I spent the day cleaning the yard. Cutting down the grasses that my wife always let me burn in the rickety fire pit we've kept year after year. Stupid thing has three legs but you'd never know it. It leans so far to one side it looks like an upside down R2D2. The old fire pit. On its last legs, as they say.
But some things never change. I cut down the ornamental grasses that are thin as paper and stuffed them deep into the fire pit. A small flicker of flame is all it takes to ignite them. The flame creeps through the gut of the grass and flickers 8 feet in the air. A small part of me is a pyromaniac. It seems like a small part of everyone likes a little flame in their lives. We burn candles. Firewood in the fireplace. My favorite part of a wood fire is when the flames subside and the whole log glows red, pulsing in hues of orange and white.
In the absence of human company, fire keeps us company. In the presence of other human beings, fire unites us. Love burns, you see. All it takes is a spark. It was my consolation and reward to burn the winter grass and touch the spring soil. She was there with me all day in spirit.
The neighbors might assume I know nothing of the garden, and what to do. But that is not true. While Linda was the gardener, I liked to listen to her plans and help in ways that she asked. It was always my job to empty the patio plots in the fall and help carry them back out in the spring. One learns a lot from seeing the dying forms of summer plants. The roots tell a story. So does the soil. You see how it layers and how the roots bunched up when they had nowhere else to grow. Like many things in life, they must content themselves with the space allotted them. Sometimes that's all we can do.
Then there are the accoutrements of the garden.
It was a strange thing to me that the yellowed old thermometer that has hung our our tree for 15 years suddenly blew down and broke last week. Frankly, the thing was no longer accurate. Much of the time it only reflected what we wished the temperature would be. It almost worked like the compass owned by Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. A thermometer in name only. Yet its presence was a fixture of sorts. So if the temp was 60 and the old thermometer read 80 we forgave it for its neglectful ways. It mattered more that it stuck with us all these years.
We liked certain things like that, and there is of words made from metal tacked to a tree outside the picture window. It says Miracles Happen. We saw our share. Blessings were fulfilled.
Tonight when the yard work was all done I made a trip down to talk with some of Linda's closest friends about some plans for the Memorial Service this Saturday, April 13 at 10 am. It had to do with flowers. Naturally.
When our talk was through they invited me to dinner. These are treasured friends and their bright eyes and companionship were all I really desired. But some real duty called. I had commissioned work to complete this evening, and catch up. It pays well. So I thanked them for the invitation and came home. But the minute I got home after a stop at the pet store and groceries (laundry soap!) even an excitable greeting from Chuck the Dog could not cut through the tinge of regret. I wished I had stayed.
The easiest thing in the world is to be strong and stupid. It's much harder to be weak and wise. The first takes determination. The second, real courage. Tonight is one of those nights that seems to fall in between the two.
It's a fact. There is mourning, and there is morning. Tomorrow's another day and knowing that you still have to meet your commitments despite your grief in losing a loved one falls somewhere between all that strength and wisdom stuff. But sometimes you just feel stupid about your choices. It's worth it to forgive yourself on that one.
Believe it or not, letting yourself be a little weak and a little stupid can be some of the most important attributes in working your way through a loss. We don't ask for these things to happen, do we? So why should we assume that we're automatically capable of wishing away the hurt that comes with them? It's going to take time. I learned that by trying some things this weekend for which I was not yet emotionally prepared. It stung. "Okay," I said out loud. "I know that's not the right direction, right now." Rhetorically, it helps to recall that Jack Sparrow's compass was not always right either.
The yard work definitely was the right thing to do, however. It felt like being on the deck of a good ship, on a calm April sea. Sailing in the right direction. Whatever that may be.