Thursday, February 5, 2009

Snapshot: Home

Two people sit in a room that could not possibly be more warmly lit. The walls are a deep red tending toward iron oxide in the light of lamps on the mantle, on the black, baby grand Steinway, and on the marble-topped end table. Plentiful windows trimmed in glossy white enamel let in the subdued light of a gray day. Rain washes the world outside and taps a syncopated rhythm in the downspout on the near corner of the two-story house. Through the paned glass rear door, deck boards glisten and reflect the gray sky broken by the branches of a winter forest. Below the deck and across a back yard of mostly moss and through the bare winter trunks beyond, the creek isn't so much angry with the surplus it hurries along as merely enthusiastic, energetic, awake and purposeful now, unlike its usual sleepy self.

Inside again, a wood fire crackles warmly in a stone fireplace and the man looks up from the corner of the couch where he's grading student essays on a notebook computer the desktop of which shows two rocking chairs and hanging baskets on the front porch of this house and the background color of which matches the walls so that when he leaves he takes this place with him (but never so much as of himself he leaves behind). He looks up at the fire, across the gray-white-and-black Husky sleeping contentedly in the middle of the thick carpet, almost but not quite snoring, centered on the fireplace and positioned halfway between the man and woman. The woman sits nearer the fire, sideways to it in a rocking chair she refinished years ago and in which she has cradled to sleep countless times her young daughter and younger son. And for all that the idea of a rocking chair calls forth visions of age, this is a young and beautiful mother whose oldest child came into this world years after the dog stretched lazily at her feet. Yet in her rocking image, as she sits editing a book on yet another notebook computer perched on the fuzzy soft blanket that warms her knees, the man sees in her the mother she is, the mother who gave her life, the grandmothers he never knew, and years hence, the grandmother she will become. And in that vision is the wellspring of the contentment we only think comes from the smell of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven or the dulcet tones of a lullaby trickling down the stairs from the nursery like the gentle fall of water over the stones of a brook. Feeling his gaze, she looks up at him, tilts her head and smiles.

Nothing is spoken. Two separate lifetimes lead to this moment, and for now, this is but a passing like two participants at a Maypole who meet one another twice in each full round of the pole. For now, the dance is necessary. Patient they are. Because of all they've seen and what they know, they content themselves with those passing smiles. What they've each seen is what enables them to understand one another as no one else could. What they know is that the nature of the Maypole is such that each passing, each circuit of the pole, each cycle of reunion and separation brings them closer to the base, closer to a union from which parting will no longer be necessary.

For now, the rain keeps a broken rhythm, the fire crackles in counterpoint, the Husky chases Arctic hares that lope misplaced through the powdery new snow of Siberian dreams, and the man and the woman know what they know.

For now, that's enough.