these happy golden years

Two more weeks in the City of Bloomington, where David and I have shared the vast majority of our relationship. The city of our first date, our first kiss, our first shared home. The city where we got engaged, where we both earned master’s degrees, and where I had my first full-time job.

I am looking through hundreds of photos, trying to cobble together a photo album of our four years in Bloomington. And as I look through these photos, I’m reminded of one of the things I love most about David, one of his qualities that made me fall for him in the first place: his ability to find life and joy in anything, anywhere. Understand that this isn’t an intentional quality. This isn’t David thinking, “well this is pretty crummy, how can I make it special?” This is just David’s eyes, and how they see.

These are photos of us where we got a take-out pizza and sat on the hillside of a middle school, watching the sunset over budget apartment buildings and pawn shops and a run-down bowling alley. To a cynic, we were eating crappy food on a dirty, littered hill looking out at run-down buildings on an impoverished side of town. David didn’t see that. He saw a picnic on a grassy hillside, watching the sun set.

There we are that first summer, reading magazines in the library to enjoy the free air-conditioning. Cuddling with puppies at the smelly pet store in the mall. Splashing through a tunnel (overpass) in a (paved) creek. Day after day of beautiful moments that he created for us out of his grad student stipend, his creativity, and a good eye for beauty. The public pool became a private oasis, the back bedroom (with a laptop on a chair), a dinner theatre.

This ability of David’s, to see the world as beautiful and interesting and exciting in every situation, is one that has helped us through so many days. I know that wherever we end up settling next, I will be leaning in beside him to see our new home through his eyes.

fourth of july 2013
good eyes

(Where are we going? Well, here’s the answer!)

Poetry Monday : Now Blue October by Robert Nathan

Robert Nathan was a novelist, screenwriter, and poet who produced over fifty books in his lifetime. He was born just before the turn of the nineteenth century in New York City. He died at ninety-one years of age in Los Angeles, where he resided for much of his adult life. You can read more about him in his New York Times obituary here. This poem is another that I discovered in the marvelous anthology Fifty Years of American Poetry. I shared this poem with my husband, David, early in our friendship, and it has held a special significance for us ever since.

Now Blue October

Now blue October, smoky in the sun,
Must end the long, sweet summer of the heart.
The last brief visit of the birds is done;
They sing the autumn songs before they part.
Listen, how lovely — there’s the thrush we heard
When June was small with roses, and the bending
Blossom of branches covered nest and bird,
Singing the summer in, summer unending —
Give me your hand once more before the night;
See how the meadows darken with the frost,
How fades the green that was the summer’s light.
Beauty is only altered, never lost,
And love, before the cold November rain,
Will make its summer in the heart again.

— Robert Nathan

frozen-stick-in-water

 

the morning lark & the night owl

Thank goodness for our internal clocks.

David’s is a clock that craves extremes: he wants to wake up when the sun is full shining and not fall into bed until pitch-midnight. I, on the other hand, am my father’s daughter. Once dinner dishes are put away, I am already on a short road to sleep. And as the sun is just beginning to peek (in summer), or hasn’t even come close (in winter), I’m padding into the kitchen in my pajamas with my heart set on a cup of tea and a book of poetry.

Daddy was always up early. I can still see him, in his sweatpants and slippers, sitting in his armchair with, yes, a mug of tea and a book. Me coming down second and him smiling as he looked up – hi, bunny – and our morning beginning together. While our family was on vacation at the ocean, we’d share toast and then venture outside. “Let’s let Mom & Matt sleep in,” we’d say, as we laced up sneakers and pulled on fleece jackets. And we’d walk out into the chilly Northern California morning, eyes on the waves as we walked to the beach. So much life and love in our day before it had really begun. And if we have all that before the sun is fully risen, it sets our whole day on a good trajectory. We’ve had a good day even before we sat down to breakfast.

Tea, toast, and poetry at the ocean this past summer
Tea, toast, and poetry at the ocean this past summer

And now, years after his death and miles from the California coast, I maintain this rhythm. The morning is my private room. In our (sweet, beloved) small apartment, we have very little space to ourselves. But for David, the late hours are a haven, and for me, the early. I can reconnect to myself, the self that is alone and only-me, and not David’s wife. I read, and I listen to pieces of music that I loved before I met him (Smétana’s Ma Vlast, Joni Mitchell, The Indigo Girls). I write in my journal and browse through anthologies. I can hear the clock ticking. I can hear other early risers in our apartment complex start their cars’ engines as they begin a long commute. Sometimes, when the light is just right, I’ll slip outside to the end of our block to watch the sunrise.

In a little while, David will stumble sleepily into the kitchen. He’ll greet me with one word (hi) or two (good morning) as he makes his coffee. And the real-world day will begin.

But these first few hours in the early morning are mine. A separate time that I claim and cling to as my own. And I thank goodness for that.

this morning.
this morning.