Its been summerish here all week, sun shining bright, temps flirtin’ the 70s, and the second wave of kids in our neighborhood all out in the streets goofing off and riding bikes in that no-consequence no-hands carefree summertime mood of mind. And while its been beautiful to see, its also been disorienting because my body tells me its not time for that yet. Its not summer, not yet. These kids oughta still be in school, sure maybe a day off for Good Friday, but not this early freedom. I do wonder what, if anything, their bodies are telling them. Do they feel something’s simply not right as much as I do?
You’ll get a kick outta this. With the weather nice and all, we’ve had our windows open, and a pack of these middle school aged kids congregate near our house and sit on the curb and talk, you know, like a row of blackbirds on a line chattering away. The other day we heard one voice make a firm declaration of sexual orientation. Then another voice adamantly said, “I’ve read the entire Bible and don’t believe a word of it.” I mean, such conversation is fair, its just we did not see either of those statements coming. Then minutes later such grown-up matters up and flew away as our little cul de sac choir started singing Drake songs and doing TikTok dances. The children were children again, thank God. And to think some people see the suburbs as nothing more than consumeristic hellscapes of the mundane. (sigh) Some people.
Last night Meredith said that according to our personal calendar, this is the fourth full week of life in the valley of this shadow, this month of magical thinking, thinking things are going to be like they were before. I’ve been deep in Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking—this is probably my sixth time to read it. She mentions a novel—Dutch Shea, Jr.—that her husband, John Dunne wrote. She believed the novel to be about grief, but he believed the novel to be about faith. Then she drops these two lines: “Was it about faith or was it about grief? Were faith and grief the same thing?” Like I said, I’ve probably read that book five times and that’s the first time those lines snagged me. Could faith and grief be the same thing? That’s something to chew on, pal. Oh, I’m sure if I threw that question to the curb of social media that a row of expert grown-ups would quickly descend to chapter-n-verse me, set me straight, learn me something. We try so hard to be grown-ups when apparently the Kingdom prefers children.
I had to make an early morning run to Denver on Monday. Like early early. I was headed back home just a bit before 6 o’clock and I turned on the radio to listen to that AM station—KEZW— you know, the one I’ve mentioned to you before that plays the great American songbook and always spins the classics at Christmastime. Anyway, I’d forgotten that they boost their signal strength, essentially start their broadcast day, at 6am by playing the national anthem. Yeah, old school. I love it. So I crank the national anthem and start singing along at the top of my lungs and by the time I’m at “the twilight’s last gleaming,” I’m crying, man. Like bona fide crying. But you know what? It was just me-n-Jesus in the Acadia (I never quite know if he’s co-pilot, back-seat-driver or what’s his preference) so I went with it, proudly hailing in my old crow voice as tears ran down my cheeks. I guess I needed that. I believe the word is cathartic, my friend. Cathartic with a capital C. Faith and grief by the dawn’s early light. It sure felt like the same thing.
I read the other day about some neighborhood somewhere where the folks in this hard row have started the practice of emerging from their homes just before dark and everybody howls at the top of their lungs like wolves and coyotes. Cathartic. I get it. I do.
I’ll close by making a firm declaration: I love you, my friend. I do. The kind of love exemplified by Redford and Freeman playing old Einar and Mitch in An Unfinished Life. Now that’s a faith/grief movie. Mark Spragg’s book is better, as usual, but still, the movie tells it well. Which one of us is Freeman and which one is Redford? Ha, let the grown-ups strain at such gnatty questions. Do you remember the closing lines? Einar and Mitch are sitting on the porch, and Einar says—
You think the dead really care about our lives?
Yeah, I think they do. I think they forgive us our sins. I even think it’s easy for them.
Griff said you had a dream about flying.
Yeah. I got so high, Einar, I could see where the blue turns black. From up there, you could see all there is. And it looked like there was a reason for everything.
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