One Day. The extraordinary ordinary.
The extraordinary ordinary.
There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.
I just returned from Morristown, New Jersey, a place that I called home for most of my life.
I love Morristown in the summer. Large leafy green maples line the streets. Manicured lawns of freshly mowed grass, meticulously tended shrubbery, and well-kept houses. Its natural lushness, cool mornings and old gracious, multi-colored Victorian homes. Now Morristown has a new energy from a new generation filling the newly constructed apartments and condominiums.
But what I loved the most about Morristown was the life we lived there, our large gracious Victorian home and our beautiful perennial gardens. At this time of year our gardens would be decorated with multi-hued pink plumes rising from the dark green leaves of the hundreds of astilbes that Jeff and I planted over the years. Bright, large leafed hosta, protected from the deer by an impenetrable black fence, thrived in shade cast by leafy old trees that reached the clouds. At this time of year, large heads of pale and bright blue hydrangea would be flopping in the breeze.
I remember the smells of lush, freshly mowed lawn intermingled with the scent from the climbing roses that had overtaken their trellises. The sound of rushing water created by a carefully constructed brook tumbling into a natural pool. The large, restored Victorian fountain was the focal point of our garden. Pea stones that crunched when you walked on them surrounded the fountain, followed by four separate plots of brightly colored annuals, finished with a large circle of boxwoods, an English garden tradition. The square of grass ringing the fountain area was finished with perennial beds that bloomed in their time.
A typical summer weekend day would bring us outside, to celebrate the beautiful Morristown summer and the landscape that we had built and nurtured. Our daughter was not a gardener, so she would be running around, doing somersaults, playing with our cute, cuddly dogs, before grabbing her father’s hand and demanding that he play some new game that she had just invented.
By midafternoon, we would stop and survey the work we had done that day. His large hands would envelop mine. His deep soft, relaxing voice would be planning his next creation, occasionally he would throw his head back filling the air with his laughter.
The day ended with the smells of barbecue, emanating from some immense grill that he had purchased. Our friends who had become family would join us later with their children to celebrate the end of a beautiful summer day.
But that was a lifetime ago. This morning, I am leaving Morristown to return to my new life, to flat farmland sprouting rows of lush soybeans; tall, smiling sunflowers all facing the same direction; deep green stalks of tall corn with bright yellow tassels waving against the sky. My new landscape is punctuated by creeks that meander around the fields, spilling into larger rivers that appear motionless on their stealthy march to the Chesapeake Bay. The serene rivers capture the sunset and reflect the orange, red and blue hues that fill the skies. Ospreys, great blue herons, and bald eagles surround the rivers; bluebirds show off their deep blue feathers on my daily walks. The large deciduous trees in NJ are replaced with towering loblolly pines with deep green needles and dark brown bark that looks like it was applied with an artist’s palette knife. I can hear the rustling sounds from light breezes that move the boughs of these giants and the hissing locusts that replace the morning chirps, trills and melodies of the songbirds.
I am going back to my new life, one that is filled with natural beauty, the unconditional love of my large and fun family, and new friends.
But still, the tears flow unabated as I am reminded of all that has been lost.
I am exceeding grateful for my new life, but I imagine what my life-- our life-- would be like had our world not imploded. The same beautiful summers, in a different garden, the same barbecue, the same friends, our beautiful and generous daughter. And I would give anything for that life or even just a day from our past life. A day, just one day, where I could feel his touch or hear his voice.
What I would give for just one day of that extraordinary, ordinary life.
He who learns must suffer
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
Falls drop by drop by drop, upon the heart
Until in our own despair, against our will
Comes wisdom from the awful grace of God