Darling, I fell asleep again in the middle of writing you. I get so tired and I close my eyes – and woosh, I’m off to that warm, dark quiet cloud. And I don’t even hear Inspector Barnaby arrest the killer. I mean, there sure are a lot of murders in the Midsomer area, aren’t there? Why are their real estate values still so high?
So let’s just consider that I’ve already told you all the things I needed to say and just get to the heart of it: I love you with all the petals I can get my hands on. Can’t help it. Sweet dreams, Dreamy Dear. So warm and dark and Sweet.
April has its reasons for flowers. New jobs and new places. Hours and hours more daylight. Even a little housekeeping feels like a celebration, with the windows finally open, and the bluster of birdsong coming in with the breeze, declaring nests and territories and competitions all along Whitcomb Drive.
But most reliably, April has birthdays that come two by two by two in our family. Pammy and me and Lily. And Barbara and Patsy, who hold the 29th day of April for their own arrival on Planet Earth. Separated by an ocean of time but both beautiful mirrors of love and delight in this life – and oh, equally possessed of the whimsiest sense of humor because, after all – April has finally won and there is plenty to laugh about.
All the love my heart can give, to you my dear – and many whimsy returns.
I guess the writing I share is quite personal. I don’t think I disclose that much – but on the other hand, I have to tell someone – someone.
I feel far more exposed trying to make something beautiful to look at, than looking for words to say I miss the particulars of someone’s skin or breath, or other features I know only by imagining. Those things can be told and shown – whether anyone actually reads them or not. Of course, I’m afraid you’ll know – but I’m more afraid you won’t know how deep I fell, or that I could fall again with just the gentlest squeeze of your hand.
But I don’t have the slightest idea what I’m doing with the pictures. The impossible loveliness always on the edges of the frame, always a little shy. It’s there when I close my eyes and remember your smile, and I can never quite show that feeling of the sun spreading in my heart, except for the flowers.
It was the forsythia today, in the end.
I fell asleep – and this is true – while I was editing the pictures, so I made this in a dream, I suppose.
But also, forgive me. I’ll have to call it a night, instead of giving the words their play. Everything I want to say is all here anyway.
I love you, sweet heart. Forsythia, for always, I do.
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.