These Are the Small Hours

Photo by Paula Campos on Unsplash

They used to call them the small hours of the morning. 2, 3, 4 am…. small numbers, big eyes.  All night long, I am up and down, rolling over, blankets on, blankets off, unable to sleep.  Brain churning.  Too late?  Too early?  To take a sleeping pill.  Tomorrow–.today is going to be hell.

The talk radio inside my head gets especially loud in the small hours.  I replay scenarios from the day, 10 years ago, my childhood, and ones that haven’t happened yet.  I worry.  I fret.  I’d bite my nails but I gave up that habit decades ago.

Continue reading

Cloistered II

The light dominates but doesn’t reach far enough.  It’s the first thing a newborn sees.

Photo by Hartmut Tobies on Unsplash

Light gives us color and shadows – penetrates and reveals. 

There are things that hide from the light. Cockroaches of feelings and thoughts that if brought out might destroy us.  These stay in the shadows bearing witness but silent.  Sometimes rustling so we don’t forget.  A haunting of sorts.

The others reveal themselves – prisms and golden archways to the past, to the future. Sunbeams of insight as understanding dawns.

Should we bring those shadow dwellers into the light?  Would it destroy them or us?  Or are we just repulsed?  Is the unexamined life not worth living? Do we need to get the magnifying glass out for all the firings of our synapses?  Should every memory be put under a microscope?  Backlit and magnified? A hundred times? A thousand?

The cool stone of now, just now, is seductive.  A balm for the mind. Some of us actively seek it trying to escape just for a moment, a few minutes, the clamor of thoughts and scuttling of shadow memories.  Seeking silence and stillness.’

Now is sanctuary.  An absence of worry and fear.  Here.  Just here.  Now.  Breathing.  The light not penetrating.  The slate clean.  A return to the womb where we don’t remember, don’t think, where we only have the nurturing of now.  The peace of it. Protected from the onslaught of the light and things that scuttle in the shadows. 

Cloistered.

Peace be with you.

The garden that grief and anger built

Grief stole the garden that grief and anger built. 

I want it back.

As Doug was dying, he sat in the daybed by the bay window and watched me build the garden. He was so sick, and I had taken off work to be his caretaker. Sick though he was, I had many hours left to myself. 

I sat in my family room and looked at my bare backyard.  I had always planned a grand garden back there.  Over the years I had made periodic attempts at it but my midlife career as a full-time employee and full time college student didn’t let much happen. 

Now, I had time.  And, miraculously, I had money.

I began the garden.  I built a circular retaining wall to house daffodils, peonies, vinca and ivy.  I bought a water fountain — a very modern design — so unusual for me.  I planted dozens and dozens of white petunias and white double impatiens — I wanted the garden to glow in the moonlight.  I tended to the wisteria and brought it back from the brink. 

The white roses were pruned and fed.  The furniture painted.  New cushions procured.

As Doug lay dying, I poured my grief and anger into building the garden.

It was nearly complete, as complete as gardens get, when he was hospitalized for that last time.  Three weeks or so at the hospital.  The grass and weeds grew.

The night after he died, his daughter and I sat in the overgrown garden drinking wine and telling stories about him.  Tears flowed freely. 

The fireflies darted about the weeds and brush.  Music played softly.  The windchimes provided needed baritone to the cascading of the fountain.

It was such a lovely evening for such a cruel event.

As I took care of Doug’s estate and caught up with work, the garden was abandoned.  So much to do – the garden didn’t seem like a necessity.

Soon it was an overgrown mess.  I couldn’t catch my breath Couldn’t summon the energy to reclaim a garden on the edge of a forest from going wild.

I vowed to tend it as I realized what a necessity it was.

My dad died suddenly.  The day of his funeral, I cleared an area near the fountain and planted 13 Madonna lilies — a flower of significance to him. 

As I actively grieved him, I reclaimed the garden.  Dozens of petunias, impatiens and a white Mandevilla.  The Japanese climbing hydrangea bloomed for the first time.  I found solace in the garden.

And then my best friend died. 

And along with her, the garden. 

I lost my will to bring life out of death.

It is still neglected though it provides the sudden bloom now and again — mock orange, Peruvian daffodils, lily of the valley.

During the pandemic, I vowed to reclaim it.  But then I broke my foot.  And then I contracted COVID.

Oh, how I long to get back to the garden.  I dedicate it now to me.  I need its life force to revive mine.  It is now a necessity again.