Before I was really awake, you told me what you wanted me to know.
“I have a temple. I gave myself.”
I guess that was what I was waiting to hear, honey. We still inhabit this moment together. Together on Sunday, always.
Oh, baby, everything is so serious all of a sudden. I think we are all in shock. I mean – people can prepare but none of us knows what is coming.
My friend gave me some good advice this morning. He said, “Just give her a good day.” And I really wanted to, honey. But pretty soon, my day was crowded with decisions that would have been paranoid just a few weeks ago. Like whether I can keep the tchotckes on my bathroom counter? No, I decided – too hard to clean, under the circumstances. I needed to do a little actual work, too, so I can keep this miraculous job.
So, it wasn’t the day I wanted to give you – a trip to the antique mall, a drive by the lake. Tea with the ladies – or a trip to Indy, to see where you are, and see all our folks.
But, I kept the window open all day, and the soft rain sounded like spring, and the cold air felt new and fresh. I talked to Pammy – a force of her own nature, somehow keeping those wild boys anchored while the world turns upside down. My ankle’s getting better, and when I told my friend, she gave me advice from when she broke hers. It was very comforting.
I made creamed hamburger for dinner because you told me that was your favorite birthday meal when you were a little girl. And frozen strawberries and cream for dessert. The cream thickened as it coated the thawed berries, and turned crab-apple pink with their juice. I’m watching Ken Burns’ Country Music series – because I know you would love to see it.
I’ve given you all the butterflies I could, over these 10 years – and still there are so many left to tell. To tell each day, just the things that you might want to hear about. I do miss you, dear. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to keep you planted here so firmly. I guess I want us both to have a chance to look at things differently – to see that what is beautiful really does remain.
I love you, honey. Sleep tight. We’ll talk again, tomorrow.
Hi, honey – I wonder how you are doing today? My day had some sort of hard edges to it – a kind of hard disappointment, actually. But – since you can resolve some things by just letting them go – that’s what I did. Everything’s fine. I’m listening to your radio, which always sounds so good – and about which more some other night. It happens to be Chopin, so you’d approve.
I’ve been going over all my pictures looking for butterflies. The Dodgeville Butterfly Window is from the first year of 29 Butterflies, and it’s still one of my favorites. I don’t know – maybe all the photo people think it is weak. But nine years later, I wouldn’t make it any better or any differently.
Looking at so many images has surprised me. Even some of the earliest ones hum with the distinct something I wanted to find. I don’t know if that makes them good images – but it makes them enduring for me.
At the beginning, when I knew even less than the very little I know now, making pictures often wasn’t very fun – in part because I’m wired for so much self-punishment. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t play.
When you are finding out and failing, but you glimpse a little more every time – isn’t that the best feeling in the world? Is there anything better than discovering something you dearly want to know? When things are new, of course, trial and error dominates what you can create, and makes you quell your own impatience. Since nothing is coming easy, the rewards can linger in the distance – arriving like little miracles when they choose.
It’s much, much harder when you think you know where you are headed, and how you will get there and what it will be like when you arrive. And no, I’m not really talking about photography anymore. Duh.
Now dear, after this navel-gazing ramble through the weeds in my brain, aren’t you barely keeping your eyes open? I know I am…So I’ll let you tuck in for the night, and I will do all my night time things – and I will see you tomorrow, honey with some more butterflies.
Now, dear this is so, so late we’ll just take what we can get said in a few minutes. Dearest Deb invited me to make her something – about my travel daydreams – so I had to get that all ready tonight first.
We know your travel daydreams, honey. The place where you felt you belonged, and could really be yourself – or the self you wanted so much to be. London, by name. Your Brigadoon.
I have a daydream, too – a place I feel I belong, where I am just myself – or would always try to simply be in my heart, if my brain tripped me up. My place is much nearer – but not any closer, if I’m honest. I have my own Brigadoon.
We’re not always the best judges of where our happiness will be found, are we, dear? Can we agree that is true? But it isn’t always as simple – either – as craving happiness. Some people or places magnetize us, and our lodestone glows when find them.
So, I don’t know if happiness was what you went there to find. But to risk deeply wanting something – and bear the disappointment of desire – this seems like the heart’s true destination.
I will see you tomorrow, darlin. Nighty Night.
Hi, baby – here we are. Somehow Tuesday is turning over into Wednesday, and I think I am still stuck in Monday. We only have a few more times to be together. I can’t believe that either. I feel like we just started.
So, I think “officially discarded,” is where you and I usually begin to get interested, isn’t it? “Officially discarded” – that supercilious condemnation – gets our Irish up. Officials have been discarding us all our lives. Too sensitive, too smart, too fat, too nearsighted – they toss us on the heap with all the other “too’s.”
Dreamers that we are, treasure hunters to the core – we squint in for a closer look at the pile. And lo and behold we discover it’s only other dreamers and treasure hunters who have landed right next to us. We don’t “not fit.” We weren’t made for the likes of those officials in the first place.
