Debra Darvickenhance your now in word and image
I was nine or so when this photo was taken. The girl that was me looks into the camera a bit peevishly. I’d likely readied myself for bed and was reading before lights out. My mom had bathed and put my sisters to bed. Seeing me in my room as she left theirs, she probably went for her camera. She would have asked me to look up, wanting to capture the sweetness of of the moment and her bookish daughter’s face in the lamplight. The moment I saw this photo I remembered the nightgown. It was made of a cotton that was not too soft nor too starchy. For some reasons the apples were pale blue, not red.
What would this girl think if we were to meet? Would she want to play a game of Scrabble for old times’ sake? I’d gladly share my great new set of Crayolas with her. She’d want to trade me periwinkle for cerulean. I’d trade her magenta for red violet. She’d probably thank me for still liking licorice, dancing in the rain and jumping in leaf piles. She loved to do that when her father raked fallen oak leaves each fall. What would she think about having become an author?
She might well envy me that my hair is long enough to braid. Back then it was the pageboy or a pixie; she settled for the pageboy and wouldn’t get to grow her hair out for another few years. “Thank you for taking me to Paris,” she might say. “But I didn’t care much for the running of the bulls. The bullfights were gory and oddly mesmerizing.” Yep, she knew words like that back then. “I loved hiking in the red rocks and I love those red cowboy boots; you should wear them more often. Be sure I get to have some pretty dresses, OK?” Our mother bought her wonderful dresses. I wish I had pictures of some of them. Around this age Mom bought her two dresses for a wedding in Florida. One was a long-sleeved A-line in a white taffeta strewn with flowers, akin to a Gucci print. The other dress was cut like a smock, long sleeves gathered at the wrist and shoulders. It was made of moss-green sateen printed with rose and blush colored peonies. I bet she’d be surprised that I still have Godfrey, the little plush monkey our parents bought her when she was four. Maybe she’s glad she got frozen here in time, a book in hand with several years to go before her family fell apart.
I’m glad I found this photo. I keep it on my desk where I can look at her, smile and take in her expression of indulgence and patience. “I love you,” I tell her. Sometimes, in the quiet, if I wait long enough I hear her reply, “I love you, too.”
How many times have you heard someone say, “Well, tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful.”? Maybe the sky’s grey. Or it’s raining buckets. Or the mercury plunged unexpectedly. I heard that phrase last week felt sad on behalf of the day at hand for having been summarily dismissed because it wasn’t living up to someone’s idea of a beautiful day. And what if tomorrow isn’t “beautiful”? Will it get dismissed too?
There are plenty of days that are truly ugly, horrific and filled with terror, grief and fury. I’m not denying life here. I’m merely suggesting that when those oh-so-easy words of dismissal begin to form, we take a moment and find beauty. Today. On this day. If we’ve been given the gift of breath today, surely we can discover something beautiful and proclaim it.
And now something else to share.
I had a poignant upsetting experience yesterday that has stayed with me.
Martin and I were out for a walk when we came upon a baby robin that had fallen from its next. But it wasn’t a robin yet. It was a bird-to-be: wet, cupped in its turquoise halfshell, eyes sealed behind dark grey lids, bony wings plastered to its side. Its beak was a good half an inch long.
I stood rooted in place and began searching for something to scoop it to the grass edging the sidewalk. And then I saw its tiny chest pulsing. The birdling was alive. What was I supposed to do now? Surely its mother wasn’t coming for it and even if she did, for what? Other than mourning?
I couldn’t bury it. It was alive. I didn’t want it to be stepped on, either. I grabbed a couple of sticks for a makeshift travois and scooped it onto the grass. Its beak opened in silent protest or perhaps pain. The life of this pitiful near-bird was ebbing before my eyes. Maneuvering it onto the grass I placed a curved piece of bark over it hoping it would stay undiscovered. I placed a small stone upon the bark. “You held God’s breath for such a short time, little bird.” We resumed our walk but it felt terrible to leave it dying alone.
