Emotions roil within me; stark whites of pure joy, rich reds of abundance, deep blues of contentment, clinging greys of lingering gloom. Explanation for their rise eludes me. I breathe and wait for the tumult to subside. I know that time will pass and my mind will settle into the dull browns of everyday existence but for now, I let the churning carry me forward.
For the past two weeks, a buoyancy born of the incredible gift of gathering has kept me afloat. Voice after voice congratulated me for the release of my book. In truth, I did little beyond the simple act of gathering ten years of thought into a collection and tendering the whole to a talented editor and a prescient photographer to package and illustrate with care. I collect the praise and share it, for without my cohorts, the words might have lingered and faded in the virtual file drawer where I had stowed them.
I always thought the book that I produced would reflect the turning of the seasons. How else can we describe our lives? We come into this world fresh, new, cloaked in nothing but hope and possibility. Lessons come to us, as the sun radiates our days and the moon soothes our nights with her most poignant lullabies. As the trees turn to shimmering golds we proudly survey what we have built. Then the snows fall on our shoulders as we settle into our softest perch, ease our muscles, and lift our feet to a waiting stool.
The seasons turn and gather on the earth as our lives unfold. Genevieve Casey’s photographs carry the theme through the pages as they flutter and fall. I could not have asked for a better workmate. Her eyes see, in a single slide, what my words take pages to reveal. Though she took her pictures over several years before agreeing to be a part of my book, she chose them with a keen understanding of what I wanted to do. The images serve as stepping stones through the collection. What a gift she gave me, letting her work so perfectly complement mine!
Now I see autumn in the rising of the wind on Andrus Island where I live. Our one brutal week of summer fell upon the state while I lingered in Missouri. The nights grow colder. The air turns crisp. The wildlife, they who came before us and will endure after we pass, moves into the space we occupy. They look upon our intrusion as temporary. The starkness of winter forces us indoors, while the hawks, the coyotes, and the egrets remain outside to greet the migrating flocks. If we never emerged, they would not care. They would simple expand their use of our feeble structures until the vines overgrew the last vestiges of our time.
I drive the levy roads with eyes wide open and camera at hand. I want to see the creatures whom humanity dares displace. I crave the chance to beg their forgiveness for our arrogance. I long to acknowledge the brevity of our season, and the eternity of theirs. I owe them my gratitude for the gift of this little hour in their world.
I have so little to show for the sixty-seven years which I have spent on earth to date: Memories; a funny little house; the certain knowledge that my son has made his way to something of which we can both be proud; a cherished clutch of comrades. This time of living in the California Delta has given me a layer of understanding for which I only dared dream. I understand the smallness of my existence and its insignificance. But I also see that my piece completes the puzzle. For that awareness, I shall forever give thanks.
It’s the twenty-fourth day of the one-hundred and fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.