Oh, lovey, that’s too much philosophy, and not enough everyday. I am restless and bored; I miss my walk (broken ankle) and am feeling overwhelmed by the backlog of my work. As a cure, I’m trying to have some daydreams and conjure a little future something out of nothing I know for certain.
Sleep tight, darling. I love you. See you tomorrow.
Hi, Honey. It’s so late, but I know you are probably up. Night owl at your painting table, everyone finally quiet except one little twin who liked to sneak out of bed and stand in the hallway shadows, watching you work.
Here are the other butterflies at arms reach. Essential: Lynda Barry and Two Guys Salt. You can put my ashes in the Two Guys Salt container, it’s that full of everywhere it’s been with me. Boxes of words from other languages, just to roll around in my mind, to help loosen my grip on what wants to be said: cependant, reveler, le repas, la chaleur, rire, cacher, chacun. Meanwhile, reveal the meal, the heat. Laugh. Hide. Each one. It’s a decent poem, just like that.
This week will go fast, sweetie. We won’t have too much time to talk. My ankle still hurts, and I slept from 6:30 til 11:30 then got up to do the dishes and all my nighttime things and write you. But everything’s good. The butterflies are within reach.
Sleep tight, dear. I’ll write you tonight.
Hello, honey. I tried to start earlier tonight to write your letter, but I guess I have the same story every night. Making dinner takes forever now. And my ankle hurt so I did lie around with an ice bag for a while. And now it’s this close to 10 pm and I have to make myself stop, so I can get some rest.
Today, baby, it’s just the butterflies that are in arm’s reach from my cozy chair. You know how it is to try to make things when you can’t skip around and move the way you want. That’s Steven Pressfield and Sister Corita on the left – to strengthen my resolve and remind me I’m growing. The butterfly card is by an artist named Jim Brandenburg. And I guess you know who’s in the middle.
My ankle hurt because I did stand around on it to make pictures. There’s a big, flat monitor now in the middle of my work table – so I can do my job from home. So, I’ll have to make pictures I wasn’t thinking of. I’m figuring it out. There are plenty of butterflies within reach.
Oh hon, don’t worry about me. I’ll get the hang of this. Send some help to all our dearest girls – stretched beyond anything they ever imagined. Stories I don’t have to tell you because you know what I know. Please send a little mercy their way. Some things are too hard. You know that, as well as me.
Love you, honey. Nighty night now. See you tomorrow.
I know I said I would be here, hon, last night but all the schlep of the day drained my reserve and I fell asleep with ice on my ankle and dishes on the counter.
So, last night I had an ancestor dream, and I’m going to tell you about it.
Deb and I were wandering around, looking for somewhere to get dinner. An old Chicago neighborhood, with rows of storefront windows facing each other across a wide street – like, say, Roscoe Village or Sunnyside. We saw a line of people waiting outside a little family place, glowing with lights and only a few tables – and I recognized someone.
The shape of his back, his neck, his head – it was Pop. He didn’t see me as I crossed the street. He was talking to Anatole.
I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned and recognized me. His face was so relieved – overjoyed, really. He opened his arms and hugged me. It was so comforting, so unambiguous. He held me so I wouldn’t be scared. And I wasn’t, not at all.
We didn’t say anything, but I understood he was going in to the restaurant and I wasn’t invited. Inside, I could see long, community tables with candles and violets in vases. I knew I would have to leave him there. He went into the dining room and I walked away with Deb.
I guess it is no surprise that he visited. I want so much to ask him what to do now – even though it wouldn’t really matter what he said. I don’t think the ancestors know what will happen. I think they just carry the durability of love to us, from its larger dimension – the dimension they embody in our dreams so we can understand it. He wanted me to know it endures, all the love we confuse and displace to protect ourselves. The ancestors do understand, even if they don’t have the answers. They remember what it meant not to know.
Well, honey, I think you must have heard me last night – because Today supplied me with a generous dose of LOL.
I called my friend about some serious news, and when she said, “How are you doing?” I sighed SO HARD I’m sure she thought I had sprung a leak. She started to laugh her contagious laugh, and I realized I had said everything. I was looking up at the tree outside my window – grey sky, grey blinds, black branches filling the view. Inside, though – full color was shaking us back to life, propelling us across the unknowns surrounding scary things we cannot change. We were laughed until we couldn’t anymore. I bet it was 2 full minutes before we said another word.
Then tonight a different friend called me. Her warmhearted voice conjured bitter-cold L-platforms and cigarette-fumed books – our shared vocabulary from very long ago. “Bee,” she says, “are you taking my advice for keeping a journal about what’s happening?” She calls me Bee, like a punctuation mark, and takes so much mutual joy in my rants, I can’t help pouring out my most preposterous opinions, just to hear her laugh.
And then I also heard from a friend who has discovered that the way to my heart is to laugh at all my jokes. Who could resist that?
Oh honey, I would love to hear you laugh. The both of you were so funny, but when you loosened your grip and let yourself be broken into laughter, that was the best thing. To feel you join us back on this absurd earth, where your striving so often boomeranged against your best intentions. To feel you let go of the impression you wanted everyone to have, and to hear you bloom with your own cheery song.