In kind of a sad, melancholy, contemplative mood right now. Tiska and I were supposed to go to our first “Voluntary Simplicity” class tonight, but when I got to her house I learned that Diane’s father, my uncle Jack, was admitted to the hospital today because they just discovered that his entire body is riddled with cancer. Tiska felt she ought to stay near the phone for the evening, in case Diane needed her, and I opted to stay with her, so instead of a class about simplicity, we had a quiet candle-lit evening at home. We had some great homemade chicken & green chile soup that Tiska made for dinner, with some good green chile biscuits, and with the candles and the soup and the elegant little halloween decorations around the hearth I had good, warm feelings of autumn. Almost as good as being in the warm little dollhouse on 225 Main Street around this time of year — not quite, but almost.
Diane called two or three times in the four hours I was there, wavering between flying home to ABQ tonight or just flying straight from LA to the midwest. Finally she decided to come here for the night and then fly first thing to O’Hare, where she’ll meet her sister (my cousin) Janet and drive down to Burlington, IA together. Of course, Tiska’s and my conversation turned to the topic of death, and we talked about how it was for the Wilson kids when their mother, my aunt Joyce, died. I guess after she died, they laid her out not in her own bed, but in Diane’s – and Diane was only 16 at the time. At one point, I was talking about Jimmy’s funeral last May, and Tiska got confused because last time Diane was in town she and I were talking about our Uncle Jimmy, who had spina bifida and died when he was in his late teens or early twenties. I had to explain that there were three Jimmys, all of whom had died young: Jimmy Backes, brother of my dad and Diane’s mom, then Jim Sellers, Diane’s and my cousin, and then Jimmy Sellers, his son, our second cousin. I’m not sure if Tiska got it entirely sorted out in her mind, but oh well....
Happily, I did get a hold of Dad to let him know about Jack, who was kind of a father-figure to him. I told Tiska tonight that I know Jack more through my dad’s stories than through my own interactions with him. I know all about how Jack taught my dad the “Iowa Wave” (two fingers raised off the steering wheel, preferably as you’re going under 20 mph), how they’d go out and count cars on the highways in the summer, and so on.....
When I left Tiska’s, it was raining and the clouds were booming with lightning in the north. I drove with the windows down far enough that I could smell the wet trees, but not far enough that I was getting splashed (much). Counting Crows was playing in the truck as the windshield wipers swept away the long steady rain, and I kept having to push my hair back behind my shoulders – started wondering if it had gotten long when I wasn’t looking, or what, and then thought about the old shaman I met when I was sixteen who told me that his people cut their hair in mourning, and grieved as long as it took for their hair to grow back to the length it was before they cut it — the thunder rippled across the rainsilvered streets.... The moment felt oddly cinematic, as if my surroundings were all conspiring to feed my melancholy, as if someone had specifically chosen this weather and this soundtrack to convey the quiet sadness of the scene.
Once home, I found a message from Kevin saying he’s going through some rough stuff, and thought of Carrie’s mom with her surprise mastectomy, and of Debe’s dad with his drawn-out struggles with cancer.... I’m sending out a lot of love & prayers tonight, though I’m not sure what good it will do since the universe seemed pretty irritated with me today, and fought me at every step...
One striking thing about today was something this Australian woman told me: “If New Mexico doesn’t want you here, it will spit you out. And if that happens, you’d better just accept it and pack your bags.” I was kind of shocked, and didn’t really know what to say in response to her determined nodding, but when I thought of it later, I laughed at the strangeness of it, how set her jaw was, how ruddy her profile against the backdrop of Sandia Crest, gray before the rain.
Also, a church billboard in the East Mountains:
“When does God’s plan for you begin?”
I laughed to myself. God’s plan for me begins October 12? Good to know.
After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.
It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.
The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.
Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence
Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.
-- Wallace Stevens, The Plain Sense of Things