11.14.15 There have been high winds all week-long. One of my favorite things to do, when winter weather fronts roar across the lake, and the sun is low in the sky, is to sit on the living room sofa which is backed up to the wall of windows, and read a book. There’s a constant soothing wave sound and the gong of the wind chime, mixed with the forced air furnace coming on and off, and the ticking of the grandfather clock. Every couple of pages or so, I just have to stop and be still and listen to the rhythm of these sounds. It so feels like home.
It was often this time of year that we visited Sarah and Nick in Washington DC, and their closet of a guest room was surrounded with old steel windows which rattled in the wind. The bare branches would scrape across the glass, and being in Sleepy Hollow country, I could imagine Ichabod Crane out there in the wet black night. After all these years of being a grandmother, I know well the sounds in Joy’s house. In the basement guest room, we hear the sprinkler system clang on in the summer months and the heater come to life in winter. In the dark of morning, there’s the sound of cars out front, as people rush to the hospital complex for their 7 a.m. shifts. The milk run flights off the rim are strangely quiet for how close they live to the city airport. Occasionally, I hear a train going through downtown, and Roscoe’s nails click across the wood floor in the kitchen overhead. At Valerie’s house, in the congested SF Bay Area, it is amazingly quiet after about 10 p.m. We sleep with our upstairs window cracked open and hear an occasional conversation of people walking below, but mostly, it’s just the jets coming and going to Asia and far-flung places I will never visit, and I can hear the trains going through Emeryville. By 5 a.m., there are the sounds of BART, and about 6 a.m., the furnace clicks on in the chilly months. The wooden floor boards in their old house creak, and I can sometimes hear that Mark has gone downstairs in the wee hours. And, Cormac, always the first child awake, roars out of bed and sounds like a 200 pound man as he marches down the hallway and rushes down the stairs to the kitchen.
My sister lamented for me about how much I travel. I told her that this is the term of endearment I have come to accept in order to be connected to the people I love so much. A few months ago, when we were in California, four-year old Eamon and I sat on the back sidewalk and watched a snail creep along. He said, “Look, Grandma, he carries his house on his back.” it’s what i try to do, doing what I have to do, remembering it is a privilege. David Whyte contemplates being this kind of “pilgrim” in his book Consolations:
“The great measure of human maturation is the increasing understanding that we move through life in the blink of an eye; that we are not long with the privilege of having eyes to see, ears to hear, a voice with which to speak and arms to put round a loved one; that we are simply passing through. We are creatures made real through contact, meeting and then moving on; creatures who strangely, never get to choose one above the other.”