Life isn’t just the farm, but that garden is a significant portion of my days. The work is becoming dull. Sometimes I take enormous pleasure in mindless tasks, pulling weeds, spreading mulch, but it brings little satisfaction lately, which means little call to write.
On the internet, you can do anything you want, write anything, pose for a beautiful photograph, it’s a veil. Not life, but lifelike.
A friend of Jon’s called last night to tease me, gently I suppose, about this blog, the writing.
“I haven’t written anything for days,” I protested.
Because there is nothing to report. No need to reduce it to sentimentalism. Life doesn’t feel real lately, I seem to be floating through it, everything a passing and sometimes beautiful impression. The days marked by work and meals and sex, the occasional book. Friends call or visit and then leave. There is reluctant harvest, fibrous beans and bitter cucumber. The air always pressing down, so hot lately, all I want to do is wear loose clothes and read, including a three day devotion to James Salter’s All That Is.
Quite simply, I loved it. It made me feel light and so… so… Like a life, I didn’t want it to end. You must read it.
Zingers from its pages:
She was a disappointed woman. She said, “You come from decent hardworking people. Serious people.” Serious was a word that had haunted his life.
What the unseen part of their life was, who can say? Was she difficult or did she stand naked between his knees like the children of the patriarchs, her bare stomach, the swell of her hips? A certain unwanted coldness at his center kept him from real happiness, and though he married beautiful women, let us say possessed them, it was never complete and yet to live without them was unthinkable.
He wanted a photograph but prevented himself from asking for it. He would take one himself the next time and keep it between the pages of a book in the office with nothing written on it, no name or date. He could imagine someone accidentally coming across it and asking, who is this? he would without a word simply take it from their hand.
She was reciting what had always been known . . . she sang as if surrendering her life. You could never leave anyone like this.
Beatrice, perhaps because of her father’s death, which she remembered clearly, had a certain lingering dread of the fall. There was a time, usually late in August, when summer struck the trees with dazzling power and they were rich with leaves but then became, suddenly one day, strangely still, as if in expectation and at that moment aware. They knew. Everything knew, the beetles, the frogs, the crows solemnly walking across the lawn. The sun was at its zenith and embraced the world, but it was ending, all that one loved was at risk.
When I finished the book last night, I closed it with great ritual, thumbing the worn pages. I looked at Jon, who had fallen asleep beside me with his face turned toward my shoulder, the mouth just open enough to see the white squares of his teeth. I lifted my hand to his lips as if to test the heat of his breath on my palm. To say, ‘I love you,’ is not enough, feels somehow inadequate. I have always loved his teeth, the flash of them in the dark, those big squares he will carry all the days of his life. All the days.
He is twenty years older than me, an irrefutable fact.
“We are exactly the same number of years apart as my mother and dad,” Jon will sometimes say to raised eyebrows, “so fuck you.” It’s not the age that frightens me anymore, but the thought of what that age implies, the threat of empty years without him.
Ya’aburnee: “You bury me,” in Arabic — the hope that you’ll die before your lover, the thought of living without them unbearable.
Sometimes I see ourselves as others must (“His daughter,” “His hooker,” “Gold digger,”) but then what? Wave a hand in dismissal. I know this.
A shared life is so much more than a sideways glance across the restaurant, that scandaled couple with their heads held close. There is their slender gray dog and a farm, bottles of wine left open too long on the counter, business — whole histories — overseas, every night the windowless bedroom that swallows them whole, swallows everything. All of it. All of this. All that is.
“. . . the worn stones of conjugal life. All that is beautiful, all that is plain, everything that nourishes . . .” — James Salter, The Paris Review