Sweetheart. These are for us on our birthday, served up by the old Delft vase. Do you remember it? She’s is so fragile, with cracks clear through the porcelain. But she insisted she should hold the flowers, so I found a way. Now, I can see why. She’s in her garden, sharing it with us.
I keep dozing off, when what I want is to write a little bit more. Or maybe I want to join the flowers in their dream, and meet you there, too. You can drift in, between the petals, and be there any moment.
Oh sweetheart. This year, this year. But spring isn’t waiting anymore. It’s here. Things are better than before.
Love you, fifty-seven. Love you so much.
I bought all the ranunculus I possibly could, dear. Their petals are nothing more than wisps of color, yet astonishingly determined to reveal the rich, fertile center hidden within their incandescent wings. Thank you so much for your help seeing the flowers.
To my surprise you asked for orange marmalade to put on the crumpets. You were very clear about that – not apricot or peach. And decent tea, with brie and apple. The apple was full of summer, still thick and white inside, and just a little mouth-watering tartness, beneath the perfume of honey.
The wind blew the clouds over the sun like a bad mood, and then a moment later, brushed them away into clear, shining blue. Over and over, the light dimmed and then regained the sky – changing the flowers and their story from one unforeseeable moment to the next. Like your troubled, beautiful self – threatening storms, then beaming as if nothing was every wrong.
We had our talk, and I cried. I wrote down what you said. Keep taking chances. All the best things happen when you fall in love and break your heart.
I wish you didn’t have to go. We understand each other so much better now. The unavoidable truth is, you had to leave forever for us to forgive each other. For that, I know we are both sorry.
It was a very good day to be on Earth.
I do think this is the Most Barbara one I’ve made so far. And I think all you who loved her would have to agree. As she discovered – at some point, there can’t be any wrong colors, as long as it’s flowers.
I’ve been waiting until late at night to do the dishes, so I can be in the kitchen by myself. I feel self-conscious about disturbing my landlady with the hiss of water and clang of pans, while she soaks up her Shows in the next room. It’s reminded me of the excruciating month I stayed with mom in her bed-sit on Ebury Court. I’d be up all night, listening to the radio while she slept, finally dozing off about 4 am. She would be furious at me for sleeping so late everyday. The quarters were just too close, the two of us in that one room – so I think I found a way to cope, living as myself while she was sleeping.
The spring and summer of 2019, I made so many pictures from inside my life. Unmade bed pictures, late night pictures – imagining someone wanted to see inside this room, see inside me. Then late last spring, my heart got broken and those pictures stopped. I don’t know. If things had been different, would I have found this path? This way of making things has been one of the happiest experiences of my life.
I really understand now why she wanted to look everywhere except her own life for her work. And if I thought for one minute I could get away from myself, I would be only to happy to learn to sing that song. But I know that’s impossible. It doesn’t matter where I look. A tangle of covers and cupful of improbable flowers all draw the same picture. Love was here, almost real, almost within reach.
For a while last spring, I was feeling exactly like this picture. My heart overflowed from the imagination of desire, like another sensory system – capturing the texture of your cheek, the surface of your hands, and the unflinching smile in your soft brown eyes, the exact color of rabbit fur.
This week, I told my very wise friend that I was so afraid you were the last spring I would have. “It was like everything started to bloom – and then there was a late frost, and the blossoms all froze,” I told my friend.
And all of a sudden I could feel that my heart might be keeping a different sort of time, independent of the hours and minutes I hurry through, reaching for the conclusions I need to protect myself from living with hope and disappointment.
Love – tuned to a slower purpose for the cues of its seasons – rises from a deep, tenacious source. Whatever its shape, it is a very ancient tree – and one that has survived frost-bitten springs and lonesome autumns before. And everyday, with the patience of winter, it is gathering new growth for its next flourishing.
Today the hellebores and tulips and greenery refused to cooperate into their Big Arrangement, turning up their lovely tutus and petticoats and ruffles at my rinky-dink tools. “Non, non, non!” they objected to my flimsy craft store chicken wire and not-quite-heavy enough flower frog. So I will be forced to buy some Supplies, because – well, if we give the flowers what they need, they will give us everything.
I feel like I blink on Saturday, and it’s gone. And the flowers take all my Sunday – so where will the butterflies find their way into March – which is already on its 7th day? Hopefully the petals will suffice. Or lure the butterflies in to take up the light and remember Spring.
This week brought more than its share of shocks and abrupt reversals. And grief. My old friend and neighbor died on Tuesday night, finally escaping the grasp of frontotemporal dementia, that robbed her family of her bright spirit and boundless energy. As sad as I am, she is free. We used to have so much FUN.
One time, you called me after I had left you a message about something infuriating and unjust that happened at work. You said, with complete dignity and composure, “What did those mean people do to you?” And I didn’t stop laughing for at least a minute. I’m laughing right now, just remembering it.
As soon as I heard your voice, I knew everything was going to be ok. I didn’t need to know what to do, because I didn’t need to do anything. Someone else in this world understood my worries, and believed that I would be ok.
I can’t make you laugh as hard as you made me – because we don’t want you to rupture anything. But I know there is not one thing in this world that can cloud your brilliant, shining star. You make everything better, better, better. And if those mean people can’t tell the difference, well then – Bless Their Hearts.
I imagine you want to see these tender sides of me because I have to believe someone does. Whether that was true or I only convinced myself of it doesn’t matter. That hope found its home for a while, and opened.
So – in my imagination – I send you little mementos from any ordinary pleasure that ambles through my day. This morning, it was reading Hal Borland describe the mystery of winter twilight, and the song of running water, ushering life back into the landscape, and all of us. His kinship with the unremarked delights of the everyday makes me think of you. Kind and funny and observant, and so quietly aware of the unremarked delight in me.
Maybe just a day like Friday, where your laughter burst through the misgivings that start my day. Ahhh! ha ha! ha ha! Ahhh! Each of us coaxes the other along, just to see how far we can go.
What do you say, isn’t it almost the same when the laughing fits us together, as that other longer melody? Its call and response meanders a different path but resolves with an equally sympathetic outcome.
Delight that needs to have its say. The sweetness in my own heart I never knew was there, until you were there, too.
My brain keeps trying to re-set to what my friend calls “The Before Time,” as if I am waiting for a call from someone I miss. It doesn’t make any sense, but the habits of familiarity are like a major chord – you can’t avoid hearing how it should resolve. You know right where the notes should be.
Did you ever love certainty so much? Appreciate its delicious comforts? Sink your teeth into what happens without much thought. Fill the kettle, smooth the bed. Call your cousin and laugh the way that only family can.
Apparently some people like the excitement of arbitrary change. Continuous improvement, I think they call it now. Well, you bring your adequate performance right on over here, my darling, and let me marvel at how the routine of everyday has made you smart and strong and good at something.
You let other people do the improving for a while, they could probably use it. I’ve got plenty on my hands, getting to know you, and listening to the petals every Sunday.
When I bought these tulips, a thin red outline edged each lemon-yellow petal, all drawn as close to each other as the rings of an onion. And yet – as the buds plumped with light and water – the red spread imperceptibly, infusing the yellow cups until they were as rosy as a sunrise. It was such a sweet surprise, to see them blush as they revealed their secret.
The tightly folded buds didn’t care that the daylight was bleak and colorless. Inside, they knew what they needed to do with whatever sunshine they found. You can’t get your heart set on things turning out they way you want – because, you may not know everything about the tulips you bought. Things might even turn out to be more beautiful than you ever could have imagined.