After this dazzling sunset last night, it’s raining this morning and looks to be that way all day, as well as tomorrow. We’ve had lots of good sunshine in recent days, so this is an okay change. You would think that after these weeks and weeks of sheltering at home, reading books, and doing much of nothing, a rainy day would not be so welcome, but, I didn’t mind seeing the rain pouring off the roof when I opened my eyes early this morning. It’s a great day for soup making, more reading, more of nothing, and an excuse for a cozy fire and candles. Such a day, in the life of coronavirus, doesn’t ask much of me.
We have five family birthdays in the month of May, starting with me, last Friday. My day began with a beautiful early morning walk on the lake bed, just the two of us, out there on the vast expanse of sand. After a night’s misty rain, the budding cottonwoods along the bank filled the air with their heavenly scent. We watched a pair of eagles, heard Sandhill Cranes, and a Wilson Snipe’s constant call. When we got to the Flathead River, we could see how it was now beginning to flow over the lake bed, filling it up with melted snow from the mountains in the background. There was something so magical to actually watch it happen, in real time. I spent the day in Happy Birthday phone calls, text messages, emails, funny videos and cards, which literally filled the entire day. I don’t think I read the day’s bad news–at least that’s how I already remember it. For dinner, Rita had a little pizza birthday party on her front porch. It was a happy day. Don’s birthday was yesterday and he spent it mowing the lawn, and roping himself up on the roof so he could sweep off pine cones and needles. It was also Rich’s birthday over in Billings, where it was snowing. I think I won.
In a few more days, it will be Fletcher’s 19th birthday (NINETEEN!) and Duncan’s 16th, which fills me with memories of having been there on the days they were born, and the profound joy it’s brought to my life to love them. Fletcher has just been back with his family in Billings for a little over a week, after spending nearly two months in Berkeley with Val and her family, when Western Washington closed due to Covid. My youngest grandson, Eamon, adores his oldest cousin, and was always thrilled to go for bike rides and walks with him. When his Mom asked what they did on their walks, Eamon told her that they tried to name the spring flowers–which, of course, is what grandmas always teach on walks with their young grandchildren. On my birthday, Duncan texted me a photo of an allium flower that had budded in the backyard of the rented house in Billings, which they’ve recently moved into. Years ago, when he and Anna had just started elementary school, I would walk them there in the mornings on my visits, and in springtime, we would look for budding flowers. Once, there was a tall spindly purple one, which I didn’t recognize, and told them I would google it, and report back when I walked them home. It was an allium gladiator, and we three sat at their kitchen table and each drew a picture of it. I didn’t mention that it’s from the humble onion family and its Latin translation is garlic–we all thought it was beautiful. In Duncan’s text, he wrote, “it’s our flower and I’m so glad I can look at them every day and think about you!” I’m telling you, here in the time of coronavirus, when something makes me cry every day, it was the happiest of birthdays for me.
The Ponds, by Mary Oliver
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
Nobody could count all of them —
the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.