I have been sitting at the garden desk, looking out on a winter’s delight . It is only mid afternoon, but it is dark and drizzly. A brilliant juxtaposition of lingering old summer greens in varying values and hues, new sprouts and the complex weaving of bare, dark branches create a pensive atmosphere of seasonal change and the comfortable pleasantness which comes from a lost afternoon of drinking strong tea and catching up on reading.
Several hundred feet beyond the large studio window the wind is whipping the languid branches of an old redwood, such that I see a Gaia dancer, moving to the rhythms of a natural force, bringing rain, wind and nourishment for renewal. Separating it from me is a ten foot high wet, silvery redwood fence, covered in rusty decorations of old farm implements from Vermont. On the other side of the fence—-the majestic, on this side is the intimate garden that transforms daily before my eyes, revealing the skills of artistry and the kaleidoscope of beauty tribute it pays to my lost soul mate.
I decide to read. First choice is Jefferey Steingarten’s ‘The Man Who Ate Everything.’ I am focused on the chapter: ‘Kyoto Cuisine’ because it reminds me of the old days and all the old haunts, side streets and magical encounters which that ancient city still holds. I loved that city and it has become a dear part of my soul and a sweet spot of my reveries. It was also the first time I saw a clear Christmas Eve night with a nearly full moon as I sat propped up against a monastery mud wall, watched the lights of the city below and the hulking presence of Mt. Hiei on the other side of the valley. It was breathtakingly beautiful and then the snow began to fall. I’ll never forget it. That sequence of peace haunts me still.
It rained the other night and then froze. When Andie and I went out at dawn the sunrise caught a million little bead-droplets of water that had frozen on the branches and twigs of the old Chinese Elm in front of the house. What a spectacular show of brilliant refracted colors. It looked like a Chihuli masterpiece. I was dumbstruck. Andie missed it because she was focused on a gopher hole buried in a pile of leaves.
The ambiance is prefect now, but I tire easily these days and switch to tackle that pile of passed-on luxury magazines, which chronicle the life and times of beautiful people, magnificent architecture and the designs of stylists, mostly men, who seem to loath women. On one page I saw a pair of designer heels that look like hooves. The irony was not lost on me, but I know that such hooves are an au currant sign of the elegant moment and are quite fabulously and expensively in fashion until some rail thin woman of a certain advanced age trips on an Aubusson carpet, breaks an ankle in the lobby of the Ritz and becomes a victim of sadistic fashion’s hubris.
I also see a handsome young model dressed in exquisite, drapey man garments, simply inconsistent with the near poverty afforded most young models. I remember my time at thirty-one ( it was a very good year. Thank you Frank) wearing Saint Lauren suits, Sulka shirts, Hermes ties and Spectators from Nordstrom’s. I also remember being a monk and rejecting fashion for the Buddhist equivalent of sackcloth. The former costume gave me entree to society and the latter freedom from it.
And so it is, for an old man, who on atmospheric afternoons drifts a bit and revisits the past in time lost and occasionally revived. The past year and a half have been unusual in a lifetime of adventure and exploration, so unusual that I am loath to attempt the impossible and explain my current life without histrionics or fatalism. I do so though because I am now alone with Andie and trying to chart a course while in full view of an event horizon whose impending unfolding feels only a sigh away..
Millions of us have been here, are here or will be here. It is inevitable. Our characters determine the path even when our minds dim and our bodies fail. I had a catastrophic failure of health several years ago and have never fully recovered. These days I am kept going keeping maintenance pharma in the black. There is no cure or restoration it would seem. I remember sixty years of perfect health, rarely if ever seeing doctors, relatively immune to pain, vibrating stamina, long distance running and jogging. All whittled away in three days of a 106 degree fever and the domino effect of failing body parts. It might seem contrary to wisdom considering the resulting ruin, but I see the glass mostly full. Sixty years of prime health made for a very fulfilling life and now pain has become my last great teacher.
Several weeks ago I learned that I am going blind. If responsive to medications that unhappy news may give me months, even years if lucky. I take heart however, because on the brink like this after having lost the love of my life recently I feel strangely at peace. All the small stuff is process and less consequential than the big stuff, which karma now assures me might be less painful than projections imagine and fear might demand
Meanwhile, I have left the ghost world of living with an anguished grief mind to that of a man in love with his dog and so aware that every minute of every conscious moment is a gift and so precious. In this understanding time becomes a great and wide thing. The simplest things delight and Andie is the matrix of my greatest joy.
During the height of the most recent rain Andie chased a large, bright red leaf in the storm rivulets aside the street, captured it and brought it into the house as a trophy which made my day. The other day she discovered wind and decided to sit whenever it brushed her face. She has decided that the new fleece blanket I got for the holidays is just like the bathmat towel game. While I was napping I woke to find it silently slipping down the side of the bed where she was determined to make a nest of it. The same goes for my socks, which she tries to capture as I put them on in the morning. It is a delight to watch her life unfold.
I am surrounded by exceptionally wonderful neighbors, a few very close dear friends and a tsunami of goodwill that continues to astonish my beginner’s mind. I have even given over my contempt of the efficacy of ‘hope’ with the hope that Andie and I can continue to stay in the cottage until………. Meanwhile I know, as Andie daily reminds me, the future is now and that gratitude is the supreme grace.