Tomatoes, apples, the day he fell from a tree, the fifty years of dogs,
dogs and children and the far wide country.
The poem ends,
Seize the day gently as if you loved her.
Carpe Diem, we say, ready to do battle, steeling ourselves to march into the world once again, to bend it, to grapple with the fears and insecurities, to make of our lives something wonderful in the face of all of the adversities, inward and outward, that cover us in the hours before dawn, making us fearful to ever risk getting up again. Seize the day, we tell ourselves, gritting our teeth and putting the game face on.
But then comes an age where one can become quietly grateful, if one pays attention. Now we might be astonished at the depth of memory, cherishing our losses, amused and amazed that
So far the days keep coming.
So far. When Harrison wrote the poem he knew his days were coming to an end. He knew the days that remained would be stuffed with doctor visits and physical pain and at every turn the reminder of loss. He still found time to write as he always has, astonished with wonder at finding himself in this world.
Jessica Lange, getting ready for her Tony award winning role in the current revival of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" said she was eager to step into Mary Tyrone again, after playing her last in 2000. "...at this point in my life, there’s so much more loss that I just knew that, if I came back to Mary, there would be much more resonance." So much more loss. So much more to work with.
Lynn and I were at the Coyote Cantina a few weeks ago. She'd pushed me there, in Lightnin' McQueen, the trusty wheelchair, from the train station half a mile away. Then I'd struggled my way up the few steps to a shaded table overlooking the streets of Santa Fe on a lovely Saturday afternoon. I was alarmed at how flushed her face was, but we ordered margaritas and the cool drinks soothed and relaxed us and her color came back to normal.
And I was amazed and grateful that we were there, a spot we'd each been to in the past, thinking of each other, but never there together. Although in my memory she's almost there with me, because I would've written her a letter from here on one of my road trips, telling her what I was eating and that I'd checked into the St. Francis hotel after several days camping in the Utah high desert and that I'd be bringing my guitar to El Paseo later on for the open mike. I can see her sitting there.
"Are you sure we haven't been here together?" And she just laughed at me because we've had versions of this conversation before, me so sure she was sitting across from me at a particular place in time, but then the evidence of the notes proving that it was just me and the pen and the paper conjuring her up.
But not this time. Not this day and this place. Improbably, here we were, together in a place I would never have expected to get to again. Loss and gratitude, bound inextricably together, welling up, as they do, until they have to leak out of the corners of your eyes.
The days are fragile, just as we are now. Easily broken, yet stronger than we think. Seize them with all of the tenderness you can muster. Love them. Gently.