Life unfolds and unfolds, an intricately designed envelope viewed ad infinitum in a mirror....
This morning I got up at the crack of seven, drove onto an early ferry to Port Townsend to meet up with some friends for coffee, then continued on to my poetry group, which meets once a year in PT. Typical August cloudcover, hoping for a burn-off before afternoon.
I'd just arrived at the nestled-in-the-woods home of K. and G, was admiring their art collection, when my phone rang. A call from my son. His aunt, my sister-in-law, had suddenly passed away. (My late husband's sister. The daughter of my mother-in-law whose memorial we attended just ten days ago.)
She's suffered compromised health for a number of years, but had been doing well these past six months -- in fact, she took responsibility for much of the care-taking of her dying mother, and just this past week, attended to her father, who suffered a stroke on Monday. Details are sketchy, owing to the stroke-impaired speech of her dad, but it was sudden, and I'm guessing it was heart-related. A broken heart, in more ways than one.
So I got back into my car and drove the two hours back to town, picked up my son, and headed out to the house.
But something extraordinary happened as I left Port Townsend:
As I was passing through a favorite valley (site of the Betty MacDonald The Egg and I books), my earphones from my iPhone were on, and I'd just finished a conversation perhaps five minutes prior. There was silence in the car, no radio, no CD -- just the hum of the engine and my own very noisy racing brain.
Suddenly my head filled with a Puccini aria -- this one --
I nearly drove off the road.
I hadn't switched on my iPod, hadn't put in a CD, hadn't turned on the radio. All was silent until -- PUCCINI!! --
Maybe it was a random glitch in the world of technological wonders -- I don't know. What I do know is that the first time I heard that aria was when my mother-in-law, fifteen years ago, gave me an aria CD, and I fell in love with Un Bel Di, Vedremo.
One fine day, we will see....
The music was coming from my iPhone, on its own.
I don't know -- maybe I accidentally pushed the iPod icon, looked up Madame Butterfly, pushed "play" -- but I don't think that I did. My hands were on the wheel, my car was humming forward in my quest to get back to Seattle.
I did do one thing, though: I turned the volume completely up.
And in those few minutes, as I listened to this exquisite piece of music, I felt alternately saddened beyond despair and euphoric with joy.
Angels, afterlife, benevolent spirits, pixies, sprites -- any name will do. The message was clear: you are alive, this is one fine day, so take in this moment, savor it, breathe it in, and it will be okay.
When it finished, I pulled the earbuds out, drove for a long time in silence.
The sun had burned through the remnants of clouds, the Douglas firs on each hillside to left and right were brilliantly green, the meadows rich with summer grass.
The universe had sent me a message, had burned through the ruins & rubble in my head, told me to stand up and take notice -- and I listened.
It's late now, approaching midnight, and there are rumors of solar flares, of visible Northern Lights in the night sky. There are two lanterns lit on my porch, and the noise from parties down the alley has waned, the traffic eased.
It's been a helluva hard day, hard month, hard year. And shit happens, to every one of us, no matter what, no matter who. My favorite adage: None of us will get out of here alive.
Yet as I turn my eyes towards this cloudless, starry sky, I know, I know -- in every cell -- that no matter what it is that life throws at us, there remains the possibility for love, for magic, for, indeed, one fine day.
And yes, we will see.
March 31, 1958-August 6, 2011
(And please, tell someone you love that you love them.
And be kind to someone you don't love.
And do it again.)