Laying in bed this morning, waiting for Julia to wake up to begin the day. I am sore and a bit achy in the body after pushing myself yesterday to plant 400 bulbs. If I bought next autumn’s bulbs the day after I planted, I would probably have many fewer tulips and narcissus in my garden. And yet, I am so very grateful that my optimism and passion for the garden has returned. Actually, it has been around the whole of this planting and weeding year.
Last fall, after a rather dreadful emotional summer, I seemed to emerge from the heavy years of grieving. Last year, around this time, I realized that I was walking around with a lighter air. I did not trust the feeling and kept looking around behind myself to see if the gloom and doom goonies were waiting to pounce. I waited for the inevitable sadness to descend when something attempted failed or someone said something, did something, something something to remind me of the life I lost. I was metaphorically shifting my eyes from side to side checking.
And of course, the time from then to now has not been without feeling sad or lonely or yearning for what I cannot have again. But the burden of carrying that baggage around does not weigh on me as it did. Perhaps I have earned a wheeled suitcase with expanding handle to haul around my baggage. Wheels help.
In a celebratory but slightly achy mood, I feel like I can finally announce with glee that I’ve started reading again! This too has been coming on slowly. To lose the pleasure of reading and to live without it has been awful. I’ve always read. It is an activity that defines me — not that when someone asks what I do, I announce passionately that I read, but to myself and for myself, it has been part of my definition. After David died, I lost the ability to be lost in some story as if I had lost the ability to understand my native tongue. And it took so very long to come back that at times I worried that it was a permanent loss. What if I became that kind of person who never browses for book, who travels on vacation with a bunch of movies loaded on my iPad, who has no interest in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review section? When I look at these fears, I admit to feeling a wee bit pretentious. But hell, yes! That is me and I was really scared that that was never going to be me again.
And many times during this time, I been the kind of dinner guest who sucks the air out of a room. I had no questions to ask new acquaintances, nothing to add to conversations and when I listened, my eyes glazed over and forgot everything the speaker said almost before the words were out of his/her mouth.
And I wondered if this was forever. What if my best slightly intellectual, perceptive, pretentious years were behind me? How long could I fake it with my faithful friends who must have noticed my less than sparkling repartee?
At the beginning of the summer, I started reading again. I was gentle with myself and went back to my reading roots — biography and science fiction and a bit of memoir. I read with that same looking over my should feeling. Was this just a season of reading that would pass? Towards the end of the summer, a friend asked if I wanted to come to a book club meeting. She invited me because it was a new group and she knew that I had not liked the memoir that the group was reading. Was I really the person to invite to spice things up? But I went, just glancing at a few chapters to insure my disgust. At the meeting I voiced my feelings and listened to the passionate defense of the piece. Last year I had forced myself to read the book, after the meeting, I re-read and changed my mind. At least for the most part.
And I liked the people in the group, so I read the old Barbara Kingsolver book that was the next one up, and last months I read The Orchardist (by Amande Coplin, and very good). I seemed to be able to contribute to the discussion, ask questions and listen to opinions. Along the way I indulged in the guilty pleasure of all of the Hunger Games and Divergent. Literary merit be damned, I was having fun. Just yesterday, I looked up Connie Willis because I could not remember the full title on one of her books (To Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last which is very funny and well done) and discovered that she had published two books since I stopped reading and was struck with wondering that the world had run so far ahead during my healing time. What else will I discover?
So, I come back to words on the page and screen (almost understanding the intricacies of Overdrive — gotta’ stop by the library one more time to connect my devices.) with such gratitude that this gift has returned and also with a new and growing list of must read titles.