Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Leaving work today, late afternoon, I could have sworn that the light in the north, at lake level, had a sound — muffled, muted. A trick of synesthesia, perhaps.

Once home, I could hear my house, at ground level and below, groaning and cracking. Another trick.

(The latches on doors fail to catch, and any breeze sends an open greeting to spirits.)

My friend Tom set his level on the deck and measured the depth of the sinking: an inch, more in some places. And suddenly it was all visible to me, all cockeyed angles, atilt and teetering. Inside and out.

Tom walked out the back gate and around the overgrown grape vines to the other side of the house to check the foundation there. Something caused me to hesitate — I was following and then I abruptly stopped — and for a moment my dead husband (Mark) was present, watching, summing up, silent. Ripped t-shirt, jeans, an all-over scuffled appearance. A narrowing of the eyes. 

Just as quickly he was gone again. I realized that I had frozen in my steps, dazed and jangled by the sighting. Didn't mention it to Tom when he momentarily returned.

Nine years ago Mark made his abrupt exit, leaving a rutted trail of unfinished business and a house in great need of mending. With my single needle and spool of rapidly unwinding thread, I've persevered, and managed to stitch things together. Along the way I've tripped and stumbled, banged my head up against the wall of failure. Dropped my head to the table, ready to hand these house keys over to the devils of defeat.

And now more pressure on the underpinnings, a fault line of no fault I claim.

The earth’s crust shifts and trembles,
entire civilizations slide away in an instant.
Sun, wind, the ravages of rain and thunder —
we build, we pound and cement
our lives onto rectangular plots of land.

And without knowing, suddenly we lose
a step. And for a moment there is nothing
concrete. For a moment there is only
the wind rattling the dishes in the sink —

And then sometimes, for a moment, there is a husband returned and a light that hums softly, despite it all.

Sometimes, I say, that's how we do.

Just that.



  1. Hope this isn't serious. Part of our house leans outwards at an alarming angle; I try to ignore it.

  2. Yes, I'm with Cro. I know all houses sink, but it depends on the overall structure and building materials as to whether it is a problem or not. Ha - I've lived in houses when you could set down a ball and watch it roll to one corner.

    What a remarkable Mark sighting. This sort of thing has happened to me with lost loved ones. Once I was visited by a departed friend who came to assure me he was okay, and that I should stop feeling sad about it. I was grateful for his visit.

    a beautiful post, T.

  3. lovely, poignant: houses, husbands, loss...a shifting. a beautiful piece, T.
    now that i am living in one of those stubbornly sensient old houses, i feel it breathe, sigh, groan...its aches mirror and foretell my own.

  4. The moment, the free-floating pocket in time, can be enough to carry us forward with whatever arrives. It and we are all in flux, always. I work on making peace with that. Lovely writing here. xo