the days of late have been plenty gray, sodden gray, gray the color of chimney ash.
the gray started seeping into me especially this week when someone i love lost her father who might have qualified as one of the dearest men on earth. he was 97 and as alive and filled with curiosity and charm as anyone whose tales i’ve ever known through the close transitive property of one shared soul. i’d never met him, though i longed to, but he came alive to me because his daughter, our very own amy of the chair, told the most animated love-drenched stories of him. his last name was neighbour, and i am pretty sure his amy must have grown up thinking the whole world was singing along with mister rogers when the sweatered one belted, “won’t you be my neighbour?” because who wouldn’t want to be hub neighbour’s neighbor??
the grayness, though, started to shatter when i looked up late yesterday afternoon and saw not one, not three, but six scarlet cardinals circling round my feeder, taking turns at the 0s where the seed dribbles down for the plucking.
that’s all it took to remind me to count my blessings.
so i begin with six: cardinals, all in a ring, chasing away the murky gloom of twilight, chasing away the murky shadow that’s been eclipsing a chunk of my soul. . .
the boy driving home from college on sunday. the dinner i’ll serve, a birthday feast for my very own mama who turned 92 this week, and who longs for birthdays to end, so she can “go home,” to the heaven she pines for. . .
the boy flying home on thanksgiving morn, when his hours among us are brief, too brief, but at least he’ll be here long enough for me to reach under the table and give his fingers a squeeze. and that hallowed night i’ll fall asleep to the sounds of two boys in two ‘cross-the-hall rooms rustling the sheets of their boyhoods, snug in their long-ago beds. . .
the faraway cousin who bathes me in books, this week’s batch a quartet on the birds and wild herbs and trees and critters of ireland, complete with marvelous lore and legend. (according to one celtic telling, the robin is the bird thought to bring comfort to the wounded and suffering. and here’s my favorite part: the plump little bird came to boast its red breast, according to the heavenly irish, when it pulled either a thorn from Jesus’s crown while he hung on the cross, or a nail from his hands or his feet, so Jesus’s blood spattered on the robin and thus it became red-breasted.) . . .
the husband who sits across from me at dinner each night, fielding my curiosities and never ever failing to say thank you for a dinner he always claims “delicious,” (even, i swear, when it’s not). and who, even after all these years, can set my heart soaring because of the way he captures a thought or a phrase, and whose unheralded kindnesses often only i witness. . .
these lines i read from rabbi jonathan sacks’ posthumously published, studies in spirituality: a weekly reading of the jewish bible (more on this some other friday), in a chapter on judaism as a religion of listening . . .
“If I were asked how to find God, I would say: Learn to listen. Listen to the song of the universe in the call of the birds, the rustle of trees, the crash and heave of the waves. Listen to the poetry of prayer, the music of the Psalms. Listen deeply to those you love and who love you. Listen to the words of God in the Torah and hear them speak to you. Listen to the debates of the sages through the centuries as they tried to hear the texts’ intimations and inflections.
“Don’t worry about how you or others look. The world of appearances is a false world of masks, disguises, and concealments. Listening is not easy. I confess I find it formidably hard. But listening alone bridges the abyss between soul and soul, self and other, I and the Divine.”Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
the poet friend who’s found the courage to once again plunk herself at my so-called kitchen table writing school (virtually, this go-around), so we can try to chase away whatever demons spook her into thinking she can’t write when in fact she writes in a way that takes my breath away. . .
the friend who never fails to ping me when there’s a glorious moon rising or looming out my late-night window. . .
every single one of you who pulls up a chair. for all these years, known or unknown, you have graced me and blessed me. . .
that’s more blessings than i can count, and i am only just beginning.
what lines are you adding to your litany of gratitudes this year?
*photo by will kamin, from his AP art photo portfolio from his senior year of high school. now professor kamin, our very own assistant professor of law….
please keep our amy in your prayers. and the soul of her papa.