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QUINTESSENCE

Said Without Elegance

Lemoille Canyon
Some things
you know all your life. They are simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

- from "The Simple Truth," by Philip Levine

I had the joy of visiting with an old friend his weekend. Someone I have known since I was fifteen. We have been entwined, then apart, parallel and opposing. Like sparrows darting high above the bluffs of Mendocino we have danced our own dance. And now, here we are. His once curly mop of brown hair is short cut white, he talks of a 40th high school reunion, his face weathered by sun and work and life. His heart, like a pocket with a hole, loses days and moments with the woman he has spent his life with, even as she loses her place in the world. She sinks within an incurable illness. He works; pours his 4 am coffee alone in his kitchen. Weekends, he drives to visit her. She sits in the shadows of her losses. Gone are her mountains, her music and horses, replaced now with the quiet ticks of the clock above the clinic door, anchored in the voice of the man she married.

There was something about this visit. The unexpected ballast to what we carry of the past. The balance and heft of years in the work we have chosen, the sting of the losses within our marriages, the surprising transience of dreams and opportunity, this sturdy survivorship that has opened us to the truth of simple endurance. We celebrate the connection that is long friendship, bow to the evolution of our ambitions. In the mirror of one another we recognize the rubbing away of edges. The value of what we now know are the singular cornerstones of life experience. My friend and I share a good meal and talk late into the night beside the fire, single malt in our glasses. At my feet, the Scottie flops on his side and warms his belly.

My pal has gone, back to the Ruby Mountains and the inexorable unfolding of the fates given him to tend. I am here, with mine. The birch leaves in front yard are yellow now, small boats of gold sailing down from the trees. I feel this autumn. The season within changing with the trees. Good friends are these remarkable pebbles we collect on our journeys; like special bookmarks, we tuck them in our hearts to mark our favorite passages, pieces of life we give over to the polish of time.

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