Seven months have passed and John’s still gone. This morning the half moon gleamed overhead and in the east a fiery dawn lit the clouds behind the mountains. I reflect now on how accurately Joan Didion described at least this part of grieving in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking. “John’s still gone” implies he will come back. “That the dead stay dead is a daily surprise,” says Jan Johnson in her book A Music No Longer Heard. Is this why his glasses are still on the dresser, his Lee Jeans hang washed and ready to wear in his closet, his socks are still in his sock drawer?
Is it really seven months I asked myself when I came back inside? I clicked them off on my fingers: April, May, …. Yes. Seven months. Then the thought: That I lost track of the months is actually a sign of progress. Widow-making is a slow process. The gestation period is slower than that for birth, and yet it is also a kind of birth into a new life. Some people tell me they hate the word, widow. I don’t mind it at all. It’s a very ancient word, going all the way back to the Sanskrit, vidhuh, meaning “lonely,” or “solitary.” It went on in close form to all the Sanskrit based languages right into the Latin viduus "bereft, void"), from base *weidh- "to separate" (cf. second element in L. di-videre "to divide." There’s a reality to the word that is hard to come by in day to day life. I mean, living it out is hard. But it’s a clean thing, pure. It’s a practice. It’s a kind of pregnancy during which I devote myself to giving birth to a new life.
But those 36/34 Lee Jeans still hang in the closet.
Nevertheless, I am re-creating myself and I can feel it. I changed my hair style this week. At first I did this because I dread styling salons which is why my hair grew so long for twenty years. John would trim the ends, and that was all. And now I’ve tired even of that trendy fashion I chose this summer. First, it requires a hair stylist. And besides, there’s too much blowing dry. Too much curling iron. I’m putting it back in a clip instead. At lunch yesterday my friend, Lynn, approved. “You look like a writer,” she said, “and those dangly earrings complete the image.” OK. That’s real.
And I’m writing a new novel. It’s a story I thought I might write if ever I found myself alone. Well…. AND during Advent I’m giving a talk at a church in Ashland, “Advent Contemplation: Prayer in Times of Darkness and Uncertainty.” Maybe in the future I will give workshops again--maybe even resume the practice of spiritual guidance I formerly did in Minnesota. Lynn and I have some ideas for projects we might do together.
I woke up this morning with thoughts of making a sign to hang at the entrance to the drive. Those artists/potters on the way up to Applegate Lake have a sign-- “Hummingbird House.” I could have one too. Maybe it will say “Sunshine Hill.”