Rocks fascinate me. I dragged a brass tin of them around to each of my college apartments. I stowed them in my suitcase in 1976 when I fled to Boston. I lugged them with me when I slunk back to St. Louis. As I packed for law school three years later, I considered whether to bring a twine-tied box of old letters or those rocks. I burned the letters and never looked back.
I can’t say when those rocks parted from me. Over the next three decades, my priorities shifted. But I gathered another lot of them somehow. Crystals, coral, small nuggets of ironstone. For a decade, they shifted and glittered in a pottery bowl on the dining room table in Kansas City. Now they live in my son’s Chicago kitchen.
The autumn wanes. Cold air hovers near the door of a morning. Tonight I watched a little clutch of Sandhill cranes cut across the glow of the setting sun. I let myself into the house with an armful of stuff from the car — a package from my old friend Katrina; an extra sweater; a bag of groceries. The pile fell onto the table as I lowered myself into the chair. Quiet gathered around me. Something close to sorrow lingered in the spaces between my bruised ribs.
My co-workers brought me rocks back from their respective vacations. Now they sit in an enamel bowl which came from my mother, beside an overgrown basil plant, and a back-up lantern. Meager noises interrupt the silence: the high whine of tinnitus that never dies and the distant grind of a truck’s engine on the levee road. I sit. An owl hoots. I turn my eyes to stare into the darkness beyond my window.
It’s the thirtieth day of the seventieth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
(To Eleonora Duse)
We are anhungered after solitude,
Deep stillness pure of any speech or sound,
Soft quiet hovering over pools profound,
The silences that on the desert brood,
Above a windless hush of empty seas,
The broad unfurling banners of the dawn,
A faery forest where there sleeps a Faun;
Our souls are fain of solitudes like these.
O woman who divined our weariness,
And set the crown of silence on your art,
>From what undreamed-of depth within your heart
Have you sent forth the hush that makes us free
To hear an instant, high above earth’s stress,
The silent music of infinity?