Is it true for all of us, that even our mundane, daily activities seem a bit kinder when there is someone who loves us? I find myself, moving about my yard in the afternoon, the sweet smell of the flowers that are topping, what, honestly are lovely weeds. I almost regret pulling them. And I feel moments of overwhelm, that I won’t be able to ever transform this property, not without help, time, lots of money and man power. It’s still, after so many years, a blank slate in many ways. I put in the lilacs the year after my mom died and in this caliche clay, they are holding on but are not enormous, bloom filled creatures. I doubt they will ever be.
This year, there is green grass because of all the late spring snows which have still left the ground remarkably moist. I dig down to plant sunflowers and cosmos and just under the surface, the earth is cool and damp. Now Nia is buried beside the lilacs, under the elm tree. The tiny house where my mother lived in the last months of her life is whitewashed and feels almost symbolic in its transformation from slate grey concrete to the simplicity and antiqued quality given to it by the homemade paint. Magpies still live here, their blue-black feathers shining in the sun; grackles skirt their way through the small garden, mouths open, digging for things. It is difficult to imagine now, that these newly green leaves on the trees, sparse and puny as they look, will fill out and the shade will grow, enough to put a chair for sitting soon.
I get up in the morning and open all the windows for the first time, and I know today I will close the shades in the afternoon rather than leaving them open to catch all the solar gain possible. I fill buckets with soil—a mix of clay and manure, hoping it will be a better growing environment in the absence of my ability to have compost trucked in here, or time to plant cover that will break it up, add nitrogen. I plant marigolds, a symbolic flower for many cultures—of remembrance. I stack the woodpile, in disarray from winter and my hunting and pecking through it for the best pieces. How quickly the cheat grass has turned to seed. Such a short season of softness. The sun is warm on my back. Perfect clouds, puffy and white, rush across the sky and by afternoon, the wind has picked up. I come back inside and sit in the window to survey the whole scene. I think, as I often do here, I could spend a lifetime making this place into something, making it into a better place.
When I woke up this morning, in a nest of pillows and blankets I’d somehow made in my sleep like a coyote, I had such a sense of missing my mother in a way that I have not felt in years. It was the physical, deep, visceral longing for actual contact. I thought how if she was around, we would talk every day and I wondered what our conversations would be like this year, amidst another round of radical changes in my location, perspective and experiences. And, of course, I know, if she was here I would likely be elsewhere or at the very least, everything would be different than it is now. Now, it’s all up to me on this strip of ground, the steward of a vision she had that I no longer know. I can do my best to guess but there are so many things I hadn’t learned from her yet, so many things I didn’t know I would need to know. It strikes me that the voice of someone in our heads just simply is not the same as their actual voice, of the vibrations it makes as it crosses air, as it stirs inside our hearts.
I find myself imagining my last spring in New England as well, how dry it was for there, but how green even a drought is by the ocean. How it’s Friday and I’d be meeting Kris and her kiddos and we’d drink wine and eat dinner, put them to bed and talk about all the most important things we know. A friend calls from Providence, we breathe through some of her sorrow together. The refrigerator whirs in the other room, I listen to birds. I listen to music. I am filled with memories. None of this is out of the ordinary, just a day here, but I think of this someone who loves me and somehow, the day feels a little different, a bit transformed, perhaps even, a bit sweeter.