ANNIVERSARY Countdown (Count-Up?)

Today is Friday, March 7th, 2014. We were married 986 days ago, on June 25th, 2011.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


There is a substantial quiet tonight. I am sitting by the woodstove after a day attempting to make the next phase of our work lives happen. I let the brilliant October colors pass, a rain storm, and the pile of wood linger in the garage unstacked,  while I worked at the computer and worked and worked and worked. And now it is dark and windy.

The morning was what I like to call a Dr. Seuss morning for those days when nothing goes according to the plan. I tried to replant the pulmonaria we had been given before the wedding, only to discover that the places I picked were either too rocky or already filled with bulbs awaiting next summer's growth. The pot returned to the front of the house and I planted the pulmonaria a foot from where it had started.

Then returning the shovel to the garage I decided to fill the wood cart with 43 logs for today's fire, and as I dragged the loaded cart to the doorway, the handle promptly broke, leaving me to carry canvas bags of logs into the house, where I stepped in several piles of unseen cat vomit.

But it has been quiet, and I have purged emails long ago defunct. I had kuri squash and a yellow potato that had grown in the garden, and there was, as always, something appealing about eating a meal grown here on this little piece of land. There were three tiny yellow and black rudbeckia blossoms that remain alive despite the cold nights and I brought them in and filled a tiny hand blown juice glass with water, and set them on the kitchen table.

H is in Washington at a meeting, so it will be the better part of another week before we are in the same place at the same time, and it will require another long car drive. And I am struck by how we have blended this sense of belonging to land we do not own, to a community we love, with the sense that we must be elsewhere part of every week, that we must build a business or our work lives "away." We live between longing and belonging and it sometimes seems we will never get the balance right.

I wrote some days ago about the work of writer Deborah Tall who taught me the words for that feeling, long before I knew how much her words mirrored my personal and professional world. In a blog post a few days ago, I  wrote about her search for her family story and the roots that had been buried under Ukrainian pogroms and the Holocaust. And I wrote about how familiar that search was, and how inexplicable.

Her last book "A Family of Strangers" arrived yesterday at the post office, and between transporting wood and pushing pixels, I read it as though it was water in the desert. She wrote:  

"Defined by our wandering, by our never quite belonging, Jews had to make good on restlessness, prove ourselves admissible. But in diaspora, one is by definition nowhere an insider, nowhere at complete ease. One straddles reality and memory, one foot deep in the past while the other fakes it in the present."

These are not her most eloquent words, but they deeply touch me as a person and as a wife. She speaks again to the core of what it is like these days to live apart, to live and work in different places, to hold the community of friends at arm's length, never to be in a place where we can sit at the table with our wedding plates and glasses and silverware, the beautiful wood boards and plates, candles and teapot that are the emblems of that day spent under Vermont's skies with people we adore. It is as though I were longing for something barely remembered, something deeply buried in a past that may not ever have been mine.

I am a newly-wed. I have nothing to compare this experience to. I don't know whether it is like this for others... whether the joy expressed at our marriage, by our friends, is in part a measure of these places in our lives when the work is not what we imagined, or the family struggles are what we cope with first, when the effort to make a life takes precedence over living it. I wonder whether this is what we promised each other--that we would still remain committed to each other, believing that against all odds, we can make a future out of a sometimes threadbare fabric. I wonder whether this is what we promised each other, when we spoke Susan Sarandon's words in place of the traditional vows:  

"We need a witness to our lives.... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

The rain has come again and it is splashing the old dried ferns, and the planks of the deck. And I am longing for something that doesn't feel so much like Diaspora.

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