Monthly Archives: October 2013

This morning , I walked to work early, so the frost – our second day of it – was on the ground still.  I was reminded of a day 37 years ago at just this time of year when I lived in the Willamette Valley.

That morning was, in fact, the first day of November 1976. I noted this fact to myself before I headed across our rural road with my brother to wait for the bus to take us to the high school.  It had been an awful year so far – for my brother and me, and for my parents especially.  (My sisters seemed to fare this year a little better, though they should correct me if I’m wrong.)  The sky was gun-metal gray and low.  But something in the quality of the cold reminded me of New England, where we’d lived until recently, and I was uplifted.

(Actually, it’s the me sitting here writing this – as opposed to the me back then –  who believes the association with New England is perhaps what lightened my mood that day.  I’d lived in that region almost all of the previous nine years and been mostly happy there.  Autumn days on the cusp of winter had been my favorite.)

On school mornings, my brother and I waited beside our mailbox, and on this morning, strung between the mailbox and its post, a spider had made a web.  It was encrusted with frost.

It’s November 1, I thought.  And now here is this jewel-like creation at my bus stop.  Everything is going to be okay.

I often got through the difficult times of my adolescence and young adulthood finding “signs” that it was okay to hope; that if things were hard now, things would get better soon.  I knew this because a heron flew by, or because I smelled wild grapes after a rainfall, or because of a spiderweb that put me in mind of the miniature flocked evergreen tree in our Christmas decorations.

Now, I don’t have such an easy relationship with hope.  I don’t mean to imply that I am hopeless.  But I know that the presence of natural beauty is simply that; it promises nothing other than itself.  Things in life will be as they will be whether a heron flies by or not.

Yet, beauty promising “nothing other than itself” is actually promising a lot.  I like to think that part of me was simply appreciating the image before me and recognizing what a privilege it was to be able to look upon beauty and to know it when I saw it.  It wasn’t hope that got me through, but rather it was beauty that carried me.

As some of you know, three weeks ago, on October 5, my niece Simone died at the age of 18.  She had been diagnosed less than three weeks before that with cancer.  Cancer took her swiftly – too swiftly for us to grasp, really.  That will perhaps take most of the rest of our lives.

Writing can’t help but be part of my journey about this tragedy – just as my daughter’s journey after losing her sister-cousin involves lots and lots of drawing and painting.  It has felt unclear to me how to proceed with that writing though.  The topic of death and its aftermath is not the usual stuff of this blog, and I don’t care to shift my focus here quite so thoroughly.  I have never wanted a reader – accustomed to my shorter form and (usually) light touch – to feel hijacked by a blog post.  At the same time, it feels wrong somehow to proceed with only those topics I deem consistent with the blog’s previous life without acknowledging somewhere that I stand on new ground.

Simone’s death is now part of everything I might do, so in that regard, it will be present in anything I write for this blog.  Likely you will glimpse her – if only sometimes between the lines.  How could it be otherwise?