Don’t ask me why I went through such motions . I just had to do something to mark the bird’s brief time on a sun-baked sidewalk in a random midwest neighborhood on this third rock from the sun.
FOOD. ICE CREAM FLAVOR. ACTIVITY.
Here are mine:
Pizza, thin crust.
Coffee ice cream, with peppermint a close second.
Hiking in Sedona with Martin. Playing with Olivia and Leah.
Now it’s your turn!
photo courtesy of Brookyn Pizza, Birmingham, MI
O.K. The world might be opening up, but are you? Am I? How comfortable are you going out? To a movie? A restaurant? A friend’s house? Do you find yourself edging back to normal, redefining normal, or has sequestering simply become a quieter and preferred way of life?
My answers are all over the place and can change day to day. Now that the strictures are being loosened, I and nearly everyone I associate with has been vaccinated, opportunities (potentially) abound. I’m not ready. Yes, we’ve been to a few restaurants outdoors and even went inside for our anniversary. We chose a restaurant that was enormous, high ceilinged and held to a limited number of patrons. It still felt odd.
I’ll be making my first airplane post-Corona flight next month. Determination and eagerness outweigh the weirdness of it. But the weirdness is still there. It’s a relief to decide for myself intead of fear of Covid being the deciding factor of every inch of my life. Yet I don’t want to lose the cocoon feeling of this past 15 months. Life slowed; time elongated; there was less to do and we enjoyed it more.
What about you? How are you moving forward?
Martin and I met Ted in a roundabout way. Friends we knew in Sedona shared his photo site with us. He is a phenomenal photographer. Ted and I got to be email pen pals and our next time in Sedona I invited him over for scones. That is our tradition now whenever we are back in Sedona: scones, great coffee and delightful conversations.
Renaissance man doesn’t even begin to describe where Ted has taken his life for eight plus decades. Attorney, gemologist, writer, lecturer, inventor, pilot, photographer, devoted caregiver to the love of his life, his wife Corky. Corky developed MS when she was 28. Their daughters were one and two. Ted is one of the most alive people I know, thankful for each breath, eager to meet each moment.
I’m grateful to Ted for his friendship, for welcoming Martin and me to his monthly photography reviews with his camera buddies (who are all incredible as well), and for modeling what it means to be engaged with life no matter what. And one more thing: I’ll never forget the afternoon Ted took me up in his two-seater plane. I didn’t know it at the time but Mariah would soon be sold to a new owner. I was Ted’s last passenger.
It was an incredible flight. Not till I was strapped in did Ted mention that some of his passengers threw up on their first flight. I didn’t. When Ted made that first turn over the valley, I lost all sense of proportion. If my heart had had a jaw, it would have dropped in astonishment at the view. It was thrilling t to look down on the trails I’d hiked so many times. Ted pointed out extinct volcanoes, rock formations and valleys. From above, the area was so green. This is high desert and heavily treed. It was a relief to see that the madness of development down below was still dwarfed by junipers and pines. Too soon, Ted began turning toward the airport. A perfect landing and we were back on earth. I understood why Ted went up every afternoon and I am eternally glad for the experience of riding shot-gun with him that late December afternoon.
Who is Ted Grussing? A really great guy who makes me smile whenever I think of him.
The time will come. Day by day some of the binds are loosening. The CDC has announced that those who are vaccinated no longer need to wear masks for small outside gatherings. The end may not yet be in sight, but it feels reasonable to envision it around a not-too-distant corner.
I would love to go to the movies again, to sit in the dark with fellow movie-goers all of us experiencing together cinematic storytelling. I look forward to seeing my children and grandchildren, swooping them to me in great big jubilant hugs, the pall of the pandemic a thing of the past. What will it be like to speak to someone full face? To see their smile and hear their laughter unmuffled by a mask? I think of Alfred Eisenstadt’s iconic image of the sailor embracing and kissing the nurse on V-J Day in Times Square. Will there be such an image capturing Covid’s end? What do you imagine it to be? What is the first thing you intend to do?