I meet my dear neighbour and friend for coffee this morning. We agree on a venue with the word gourmet in the title. It is very white in this café, white walls, tables, people, napkins, icing sugar dusted on tanned croissants, bakewell tarts with snow white almonds verging on a mild beige, white coffee cups, white aprons, white menus. Purity abounds. It is calming, though mildly disconcerting.
We talk. For two hours. We don't see one another too often. Our lives get in the way but when we do, we connect immediately. Like two lost souls set adrift and upon finding a buoy to cling onto we both aim for sustenance. T is all heart and creative and full of ideas and inspiration and encouragement for my writing. She tells me to write my guts out. I tell her that yes, I plan on doing so as soon as the male population clears out after the summer and mid-day scrambled eggs are no longer an issue and the comings and goings of these past few months becomes but a thing of memory. And I tell her how my son says if I don't write for myself that to for gods' sakes write for him. No more excuses and we talk about our town land and the people and I ask after Brendan, her closest neighbour and she tells me that he is in a hospice. Terminally ill since Christmas.
Eventually we part ways. Hug. Agree to meet again. Not to let time pass as we have. On the way home I think about Brendan. The stone-mason. The man who has a bit of himself everywhere. He built walls for us and for my neighbour T and for everyone else in this place where stone and walls are premium. He knew his craft. He was out in all weathers. The wettest, coldest of days. The days when I braved the rain and the wind to walk the dogs down the road, there I would encounter Brendan with a big slab of granite in his mighty hands as he measured up its proper place in the pattern he naturally formed. Stone was his life. He knew everything about it. I always stopped on the walks. We chatted. He took particular pleasure in the way I commented on the shade and cut of stone, the way he managed to weave it into another jagged piece, the way he allowed space for the wind to blow through. He was strong. Brendan had a face the colour of burnt toffee. He was in high demand. There is a bit of him everywhere but I have said that already. He always waved when he drove by in his car on the narrow, rocky road. His hands never looked tired.
Tonight I got a call from my friend T. She told me Brendan died this afternoon. I could not believe it. I said but how could that be, we were just talking about him. H and I wanted to visit him in the Hospice. Well, we wondered if it was possible. I thought about bringing him a book on stone and walls. But he passed on and yet as I keep saying he is everywhere in this place, etched into the nooks and crannies of beautifully crafted walls and pillars and arches. He left himself here and each time I walk now I will listen for the hush of wind through the stone and think of him. This man, with the big hands, the brown windswept face who always had the time to pass a word or two with me and an unending mountain of stone at his feet like a mound of words waiting to be suitably placed onto a pure white page.