was of her own making, loved, hated, loved again, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. This is a strange sadness, diffuse, dull, erratic, unpredictable- I miss her so. I miss knowing she was there, in her dark home, head stooped, eyes long blind, but there where I could reach out and touch her-

In the casket, a white gardenia was set at the side of her head in that bed of white chrysanthemums where she lay. I still wonder who left it there.

…a sense of growing up – agony replaced by satisfaction replaced by panic replaced by relief. You can do it; must do it or no one else will; have done it; will have to do it again; Learning you alone are there to give the pep talk and pat your own back when all is said and done. Life is finally here, and now.

…a little boy with bouts of assorted phobias. We have resolved to stay calm, let him explore the world and embrace the fear it sometimes inspires so he can walk past it, and be brave and strong. I am writing in the journal I keep so I can one day hand him a small piece of his very young life: put one hand around your fear and use the other to push your way through life.

…a night on the beach, under a full moon. How lucky we are to have access to such simple beauties – a relaxed conversation with friends, sand between your toes, our kids scampering around, small bites held tight in their tiny indifferent hands, a cool breeze like a whispering of reassuring words- It’s time to give thanks for what we have been given.

NM

Looking out the window

The weather has changed overnight

Abruptly, this last protracted summer was over

its jubilant sound still travelling through the wind and rain

suspended yet hushed

a vibrating pianissimo carried on as if by an unseen pedal

Frail memory of light extinguished barely a day ago

and our common tasks seem suddenly exalted

in the murmurs of this subdued glow

our moments impregnated with a meditative seed

How marvelous the finality of shift

that makes the present appear to have always been the present

that stretches the fabric of the passing over and beyond the timeless

I can hardly recall the sun today.

NM

 

Light and Dark

This past weekend we travelled to Rion, a seaside town near Patras where our friend G. lives with her family. It was a much needed break from our life in Athens. After lunch on Sunday I sat outside in their new backyard, which comes complete with a small and deliciously refreshing orchard, for the few brief moments of afternoon sunshine on an otherwise dark and rainy day. The lemon trees were resplendent in the sunlight that seemed to bounce off the festive yellow skin of their fruit. I was reminded of my time in London when I had had an epiphany regarding the citrus tree: I realized one day that I had actually missed the merry sight of them, their fragrant mark upon my routes around my native city of Athens-

And as that precious midday light blazed on, my mind eventually turned to Lawrence Durrell and his magnificent description of Greek light in his Greek Islands. He writes: “[…] in the depths of the light there is blackness, but it is a blackness which throbs with violet – a magnetic unwearying ultra-violet. This confers a sort of brilliant skin of white light on material objects, linking near and far, and bathing simple objects in a sort of celestial glow-worm hue. It is the naked eyeball of God, so to speak, and it blinds one.” What a relief it is these days to go back to those poets and writers who fell in love once with Greece, Durrell, and Miller – who loved the country for her present, however shabby and inglorious this must have seemed compared to her classical past.

I also got to thinking of Byron and his prophetic image of Greece as a corpse her modern champions attempted to bring back to life.

She was one, I thought to myself, and is now perhaps the ultimate cadavre exquis!

NM

Dec. 14, 2012

There is nothing like the young child

to show you how time passes, to attest

the haste by which it changes us

make you realize how helpless

the human eye is before its furtive

infinitesimal brushstrokes that endlessly rework

who we are and love-

and how memory is that strange erratic thing,

that elastic space in which alone

humans are allowed to exist

basically unchanged throughout their life’s history.

 

NM