Sunday, September 4, 2011

Everything That Can be Fixed

I am sitting on the couch in our front room (truly our 'living room' - this is the heart of our home, where we spend nearly all our free time). The window behind me looks out on our front yard, where there is a red maple that we planted in June, twenty-plus years ago. If I focus on the reflection on my laptop, all I can see are the branches of that tree, waving in the wind. The leaves fill my laptop screen, and make me smile.

Anyway... I was reading some Mary Oliver poems, and this one matches my mood today.
By Mary Oliver

Our neighbor, tall and blonde and vigorous, the mother
of many children, is sick. We did not know she was sick,
but she has come to the fence, walking like a woman
who is balancing a sword inside of her body, and besides
that her long hair is gone, it is short and, suddenly, gray.
I don’t recognize her. It even occurs to me that it might
be her mother. But it’s her own laughter-edged voice,
we have heard it for years over the hedges.

All summer the children, grown now and some of them
with children of their own, come to visit. They swim,
they go for long walks along the harbor, they make
dinners for twelve, for fifteen, for twenty. In the early
morning two daughters come to the garden and slowly
go through the precise and silent gestures of T’ai Chi.

They all smile. Their father smiles too, and builds
castles on the shore with the children, and drives back to
the city, and drives back to the country. A carpenter is
hired – a roof repaired, a porch rebuilt. Everything that
can be fixed.

June, July, August. Every day, we hear their laughter. I
think of the painting by van Gogh, the man in the chair.
Everything wrong, and nowhere to go. His hands over
his eyes.

To go with Oliver's poem, here is Van Gogh's Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity):

Van Gogh, Vincent. Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity). 1890.
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands

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