Last Monday morning I planned to write about Vespa the dog.
While my friends the Worsfolds take their customary April trip, I inhabit their home and spoil their Italian spinone with long, meandering walks.
The tradition began five years ago, just two weeks after I’d told my husband I wanted a divorce. The realities of my decision were pressing hard around me, but I put them on hold for a little while. My yoga practice had been teaching me the art of resting. There are times to stand fast in the midst of discomfort: moments to stay and breathe, though your body shakes. But there are also times to fall into child’s pose. Knowing which time is which . . . well, that’s what the practice is for.
My first week with Vespa was one long child’s pose. Morning and evening we’d wind our way through the neighborhood. She waited for me while I touched growing things. I waited while she rolled in the grass. Hollowed out by grief, I found in myself space for spring.
I’ve returned each year since.
Last Monday I began brainstorming an April-by-April chronicle, each year a stepping stone to the beauty of this spring, the marvel of walking with David beside me.
But in Boston, the difference between Monday morning and Monday afternoon was something jagged and unwieldy. When evening came Vespa and I walked slowly. The shadows lengthened and spread. I lingered to examine trees felled by a storm.
The ache I remember from five Aprils ago became a puddle beside an ocean of heartbreak. There is a vast terrain between the sorrows we choose for ourselves and the ones that explode into our lives from outside. I know little of the latter.
What is there to do when we live close to the circle of pain, but not within it? I began by receiving the great, tangible holiness of the ordinary.
Sitting down with a cup of tea, an English muffin, and a good book.
Doing the laundry. Journaling in the hammock. Scooping dog poop from the lawn.
Wednesday, on the train to Philadelphia, a flank of clouds formed a clean line across the blue sky. We live in a world that can happen like that: one moment you’re in the sun, the next you’re in shadow.
In the wake of tragedy, the world can’t help but go on. When your life has crumbled, this feels alternately like mockery and like hope. This week I tried to hold my heart wide enough to feel it all: the pain of my city and the simple pleasures of a visit with my family.
While David looked after Vespa I walked with Mom in Havertown, PA. Spring is springier a few hundred miles south. We live in a world where beauty can litter the earth beneath our feet.
Nate and I strolled through Philadelphia, discussing relationships and art. The tulips were in full bloom. The sky threatened rain, but we stayed dry.
I caught up with my gorgeous young cousin and her wise mother.
There were family dinners and lavish playtimes with Lydia.
While courageous officers worked around the clock in Boston, I slept long hours and went shopping for my bridal shower. My father bought me a rainbow of roses.
I picked out mangoes for the fruit salad and wondered what it would be like to live without this arm.
I handed my mother mint for the iced tea and wondered how it would change me to lose her smile.
Friday night Ben brought over fresh limes and good tequila. I sat with a margarita in one hand, a cup of tea in the other. When you’re holding your heart wide enough to hold a city’s pain, you don’t much mind the prosaic miseries of a head cold. I could handle just a few joyous limey swigs between sips of Gypsy Cold Care. No matter. If your little brother has mastered margaritas, don’t you want to know what that tastes like?
At the bridal shower, women I love surrounded me like a grove of fine trees. We laughed and talked and ate delicious food.
Ben asked me afterward what I’d remember about the day many years from now. The shower will be a beautiful blur, I think, but I’ll remember the way we walked outside after the guests had gone home. The afternoon grew warm, and we scampered across the lawn with Lydia.
She squealed to watch a football bounce. She watched us watching her, proud to conquer the Everest of the concrete steps, thrilled to tower over us from her father’s shoulders.
That father is my little brother. How lucky is it to watch him grow? How lucky to walk a dog or play with a child, to get divorced but be brave enough to remarry, to have a head cold and hardly mind.
Monday comes around again. I’m hurrying to pack up at the Worsfolds’, eating the last English muffin, uploading pictures to my blog. In the car the steering wheel is cold, and I’m glad that I don’t have my gloves.
After a tragedy, there are things we can do. We can pray. We can donate money. We can take action.
Also, we can receive everything. The cold steering wheel, the bustling morning, the forsythia blazing out the car window. We can open our hearts to this world we live in, to its wonders and its agonies. This is spring, after all. Watch the way it unfolds in Boston.