good morning ~
(click the link / the elegant japanese maple in the rain to listen)
today’s track is a recording from a porch in North Carolina - rain, wind chimes, cars whooshing by, and electric guitar ~
i’d like to take a moment to simply hope that you are taking care and not freaking out and telling the people you love that you love them
A whole day driving south and a deeply embarrassing search for a proper black shirt to wear, nothing fits anymore. Leaving the apartment first thing in the morning while your friend’s whole band crashes shirtless in the living room - they slid the key and the demon keychain under the door when they left, then you got your shift covered at the bar. A lot of tears in those first few days of the world without and never when you expect them, always a little surprised. And then there is the familiar cardboard taste of communion on your tongue, accepted from a member of the clergy in a KN95 mask. You feel the wafer give and crack easily at the point where its scored with the cross. You try to pay attention to this holy ritual, this transubstantiation that was so important to the deceased, but the 9-year-old next to you in the pew keeps stage whispering to his mom that this is all so boring (“well, he’s not wrong” someone says that afternoon). Regardless, you agree fully with what is said in the homily - yes, she was very loved.
At her house for the first time since her passing and feeling wildly out of place there is truly nothing left to do but sit gingerly at the baby grand piano and let the chords ring out, something to do with your hands. You have known this piano for some time but it sounds different now - no constant pump of oxygen, you realize, relieved to be one step removed from the respectful chatter in the other room. There are many profound things uttered in remembrance that day, but most of what is actually said before and after services is painfully small - explaining where you live and what the weather is like there, what the weather is like here, and for some reason you are given a lengthy explanation of the barbecue sauces of America by a relative of your girlfriend’s you have yet to place in the family tree. It feels wrong, somehow, but then again, she loved so deeply to entertain, to be among amicable chatter, to host a lovely afternoon. A few days later you find out that before she went, she had the piano tuned specifically so that you might play it, and in this way you feel the golden thread.
Around the gravesite many dozens gather and the rain clears out entirely, leaving the aggressive geese that roam the cemetery to circle in a honking V against a miraculous backdrop. We all watch the sky which is mysteriously iridescent in one spot, like the inside of an abalone shell. It is clear what everyone is thinking - yes, she would have loved this. And then the full moon punches through, misty and brilliant. Scant remarks, many thanks, and then shoveled dirt. A pop-up sun shelter and a wireless microphone, the winding road jammed with the double-parked cars of mourners - people struggle to leave and you wonder what happened to the cavalier police escort from earlier. The funeral home presents the bereaved with a very nice tote bag, their logo on the pocket.
Later the reverend showed up at the reception having shed his collar. He carried in a three-quarters full bottle of nice scotch and added it with a thump of satisfaction to the well-stocked bar, a cabinet centrally placed in the sunniest part of the home full of glassware and shakers and mixers and top-shelf stuff that people here and there got into. Food sprawled under tarps of cling wrap, pimento cheese and pecans and ambrosia salad. Eventually the gathered raised enough glasses in loving tribute to necessitate removing a mysterious box of bojangles ham biscuits from the fridge - the reverend ate his over the sink, microwaved with yellow mustard. Leaning against one wall of the kitchen he tells you about how his church has just got to make room for beauty, how they used to feel that depicting the wonders of earth and experience might detract from the proper worship of the perfect beauty of the celestial temple. But what’s not holy about color, or form, or how the eye sees?
Checking every single expiration date of every single perishable in the kitchen. Canned vegetables and soup mix and endless boxes of pudding. Various sauces that all end up as cloying vinegar, poured down the drain. Heaving trash bags full of expired spice mix and wetted solid rice, then making sure that every single possibly edible thing gets to someone who needs it before the food bank closes for the holiday. Hoping some folks get fed. At some point in nearly every person’s life they buy the last jar of honey they will ever open but we never know which jar of honey will be the final - the one that sits in the back of the pantry, shaped like a perfect little beehive, quietly crystalizing as we return to the dust of the earth.
After, an unassuming wooden church on the side of the one road in a farming town in the eastern part of the state. This is where she’d come for Christmas services, this is the mural she and her husband donated money to commission, this is the real gold leaf in the halo of Saint Matthew. Look up, there is the ceiling, of course you know that the rounded shape is the inverse of a sailing ship, here the hull carves the sky. Here is the stained glass, here is a bible from 200 years ago, here is a pump organ from before any of us were born - hear it fill the room entirely, flooding the space as if the hull was taking on water, improvised hymns and half-remembered carols in the colored, slanting light streaming through the blue parts of the glass. Here, just outside, are the wind-worn tombstones dotting the sprawl of grass behind the church. Carved lilies and chiseled-in dates, a familiar last name among them. Yup, he says, that’s one of ours. We’ve got people on the ground.
But what about you? Are you eating over the kitchen sink? Are you shoveling dirt? How small is your talk?