I want to remember the holy hush just before dawn, the mists rising out of the valley, the sharp, clear sky still pricked by the bright eye of Venus. I want to remember the way light returns slowly to this earth, taking its time. How it arrives at last from behind a curtain of rose and purple clouds. How glad I am to be here.
I want to remember the sudden uprise of Canada geese bursting through the silence, honking and flapping and lifting into to the sky, oblivious to our astonishment. I want to remember their wild call as they jockeyed into a ragged V before shearing off through the clear veil of morning. The way my husband and I smiled at each other, silent, as we watched them go.
I want to remember the cold smell of Gracies’s coat when I bury my face in her neck, her silky hair so dry it fairly crackles. She is twelve. I want to remember everything.
I want to remember the September woods. The rich, smoky, earthy smells of nature concluding a season’s business. I want to remember the great buttery clumps of mushrooms, such fecund, untouchable bounty. And when, exactly, did the pliant maple leaves grow brittle and thin enough to see through? How subtle was the moment when summer’s green palette was exchanged for the golden hues of fall? I want to remember the exquisite turning of this page, as the blue-green hills I’ve gazed upon all summer begin now to glow with color. I want to remember this: Don’t blink. Every hour the scene repaints itself. We are heading toward brilliance, fleeting and irrepressible.
I want to remember the nasturtiums, how they came up everywhere this year, tumbling through the garden like handfuls of jewels, tossed and scattered with wild abandon. I want to remember the shy orange poppies; all summer they held back, only to bloom now at the end of September, long after I’d given up all hope of them. I want to remember the greedy, glorious, rampant pink and violet petunias, spilling out of their pots, cascading over the steps, taking advantage of every barren crack in the walkway. I want to remember the hummingbird that comes each afternoon to drink their depths. I want to remember these days before frost lays claim to every cherished, fragile blossom.
I want to remember the industriousness of bees, the hum in the garden. I want to remember the slow undulation of a Monarch’s wings as it sips from a pink zinnia. I want to remember the robin splashing like a hedonist in the birdbath beneath a stand of exhausted sunflowers, their drooping, heavy heads plucked clean of seed. (I should cut them down, haul those useless stalks to the compost pile.) I want to remember how reluctant I am to see anything come to an end, and how even now I leave the dead flowers standing standing there, patiently waiting for me to summon resolve.
I want to remember the last breakfast on the screened porch, the penultimate bouquets, the hydrangeas drying on their curved stems, the end of peaches, the first Macouns from the trees up the road, the puckery sweetness of a Concord grape splitting on the tongue.
I want to remember Henry’s oatmeal cookies and the rich buttery smells in the kitchen, Diana Krall singing “Love Me or Leave Me” as he washes dishes at the sink. I want to remember how good it is to have a son come home.
I want to remember my favorite sandwiches, made without bread: sliced Brandywine tomatoes and white mozzarella ovals and basil leaves still warm from the sun. I want to remember the briny grit of sea salt, and juice dripping off my elbows, and not minding.
I want to remember dozing in the lawn chair with a book in my lap, as the first yellow leaves spin to earth. I want to remember days with windows wide open, and the way cold seeps through the house as soon as the sun disappears behind the trees. I want to remember Henry practicing Rachmaninoff. I want to remember lighting candles at dinner again, and how it feels to live in one place for five years, to feel one’s own roots sinking into the earth. I want to remember that change is part of being alive. I want to remember to take time to sit in silence, to breathe into the still point, where past and future are gathered. I want to remember some lines by T.S. Eliot:
Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline.
Except for the point, the still point,
there would be no dance,
and there is only the dance.
I want to remember that in the week before I turn 54, I am vexed by a private catalog of imponderables. I want to remember that even these most perfect days and nights have been limned with sadness, punctuated by sleepless hours, a host of worries, questions without answers. I want to remember that sometimes I can set my troubles aside, choose instead to see my life as a blessing. I want to remember that surrender is always possible, and that I can be sad and grateful at the same time. Filled up and emptied out, both. Even a heavy heart can overflow with contentment. I want to remember to keep my eyes open, to pay attention. Life is short. I want to remember: this is it. There is only the dance.
Tell me, what do you want to remember?
(I write today inspired by my friend Lindsey’s poignant post on this theme at A Design so Vast. Thank you Lindsey!)