It was left at the curb for either someone else to take and use, or for the trash collectors to pick up.
I love living in a city. I love access to museums, opera, symphony orchestras, theater and restaurants. And it literally makes me happy to walk down the street and see and hear so many people of different nationalities, languages and ethnicities. For me that makes life richer. I also love seeing what people discard. Most of the time it’s things like broken desks, or the packaging of an overly large item. But every once-in-awhile I see an item that seems to call out, “Wait! Stop and look. I have a story to tell!” And then I have the opportunity to imagine it’s history, and try to convey it’s uniqueness with my camera.
I came upon this chair while the grandchildren and I were walking the dogs. And I wondered. Had this chair been placed at a table where someone both ate and struggled to pay bills? Was it part of a set but finally got too rickety to hold its owner’s weight? Did someone place it at a desk where they worked on writing their first novel, or tried to find a job? Did they work from home? And what happened to make them abandon it? The considerate owner had placed its back legs in the uneven roots of the tree, trying to make the chair as out of people’s way as possible. That’s what gave it that delightfully off kilter angle that was both arresting and sad. It probably wouldn’t have been half as interesting to me if it had simply been placed straight up on the curb. Or even had it been laid on it’s side. I would have thought of it as just a used chair. But this askew chair up against the richly textured bark of the tree caught my eye and seemed to say, “I once was new and cared for! What have I done, other than become old? I am still able to hold my back up straight and proud. Please stay awhile, and hear my story.”
For the first few months after my husband’s death, I could think of nothing other than the loss of him. It invaded both my waking and my sleeping and was intensified by the bone deep exhaustion that permeated every cell of my body. But gradually, over the months, I started to notice that there began to be room for other things. I began to be able to eat with friends and stay still long enough to observe the fog slowly retreating up the hills in the mornings. It’s not that I hadn’t seen the color of the world in the early months of grieving, it’s that the color and beauty were merely observed rather than taken in. Somewhere around the seventh month since the fall that took the essence of him away, which was also the fifth month after his death, I began to notice that every once in awhile I would feel a flash of joy. I didn’t quite know what to do with that. Should I feel guilty that I was beginning to feel comfortable in the world again or be grateful for it?
Almost 7 months to the day since my husband died, I am finding that a sense of peace often settles over me. I’m not saying that there is not still grief, or that I don’t still miss him. There is, and I still do. But I am finding that as time goes by, I am remembering more and more often our many decades together when he was not sick, and remembering less the awfulness of the illnesses that preceded his dying.
Last night I went with two friends to a small concert venue to hear an evening of music written by Schubert. As an Austrian composer of the late 18th and early 19th century, he was unusual in that he not only composed music for small and large orchestra, but also wrote transcendently beautiful art songs for voice. Saturday was an evening of both.
I am fortunate. Much of music speaks directly to my soul. It bypasses my analytical brain and goes straight to my heart and fills me with a sense of peace and beauty. Sometimes it feels as if the music inhabits me and I sense little boundary between me and it.
Such was last night, and I realized, not for the first time, that the intense grief of my husband’s death has continued to lessen, giving me space to exist in the world. Such is the grace of time, I think, and love. As I sat there fully present in the music, I realized that this is exactly what he would want for me. He would not want me to stop living after his death, but rather fully embrace life for the both of us.